Ep 39: Maintaining A Culture of Urgency and Accuracy During Review

BuzzSprout Audio

“Training the sales rep on a method that helps them narrow the scope before they do the most amount of work, can save time and produce better results.” – Josh Sweeney



Josh Sweeney: Hi, my name is Josh Sweeney, joined by my co-host, Taylor Barnes Taylor, how are you?

Taylor Barnes: I’m well, thank you, but I’ve got a bit of a backlog here, and the backlog is because I don’t let a damn person send something without having someone else review it. Have you ever been in that situation?

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, that sounds like a good challenge, I mean, it’s a QA issue, but on the sales side, right. So I think the sales leader challenge here is how do they ensure that proposals and other documents are going out without errors?


The QA and Review Process

Taylor Barnes: That’s exactly right. And I mean, look, as much as we want to say, this looks great. Look at this, there’s no way they’re going to say no to this. Having an extra set of eyes on something, whether it’s part of a QA, whether it’s part of a peer to peer review or some sort of extra set of eyes, just getting on it before it goes out is extremely important. And your QA process to make sure, like you said, Josh, that it doesn’t keep coming back, that it doesn’t say, hey, that’s not right. That’s not right. The burden of the requote process is so painful and a trip and it’s such an attribute to that backlog. You want to do everything you can on the front end to make sure that it sticks.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, most definitely, and I mean, I think there’s lots of reasons this happens, but I like, you know, starting with kind of the personality of the person. I mean, we are dealing with salespeople. Most of them are pretty fast paced and creative and real and pioneering. And they really get after it. And I would say, I know, at least in my own case, all of those attributes mean that, you know, perfect is the enemy of good. And so you get things out a little too quickly sometimes when that happens, though. So you write it once you review, you go through it and you’re ready to get that out. You want to get this deal closed. You need to get it to them rapidly so you can move on to the next thing. And that causes some issues because maybe you don’t review it yourself. You don’t take the time to go back through it, even though nine times out of ten it probably has errors if you don’t self review at least one or two times.

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, exactly, and it’s a delicate balance because as we know, one of the better KPI’s on deal closing probability is to get the proposal on the customer’s hands as fast as possible. Right. That is a legitimate thing and needs to be balanced. However, like you said, making sure that the careless mistakes are at a minimum. And I get that we have a backlog, especially when you’ve got an entire sales floor breathing down your neck. Where’s my proposal to get it to the customer as fast as possible? There is such a balance that you need to make sure from a quality versus speed point of view, both are equally important.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, I mean, like you said, it’s it’s important to balance that out because I know if I get off a call and I’m like, hey, I’m going to get you that proposal today. And I’ve got 12 more meetings lined up that day. I have 30 minutes to get that proposal done or I have to push it out till later or some other scenario. So, if I get it done, then the next step is, well, I need to send it to somebody else for review. And that’s going to take more time. You know, does it get to them today, as I promised them, so like you said, I mean, another reason this happens and things go out with errors is we want to get that in the hands of the client as quickly as possible. But there is that balance. So what’s another reason why this happens?

Taylor Barnes: Yeah. Well, I think you’ve probably experienced this. I think a lot of the other reason why it doesn’t happen is because people are a little bit timid or a little bit unattracted to the peer to peer review because potentially of the personality type that’s in the peer to peer review process. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that we have a very Right-Minded sales focused, client savvy, you know, designer that wants to get it in the customer’s hands with the proposal as fast as possible. And he puts in your standard notes and assumptions and gets a price out there and is good to go if he needs to pass that over to a very left brain focused, analytical, heavy, your risk averse individual, well, then that risk averse individual might just redline the crap out of that document before it gets back out. And that can be pretty debilitating for a team. So, you know, I think a lot of it also comes down to the personality type.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, definitely, because, I mean, when you send it over to that person now, you have to explain context and what you’re positioning. And you know, there’s all kinds of things that come in, like I just need this to go out the door.

Taylor Barnes: Right.

Josh Sweeney: I know, they’re going to come back with changes anyway. So, perfect doesn’t need to be the enemy of good.


Peer to Peer Review

Taylor Barnes: Simple job, we’re just going to go there, shake some hands and move. Why do you have this entire load of assumptions on there that have to do with. So, look, I mean, it’s definitely a reason. I mean, in our organization, we actually intentionally, on purpose hire people and stuff them in service design that, do think, pretty differently? Because, as you said, it is a balance. We need to make sure that we’re dealing with high energy, high intelligent people that can go out there and do the work and get it in the hands of people as fast as possible. But, we also want to make sure that we’ve got kind of our gatekeepers a little bit to make sure that they’re going to protect us and protect the organization, protect the brand against, you know, X, Y, Z. So design and proposal and peer to peer review. You are talking commercials, you are talking prices and estimates and all that. Don’t get me wrong. But you’re also talking language. Right? And so depending on the peer to peer process that you have or, you know, in general what kind of proposal that you have, peer to peer is extremely important. And I’ll also tell you, Josh, it’s a whole lot easier than having a very, very formal managerial review process. Peer to peer gets them, kind of working as a team a little bit more eye to eye than it does. Hey, send it to my boss and let me have him look at it. That’s when you start getting into micromanagement and whatnot, which is just not a healthy thing, in my personal opinion.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, I mean, you get into micromanagement, you get into delays and sending it.

Taylor Barnes: Bottlenecks!

Josh Sweeney: I know like that same manager that delays it is also wondering why the deal’s not closed. Right?

Taylor Barnes: Exactly

Josh Sweeney: Well, you know, you don’t look at it for three days man, like. (laughs)

Taylor Barnes: What happened to our Pipeline? it’s sitting in your inbox. That’s what’s happening.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah. So there’s all kinds of other challenges that come up with the routing of those and overcomplicating it. So what are some solutions? What are some ways that we can get proposals and documents, our sales reps with less errors still efficiently? And what are some ways we can go with this?

Taylor Barnes: One hundred percent.


Quality Versus Speed Balance

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, well, number one establishing, you know, how you’re going to do it is really important because if you have, send it to, that manager, let me know if you let’s send it back to the salesperson. Let’s see if they like it. I would say that, number one, you definitely need to establish something, formal, whether it’s a peer to peer or managerial approval or whatever. The thing is, that’s number one. Number two, I would say we have to instill a culture of accuracy and quality. You have to understand that quality versus speed balance, and you have to make those equally important. So when you bring, you know, the entire group and whether you’re coaching or training or educating, you know, it’s really important that we say, look, guys and girls, this is a very real fact. The fact is that people tend to buy from people that get their proposals back quicker. That’s a general statement. So you go, OK, got I need to get a proposal in the customer’s hands quickly. And then you can say, here’s another fact. People tend to shy away from people who don’t understand what the job is. And then you’re like, OK, so I need to create this culture of urgency around accuracy. and so I think first and foremost, after you’ve established something formal, Josh, I think you really need to make sure that you’re instilling this culture of accuracy and quality and making sure that they take both of them equally as important.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, definitely, I mean, you hinted on an earlier of, like, hiring different people with a different mindset. And I know, like in personality assessments, fast is the opposite of methodical right there on

Taylor Barnes: Right.

Josh Sweeney: Different ends of the spectrum. So you have to balance that out and look at, you know, how do we keep that quality up fast? Go to the person that’s more methodical and ask for our approval. Like, I know in my case, when I go in and create proposals or SOWs or anything else, I send it to a specific person on my team and say, hey, can I get this just reviewed in this amount of time? And almost always, you know, it’s a balance because we’ve almost always got some sort of feedback. Right. That’s going to enhance it and make it better.

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: But we’ve also already had the conversation of here is the intent of that like spell check errors, anything that just doesn’t make sense, you know, or was out of place because, you know, in the proposal document, it should have been replaced and it wasn’t copied and pasted correctly. You know, it’s not a rereview of this and question everything in it that holds up the whole process, unless there’s a good reason for that. So like you said, you have that conversation ahead of time and say, what are we trying to do with this peer review process? When do you need it? You know, there’s a bit of a system to it.


To Template or Not to Template

Taylor Barnes: Yes, exactly. And let me ask you a question, have you gone as far on your side or in history on either templating or productizing some things a little bit easier? So I guess at the end of the day that peer to peer approval becomes a little bit easier. So maybe now, you know, there’s a very tough process. It’s very manual because of how customized things are. One of the things that we’ve done is templated, you know, some statements of work, some. Have you done that on your side and you see the value in that.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, all of it’s templated, you know, we have things that we can substitute in so we know, OK, you know, three out of every ten proposals that go out, somebody asks about this clause. Here’s the other option for that SOW clause or from a proposal perspective, we have some pretty standard proposals and formats that say, here’s the format, here’s where you subin the logo. Here’s what we’re looking for you to type in the section,

Taylor Barnes: Exactly.

Josh Sweeney: You know, so that cuts down on a lot of the time very quickly because we just duplicate and move forward.


Picking the Right Review Tools

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, a lot of those CPQ tools, the PandaDoc type tools, I would definitely recommend, you know, if you’re listening out there to go look at some of those, because if you’ve got one of those where you’re you’re seeing that that requote and revisions and this is just taken up so much time and so many delays in terms of getting into the customer’s hands on something real protective and something that they can really execute on and sign off on. Well, then you might want to look at, you know, like we’re talking about here, something that you can make a normal, repeatable process, you know, have your standard notes and assumptions, your standard client responsibilities, your responsibilities, whatever it is. And so, you know, there’s a lot of tools out there that you can simply do a dropdown on. You can select something. And when you select that specific product or service, well, a bunch of, you know, notes and assumptions and responsibilities, auto populate out of everywhere. So when it does come all the way back to the peer to peer review, it’s something that they’ve seen before. And that’s really something that I think speeds up the process. So, Josh, have you ever. This isn’t something that we’ve done on our side to have you ever incentivized the service design or the quoting or the pricing desk on anything? It could be deals closed. It could be revenues, margins. It could be the. Have you ever incentivized? Because I do have one thought.

Josh Sweeney: I don’t think I’ve ever incentivized them like a sales team in order to, you know, when I think about that, it’s like what organizations have we worked with that have a sales operations team? And are they incentivized like the sales management or like the sales people to share in the commission? I would say maybe I’ve seen it before, but I haven’t been part of, you know, what

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: Are they getting incentivized on? Are they getting incentivized on the speed to quote or anything like that? What what

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: Are your thoughts?


Data Can Lead the Way

Taylor Barnes: Well, if you as long as you have the data, right, as long as you have the data and it’s very important that you do to make sure when you send out a proposal of the reps submits, quote unquote, I’m using air quotes. If they resubmit a quote request over and over and over again and then you’ve got V1, V2, V3, etc., you should have a lot of the data in there, then correlate that to how many, you know, close deals that you have. So number one, if you have the data in your internal review as a sales leader, when you’re looking at ways to improve, we have done we have done some incentives on the amount of requote requests that our customers give us. And if that number goes down, then they’re their next review, their incentive goes up. Now, the incentive could be a lot of different things. That could be, you know, comp based, bonus based, you know, potentially contribute to an increase in their salary down the road. But we always bring that in to instill that idea of accuracy and quality that we’re talking about. If the customer signs off on it the first time, that’s better for us, right? Better for the organization. Better for sales. So what’s one good way to do that while you incentivize the people that are drafting those proposals to make sure that that when you send it out there that it sticks or that it is exactly what they’re looking for until, of course, a change is required, then that is what it is. But as long as you get it in their hands as fast as possible, one of the solutions that I have found that that works pretty well is incentivizing the pricing desk on the requote numbers.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, and I think another thing that helps them get to that point is what I call like scope narrowing. So training the sales rep on a method that helps them narrow the scope before they do the most amount of work. So like I’ve seen it in the past and I had it happen to me, and that’s why I came up with a scope narrowing concept where we would talk to somebody, a sales rep, or talk to somebody, and we’d go, OK, we know what we think, we know what they want. Let’s go build on a SOW and engage the engineering team. And we built out this whole S.W. We go to them and it’s like it’s kind of right. You know, that’s kind of the direction or, you know, whatever else it might be. And what we started doing instead was instead of going straight to SOW, we do a proposal. And the proposal captures the worst situations, like

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: We talked about this. You can do this or this,

Taylor Barnes: Hmm.

Josh Sweeney: You know, and oftentimes it’s you know, we talked about this or this. Here’s the general cost. And what we did was we bucketed the cost. So we would say, you know, our typical integration, developing an integration to a CRM is two to four weeks. And this is what that number looks like. Do you want that in there or not? You know, is that integration that important?

Taylor Barnes: Mm hmm.

Josh Sweeney: And so what we did was we came up with these buckets and we would do a proposal and then we would present that proposal and say, OK, what is here is out of place. Which ones do you think you want to go with? Which ones do you want to hold off on? You know, and I think it’s the same thing, like, let’s say you’re an IT service. It’s do you want this wireless system or this wireless system? Here’s the two.

Taylor Barnes: Mm hmm.

Josh Sweeney: Here’s the two opposite ends of the spectrum. You’ve got your Meraki and you got your like Amazon order off the shelf WiFi package, and

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.


Narrowing the Scope During Review

Josh Sweeney: So you can go to those and narrow that down as a sales rep before you engage that team. So you have this scope narrowing process, which means that when you engage others, it’s that much more accurate. They’ve already seen some general numbers and some packaging and it saves a ton of time on everybody else’s part.

Taylor Barnes: Yep, yep, I totally understand and I think everybody out there that’s listening, as always, well, should be, in my opinion, always curious in ways. How do we get into a culture of continuous improvement? How do we continue to get better? And when it comes to this specific idea that we’re talking about on the challenge of proposals going out with errors, that’s definitely a place that you want to look into, because naturally, a lot of it comes down to perception. Client’s going to look at something and they’re going to be impressed, maybe at the speed you can turn it around. But I don’t think they’re going to want to, you know, risk a massively important project just based on how quickly you turn around and need to make sure that it’s got equal amounts of accuracy in it. We understand that people get busy. They rush things out with review. We understand some of it comes down to the personality type and we understand that there is a big effort to get into the client’s hands more quickly. So I think, Josh, we’ve left him with some pretty good solutions here. You know, that we need to, you know, maintain the education and the importance and the urgency around accuracy and quality, establish some formal process. I like your example. You’ve got one person that looks at it each time to make sure that, you know, whether it’s grammatical or or what have you, it’s just very important, possible incentives. And I want to leave everybody with that possible idea to take away. How can you incentivize your team who provides those quotes? How can you incentivize them if and when the client signs it quickly or that it sticks or something, something in that regard. And then, of course, just in general takeaways, anybody that wants to look into this a little bit heavier, some ideas around CPQ tools, standardizing templates, some things again, just to make that part of it a little bit easier. I think we’ve given them some good hacks today, Josh.


Question to Sales Leaders and Listeners

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, definitely so the final question for you is, how are you ensuring that your prospects get the highest quality proposal the first time?

Taylor Barnes: And this has been Purpose-Driven Sales with Barnes and Sweeney now go lead on purpose.

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