Horsepower and Sales Organizations.

I am a gearhead. I spent a lot of time in my life with a car on jack-stands or with my upper body under the hood fixing cars and trucks. I have rebuilt engines, replaced transmissions, and even painted a couple cars. If it is in a car,I have probably replaced it at one point in time. 

I say this because horsepower is something I am intimately familiar with. For those that do not know, horsepower, by definition, is the power required to move 550 lbs one foot in one second. (If you use the metric system, I am sorry America is so backwards). So it is just the amount of power to move a horse one foot per second, or roughly 1/2 a mile per hour. 

When optimized, horsepower can do some amazing things. The Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye (I want I want I want) has 807 horsepower from the factory. It can run a quarter mile in 10.8 seconds.

So now lets do a thought experiment. Let’s assume time, money, and food was infinite, and we set up a cart and tie 800 different horses to that cart and get them to pull? How fast is that cart going to go? 

I hope you all laughed at the mental image of horses running in different directions, falling asleep, and some of them engaging in activities only suited for adult horses. 

See, yes, a single horse, given the right direction, can pull a load of 550lbs at half a mile per hour. But a single car can do that same distance in likely under 16 seconds.

I create this absurdity to illustrate a point. The problem is not the power of the organization, but the question of how well it all works together. 

This is a problem so many sales organizations have. They create too many positions and make the objectives too small. 

Let’s look at the modern B2B sales structure. 

  1. A potential customer fills out a form online with marketing (Marketing Qualified Lead) 
  2. A Sales Development Rep calls to qualify and set an appointment (Sales Qualified Lead) 
  3. An Account Executive talks about the problems the customer is having and says how he can fix them. (Customer Acquisition) 
  4. Client Success or Customer service then trains and onboards the new company (onboarding) 
  5. An account manager keeps in touch to make sure the client is happy. 

That is five different people talking to that same customer. Do they know who to reach out to in the event of a problem? And if they do have an issue, do they have enough trust with anyone in the organization to actually fix it? Hell, how many times does miscommunication happen in this cycle and you find yourself in a Mexican Standoff of finger pointing? 

“He said it” 

“Oh, I addressed that issue clearly in an email….”

“Well he understood when I said….” 

Sound familiar? 

The truth is we keep adding more and more horses to the equation and expecting it to become horsepower. But organizations are not the sum of their parts. 

We have been trying to optimize single pieces of organizations and expecting things to flow smoothly. That does not happen. 

In an engine, do you know what happens if the camshaft and the crankshaft spin at different speeds? Neither do I. I just know it is really bad and will make a lot of really bad noises. 

So how do I know the system we have now is flawed? That is simple, the “parts” are burning out too fast. The average tenure of an SDR at a company is only 18 months. There was a point when salespeople could stay an entire career with one employer, but now we have people leaving organizations so quickly you don’t even need to write down their birthday on a calendar. 

We cannot keep trying to optimize the “micro” within an organization and hope it create “macro” results. We need to engineer the system as a whole and build something that can be greater than the sum of its parts. 

Simply turning the sales process into an assembly line was not a bad idea, but while it optimizes client acquisition, but it hurts customer retention. Yes, the handoffs are great and make sure everyone is good at one part of the process, but at the expense of forcing each person to build trust from scratch and then hand of the customer. Sure, they may trust them enough to make the next step, but there is no long-term loyalty built up. 

The only way to keep customers is to keep customers happy. That is much easier when you have people capable of building deep connections to other organizations. When they have a single point of contact that guided them through the whole process. 

One point of contact can move faster than 800 horses running in different directions. 

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