When I interviewed him last July, he was already near his quota for the year. Later in our conversation he admitted that he is the worst sales guy in their team. What sorcery is this?
It turns out he is a sales manager (or more accurately, a manager of sales managers), and that there are two general kinds of sales management strategies. I'd like to call these The Jaworksi and the Anti-Jaworksi, in honor of the greatest baller-turned-politician in Philippine history.
Lebron, Kobe and Jordan can't even be compared to Jaworksi, because Jawo was both coach and player--his team's leader in both strategy and sharp-elbowed execution. He was also the king of Barangay Ginebra, that horde of basketball fans whose passion is rivaled only by the football hooligans of South America.
Rodgerson on the other hand is mellow and a bit cerebral. He appreciates the talent and skill of his sales people, and knows how to play the hidden role of a supporting leader. I first encountered him through his answers about Complex Sales in Quora, which is essentially a social network for all sorts of nerds.
We had coffee in Makati, and here are my 5 top lessons from that conversation.
1. Utang na Loob is key to complex sales in the Philippines
Rodgerson's team sells technology solutions worths millions to large enterprises in the Philippines. Their sales cycle range from 6 months to 2 years. Industry jargon calls this a Complex Sale, in contrast to Transactional Sales.
It's easy to imagine large Philippine enterprises as impersonal organizations governed by process and protocol. Yet each decision is made by red-blooded Filipinos, which means Utang na Loob, or Debt of Honor, influences the selection of vendors.
Rodgerson shared how internal champions of different vendors hold-off their toilet breaks during critical team meetings for fear of losing some ground in the vendor selection.
2. What's in the books versus what's in the field
I asked Rodgerson what's different from what you hear in sales trainings versus actual sales in the Philippines. He said that most trainings here tackle simple sales. And books on sales do not sufficiently cover relationship-building. In the Philippines (or at least in the kind of sale Rodgerson does), sales executives need to know their customers beyond the office--eventually knowing their spouses, how their kids are doing, and hobbies and interests they have in common.
One of my favorite questions is this: "what advice would you give to your 25 year-old self?" Rodgerson says that he would have invested more in networking. He would have joined more clubs and associations.
This is the perfect time for me to plug my favorite sales community: Join us at The Science of Sales Philippines, a gathering of sales professionals and entrepreneurs that share best practices in selling in the Philippines, focusing on process, training and technology:
4. Characteristics of Sales in Enterprise IT
Rodgerson spent his career in Enterprise IT. I asked him how different it is compared to other kinds of sales. He highlighted 5 characteristics:
- In FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods; the P&G's and Unilevers of the world), marketing plays the leading part. In Enterprise IT, sales takes the lead.
- It can be very stressful, but also very exciting. That handshake that closes the deal feels like a last-minute 3-point shot, or like getting a standing ovation.
- Doing it well requires an unimaginable amount of preparation.
- You need to wear several hats: clone, influencer, politician.
- It is a game with no rules. If you are a sales person, you do everything in your power to close a sale.
5. Rodgerson's tips for managing a sales team
- If you experience utang na loob, you will also see crab mentality. A sales manager needs to stick to meritocracy. Let achievers fly. Rodgerson sees his lack of sales expertise as an asset to being a sales manager. He does not have the need to be the #1 player in the team, and can focus to letting his team members shine.
- Fire if you need to fire
- Sales people tend to have a bias for selling to new accounts. This needs to be balanced with the work needed to retain existing customers.
- When hiring, aim for complementary skills and encourage diversity.
6. Quotable Quotes
- "Sales people are like movie stars. You are only as good as your last sale."
- "The longer I stay in this industry, the more I see that it is not a science."
- "Sales is different for different people with different personalities. This makes coaching difficult."
- "Up to now, sales is a mystery to me. That's why I like it."