How many calls did you get from services that said they could provide the Glengarry* leads that you couldn’t find on your own? How many software ads did you view that promised your success through fun looking data rich dashboards? How many calls did you get from marketing services that provide magical customer attracting websites and promise to get you on the top of search engines?
In his book about rules, Donald Rumsfeld suggests to prune your business, customers, and employees on a regular basis. Love the rule but, since I really enjoy the team I have, and can’t prune any more of the business than we already did during the past 16 months, I am going to focus my pruning activity on performing a sales cleansing event on our customer base.
When your sales cleanse is performed successfully, you will:
- Identify which customers to replace
- Identify what customers to clone
- Identify where to focus your marketing efforts
- Identify pricing strategies
- Identify what activities your sales team needs to focus on first
Want to know the best part about this sales cleansing exercise? You already have the ingredients and you already have the talent to follow the directions, discuss, and analyse, so ignore the calls, ads, and pitches and continue reading. Here’s my favorite recipe for performing a sales cleanse.
- 1 Sales Comparison Report (should include segmentation, at least 3 years of sales and profitability data, and your approximate closing rate for all business quoted by customer)
- 1 Sales Team
- 1 Operations Team (optional)
- 1 Estimating Team (optional)
- 1 Laptop, Screen and Projector
- 1 Well Lighted Room
- Snacks (non-healthy preferred)
- Export necessary customer data from your ERP system into MS Excel.
- Sort customer data including segmentation from greatest to least sales and profitability based on 2018 sales data. (print)
- Sort customer data including segmentation from greatest to least sales and profitability based on 2017 and 2016 data for reference. (print)
- Provide copies of the reports to the necessary team members.
- Project and be able to sort the report visually on the screen during discussions.
Analyze and discuss:
- Why were certain customers profitable and others not?
- Why did certain customers grow while others declined?
- Why did certain segments grow?
- What segments should you focus more on?
- What customers can you replicate?
- What customers need to be replaced?
- What customers did you spend more time quoting business for than entering orders?
- What activities need to happen next in each of the accounts you want to grow?
- What prospects can you target next to be able to cleanse other customers next year?
- What activities worked best to reach the great customers?
- What services are you not offering that customers are asking fo?
- Ask what the cost of not performing a sales cleanse or completing the relevant sales tasks could be.
- Develop a business case for your CFO to invest in additional services.
- Ask the team what they need from you to get started on their relevant tasks.
- Follow up regularly to drive the results you need.
Even when your sales are growing, I guarantee there are customers that are negatively impacting your business. Completing this exercise will give you and your team time and energy to focus on better sales. It will also give you the template to perform this exercise again next year.
Think I’m nuts? This was always the first exercise as a consultant for hundreds of past projects and since taking the wheel at Allis Tool and Machine Corp., we fired 20% of our customers, replaced 20% of the others, realized a 26% increase in sales, a 50% increase in gross, have a 65% increase in our backlog over last year, and we have a bank that believes in us to foster our expansion goals. This was all accomplished without adding expenses which has been great for shareholder value. Choo choo!
You probably have all of the ingredients but if you would like some help arranging them in the right order and getting started, feel free to contact me. You can also hear about some of the great things we have going on at Allis Tool & Machine through an interview conducting by Katie Felten and her crew. VIEW VIDEO
Timing. It can be the biggest enemy of every sale and it is the weakest score of the 5 Necessary Sales Ingredients of any sales funnel review I do with sales teams in every industry, of every size.
Focusing more on the when before you focus on the who, what, why, and how can be the difference between great and never.
Here are six tactics to increase your paycheck and company sales by getting you focused on the when.
- Understand when your product or service is needed
What is the trigger that needs to happen for your prospects to potentially buy? Is there a driver that makes them need you? Did they have a break-in, did something break, did they become a parent, buy a house, buy a car, lose a vendor, get a price increase, find a big customer, or just lose a deal themselves?
Understanding the trigger will help you focus your messages and time on better qualified prospects that actually have a need.
- Understand when the budget is available
Does your prospect have the budget to make a purchase now, or are they simply shopping? How many proposals have you stayed late to submit only to find out later that it is a budgeting exercise?
Just because they are interested doesn’t mean they have the funds or that they are going to make a purchase soon.
Understanding if they have the budget helps you focus your energy and time on higher qualified prospects, that are going to buy sooner.
- Understand when purchases are made
We just signed a contract. We just switched vendors. We just bought one. Missing a sale is worse than losing a sale. At least you’re given a chance when you lose a sale.
When is the prospect updating what they offer? When does the prospect review contracts? When do they review their vendors? When do they need the proposal? What steps do they require to become a supplier, partner, or vendor, and when are the deadlines? When do they make a decision?
Understand the buying cycle and buying process to make sure you at least have a chance at the sale.
- Understand when more purchases will be made
Selling more and selling frequently to an existing customer is much easier than selling to a new prospect and is a great way to drive your sales volume.
Is this one time or is there an ongoing need? Do you have to adjust inventory to keep them supplied, and is there a price break to be realized by more volume? Can you get commitment for the next order today?
Understanding the volume and frequency of the purchase can help you partner with a customer for a lifetime and not just one transaction.
- Understand when a prospect is available and receptive
Prospects tend to be happier, positive, and more receptive to talking and meeting at certain times. When is the best time to call your prospects? When are they more receptive to meeting to talking?
Don’t call when it is good for you, call when it is good for them. Most people prospect or make inopportune calls in their left over time because they use opportune times for non-selling activities. What would your paycheck look like if you flipped that?
Understanding availability and receptiveness can help drive better conversations and increase the volume, value, and velocity of your sales pipeline.
- Understand when to close
How many proposals or price quotes have you sent without a clear next step of commitment or having asked for the sale? What if you could gain commitment earlier and skip the entire selling process to begin with?
Understanding your prospect’s buying signals or asking for the order early can help you focus on the prospects that are ready to buy.
Focusing on your prospect’s timing will help you spend your time on higher qualified opportunities with less effort and will drive your sales faster.
If you are in the Milwaukee area and need help integrating these tactics or others into your efforts, check out my workshops through the MKE Sales Accelerator.
Getting results out of your sales team is still the goal but the days of beating the Viking drum are over except for those lucky few that still work in a pirate culture where beatings will continue until moral improves. These are the companies and bosses that only care about how many calls you made, how many leads you found, and how late you are working this Saturday when you come in. Most socks in your dresser drawer have a longer life than the sales team members and sales managers in these types of cultures.
Today’s sales leaders don’t yell down from upstairs, ask questions that are meant to make you look foolish in front of your peers, threaten to take accounts away if you don’t make your numbers, or force their teams to sit through sales training from the bosses networking friend that only addresses perceived organizational problems.
Today’s sales leaders are characterized by the following:
- They work with and support their teams in the field
- They work hard to make sure their teams have the resources and training they need
- They make sure post-sales support is in place
- They make sure that marketing is aligned with target markets and generating leads
- They make sure that goals have been developed together, plans are in place, and that activities are aligned with meeting the goals.
They also keep their teams focused by asking these 6 simple questions of their sales team members on a weekly basis:
- What went great this week?
- What got in the way?
- What is your plan for next week?
- What does success look like next week?
- What changes do you need to make for that success to happen?
- How can I help you?
Today’s sales leaders get their team members to become autonomous and self-directed like independent business units that independently have a unique set of skills. These questions are asked in a one-on-one setting where individual hurdles and constraints can be solved like using a personal trainer versus the traditional drill instructor that we see in movies.
Results still matter at the end of the day but so does how you get them. Provide your sales team members with the resources and training they need and make sure they have a personal trainer to help them.
We’ll end with a quick quiz.
Q: What do typewriters, asparagus tongs, horse plows, beta cassettes, Polaroids, and 1950 sales management tactics have in common?
Feel free to contact us if you need help with the answer.
It is the classic application of the quote “what got you here will not get you there”. Having worked with numerous companies and sales teams over the past years, I have found some common roadblocks that senior sales teams and senior sales organizations share. These roadblocks can hinder performance and production of your sales team and hence impact your top line sales and even their own W-2’s at the end of the year. In today’s environment of ever increasing sales budgets, customer vendor consolidation, professional purchasing functions, and decisions made by centers of influence rather than one person, you might want to consider providing some of the following solutions and resources to your teams.
Get your team out in the field. Sales teams that are only equipped with a desktop computer where access to the server and software programs must be done on company property are very limited. Many sales teams belong talking to their customers and qualified new prospects and the best time to update CRM Data, order information, and customer information is from the field when the information is fresh. Laptops, tablets, smart phones, and data plans will unleash your team from the office and give them more time to be talking with customers and qualified prospects about their business.
Ditch the paperwork. There are numerous free smart phone applications and free cloud based software programs that can keep your sales team focused and productive. From CRM systems like ZOHO, project management software like Asana and Evernote, mind mapping software like X-Mind, video conferencing software like Skype and Google Hangouts, conference call ability from Free Conference Call, business card scanners, Free PDF Printer, expense tracking apps such as Falcon Expense, and even calendar and email syncing with outlook accounts to smart phones. Your sales teams can stay connected and on task.
Social Selling tools & Skills
It is who you know and what you know about them. If your sales team is not investigating their customers and targeted prospects through Google, Reference USA, Jigsaw (Data.com), Hoovers, LinkedIn, and the various social media channels that those companies and prospects participate in, then you are missing a huge opportunity for some great conversations. Are they in the news? Have they won any awards? Are they growing? What is their company culture like? What causes do they have? Who are their key stakeholders? What are they saying about their business and their customers? Who do you know that can help give you a referral? There is a lot of information out there that can help you identify where you can add value to their business. These are all free tools and it usually only takes a mouse pad and one finger to navigate through it. Who doesn’t have at least one finger?
It is not about you anymore. It no longer matters that you are a 100 year old company and have been in sales for 35 years. It is all about how you are going to increase your customers’ revenue, efficiencies, and profits by adding value to their owners, employees, and customers. Your marketing message needs to be customer centric, aligned on your target market, and be able to drive actions based on the value you deliver and your sales team needs to be able to communicate that same message. What is your “Why”? Why would a company choose you if all other things are equal? What can companies expect when doing business with you? The days of showing up and throwing up about you and your services are over. You need to make it about them and change the conversations!
Not all of us are wired the same. If you think that conversations between baby boomers and millennials are interesting in the work environment, just wait until generation Z enters the workforce. Now picture those conversations in a sales situation. Not all of us have the same experiences, were raised in the same way, have the same beliefs and values, or are motivated by the same things. Not all of us communicate or hear the same way. Not all of us deal with conflict or can lead as well as others and we definitely do not all make purchases the same way. Who is the person you are talking to across the table and what have you done to understand them? Personality profiles such as DISC and Culture Index help your team understand their own selling style so they can adapt to their customers and prospects buying styles.
Integrated Sales & Marketing Plans
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. What is the sales goal for the year? What are the sales goals for the individual team members? What % of sales is going to come from existing business? What % of sales can be grown by selling more to existing customers? What % of sales needs to come from new customers? How are we going to reach new prospects and make them customers? Minimally, having a sales plan with goals and leading indicator metrics like # of presentations, # of quotes, # of leads contacted, and # of new opportunities found will help drive some focus. Now imagine breaking that plan down to the individual sales team member and even to the individual account level. Giving your team a road map that is aligned with company goals will drive the right proactive activity and even accountability that is much needed.
Comfort breeds complacency. The desire and passion to grow sales or change habits when a sales rep is guaranteed to make over 6 figures in salary is minimal. It is just human nature. Unless you are rewarding results as well as rewarding the right activities that will lead to the results, your sales will remain flat and your margins will continue to slip unless you add new products or raise prices. Current customers will keep the lights on but new customers will make you profitable so what are you doing to reward your teams for acquiring new customers and completing the activity that will get them in a position to meet them? If you pay a high salary, then require certain level of activities. If new customers and new product placements are a priority, then pay a higher commission on those results versus repeat sales that can almost be automated.
Many organizations and professionals must commit to continuing education to stay current with best practices, keep their licenses, and stay on top of their game. What is the last book your sales team read? What is the last time your sales team changed a habit? What is the last time you invested in training for them? When was the last time you invested in new technologies? What could your performance, production, top line revenue, and your teams W-2’s look like if you provided these solutions and resources to your legacy sales team?
Feel free to check out the other 13 free sales tools to help build your business, check out our sales manager checklist to help identify additional opportunities to help your team, or contact me to receive additional ideas and best practices.
Do you know where to focus your sales activities to get to the next level?
Most companies were successful in the beginning because of one or two main clients that represented 80% of their sales. Their second stage growth then came from employers from those first two clients that moved to other companies and pulled that company with as a supplier. But what happens when that organic growth stops and your company has to go find new customers to achieve that third stage of success? Would you be able to develop a plan, create new habits, and commit to the right sales activities that drive your sales funnel growth and sales funnel movement?
For every sales effort, there is an identifiable key sales activity that drives the growth and movement of the sales funnel. It is that one activity that if you repeat it over and over, success will follow. Example of 1% sales activities would include:
- Presenting to ideal prospects and key strategic partners about value you can add to their business
- Having lunch with key centers of influence to understand how they integrate with clients
- Speaking at a business networking event full of people representing businesses that are in your wheelhouse
- Meeting with a new ideal prospect to learn about their business and understand where you might be able to help them add value to their clients
- Making introductions for others to help grow their business
- Writing blogs to share your experience with the world
I refer to these activities as the “1%” since when they are completed, the other 99% of activity follows automatically. My personal 1% is having 3 meetings per week; One meeting with a business owner to learn about their business, one meeting with a center of influence or a service partner in the market to learn about what their challenges are, and one meeting where I am introducing two people that I know should be working together. If I have those three meetings per week, I know that my sales funnel will stay full through referrals, and that I will be scheduling meetings with potential clients to learn where I can help their business.
When was the last time you reverse engineered where your sales success comes from? Do you know what your 1% activity is? Do you know who you need to perform that 1% activity with? What do you need to clear from your schedule to make sure that 1% happens every week? Please feel free to contact me if you need help identifying what your 1% is and creating the right habits to make sure it happens.
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.
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.