One thing I enjoy about working with companies from different sectors is that it’s a fertile source for my own learning.
Sometimes a solution I might develop with one client has applications for other clients, as was the case this week with a program we call “Pull and Load.”
A technology components supplier has Area Sales Managers handling the ongoing relationships with customers.
These sales managers have broad, general knowledge across numerous product lines, but they don’t have deep expertise in any one specific area.
Enter the specifists. These are the — yeah, let’s make a joke at their expense — the nerds. (Don’t be too condescending about nerds. No one in Silicon Valley is laughing at them. The nerds are the ones doing the laughing… all the way to the bank!)
The generalists manage today’s business with clients, while keeping an ear to the wind for future challenges and needs. The nerds manage tomorrow’s solutions, with a by-product being innovation. (No sense innovating what the marketplace doesn’t want, right?
In the Brave New World, one of your best sources for innovation often comes not just from R&D or the creative department, but from listening to your clients. Of course, you need to be asking them the right questions, and this is where the specifists are not just geeks, but savvy commercial people, too.
In Pull and Load, the sales generalists “pull” from existing clients, and “load” it on to the nerdy specialists.
Essentially, when the salesperson gets into a conversation regarding a customer’s future challenges, he gets as good a brief as his (shallow) generalist mind can handle. He then provides the brief to the nerd with the deeper (but narrower) mind. Together, they brainstorm, go back to the customer, and get in to some serious solutions selling.
The company then custom-designs new components for the client’s future product specs. In the process, they innovate for the marketplace at large.
Pull and Load. Innovate and Sell.
I really like this principle, and I think it has all sorts of applications beyond generalists and specifists.
For example, another company I’ve worked with struggles finding salespeople in their specialized industry, especially salespeople who can open and close… who can get in to see a lot of new accounts and also close a lot of them.
Some of their salespeople are great openers, and others are great closers. And therein lies the gap.
And therein lies the rhetorical question: “Why not team up the openers with the closers?”
And this prompts the painful answer: “Because many salespeople are selfish.” (Hey, don’t blame me for playing messenger. If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know this is the nature of the beast!)
But, what’s worse? Not opening enough, and not closing enough, and… getting fired? Or splitting your commissions?
Splitting shouldn’t mean “half of the pie.” It should mean half of two pies. And if it really works, it could mean half of three pies. You leverage your strengths, and you all sell more!
Make sure you see the forest through the trees. Take the broader view. Consider teaming up, leveraging strengths, and selling more. The openers open more. They pull, and then they load it on the shoulders of the closers. The closers close more. The generalists identify. The specifists solve.
Pull and Load. I’m going to play around a lot more with this one.