Hope is not strategic, but it can keep your plan alive.
This post was inspired by two events.
The first was years ago when a good friend made the comment “Hope is not strategic” when we were pre-gaming a project that was set up to fail from the beginning with a shared client. We were called in to help save the project after we both actually pitched to be part of the project originally. The project managers never had a real plan and were heard saying “they hoped it was going to work” when asked what they were thinking or expecting when they started on their path. The line “hope is not strategic” is now commonly used in the beginning of my executive meetings and one of the fan favorites in “The Great Book of “Peterisms” found here.
The second was a result of reading through various prepper blogs when we started experiencing supply chain issues, seeing signs going up in the stores about purchase limits, and having some of the weekly staples we purchase either not being available or the prices rise at a historical pace. And most recently, the crazy fires that swept through Boulder CO, the winter storm that stranded drivers on I95 in Virginia, and the reports out of China from their most recent lockdowns where an entire city ran out of food.
In one of the prepper blog readings, the author states what many survivalists preach; that a person can survive 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, 3 hours in extreme weather, and 3 minutes without air. The author also stated that you can lose hope in less than 3 seconds. It was this last figure that got me thinking about why would you lose hope and how do you maintain it when you are staring at or finding yourself in a hopeless situation?
Hope is defined in Websters as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen and that you believe it is possible to achieve it.
Losing hope means you stop believing that something you want to happen could happen and that it might not be possible at all. Something makes you quit believing that you can succeed or even proceed further and that can happen very quickly.
When the characters Cassian Andor and later Jyn Erso say “Rebellions are built on hope” in Rogue One, it sets the stage for all of the next chapters in Star Wars where we know how the story mostly ends. There were sure a lot of strategies throughout the various movies, some only temporarily successful. They seem to have ended in the positive for the rebellion, but how did hope play a role and how did they not lose it?
Think about all the other movies that have a similar story line of certain doom and defeat but the good guys end up winning. In all of them, hope seemed to be fading but it was never completely lost. The end of Saving Private Ryan where Tom Hanks’ character is shooting his .45 1911 Colt at a German tank as a P-51 saves the day is another great example and how about the final battle in Infinity Wars when the rest of the help shows up? Same with the final Star Wars movie The Rise of Skywalker when the entire rebellion shows up as Poe is admitting defeat. Epic shit!
Believe it or not, there is not much on the inter-web about losing hope, not much money is selling hopelessness, but I found a few ways how one may lose hope on a PsychCentral’s website post:
- You may never have had hope from the beginning. You may not have even developed the level of thinking or built the resilience to navigate simple struggles when things prevent you from achieving something.
- You may have lost the connections you had to hope. Going into 2020 and then into 2021, there was a lot of uncertainty and changes that left a lot of people transitioned into a dark place. Being called unessential by the government, having the values that you identify with attempting to be cancelled, having loved ones not get the help they need medically, and not being able to navigate the “new normal” in working from home took a toll on lots of people.
- You may have been a victim of actions that you cannot control. The Waukesha Christmas Parade is a perfect example. How are you supposed to prepare for anything that evil. A failed judicial system, and political atmosphere that favors criminal behavior over the rights and well being of honest and productive citizens, other peoples agendas and beliefs being pushed by media, even unnecessary policies and mandates can all make you feel like you have no control over what happens to you.
- You may just be burned out. At the end of the day, leading is not as easy as best selling books make it look and if you don’t take care of yourself, you can get exhausted and overwhelmed to a point where life seems to just want to run over you. You no longer feel able to manage your responsibilities and you develop a negative and cynical view of the world and others. You just feel defeated no matter what you do.
I’ll tell you that mid way through 2021, we were all losing some hope at the shop based on market conditions, failed economic and health policies based on politics and not objective practicality, a media system focused on raising blood pressures and not truth, and misplaced energy on causes that derail the values and traditions that got us where we were. At the end of the day, I did not see anyone looting work clothes and work boots during what were declared to be “peaceful” riots. You had a Governor that sided with criminals and not law enforcement or law abiding citizens on social media, and we were told to feel guilty for being who we are because we used pronouns that are appropriate. Not to mention the double standards that existed for both elected and appointed officials that were telling us to do the opposite of what they practiced: Gun control nuts that surrounded themselves with armed guards, one percenters telling us to save energy while they fly private jets to climate summits, leaders that get their hair done at days spas when they demanded non-essential businesses and workers be put on the sideline, riots that caused more damage than anytime in history being called peaceful by media, even the neighbor that flies the BLM flag but yet lives in the least integrated part of the state, sends their kids to the least integrated schools and is the first to call the sheriff when a “suspicious” car drives through. Classics.
At the shop, the uncertainty felt and hypocrisy observed in the world led to fear, mistrust, doubt, and caused numerous distracting conversations which took our eyes off the prize of on time with the highest quality. The fact that I had family and employees looking at me for hope kept me going. I did not see it as a choice. It really did not matter the day I had. I found people looking at me with even more concern, uncertainty, and more doubt than I was feeling and I felt a sense of duty to keep going by telling myself it couldn’t get worse and focused on the next right actions even though I felt like I was the captain of a refugee raft being being blown in the wrong direction.
I have have been blessed with great mentors that have been sounding boards for growth and inspired me to not quit. I still talk to some of them often. I have unfortunately also had some great people that I considered pillars of strength melt down and shut down in the past two years. Just look at the great resignation. It is not all bell ringers and crossing guards retiring like 46 thinks.
Through many conversations, I found that I was not alone in this hopeless feeling that I felt and there were solutions to these new problems by repurposing success found in the past, just from different aspects. I have always believed in surrounding myself with older and smarter people that have navigated the same issues before I had but here we are in the same boat building the play book while a game that nobody has played before is being played.
So how did and do I maintain and find hope when hope seems to leave the planet? How do you keep hope alive when everything you believe in is being attacked and you feel like things are out of your control? I started looking at what we have accomplished and gained on from where we were pre-pandemic. I started looking at what we had working for us and not against us and I discovered that we had actually accomplished things that we did not think we could actually accomplish when we set the goals.
Experts with more psychological understanding than myself state that setting and achieving goals, even simple ones, contributes to hope. When you are able to reach your goals, there is a sense of achievement and validation that instills more hope and gives you the confidence and motivation to set and achieve more goals. Nothing is more satisfying than to check a box on the getter done list and in this sense, empowering yourself by setting and achieving goals was the key. Of course these goals should follow the specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timebound format. If you are not familiar with the acronym “SMART” for goal setting, there are plenty of blogs our there so I won’t expand on it here. I actually like the newer spin on SMART setting SMARTER goals from Michael Hyatt in his book “Your Best Year Ever”. You can read more about it here.
You can start with a big goal or or small one but get started and don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis thinking you need 100% of the information in place before you do. George Patton stated that “a good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week“. You can build Rome or you can lose five pounds. You can double the size of your company or you can just reorganize one process for efficiencies. Of all the things you could work on to improve in your life, in the life of those around you, in your business, and even the world, you should write them down, and then spend some time prioritizing them and even involving others for input and ideas on achievement. Be SMART about it and make sure you do not have too many. Boiling the ocean is not possible and neither is gaining my college body back.
I will tell you that the best business goal set and business move we made in the past 18 months was NOT my idea and I give full credit to the others. Also, the best goal I have personally right now came from a realization during conversation on a dinner date with my wife and although I am moving the chains on it, it has required some adaptation in strategies and attacking some beliefs that have held me back.
Once your goals are organized and prioritized, you should make the goals that are agreed to be possible known and visible to appropriate stakeholders that can help you stay on track.
I happened across a nifty graphic one day while looking for a new format to keep our vision, our strategies, and all of our business driving goals and metrics visible and accountable for progress. It’s truly the only accountability tool I have seen work and we update it weekly for our meetings to use it as a living dashboard. We check on progress weekly and I like the idea of measuring the gains on the goals and not the gap as told by Omar Itani here.
Our business drivers include structure, sales, quoting, operations, finance, and culture and each bucket has it’s own goals based on our vision with three key leading indicators each that define and show progress on achievement. Structurally, we want to have the proper alignment, balance, and accountability. For sales, we have activity, volume, and profitability goals and metrics. For quoting, we measure the time to respond, meeting of our proforma standards, and project qualification minimums for our capabilities. For operations, we have labor efficiency, machine scheduling, and on-time delivery metrics. For finance, we have timely reporting, certain income statement ratios, and process controls in the ERP for proper reporting. And finally for culture, we have adopted the tactics from the book “FISH” and challenge each other for adoption, we recruit those that can help and force us to grow, and make sure we are adding value to ourselves and the community around us by giving back and having fun.
If that is not enough, I also have a secondary tool I developed for myself to keep my next best steps as a leader organized by the relative buckets of value they fall into for the organization and make them time-bound. This was outlined in the post about our “Quattro V” formula found here.
The achievement of our goals was not as easy as just writing them down and not everyone is going to have your sense of urgency to achieve them. This is where leadership is needed and stewardship needs to be escorted out.
Let’s revisit how you lose hope again. When working toward any goal, there’s likely to be some unexpected situations that occur and you need to be ready to deal with obstacles and setbacks as they arise. You can try to identify what barriers you could run into and how to be prepared to manage these, but there will be others you did not expect. Remember, what can blow up will. When it does, 95% of the solution will be how you deal with it and you need to be ready to adapt the plan and tactics and do not under any circumstance use these hurdles as an excuse to give up.
There is also a natural pace of others and activities that you may have to accept, but if there is progress or gains, then do as much as you can to keep right activities going and accelerate it. Additionally, if there is something that is not working towards the achievement of your goal or goals, change tactics, find different resources, and delegate to different people. Each room in my company has a sign with a big red target printed on it and the words “bang head here” across it to remind us about the definition of insanity and to remind us to look at different options when we are running into diminishing returns on activities.
The title of this post changed seven times while I was writing and editing it and I go back to my friends comment about hope not being strategic. This is the same friend that invented the word “strategery”. I am a pragmatic objective individual that tries to stick to logic most of the time but hope has helped in the past two years.
Using The Quattro V Formula For Success
This is a follow up to the post made in March of 2020 about leading through an existential threat after several business contacts asked us how we are making it through the interesting times of 2021.
Leading a company in the past 20 months has been interesting to say the least. Existential threats from a pandemic, government actions from unqualified and unelected appointed individuals that threaten business continuity, wasted energy from social causes, lack of objectivity in new reporting, and useless political rhetoric make it difficult to keep your eyes on the prize of creating value for your stakeholders.
How have we been successful? It has been through a constant management and fluid development of our ongoing business goals which we keep organized into four buckets we named vision, volume, velocity, and value. We call this our “Quattro V Formula” and it keeps us on track while remaining agile and responsive to customers needs and keeps us moving the chains on short term and long term projects that improve the business.
I’ll break these buckets down for you and give you examples of how we use these buckets with the hope it sparks some new ideas or validates some plans you have been working on or need to get working on.
Vision is about the things we want to be remembered for. Essentially what would you want your tombstones to say and it does not have to be just one thing. Our current goals under our vision bucket include providing the highest quality on time all the time (ISO), being the go to shop for customers that value expertise and experience, being a leader in local manufacturing thought leadership, being agile, responsive and available to customers, and being an organization of continuous improvements and learning.
This should not be confused with your potential mission statement. I often see vision and mission interchanged, somewhat overlapping, and usually way too fluffy to be useful. To us, the mission statements are the who, what, when, where and how you are executing on activities and the goals that will earn you to your vision.
For instance, on our vision goal of being agile, responsive, and available to customers, we build a project center, integrated and new quoting software with a customer friendly interface and keep customers informed about project progress with real time production data from our ERP system. Make no mistake, we still mess a few things up and there are a few things that we say no to, but we are transparent about the solution and quicker to say no to business that does not fit us with at least an introduction to a different shop that might be able to service them.
On being a leader in local manufacturing thought leadership, I sit on the advisory panel for the UAA program at MATC, my production engineer is on the board of MATC for the apprentice program, we sponsor tables at industry events for speakers on topics of economics, leadership, automation, and strategy to invite customer to, and meet with our strategic vendors regularly to understand how we can work smarter together for shared growth.
The goals in our volume bucket are focused on growth. These are the activities that lead to increased opportunities, strengthen relationships in the market, and increase sales new and existing customer sales. We are a classic job shop that services over twelve industries where business cycles and market trends lead to an ever changing top 25 accounts and work mix so we need to keep talking to people about what they do and how we can help. It is the equivalent of a shark needing to keep moving for oxygen to flow through their gills.
As an example in this bucket, we have a goal of talking reaching out to 10 new customers, 10 existing customers, and 10 strategic partners on a weekly basis. We also have a goal of meeting with three prospects about new business, three customers about more business, and three meetings where we are introducing two people that do not know each other but we know they should be doing business together. We have a goal of $100K in orders and $100K in shipments weekly which means we need to be quoting around $500K per week. We also have a goal of turning quotes around in 24 hours for level one and two parts and three days on more complex projects. Current supply chain responsiveness keeps this last mentioned goal interesting interesting to achieve which is why we have swapped out over a dozen vendors in the past twelve months.
Our velocity goals are focused on accelerating production and shipments to the customer. Time is the one things we can not create more of but we can sure try to use less of it. These goals can be the purchasing of better tooling for faster material removal, designing fixtures to increase spindle time and minimize set up time, recruiting to help find more talented direct employees, outsourcing certain services that other partners can do faster and better, and even using our own truck for delivery and acquisition of materials and services so we do not have to wait for our vendors to deliver.
Your number one priority in a business leadership role is to create and increase value for all of the stakeholders around you. Stakeholders can be employees, customers, investors, vendors, other businesses in your industry association, causes you sponsor or advise, and even the community that your business operates in.
Increasing wages, donating to the local high school’s robotic team, mentoring students in the trades, increasing net profits for the investors, painting a mural on the side of your industrial building that faces a bike trail, adding moisture collectors to your machine centers for better air quality, upgrading inside lighting to LED, paying employees for Christmas Eve as a holiday, hosting a customer appreciation party, and even improving internal communications are all great examples of increasing value.
But don’t confuse the success of the activity of creating value with the actual results of the activity. Value needs to be tangible and measurable to be meaningful. Sending your management team to an industry seminar or leadership training is meaningless if there are no improvements to operations or better performance measured in your operations and financial leading indicators. Increasing wages just increases expenses unless it is tied to performance and improves value to customers and thus the business.
Our latest undertaking is to control our ever rising health care expenses that every company suffers. There is no value in cost shifting, carving out benefits, switching carriers, or simply discontinuing a program offering just because it is minimally used. Sure there are some short term cost savings to the income statement but you have taken away value to the employees. Instead, we have decided to maintain the plan design we have, but are requiring the participants in the plan to qualify for their deductible reimbursement by seeing to their preventative wellness check ups in the previous plan year and register for a third party counseling services that helps our plan members become better consumers of their own healthcare. With this tactic, we are offering our employees the opportunity to identify and navigate health risks earlier for a better quality of life and we are looking to minimize the catastrophic claims and unnecessary hospital visits that torpedo the out of pocket expenses and plan costs to the company profits.
Another successful win in value creation was realized through a labor efficiency bonus that not only increases the employee take home pay, but gives us 110% utilization of direct production hours through multi-tasking and pro-active scheduling of jobs through the shop floor. Every employee wants more money and every company wants more production from them. By giving the employees the chance to achieve the bonus and the ability to measure it and make it transparent internally, we have raised the income per employee over 20% in the past six months with the same FTE head count.
After years of missing delivery deadlines because of poor scheduling and not ordering material effectively, we found a new ERP package that has our late orders down to 5% and provides us with the business intelligence we need to target better business based on contribution and reports our financials to the investors much quicker. This little undertaking did cause some headaches but the result has been a 300% increase in operating profit in a sales year that was down -5%.
Transforming the dull grey north wall of our industrial building that faces the local bike path with a mural that depicts the history of manufacturing in our community is next. Not only is the project in line with the DNR objectives for the bike path but it also helps tell people who we are, what we do, showcases the business impact we make in the community and helps the DNR since we know maintain the area around the bike path as their budgets for maintenance have been decreased.
What additional value are you building for your stakeholders? Is it meaningful and can the results be measured so your activities to get there are worth the time and efforts?
I work from a list of to do’s and to don’ts and a fluid plan that is driven by the prioritization within the four bucket of goals. This list gets some items checked off quickly and the list is fluid in nature based on what I can control, what I can delegate, and what I can make an impact on. I have learned that some projects have a mind of their own and certain timelines for success can be stretched depending on how many people are involved and the responsiveness of other parties.
This list is organized into three categories as well. The first is the to do’s that must to get done or something is going to eat my family. Of course my family is not going to be eaten but the metaphor should show how important these tasks are. The next level are the tasks that I need to do because someone else is depending on in. The third is the list of things I want to do and are more of the nice to do tasks rather than the necessary tasks previously listed. Must do, need to do, want to do. The want to do’s never get attention unless the other two categories are done or have as much progress as possible made on them.
Everyone knows that no plan survives first contact and we know that what can blow up will blow up as an organization but how we react is 95% of the solution. Developing the goals and creating your to do list at least provides you with a plan to go back to once the fires are out. What’s the saying about failing to plan is planning to fail and if you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there?
I would enjoy hearing how you have navigated the past 18 months and what you have done to come out stronger. Please feel free to reach out, drop a useful comment, or stop by the shop when you have time.
6 Market Development and Sales Management Lessons from Clash of Clans
While working on my village late one night, trying to assemble a clan, and trying to gain a better league status, I realized how similar the tactics in Clash of Clans are to developing a market and managing a sales team. In fact, the tactics are also similar to playing such strategy games as Risk, Axis and Allies, and Battleship that so many of us grew up playing. When starting out, you have infinite possibilities but limited resources and competitive forces that sometimes have more experience and are better established.
So where do you start and how do you compete successfully in both the game and in market development and sales management?
Have enough of the right resources
In the game, it takes gold and elixir and you need to mine for both of them. In market development and sales management, it takes money, time, and the right activities. All three must to be used efficiently to build your market and using your resources efficiently will lead to more resource being available to continue your growth.
Defend your ground
In the game, you start by building a village that you will quickly need to defend because you are the weakest village on the planet. In market development and sales management, it starts with identifying a market, entering the market with an initial offering, and then protecting your market share from competition by servicing your customers with great customer service and delivering value.
Have the right team
In the game, you have a choice of warriors with various skills sets that serve different purposes depending on what you need to accomplish successfully in a battle. In market development and sales management, you need to have the right people in the right positions doing the right things for lead generation, customer conversion, relationship management, sales support, and customer support.
Choose your battles
In the game, you are given the ability to choose your battles which is helpful since you get to survey the competition and do a quick analysis of your resources compared to your enemy’s defenses to decide if you want to take the risk of competing. You will not be able to compete against some opportunities so it is helpful to have some foresight. In market development and sales management, we try to know the competitive landscape as best we can and use our differentiators to sell against our competition. Knowing how the competition might respond and knowing from experience which opportunities to walk away from are helpful skills in the long term.
Review your failures
In the game, you can watch a replay of your battle to determine where you need to make changes for next time. There is no better learning opportunity like having your village leveled 100%, your resource pilfered, and you are given a shield for 12 hours out of pity from the game creators to protect yourself since you lost so badly. In market development and sales management, you can’t replay your activities but you can perform a post mortem analysis and learn what behaviors, language, activities, questions, solutions, and competitive activities you need to be aware of or perform better for the next opportunity. You can actually learn more in sales from your losses than you can from your wins.
In the game, you are can see how much upgrades and additions cost and understand where you are weak so you begin to plan what changes you need to make based on how successful your offensive campaigns are and how successfully you defend your village from raiders. In market development and sales management, you are able to use business intelligence reports from the CRM and accounting system to identify what product lines are most profitable, which customers are most profitable, and what activities are the most productive so you can make adjustments to your selling plan and how you are using your team.
If you are not a fan of Clash of Clans or you did not grow up playing strategy based games, then this might not make as much sense to you. However, the same lessons can also be learned from competing in sports, competing in the talent shows, and from your current market development and sales management success. If you would like some pointers on Clash of Clans or in your market development and sales management, feel free to email me. Nothing like having a coach and a mentor to help you navigate through some difficult times.
6 Key Areas to Review Weekly: A Sales Manager Checklist
Stay ahead of the market by maximizing the opportunities in the world around you.
Leading a sales team is a constantly evolving mission with a single objective: to meet and exceed the sales objectives for the area you’re managing. It involves constant recruiting, training, motivating, and coaching of both direct reports and non-reports. It is a constantly giving position that takes nothing and gives credit where credit is due.
The variables that can impact your success as a leader are tremendous. Below is a weekly sales management checklist and its purpose is to help you stay on top of the primary issues that should have your attention on a regular basis to keep you on track.
- Do we know what is going on in our industry?
- Do we know what is going on in our market?
- Do we know what is going on in our competitors?
- Do we know what is going on in our customers?
- How are we differentiated?
- Do we have the right metrics in place to measure change?
- What does the team need to know more about?
Goals & Roles
- Do we have defined goals for the year?
- Do we have defined sub-goals for the next 30/60/90 days based on the annual goal?
- Does everyone understand their roles and expectations in achieving the goals?
- Does my team have a plan for achieving those goals?
- Do we have the right metrics in place to measure progress?
- What can we provide to the team to help them?
- Do we have the right people on the team?
- Do we know what the team is great at?
- Is the team utilizing their strengths to their full potential?
- Do we know where the team needs help?
- What tools do we need to use better?
- What activities do we need to do better?
- Do we have the right metrics in place to drive success?
- How can we coach the team for better performance?
- How well is our lead generation working?
- Are we easy to do business with?
- Do we have the people and processes to support the sales?
- Are we maximizing our capacity?
- Are we meeting our revenue / units / margin goals?
- What are our customers saying?
- Do we have the right business intelligence to make informed decisions?
- What can we improve this week?
- Who are our top customer? Who changed? Who can we grow in the middle 60? Who do we fire>
- Do we have the right strategic partners to help us add value to our customers?
- Who else need to know about what we do?
- Who can we be a resource for?
- What is my 30-60-90 day plan and is it focused on the goal?
- Who can I use as a sounding board?
- Who can hold me accountable
- What books have I read in the last 3 months?
- How can I help others in their personal lives?
- What can we celebrate?
Your particular sales world will most likely involves a few more points or slight changes that are specific to you and your team, your company, your industry, and your market. You may be an owner in charge of the sales effort, a sales manager in a large company, or even an autonomous sales person that has to manage themselves. Regardless, the sales management function still needs to perform and consistently addressed, these are the sales management fundamentals that will put you and your team in front of the pack and help you maximize the opportunities in the world around you.
The 5 Types of Sales Reps – Which One is Right for Your Business?
Innovation is difficult and innovations alone will not drive sales so who is on your team that can help you grow your business? Do you have the right types of sales representatives for your efforts? Can your sales efforts increase market share utilizing current resources?
What made your organization successful in the past may not be enough to maintain the current sales levels or even survive in the future. Many companies are doing the same thing the same way with the same people and with the same customers. Companies must evaluate their sales efforts and sales teams if they want to grow in this “new economy”.
In the book “The Challenger Sale” by Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson published in 2011, the authors studied the skills, behaviors, knowledge, and attitudes that matter for high performance and developed five profiles of sales representatives including the identity of the most successful one. It is a brilliant book that you should read if you are serious about taking your sales effort to the next level and stay ahead of the competition.
So what are the five different profiles and what is the most successful one?
The Hard Worker: This sales representative is always willing to go the extra mile, does not give up easily, is self-motivated, and interested in feedback and development. 21% of sales representatives fall into this category.
The Relationship Builder: This sales representative builds strong advocates in customer organizations, is generous in giving time to help others, and gets along with everyone. 21% of sales representatives fall into this category.
The Lone Wolf: This sales representative follows their own instincts, is self-assured, and difficult to control. 18% of sales representatives fall into this category.
The Reactive Problem Solver: This sales representative reliably responds to internal and external stakeholders, ensures that all problems will be solved, and is very detail oriented. 14% of sales representatives fall in to this category.
The Challenger: This sales representative always has a different view of the world, understands the customer’s business, loves to debate, and pushes the customers. 27% of sales representatives fall into this category.
There is no doubt that the “Challenger” is the most successful of sales representatives studied. The good news is that the characteristics and style of the “Challenger” representative can be taught and replicated in any organization.
Challengers do not lead with information, they lead with insights about how they can save money, increase revenues, or increase efficiency in their prospect’s or client’s business. The Challenger teaches their prospects and clients things that they do not know and can use to improve their business.
Please feel free to contact us if you need help building challenger representatives in your organization for your selling efforts.
7 Sales Metrics and 7 Questions You Should Utilize for Sales Growth and Sales Coaching
In a recent seminar about “Building a Sales Management Function” that I was honored to facilitate, we talked about what metrics matter to an organization that wants to be forward thinking and use leading indicators instead of the traditional “Postmortem” metrics that most companies use. Looking backwards is fine if you are alright with using your rear view mirror to drive forwards, but companies that are focused on sales growth should be using a different set of Metrics. These seven metrics are both useful for production and for a sales management function to identify coaching opportunities for better sales performance.
These seven sales metrics are key to effective sales management for organizations focused on growth:
1. #of Face-to-face meetings with “new qualified targets” (not prospects or leads) regarding new opportunities
2. # of two-way phone or email conversations with “new qualified targets” regarding new opportunities
3. # of Face-to face meetings with existing clients regarding new opportunities
4. # of two-way phone or email conversations with existing clients regarding new opportunities
5. Amount of new opportunities added to their sales funnel
6. The # of actions that moved existing opportunities through their sales funnel
7. The amount of new business that closed from their sales funnel
These seven sales metrics will help identify how effective a sales rep is at both finding new business (volume) and moving business through the sales funnel (velocity). These seven sales metrics will also provide your sales management function with the information and business intelligence they need to coach your sales rep for better performance once you bench-mark them.
What questions would you ask as a sales manager to coach your sales reps once you have bench-marked these sales metrics?
1. How can we increase the average value of the new opportunities you find in new clients and existing clients?
2. How could we decrease the length of sale from 6 months to four months?
3. How can we increase the amount of opportunities in existing clients?
4. What else do you need to help add volume to your sales funnel?
5. What are the objections you are getting from clients and how are you navigating them?
6. What do you need to do differently next week to get better results?
7. How can I help?
You cannot manage want you do not measure and what you measure gets done, so what are you measuring and what else do you need to start measuring? A good sales management function will help their sales reps put money in their pockets so everyone is happy. I guarantee your sales reps want to know the measuring stick and know that someone wants to help them.
Please feel free to contact me if you need help identifying what sales metrics makes sense for you to measure for growing sales and how you can start using them to improve your sales performance.
13 Free Sales Tools to Help Build Your Business
Having worked with these sales tools in my own business and helping my clients integrate these sales tools into their own habits, I sometimes take it for granted that everyone knows about them. These should not just be tribal knowledge and I hope these help you in your own selling efforts to the markets you are targeting.
Jigsaw is a user-generated database that is continually updated by its members. It gives you the name, title, postal and email addresses and direct-dial phone numbers for individual contacts you can’t find directly. This allows you to find the direct contact information for decisions makers you are targeting without going through the gatekeeper and wondering if you message is even being received.
InfoUSA is a sales tool available with just a library card through your library system. Not only is this tool useful for finding information on your target customers, but it also give you a list of management names, their competitors, and their SIC and NAICS codes to be able to download searches for even more target customers that may not appear on other search tools.
MyBrainShark is a website that allows you create a voice-enriched multimedia presentation or podcast. It also makes it easier for you to record your PowerPoint presentation for online display purposes. This allows the market to view and hear your message and learn from your expertise 24/7.
FirefoxSuperSearch is like the the”Swiss Army Knife” of search engines. It allows users to perform web searches, people searches, reverse lookups, public records searches, due diligence and background research, using over 160 of the internet’s best search engines. This allows you to learn a lot about your prospects and customers before you engage with them.
Google Analytics generates detailed statistics about the visitors to your website. It can track visitors from all referrers, including search engines, display advertising, pay-per-click networks, email marketing and digital collateral such as links within PDF documents or other downloads. This will help you identify how your website is connecting with in your market and help you identify what content you need to change.
Xobni is a free add-on to Microsoft Outlook that turns it from an email system into a powerful sales tool. It creates another window in outlook that displays a profile of whoever sent you the currently highlighted email by grabbing that person’s photo and telephone number from LinkedIn, Facebook, or several other social networking sites. It also shows a string of communications that you’ve had with that person. If you use outlook, this is the easiest way to start “social selling” using all of the social media tools.
Hoovers is a database of companies and other organizations, which includes top level data on financials, strategies, competitors, key executives, market dynamics, and so forth. It’s built on a database of information on more than 30 million corporations and organizations, and more than 35 million people. This is a great place to learn about a customer or a competitor, without having to dig through the SEC reports.
Zoho CRM is a Customer Relationship Management tool that has all the features you’d expect in a world-class CRM product, including marketing campaigns, lead management, sales pipeline, forecasts, etc. This will allow you to keep track of all of your opportunities and activities in one location and you can even have up to 3 people on the same system before you have to pay for it. I have 3 clients using this currently as their first CRM tool and it works great for a sales management function.
Demandbase Stream is a nice little sales tool that works like a news ticker displaying information across the desktop about which businesses are visiting your Web site, along with their interests, and contact details for the most appropriate decision makers to contact for follow up. You can also flag existing customers, prospects, partners, and competitors, so that you’re aware when they’re doing something on your website. This helps you act fast when someone is interested in what you have to offer.
Super Pages has proven useful for search for companies that are typically hard to find because they do not “fit” into a specific market segment. You are able to search for companies in specific geographic areas using key words of the service they may offer.
LinkedIn continues to be a valuable sales tool for business development as more and more companies are joining and senior leadership begins to adopt it as a tool themselves. Although they have removed some of the features since going public like Events and Answers, you can generate plenty of activity with a target audience by posting useful information to help your network or take part in discussions within the groups you belong to. Make sure you join 50 groups that are relevant to your expertise, industry, and interests to get the most reach. Chances are, if I do not know something, my network or fellow group members do and I get an answer very quickly.
Evernote is a great way to keep your projects and to-do list organized. You can access it through both a desktop and your mobile device to add activities and make new notes when you think about them so you do not forget about them
Xmind is a mind mapping tool that helps you visualize strategic plans, build organizational charts, develop fish bone diagrams for processes, and even can be used to map a potential website site map. This is a great tool for those of us who are more visual learners.
Please feel free to contact me if you need any help with these or just want my library card number.
10 Reasons your sales effort is complacent
Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- You do not have regular sales meetings.
- A member of your team quit and you have no CRM to access account information.
- You spend less than 60% of your time with customers.
- 20% of your selling efforts accounts for 80% of your sales.
- You recently lost sales because you did nothing.
- Your sales cycle is longer than last year.
- Your customers are buying less.
- Less than 25% of your sales come from new customers.
- You have seen less than 4 customers and prospects in the last week.
- You do not subscribe to any sales blogs or read any books on new ways of doing things.
If more than 3 of these reflect your organization’s selling function, you may want to consider making some changes to your selling processes, changes to your structure, changes to your compensation plan, and investing in some training.
Why can’t I close sales faster?
With sales cycles getting longer, understanding the problems you are faced with will help you change the way you sell for faster sales.
1. Your sales process is not aligned with your prospect’s buying process. Most companies design their sales process on how they sell to the market without regard to how the market buys from them. If you start to think as a buyer, you would be able to identify potential obstacles earlier in the sale and develop solutions around them.
2. You do not follow your process. When you do not follow all of the steps when building a model or replacing your brake pads? What if pilots and surgeons ignored their processes and checklists? Experts say that it takes 10,000 hours to master your profession, so until then you should probably follow the steps.
3. You have not created a sense of urgency by discussing “risk” with the buyer. The best question you can ask if you feel an objection to your solution: “What is the cost of not doing this?” If you can you’re your prospect that the rewards outweigh the risks, you will help them say “yes” faster.
What steps should you take to correct these problems?
1. Define how your customer buys. If you ask “What would you like to see from me to help you make your decision”, you will save a lot of time trying to figure out what they want.
2. Have a goal for each and every sales call. When you understand all of the stages a prospect goes through in their buying process, you can identify milestones that need to be met for the prospect to reach the next stage. What needs to happen in your next call or meeting to make that happen to keep the sale moving?
3. Talk about rewards with your prospects. Companies are always concerned with committing funds to something that is not necessarily tangible. Help your prospect understand the opportunity costs of not saying “yes”.
By aligning the way you sell to the way your prospects buy, following a repeatable process, and helping the prospect see the rewards of saying yes, you will close sales faster.
6 Questions to Help Move the Chains
In how many sales meetings this week is the owner looking at the sales funnel and scratching their head about the lack of movement of opportunities from one stage to the next? There seem to be plenty of opportunities and potential clients out there so what is the problem?
I guarantee it is a lack of proper qualification of the opportunity to begin with. The sales funnel needs to be cleaned up and by asking some basic sales leadership questions, you can help coach your team to identify the true opportunities to potentially “move the chains” and take them to the next level.
- Who is the potential client?
- What do they actually need and want?
- How do they make decisions?
- Who are the stakeholders?
- What other options does the potential client have?
- What is a clear next step that we need to do now to move this forward?
Many sales people can’t say “no” to potential opportunities and clients even though they are not ideal prospects. This causes their sales funnel becomes full of opportunities that get stuck at the proposal phase because they have no clue what to actually offer to them.
If you are looking at the sales funnel and can’t understand why the actually sales are not happening, try drilling down deeper into each opportunity with these questions to coach your team to move their chains.
If you need help integrating some of the best practices to help coach your sales team, please contact us to schedule a SWOT analysis of your sales structure, sales process, and sales skills