Our Blog

The Sales/Ops Tug-of-War

PC 44 | The Sales/Ops Tug-of-War


There is an age-old conflict between sales and operations.  Every organization has some instance of this, where one group is pressing forward and making promises to the world, while another group is saying those promises cannot be met.  How do you solve this problem? Once you know The WHO-DO, it only takes a couple of minutes to get everyone on the same sheet of music! In this episode, we hear about using the WHO-DO to get your sales and operations groups working together.

Listen to the podcast here:

The Sales/Ops Tug-of-War

Welcome to the People Catalysts podcast, Allen Fahden.

Hello, Karla.

It’s fantastic sharing this incredible method with the world in our efforts to revolutionize the way work is done. We had done a technology podcast and that was how to get new technology adopted. With the questions associated with that, there were two primary areas of business that came up. One was we’ve created this incredible technology. You have to take it back to the early adopters who said, “We should do this and have them use it.” We went through that and that was part one of this two-part series. In this podcast, we’re going to talk about the sales process and how it may or may not integrate the technology into the sales process.

The likelihood is it absolutely does if it’s a large company because there’s no other way to pound those reports out of your salespeople if you don’t have some technology to do it or as you like to say, Allen, the reports none of the managers read. Technology may integrate into the sales process and if it does, make sure you go back to part one of the series because it’s critical to overlay the two parts. That’s why we did the technology part first. Although sales from any part of it, if you’re talking about just prospecting, if you’re meeting with potential clients all the way to the follow up, this applies to your promoters as well. The management of the client, the management of their promoters and obviously the team members that are under your roof who are there to support the sales team.

Just like what Peter Drucker always said, “Business is innovation in sales and then everything else.” Innovation in sales is critical because you have to be able to fund your innovation. One of the biggest problems that we can run into when we are implementing first, again the ideation stage and then the implementation stage, is because these groups are so different. Those that want to adopt new information, pick the best ideas, the movers and then the later adopters, approvers, poke all the holes and the makers who never even want to show up until everything has been put together. Oftentimes, without running this process prior to going out in meeting with clients, this could be all the way from email copy to having it a face-to-face, is making promises. Technology people hate this, especially engineers and sales, but if you don’t run the process, oftentimes you have a disjointed team. They go out to a potential clients or promoter and they promise something.

It’s interesting too because it’s an age-old conflict. You can say it in several different ways. It’s a conflict between sales and operations. It’s a conflict between the front of the house and the back of the house. Somebody goes out and they killed themselves to make this sale. It’s masterful and they persuade this potential client to say, “I’m going with you,” and they want to come back and celebrate. Then they walk in the door and they said, “You can’t believe what we just sold,” and the people inside are saying, “What? You’re not going to bring that in here, are you?” Everybody’s got a point. It’s like, “We just sold this and we need this to grow the business. Come on cooperate with us,” but on the inside of the house they’re saying, “If you tell us to drop everything and serve this new client, we’re not just going to miss one deadline, we’re going to miss every deadline. We’re going to be late on everything.” They were going to fall like dominoes. This is an old question, “What can we do?”

PC 44 | Technology And Sales

Technology And Sales: The conflict between sales and operations is an age-old conflict.

We’ve got a solution to this. It might take you five minutes and it’s going to solve one of the biggest ongoing problems. Who is sales and who’s ops? Sales is usually the early adopters and ops is usually the later adopters. There’s that big chasm there, that big conflict and so we know with the Who-Do method we can solve that and sometimes you can do it in five minutes.

This reminds me of the many meetings, both being in the sales side and also working with operations. You get a huge long email from operations that goes to sales. The sales person or group of people never reads it because it’s too detailed and they fell asleep halfway through it anyway because there’s something else that is either on the shaker side, a new idea or the mover side. They need to get something done in every second. Reading this long email is taking from the doing aspect. Then this group, the early adopters, they go out and they meet with the client. They make a promise and when they return to the office, it’s like you’re losing momentum, but you know what else you’re doing?

That sales professional has worked their tail off, probably getting in front of that client and then the operations are working their tail off delivering. They don’t understand each other and they never come to a point of running the process. If you already have the ideation stage taken care of, it’s a quick way that you get everybody back on board. You don’t have your salespeople out there promising things that they can’t deliver on and you don’t have your operations people frustrated behind the scenes. This is the other thing. Sales almost always get the upper hand. Now your operations team feels like the black sheep of the family. The salespeople get to go out and do this, and they’re the ones that are value. You have to have sales. You have to have operations too, and so it creates a bit of conflict.

It’s like the person who said, “It’s not the notes that make the symphony, it’s the spaces between the notes.” It’s the same thing here. It’s the spaces between sales and between operations. If you can manage that boundary and do it well and that’s intervening before you make the sales call, finding out what the capacity is, finding out what the opportunity is and making an agreement where there’s some common ground there. It’s fast like five minutes or so and you do the Who-Do process so it doesn’t turn into an argument and then the people go out with some confidence about what they can promise. They can feel like operation could support them and deliver on that promise to.

It can connect in regard to a cross division in the company, but it creates a connection where they’re working with a client. It’s not just as these sales people out and they get all the glory and the black sheep have to say, “How can you get this accomplished?” Even when if you look at a timeline, it might not be realistic. Sales always wants to say yes and move forward, and then ops always wants to push back. That’s classic early adopter and later adopter and it reminds me early on in my career. My first company that I was launched, it was in finance and you could not get two different types of people together, ever is the sales and the underwriting individuals. Underwriting really is operations. They’re going through the loans. They’re looking at it. They’re reading 22 pages of detailed information to be able to make those things happen.

This particular company I’m talking about was so bad at it. It was such a fight between those that were going out and finding deals to finance. They were expecting the team to be able to read 22 pages of underwriting and make those submissions absolutely perfect. Are you serious? This same person is bringing in and it’s your top salesperson. You want them to know all the underwriting guidelines of the 100 different loan options and then submit that perfectly into underwriting. The rub there became pretty significant. Then now all of a sudden, the salespeople are getting called into the office and getting beat down, even though that might be one of the top salespeople.

It would make no sense. It creates a cashflow issue. It’s a capacity issue. It’s a momentum issue. It’s a feeling valued issue and a culture issue. Now the sales aren’t feeling valued because they went out there and they were doing a great job selling and the ops don’t feel valued because they feel like that wasn’t perfect when it was sent in and I’ve got to pick up all your stuff. You made a mess of this place.

I was in the advertising business and my job as the head of creative was to manage that boundary. Each piece of new business to creative people was a shiny new object. They went, “Let’s work on this. What about our present clients? We made all these promises.” “We’ll get to that.” “No, it’s all going to be late.” What would happen is that in order to accommodate the creative people, a lot of ad agencies would trash their present clients in their quest for new business. Something gets out of balance. Something’s going to give and something’s going to hurt and you can imagine if you don’t get your projects done on time. You don’t get paid on time and you get into a cashflow problem. A lot of businesses do that when they have to delay things. Every business is a horse race with the calendar. If they can’t get the present stuff done, then they’re in trouble. There the cashflow suffers and if they can’t get the new stuff done, then they don’t grow and two months later they’re not going to have any business. How do you manage that? We’ve got to be a lot more efficient and a lot more effective in those boundaries. That’s the function of the Who-Do.

Sales always wants to say yes and move forward, and then ops always wants to push back Share on X

You talked about all the monetary challenges associated with it and it’s just a downward spiral when it comes to the culture and the momentum. As Gallup says, “70% of people hate their jobs because it’s so frustrating for each of their core natures and their strengths and what they do in their work.” We just dump them all in a room and say, good luck, enjoy that meeting. That’s going to turn out fantastic and I’m sure you’re going to understand each other better after we jump you all in a meeting and it spirals for an hour and a half and nothing happens.

It always turns out to be blaming. There’s that old thing about the six stages of a project. One of the last stages is praise for the nonparticipants and blame for everybody who was involved in it. There’s a great quality story that turns that around. This is an underlying thing when you get into these conflicts, that there’s always good reasons to blame and not to blame, but we don’t generally think of them. This is on a factory floor where the CEO came into the company and looked and on the factory floor, there was a little puddle of oil and the CEO said, who did that? Who spilled that oil on the floor? Looking to blame somebody, looking to penalize somebody. There happened to be a consultant around and the consultant said, you’re asking the wrong question.

The question is not, “Who put the oil on the floor or who spilled the oil?” but “Why is there oil on the floor?” They did that and there’s this thing called the Ishikawa, which was five levels of why technique. They asked five levels of why and it went something like this. Why is there oil on the floor? Because machine number two is leaking. Why is the machine leaking? Because it has a bad gasket on it. Why does it have a bad gasket on it? Because we had to buy substandard gaskets. Why did we have to buy substandard gaskets? Because we didn’t have the budget for the good gaskets. Why didn’t we have budget for the good gaskets? Because you cut the budget 10% across the board and we had get it somewhere.

The CEO walking around blaming everybody else, not realizing you point a finger and three are pointing back at you. The moral of the story there, which is a problem that you just hit on, Allen, is that business-to-business, regardless if it’s your team, your clients, your promoters, if you’re not anticipating those problems, if you’re not working through and looking at those before they could happen because essentially you do the Who-Do, you figured out, if you cut this, I’m going to cut this, and then we have gaskets that aren’t working. As soon as that blame happens, it’s typically that everyone is not understanding their piece of the process and that they think it’s somebody else’s fault and it’s not their own because they’re not either given liberty. If they were given liberty to say, “These are substandard gaskets,” this could happen, but that’s not typically what happens.

Coming back to our focus of changing and revolutionizing the way work is done so that that can be anticipated prior to it actually happening. This brings us to another challenge associated with that specific piece and opportunity is what we call cross division Who-Do or sometimes what we like to call the horizontal Who-Do. Looking at all the different divisions, you’ve got the executive division and then you’ve got the, as you were talking about, probably the same type of maintainers of whatever created oil on the floor. What happens is everybody knows the age-old adage of we become siloed as a company. The problem is how do you become un-siloed.

In the early ‘80s, Ford was the first American major company to use the Deming quality method. They used it to create the Taurus. What they did was put together several cross divisional teams and not just cross divisional across corporate. They had, for the first time ever, not only did manufacturing talk to engineering but design talk to all of them. Then they brought the dealers in and they brought some customers in. It’s a whole cross functional team that they crossed over divisions inside the company. It crossed over sales relationships, channel relationships outside the company and even all the way down to the end user customer. That was the first time that an American company has done that and then the Ford Taurus was a runaway bestseller way back in the ‘80s and it had to be done from the top. Deming wouldn’t even talk to you while you were running the company and it made just a huge difference. That launched the quality movement in the US. The oil exploration company. They wanted to do innovation and so we use the Who-Do method with teams of geologists and tech people and the people who are out there drilling the holes, drilling the wells.

Those three divisions are completely different. You’re looking at the people who use technology, the labor-intensive groundwork that has to be done and the scientists behind the scenes, collaborating.

They got them together and this particular company has made one of the largest oil discoveries in the history of the world and does help making our country energy independent. I’m not saying it’s because of this, but this and a lot of other things. Maybe use it for ten years.

Embrace it to nth degree. They still use it to this day, which is fantastic. It’s nice. The method works only if you don’t use it.

That’s our next step. Let’s invent a method that works only if you don’t use it.

Another challenge that can come from this is the client management side. You alluded to this a little bit earlier on, Allen, about in the advertising agency, you want to get this new business and then you basically are threatening your current clients or previous clients and so there’s a lot of missed opportunity because your current clients are more likely to buy more and refer you to other people. Then those you are trying to bring in the door. What ends up happening is the early adopter, the sales person goes out and they’re just like hunting and hunting. They’re going and looking for new clients and the missed opportunity is the up sell, the cross sell or the referral from either current clients or the promoters.

One of the ways we use the Who-Do method with that is to divide all of the works into two parts. This makes the whole part easier to deal with. The two parts are the beginning of any process, which is innovation, doing something new, creating a change.

PC 44 | Technology And Sales

Technology And Sales: Each piece of new business to creative people is a shiny new object.

We’ve called this ideation as well, but innovation is a more standard word. It’s becoming like one of those words that everybody uses. Ideation as well, if you’ve listened to the previous podcast, we call it ideation because you’re generating new ideas.

Then the second part is once you’ve got an idea that’s been bulletproof and agreed upon, then you go to implementation. What’s interesting about that is the dynamic changes there, where the point guard, so to speak, is the mover on the ideation part. Once you get to the implementation part, you run the Who-Do method, then you’re trying to install the idea in implementation and the point person becomes the prover. It moves over one strength and roll. Then the prover stands between the mover and the maker. The shaker is hardly involved at all, unless they run into something they need some big ideas to solve.

I want to bring this back to that’s why on our red light, green light, yellow light, the mover and approver have a yellow light, not because they’re totally in love with each other, it’s because they understand each other, and they need each other. In the process, the output of the mover is the input of the prover, which is this what we want to do, the big picture and then saying this is all wrong with it, or this is how we can get it accomplished, or looking at twelve different software platforms and figuring out what to do. That is a key piece of understanding that the mover and the prover are always the point guard in any operation, sales technology, depending on whichever vertical you’re looking at. They understand each other because they actually both are point guards, even though the mover usually gets a little bit more.

If you remember anything, just before every sales call, the mover, before going out on the sales call, calls the prover and says, “How full up are you? What problems are we going to run to? In to what level can I promise? How many, by when, what kind of deadlines can I set?” The mover may already know it and say, “Don’t you dare even think about anything for three weeks or three weeks out,” or they might say, “We’re a little slow. We can get things done in a couple of days or we’ve got to meet on this. It’s too complex. We don’t know.” Let’s run it through the Who-Do and so they do that and any of these ways. You’ve got an agreement before that mover goes out on the sales call.

I loved that how this took a round robin back to the initial challenge, which is you’ve got these sales and you’ve got these promises and you’re right, after you focus on the up sell, cross sell, promoters and referrals, the new challenge, now you’ve got more business. It’s almost like see challenge number one, in how to do it. It’s not like you have to run the process so much that it’s constant. You can get to a point where everyone understands and knows who they are, that they are walking around and getting the input that they need and sending the output to the next step.

The thing is after there is a certain time where you will get to a point where you have to run the process again, regardless if it’s ideation, you’ve hit a brick wall. If it’s implementation, this is the next step and we need to make sure that we’re not going to hit any pitfalls here and I need to engage my makers, so I need to get down to the details on this. It’s not stop everything. This takes an hour type of deal. It’s those movers and provers, understanding their role at that time. Then engaging the other team members and understanding also when you have to bring everybody back to the table, obviously minus the makers to then run, get everybody on the same page.

We’re talking about minutes here and it’s like, “What could set this off?” If you’re not sure, if you don’t have an agreement going out, then that’s the time to run it and it can be very fast. What you do is you learn a lot and you invest seven, twelve minutes to make an agreement. In overall senses, it’s about agreement on a lot of things, whether it’s about ideas, capacity in the shop, whatever it is. You make those agreements and you go out with confidence, you know what you can promise, you know what you can sell, and more importantly, you know when you come back from that sales call, nobody’s going to whine. Same thing with, if you’re on the back of the shop, they’re not going to do anything crazy. They’re not going to bring in stuff and tell you to drop everything. People develop a lot more trust along the way but you’ve got to run the process and if you don’t do it, you’re going to fall right back into the same old trap again.

The beginning of any process is innovation, doing something new, and creating a change. Share on X

That trust and understanding, realizing that we need everyone but we don’t need them at the same time, we appreciate the space that you feel. We appreciate the part of the work that you do because they’re so good at that piece of it and understanding that we need you all but not at the same time.

Role management, not function management.

I’m totally fired up about this. We’re definitely passionate about this. It’s life-changing for companies and businesses and it’s been for us as well. It’s such a privilege to share it with you. Allen, is there any last thoughts do you have?

Some people may want to know more about this but we’re not going to sell it to you until the back of the office is ready. We can actually use our own method.

Thank you so much for your time, Allen.

Thank you, everybody.

Important Links:

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work! Please upgrade today!