Does Sales Need to Slow Down?

Fred Wilson had a fantastic post the other day on the pace of capital. It was called “Slow Capital”. The post was inspired by the Slow Movement and this quote by it’s creator Geir Berthelsen:

The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on you better speed up. That is the message of today. It could however be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love! This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.

This got me thinking about sales. Sales is based on relationships or “human relations”. Therefore slowing down has a place in sales.

The demand for revenue and revenue growth is all encompassing and never ending. At the center of it all is sales and the pressure to get more and get it faster seems to never ebb.

The typical company sales environment is NOT built on the relationship but the numbers. “Can you bring that 500k in this quarter?”, “We have to hit our number or else.” “That number isn’t high enough, we need to see 10% YOY growth.” , “The account needs to do 5M if we’re going to dedicate a resource to it, if not send them to inside sales.” Sales is the quintessential hurry up and get the revenue as fast as possible world.

If sales practiced slow selling a few things would be different:

  1. More emphasis would be put on customer needs and timing, and less on the companies needs and timing
  2. The hard sell would be a thing of the past
  3. Quotas would be built on market data and industry analysis and not YOY growth and company revenue requirements
  4. Company and customer would be better aligned and have better relationships
  5. Product value would drive growth. Companies would spend more time looking to improve their products value to drive growth not push sales to wring every last dime out of their customer
  6. There would be less fraud, less need for Sarbanes Oxley
  7. There would be less focus on what can you get me now and more on what can you get in total

In the 15 years I’ve been selling I’ve watch sales teams go too fast.  I’ve seen them push their best customers to the brink, so they can make their quarter.  I’ve seen them miss their revenue projections because quota was set on what the company wanted, not what the market could support.  I’ve watched companies get into viscious cycles of “revenue chasing” by bringing Q2 revenue into Q1, then needing Q3, revenue in Q2 all accomplished by squeezing the customer, making bad deals and calling in favors.

Sales is notorious for going fast.  It’s the culture.  But it doesn’t win in the long-term.  It will catch up with you.

Gong fast is easy to justify.  But, practicing slow sales will not only get you more revenue, it’ll get you a lot more of everything you want and less of what you don’t.