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Part 2: Quality vs. Quantity vs. Nothingness

In Part 1 of this blog topic, I posed a question. If Chef Andrew’s 1-hour-and-42-minute walk to work at the famed Edinburgh restaurant 21212 is longer and more strenuous than Chef Alicia’s 46-minute commute to 21212 — a train ride with a short walk before and after — does all his additional expenditure of energy to get to work make Chef Andrew the better chef? Well, of course not! That’s silly.

If it takes Rep Andrew 1 hour of dialing, navigating phone systems, listening to “no” from gatekeepers, and dead-ending in voicemail to finally get a live conversation with Amy, a potential decision-maker, and if it takes Rep Alicia 3 minutes of waiting for ConnectAndSell’s agent-assisted, navigated-dialing platform to get Amy on the phone for her, then:

  • Is Rep Andrew’s conversation 10 times better than Rep Alicia’s?
  • Is Andrew 10 times better at getting decision-maker Amy to slow down her fast, busy thoughts and get in sync with Andrew for a moment?
  • Is Andrew 10 times more efficient at getting the purpose of his call across to Amy in a way that lets her decide if the conversation is worth pursuing?
  • Is Andrew 10 times more in control of his disruptive need for affirmation that makes him want to do the stupidest thing possible on a first conversation — talk about his product?
  • Is Andrew 10 times more likely to ask for 15 minutes on Amy’s calendar to sincerely explore the possibility that there is any reason to go further down this road?
  • Is Rep Andrew really a great rep because he manages to have only 5 conversations a day, while Rep Alicia has 50? (By the way, I leave as a math exercise for the reader why Alicia doesn’t have 20 times as many conversations, even though Andrew takes 20 times as long to get a conversation. Enjoy!)

An inside job

Am I out of my mind asking these stupid questions? Surely, not one person reading this article at this point thinks that either a long commute to the office or taking a long time to get someone on the phone is a road to higher quality work. I hope. If you still believe this, please call me immediately at +1-408-203-4321 and teach me this new secret of the universe: that massively wasting your time getting TO the job makes you better AT the job.

Yet, interestingly, Comment Category #3 (garnered from comments made to my LinkedIn posts about ConnectAndSell dialing/conversation/meetings results) is very popular: If your reps, or your customers’ reps, are having 25 or more conversations a day, those conversations must really suck. Because we all know that if there were only one conversation, and it got the full “hunched over the lima bean” treatment, that conversation would be better than those mass-produced Big Macs rolling out of that burger machine. It would be researched! It would be brilliant! Oh, sure, maybe most of the time that precious decision-maker turns out to be busy right now or not quite the right person, but at least it took a long time getting them on the phone, so they’re all we’ve got. They must be great!

The error in thinking is simple. My own ConnectAndSell reps, and those of my ConnectAndSell customers, are actually spending more time inside the conversation, in the kitchen where the mere lima beans of possibility are turned into delicious deals. And, conversely, they are spending no wasted time at all — not one minute — “commuting to the conversation.” They are taking the train, or an Uber if you prefer. My reps can read or mentally prepare or write a lovely, personalized email to follow up on the previous conversation. When “the train” arrives at “the station” — beep! — they hop off and stroll casually into a pleasant conversation.

And, not to flog a dead lima bean, but consider all the unborn conversations for Rep Andrew. Each day he leaves 20 conversations undone. They were there for the taking, as Rep Alicia knows, because it turns out she works for a competitor of Andrew’s company, and while Andrew is on his 1-hour commute to the next conversation, Alicia is happily creating and nurturing relationships with 5 or more decision-makers that Andrew won’t talk to today.

There’s a big point coming up

Here’s the deal: we can measure, quite precisely, the quality of a conversation that doesn’t happen. That quality metric is exactly zero. So, Alicia’s 20 extra conversations are of infinitely — literally, infinitely — higher quality than Andrew’s 20 non-conversations. Her 5 conversations can be no better than Andrew’s 5 conversations, although it turns out Alicia’s conversations get better and better, both with practice and because she talks to the same people again, giving her context and relationship and intelligence (of two kinds!). But that’s not the big point. The big point, the infinitely big point is this: the worst conversation in the world is the one that doesn’t happen. This particular nothingness has all the cost of a fabulously foamed lima bean — but no flavor and no nutrition.

So, we arrive at a simple conclusion: taking longer than absolutely necessary to “commute” to your next sales conversation, whether a cold call or unscheduled follow-up or referral call, causes you to manufacture, at great cost per unit, the lowest quality outcome in sales: a great big bag of conversations that didn’t happen.

Not many things make me crazy. (My sister says I manufacture Prozac in my blood.) But this one gets me so fired up you could use the heat as a crème brûlée torch. But I will calm myself, sip my morning coffee (no whisky quite yet), and take comfort in having finally gotten this off my plate.

But not before I finish with a short manifesto. Paying good money to make nothing is not a recipe for high quality. It’s a recipe for wasting money and producing little. Let’s put Comment Category #3 in the rubbish bin, tighten up our commutes, and enjoy some delicious conversations — while we’re young!

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