Takeaways from the Inaugural Meeting of the SMA Boston Chapter
On Friday, I attended the Sales Management Association’s (SMA) inaugural Boston Chapter meeting. It was great to hear from local leaders in sales management from many familiar companies. I had the pleasure to speak with leaders from companies like Kronos, HP, EMC, as well as many local sales consulting firms. SMA Chairman Bob Kelly kicked off the event, and then quickly got into the panel discussion with Marco Madero, Associate Partner from Aon Hewitt and Cindy Reid, Chief Operating Officer at Mapping Analytics. The format was a rather open discussion on the challenges sales management leaders are seeing today. The conversation started around (the all too familiar) how to you take the strategic to the tactical. For example how do you take that 20% growth initiative that your CEO has reported to your board and devise an executable plan for your sales team to achieve the appropriate results? Heads were nodding around the room while Cindy talked about the need for data and analytics. Given the top level goal, take a look at the data and analyze where best to invest. Then measure and analyze, measure and analyze, and repeat. Catch the theme? Marco talked about how many organizations are more focused on devising plans for new business acquisition. This shifted the conversation to sales structure. How do you allocate sales resources from a traditional field sales model to an inside sales model? When is this appropriate? How do you adapt your sales model to changing buyer behaviors? It seems buyer shifts are resulting in a skew at the two ends of the spectrum – those customers who prefer to self-educate, research online, and engage with sales when they are ready to make a purchase, and those customers who want more service and value from their sales rep than traditionally provided. Ultra high-touch or super low-touch, with fewer falling in between. Bob then posed the question, “What tools do you wish you had?” Well, that wasn’t an easy one. That resulted in the conversation quickly turning to what tools were available. It seems the number of options available are overwhelming and there is no good resource to guide a sales leader through the options. One member made a plug for a couple local companies, HubSpot and event co-sponsor Brainshark. But quickly the group opened the discussion to other sales enablement tools for sales and marketing, resulting in another member interjecting – yes, but that requires sales and marketing to get along. Amen to that, brother. Discussing what tools and technology can help teams clearly opened a proverbial can of worms to the group. Where to invest, how to roll out, how to monitor and measure – the list of questions goes on. A suggestion from the audience for some kind of buyers guide was tossed out. While the SMA doesn’t have their own, someone thought Selling Power did. I could not find it on their website (granted, I searched for about 90 seconds), but if you know of one feel free to post it in the comments below. Now here’s my shameless plug for Qvidian. The team here at the Q has spent years hearing from companies just the SMA meeting attendees talk about these challenges. The questions aren’t new, but the context is. In the age of SaaS, Social, CRM and everything else, while the underlying challenges and goals haven’t fundamentally shifted, how we accomplish results has. This is one of the reasons why we developed our Sales Playbooks & Analytics application - a way for you to layer your sales process, methodologies, best practices, content and any other sales tool on top of your CRM data in Salesforce.com to guide the sales rep through the process. Qvidian becomes the “hub” for your other point solutions, guiding and prompting the reps to exactly when to use them. As a final thought, Cindy provided some “profound” guidance – “Change will always come.” Yep, that’s about right. If you’re interested in keeping apprised of the Boston Chapter of the SMA, join their LinkedIn Group.