Be Different by using S.A.M.E
Updated: Feb 10, 2019
Most of the leaders in my career fall into two categories. The first category of leaders I've encountered are really good at managing the business. They spend most of their day managing up, tweaking the forecast and drive team activity/pipeline. They are good at business process but lack skills to help AEs find their blindspot in a deal. The second category of leaders I've encountered do a good job managing the business but they also find time to coach, mentor and develop AEs. They inspire them to do their best work. They don't give the answers, they ask the questions that bring out the answers. They are quick to listen, slow to speak and respond vs overreacting. It's very hard to be a leader in both categories. I do believe you need to borrow from both categories in order to succeed.
How do you find the time? This will be the focus of today's article. Let's say you are managing 8 people. Each AE has 25 opportunities in various stages. As a manager you need to forecast 200 opportunities and somehow ask the questions that will help your AEs find their blindspot. It's a tough job. As a leader you have a boss too. Odds are the leadership chain will question why a particular deal is in your forecast for the month. It all starts with qualification. I've found the best way to manage your forecast and uncover the blindspot is during 1 on 1s .
Now put the shoe on the other foot. As an AE I hated doing weekly 1 on 1s with my leadership team. They often turned into drive by pipeline reviews and would take up the entire 1-hour. Time would run out to strategize with my manger on what was really going on at the front line. The full hour minus the pleasantries of "how was the weekend" would leave little time to discuss substance. After the small talk you dive into the forecast. Often times I would go back to my desk not prepared to close the deal I had in the month. So how do you efficiently manage the 1-hour you have together and trade information so you can free up time to strategize?
Try using S.A.M.E. It stands for...
The first 15-minutes of your 1 on 1 should be focused on 4 questions.
1. Is the opportunity in the correct stage?
2. Does the opportunity have the correct amount?
3. Is the opportunity in the right month?
4. What event can we leverage to impact stage, amount and month?
When asking these questions it's important to coach your AE that you are not looking for the back story. You really don't care why it's in the wrong stage or the amount is wrong, you just need it to be correct. In other words...if someone asks you what time it is, don't tell them how the watch is made. Just tell them the time.
Now, let's assume your sales cycle has 6 stages.
Stage 1 Identify opportunity
Stage 2 Define solution
Stage 3 Validate benefits
Stage 4 Connect with Power
Stage 5 Negotiate a mutual plan
Stage 6 Finalize closure
Stage 7 Close your deal, go buy stuff.
Open an opportunity and ask your AE if the Stage is correct. Many times an AE has completed discovery, did a demo of the solution and presented pricing. However the opportunity is still at Stage 2 or 3. Have your AE own the deal stage. Owning the deal stage allows you both to intelligently move the deal a long. If the AE doesn't own the stage this will throw off your forecast and probability to close. Confirm the stage and move on to the next question.
Ask the AE if the Amount is correct. How many times in your team pipeline report an AE creates an opportunity with the list price in the amount. You both know the customer is not going to pay rate card. Even worse you have the wrong products in the opportunity as a placeholder. You can save a lot of time and avoid dips in your monthly pipeline if you confirm the amount in the opportunity is correct. A good follow up question should be can we increase or decrease the amount. If the customer has pricing rules in the contract the opportunity amount should reflect the pricing rules. Adjust the amount and move on to the next question.
Ask if the Month is correct. Keep in mind, your customer has an internal process they need to follow in order to cut you a check. If the close date is set to this month, ask your AE if paperwork has been delivered? Has the SOW been vetted? Have you aligned your deal sponsor to an executive sponsor? Does the customer need a P.O? Does legal still need to review? Is legal inside or outside legal counsel? Have you completed the ROI/Business case? If this is not documented, odds are your deal isn't closing this month. Confirm your steps to close with your AE and then confirm the month... move on to the next question.
P.S Make a checklist of steps to be completed when it comes to the Month step to better prepare your AE prior to the 1 on 1.
Ask your AE what Event can we create that will have an impact on the Stage, Amount or Month. The Event can mean a few different things. It's also the gateway to helping your AE uncover the answers that will allow them to find their blindspot! An Event can mean an actual event. Can you get a decision maker or influencer to a customer dinner. Can you get a meeting scheduled at a conference your company is hosting? Can you create a compelling event for your customer to buy - leveraging year end pricing, commercial terms or volume. Use the EVENT to drive the Stage, Amount and Month.
Just because this looks simple doesn't mean it's easy. You have to commit to the routine for it to work. The faster you get to the strategy the better your AEs will be prepared to close their deal. The faster you get through S-M the more time you have for the Event. This gives the AE confidence there will be time for meaningful dialogue at the the end of the 1 on 1.
By using S.A.M.E you can show up as a different kind of leader. The 1 on 1 will be more organized and keep you both focused. You get the answers you need for the forecast the first 15-minutes and the AE has time to strategize with you the last 45-minutes. As a leader you get to borrow from both categories of leaders and everyone feels like they are adding value.
Try using S.A.M.E in your next 1 on 1 and let me know if it works for you.
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