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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

How leading indicators can help keep your eyes on the prize

During my spare time while traveling for a project with a major Midwest manufacturer, I decided to summarize a take away I had from reading “The Four Disciplines of Execution”.1 The book is very relevant for any of us who have started major initiatives in our organizations only to watch them be stifled by competing priorities or as I call it, “the tyranny of the urgent”. These are daily need-to-do activities and organizational fire fighting that makes us wonder what we actually accomplished and did all day.

After an organization determines a relevant business goal they want to achieve and target date for completion, they traditionally measure their progress through what the book calls “Lagging Indicators”.  These lagging Indicators are reflective of the goals that we traditionally set quarterly or annually such as:

  • Increase sales from $500K to $625K by 2015.
  • Increase the number of dealers from 10 to 15 by 2013.
  • Reduce cost of sales by 10% by Q3.
  • Increase average selling price per transaction by 5% by March
  • Increase our market share by 10% by 2014.

Sound familiar?  If achieved, any of these are all good indicators of success, but when does and organization traditionally look at the results? Most of them only look at their progress a few days before the target completion date.  This can produce only one of two possible results: a sense of jubilation and desire to celebrate, or a instantaneous increase in your pucker factor that now has you worrying about your year, your career, and the future of your organization.  Using these lagging indicators to measure success at the end of a target date is about as useful as looking in your vehicles rear view mirror to navigate in a forward direction.

What if you could measure your progress along the entire way toward your target date?
What if you were able to change your game plan at half time instead of the two-minute warning?  What if everyone in the company knew could measure results on a weekly basis?
What do you have to start measuring to be able to do that?

The book introduces the development and use of “Leading Indicators”.  Leading indicators measure the achievement of specific activities and activity levels that are necessary for you to achieve your goal.  These can be as simple as:

  • Meet with 10 new qualified targets per week.
  • Present to 4 qualified prospects per week.
  • Up sell 10 clients per week.
  • Mail 100 new information packets to targets per month..
  • Complete 3 field assessments per month.
  • Participate in 2 trade shows per quarter

All of these leading indicators can be reverse engineered from looking at your past successes and determining what activities helped you get there.  For example, if your goal (lag indicator) is to sell $100K of materials in 10 months to new clients, your average client is worth $10K, 50% of the prospects let you send them a quote, and you closing ratio is 10%, then you will have to talk to 200 prospects and propose to 100 of them to reach your goals.  Breaking down these activities into leading indicators determines that you need to talk to 20 new prospects and propose to 10 of them every month or even talk to five prospects a week and propose to 2.5 of them on average. Your goal of $100K in new revenue in 10 months does not seem all that hard to achieve know what you have to do each week in the midst of the tyranny of the urgent.

The last words of advice from the book are to develop and maintain a public score card that helps everyone in the organization understand how they are meeting their leading indicators and progressing towards their goals on a weekly/monthly basis.  Read here to understand the benefits of keeping score properly to drive accountability in your organization or contact SalesTechnik  should you like help developing relevant leading indicators to help you achieve your goals.

1. The Four Disciplines of Execution: McChesney, Covey, and Huling, Free Press 2012
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How to Get a Faster ROI from Your New Sales Person

You just started a new sales person after your last sales person walked out the door only after 6 months.  You ordered new business cards, set up an email address, put together some sales figures, printed a customer list, and gave them a stack of brochures.  They should be set to go, right?  This is the most common scenario for any company that has a high turnover in their sales teams.  In fact, it was the way I was on-boarded as several companies earlier in my career.

Most companies do not have the proper systems and processes in place for on-boarding new sales people and without them, the sales person is set up for failure from the beginning. What does it take to set the new sales person up for success?  I call it the 4-P’s and it is everything that should be given to a new sales person to hit the streets faster and produce an ROI for your company.

Position: How thorough is the job description?  Have all of the expectations been communicated? Are their support people in place? Have goals been set?  Does the sales person understand what their role is in the achievement of those goals?  Without a clear understanding of the sales position, the opportunity for misunderstanding of role and expectations can lead to frustration and lack of results.

Products: Has the new sales person been trained on your product or service and fully understand the value it can deliver to your customers?  Do they know the pricing?  Do they know your entire portfolio? Do you have technical expertise that can support the sales person? Are your marketing materials current?  The failure to properly train and even cross train your new sales person will destroy your credibility with customers.

People:  Who are the people that you want to deliver your product and service to? Do you know what an ideal customer looks like? Do your marketing materials speak to your target market?  Do you know your competition?  Do you know your differentiators?  Do you know how your customers buy?  The failure to understand your market will not develop a clear marketing and selling plan to follow.

Processes: What metrics do you have in place to measure success?  Is your CRM in place and the use of it mandated?  Can you document your customer buying process and what roles are responsible for the various stages and touch points?  Do you have support people for order entry, shipping, billing, and servicing so your sales person can stay in front of customers and new opportunities?  The failure to have proper support in place for customers will make your sales person get involved with non-selling activities and you will only get 20% of the selling effort you need.

To get a faster ROI out of your sales person, you need to take away any potential for misunderstanding, not knowing expectations, ruining you credibility, and not being able to measure success.  For help developing your 4-P’s, please contact us at SalesTechnik

Grow Your Business by Targeting Ideal Opportunities

Many organizations are unable to grow fast enough because their sales teams spend too much time with opportunities that are wrong for your business.

Have you ever:

  • Thought your weekly sales funnel reviews are the same week after week with no progress?
  • Been tired of hearing phrases such as “They asked me to stay in touch” or “They are still deciding”?
  • Believed your sales efforts are focusing on prospects that you do not want to do business with?

The simple fact is that sales people hate saying “no” because they believe they can every opportunity they find and hence every opportunity they find becomes a prospect of some sort.  This leads to waste of time and efforts on opportunities that will never close, your opportunity funnel becomes clogged with bad prospects, and your business does not grow.  I guarantee these opportunities were never a good opportunities to begin with because you have not identified the characteristics of your good clients and what a good opportunity looks like to your organization for the sales team to call on.

What was done by the salesperson to identify the opportunity as ideal? What questions were asked to qualify the opportunity? Can your organization even identify what an ideal client is and what an ideal opportunity looks like to help your sales team target better opportunities?

If a company is able to define what an ideal client looks like, then the marketing and sales efforts are able to work more efficiently because selling time is only spent on qualified opportunities that match the characteristics of your ideal clients. Additionally, your operations should perform better because you are only doing business with ideal clients that you are meant to be serving.

Should your ideal clients be of a certain size?  Should they have certain annual revenue?  Should they be able to purchase one or more of your products or services?  Should they have a certain structure?  Should they have a certain credit rating? Should they be able to lead you to more business?

By identifying your ideal client characteristics, you will be able to identify what an ideal opportunity looks like and hence your sales team will be able to identify where their time should be spent and become more efficient with closing more ideal clients to grow your business faster.

How Your Parents Set You Up For Failure in Sales

Many business owners that have to sell their products and services and the people that are tasked with selling for them have never considered themselves as sales people.  I have heard it many times, “I am not a sales person and I am not comfortable with selling”.  It’s not your fault and you can blame it on your parents.

What did your parents tell you while you were growing up?

  • Don’t talk to strangers
  • Don’t bother that important person
  • That person doesn’t care about what we do
  • It’s not polite to talk about money

What do you have to do in sales?

  • Talk to strangers
  • Bother the important people
  • Talk to people that should care about what you do
  • Talk about money

It is time to get over the notion that you are not a salesperson.  Sales is nothing more than having a passion for what you represent and being able to transfer that enthusiasm to others, like potential customers.  If you believe in what you represent, just talk to people about it and make sure they are the right people or are people that know others that can benefit from what you represent.

Be sure the people you talk to are strangers, be sure they are important, be sure they are the person that you can provide value to and the person that can make sure you get paid.

Don’t “B” The “ANT” When You Find an Opportunity!

There are many CRM systems that measure the “Probability to Close” metric of a sale for our organizations. There are also many discussions on social media about how we can effectively measure the likelihood that a particular piece of business that we are chasing will become reality for the organization.  This potentially creates a problem for our organizations when that particular piece of business might not actually become a reality at all.  How can our organization effectively plan resources based on a “Whim” that is entered without a factual basis by us?

As sales people, our organization trusts that we are bringing qualified opportunities that will close within a given amount of time so they can plan on delivering the goods and services that we are selling to make the customer happy and deliver a profit for everyone involved.

What criteria do we use to measure probability for our organizations?  I would offer the following criteria to ensure the proper amount of resources are dedicated to the proper opportunities that we deliver.  We need to answer the following criteria that define the actual sale and assign a value to it to ensure success for all of the stakeholders.  The criteria is known as “BANT”

Budget = 20%: Do the prospects have the budget to purchase what we are offering to them as a value?

Authority = 20%: Are we speaking with the decision maker(s) that can purchase the product or service that can add value to them?

Need = 20%: Do they need what we are offering as a product or service and can it add value to them?

Timing = 20%: Can they purchase the product or service that we offer within a given timeframe that will produce value for both stakeholders?

The remaining 20% is all “Us”.  Are we and our company a credible source of the product or service that will bring them the identified value in the time frame that they expect instead of the competition that they have also met with?  I guarantee you that we are not the only choice they have!

Most of us do not ask the right questions to discover the Budget” before we present a solution and then are surprised by a response from the prospect that they can not afford our product or service.  How do those sales meetings and reviews work out for us after the time and resources you have spent chasing the business?

By using the above criteria to measure our opportunities, we can ensure that the organization will align behind us to deliver the necessary resources for the qualified opportunities that we are delivering.  Don’t miss the “B”!

4 Critical Questions to Answer for a Fast Marketing ROI

Your marketing funds are decreasing, your usual marketing efforts are producing fewer sales, your marketing message has not changed in years, and your client base is shrinking.  You need a marketing makeover that will produce results quickly.

A quick exercise with your executive team can produce fast results by answering four questions about your business.

  • Who are your ideal clients?
  • What do they want?
  • How do they buy?
  • How do they want to be communicated with?

Answer these four critical questions and you will be able spend your marketing funds more efficiently and realize a higher return on your marketing investment because you are reaching your targeted audience with a specific value proposition that will call them to action.