Optimize Selling; Minimize Weaknesses: What a Salesman Can Learn from a Short Order Cook

As someone who has been in the CRM world for a while now, I enjoy learning how companies succeed in selling their products. Usually my interactions are with Insurance companies and not small diners, but on a recent vacation, I passed a diner right as it was opening and noticed a line of people waiting to enter and thought there must be a good reason for such traffic on a Tuesday morning, so I stopped in to check it out.

What I found was as a well-oiled machine that served your basic (but delicious) breakfast items cooked to order in front of a row of about 14 bar stools. A stack of paper menus was placed at the end of the counter along with a box of pencils for checking the boxes for what you wanted to order. Every potential utensil and condiment were neatly laid out within reach of each of the stools: napkins, forks, knives, ketchup, mustard, salsa, hot sauce, salt, pepper, etc.,

I was puzzled initially as to why everything was organized as it was as it felt a bit industrial in a sense. 

Especially for a beach diner where you would generally expect lots of friendly conversation about the weather forecast or about the latest fishing stories from the day before. Then, out of nowhere appears the mastermind behind the operation: a one-man-band cook that runs the diner solo, with the exception of a young man who helped clear the plates for the next patron and washed the dishes in the back. This was no ordinary cook, however. 

I was immediately drawn to this cook’s personality, or lack thereof. He didn’t even offer so much as a “hello” or “good morning”…he just systematically began walking the length of the bar collecting the paper written orders that everyone but me had already filled out. He didn’t bother to greet me either or to even try to explain his process, assuming that I would get the picture soon enough: fill out the paper menu if you want to eat. 

What this cook had done was identify the tools he needed to create a pleasing customer experience, where things like customer service, familiarity, conversation and personality are typically essentials to success. 

Being a CRM guy I could not help but to compare and contrast his style to the different types of sales people I have met and worked with over the years.

Some sellers are naturals, often referred to as ‘eagles’, while others are not and need to rely heavily on process to be successful.  We sometimes refer to these types as ‘journeymen’. Both types can be successful (and if you have someone who is a combo you better pay them well because they are a rare breed). For those sellers that fall more into the journeyman category you could learn a lot from the man who runs the diner. He recognizes that he’s not a very social person, or simply chooses not to be, but he does know that he can cook a mean breakfast and that he can do it more efficiently than likely anyone within 100 miles or more. So he capitalizes on his strengths and he limits exposure to his weakness (morning small-talk). Rarely does he have to even respond to a request for a napkin or some ketchup – it is right there in front of you.

So, what’s the connection to the diner and a CRM implementation?

Well, when talking with executives for companies who are evaluating the potential deployment of Dynamics CRM I often hear comments about how ‘Charlie’ and ‘Sherry’ are our two top sellers and have been for years…and they’ve never used a CRM and management wants to know how a CRM system is going to make them any better. Well maybe it won’t. Maybe Charlie and Sherry are eagles and they intuitively know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it better than anyone else and they don’t need a CRM to tell them. 

But for the overwhelming majority of normal (journeymen) sellers this is not the case. They need a process to follow to be help optimize their chances of success.

A CRM system, when properly deployed, should help incrementally improve the journeymen of your sales organization, those who are not like Charlie and Sherry and who could truly benefit from some guidance. What if such a tool could incrementally improve their efficiency and performance by just 5 or 6%?  What impact might that have on the overall annual sales results?  And I am not talking about rocket science, machine-learning, analytics with laser-enabled smartphones. Just the simple stuff. 

Imagine a simple CRM dashboard for a sales rep that contained 3 lists and 2 charts.

List 1: My Active Leads

List 2: My Overdue Leads

List 3: My Outstanding Quotes

Chart 1:  # Customer Calls versus Goal (Week to Date, Month to Date, etc.)

Chart 2:  My Sales versus Goal (Week to Date, Month to Date, etc.)

Thanks to the dashboard, your salesperson knows to work down his call list, disposition the call, and move on to the next task. Of course it is quite simple to take that a step further and have CRM prompt the sales rep with the questions to ask during the sales call, auto-generate a quote, and set the follow-up call date all while having real-time visibility into performance just by looking at the charts set up in the dashboard.

Granted all sales organizations are not outbound phone call-based environments. They could involve working with other partners, doing on-site visits and product demonstrations and dozens of other things, but the concept is the same. We simply have a different set of lists and charts that are aligned to the particular sales process. 

It all boils down to putting the right tools in the hands of the people who need it the most. 

  • Don’t make them go run down reports from the IT department to see how they are performing. 
  • Don’t make them create their own Excel Pivot tables if this is not a particular skill or interest. 
  • Don’t make them walk to the other end of the office to get the materials they need to do their job. 
  • And certainly don’t make them go to their local Office Depot to buy a planner and a spiral to-do-list notebook. 

Make it all front and center. Eliminate all of those non-value-added tasks from their lives and put them in a position to succeed in the most efficient manner possible. We sometimes call this “putting them on rails”. If you make the calls; if you follow up on these outstanding quotes; if you consistently observe your performance…you will do better than the person who doesn’t practically every time (eagles aside). 

We particularly see these types of low-hanging-fruit opportunities in insurance, especially in home, life and auto sales where pounding out the calls and doing consistent follow-ups is a significant part of how policies get sold. 

We consistently see organizations where a selling agent has a call list in a spreadsheet, a performance report on a dashboard, all of his policyholder data in a policy admin system and then Outlook to try to manage it all. Requiring sales to work out of 4+ systems to do their job is a risky proposition in the highly competitive insurance industry of today. The more progressive organizations have mastered these things and you can be sure that they are reaching more prospects than their competitors and winning more business as a result. These are easy things to streamline into Dynamics CRM that can have a profound impact on efficiency and sales results when applied across the organization.

At our upcoming annual Hitachi Solutions Customer Conference (October 5-7) we’ll have many customers sharing their own personal stories about how applying some fundamental and simple CRM capabilities have improved their business as well as employee morale.  

Want to connect with us to see how we can help your journeymen perform like an eagle?  

Contact us today and visit our website to learn more about our insurance solution.