To be competitive in the market place today, you had better be a market-oriented organization. Your sales team may be increasing the number of potential clients they present to and, ultimately, increasing revenue, but if the whole organization isn’t aligned with delivering what the client wants, you may soon be seen as replaceable by your customer.
Being a market-oriented organization means that every employee in every department is focused on the customer with constant two-way communication between the organization and the customer at every touch point. By being market- oriented, the organization is better able to gather information about customers and competitors, more able to analyze the information that is collected, and thus more able use the knowledge gained to guide current and future strategies.
Market-orientation is actually quite rare, so organizations that take the initiative to become market-oriented will have a significant resource for sustaining a competitive advantage which leads to several benefits being realized:
- Better Marketing Programs: Because the organization has multiple opportunities to gain feedback from clients about their needs and about what competition is doing, marketing programs are able to be tailored to clients and market needs instead of a general approach that focuses on the product only.
- Increased Client Retention: Because the customers now have the ear of the organization on multiple levels, the customers receive faster responses to their needs and thus feel like they are receiving the attention they deserve. This makes it much harder for competition to gain your customers’ attention and makes it much harder for the customer to entertain the competition.
- Stronger Strategic Relationships: As the relationship between the organization and the customer becomes more involved, values become shared, strategies co-develop, and mistakes tend to promote a two-way dialog on how the problem can be solved together. The intangible value that is delivered by being market-oriented allows the organization to become a partner rather than just a vendor.
To become a market-oriented organization, marketing can no longer be thought of as an activity to just facilitate the selling of goods or services to a potential customer. It must now turn to a customer-centered set of values and activities that focus on the organization’s mission to provide superior value by delivering what the client wants.
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.
Great sales people are not a mystery, they are just able to commit their time to the right selling activities and best practices that the rest of us do not. They could be rain makers for a pharmaceutical firm or they could be a start up business owner that has to sell his own product or service. Regardless, most sales people are only able to sell 20% of their time because of the non-selling activities that they get involved in. What would your sales look like if the non-selling activities could be delegated and more time could be committed to selling activities? How many sales have you lost because the non-selling activities took up too much time?
Let’s take a look at the three types of selling activities and the specific selling activities that you need to start or improve upon to get the results of a great sales person.
Funnel Filling Activities: These are the activities that are going to fill your sales funnel with a higher qualified volume of potential opportunities. Notice how these are “in-person” selling activities or will lead to other “in-person” selling activities regarding conversations about new business.
- Attending networking events relevant to your potential clients and referral partners interests.
- Sponsoring seminars and speaking engagements that attract potential clients and referral partners.
- Setting appointments with potential clients that meet your ideal client profile regarding their needs.
- Setting appointments with referral partners to help target opportunities to work together.
- Meeting with current clients to further understand their business and where you can add value.
- Always helping others grow their networks or improving their business when you have the ability and time to do so.
Funnel Accelerating Activities: These are the activities that are going to move your potential opportunities through your sales funnel to become a client and remain a client. Notice how all of these are meant to move potential clients to a next step.
- Understanding who your potential client really is, what they really want, and how they buy.
- Presenting as a team with your technical expert to qualified potential clients.
- Providing your potential client with two closing options.
- Overcoming objections and put-offs that arise unexpectedly.
- Giving your potential client all of the information they need regarding integration and delivery.
- Making sure that everyone in the organization understands the potential client’s expectations and what their role will be in the integration and delivery phase.
Focusing Activities: These are the activities that will improve yourself and help you keep your time and energy focused on the Funnel filling and funnel accelerating activities listed above.
- Making sure you have a plan for what you are attending, who you are meeting with, and who you are talking to about new business for next week before you leave this week.
- Making sure all of relevant customer information is updated in your CRM where others can find it when they need it.
- Delegating non-selling activities to the proper support people so you can stay focused on the selling activities.
- Taking time to grow your knowledge about business success and industry innovations.
- Taking time to grow your skills, capabilities, and belief in yourself.
- Unplug once in a while to focus on your personal life.
Notice how nothing has been said about Process and Systems. That is because I am assuming that you have defined processes and systems in place for you, your sales people, and your support functions to focus on the right activities for the duties assigned. Considering that every minute you spend in the non-selling activities is a potential lost opportunity or even potential lost revenue, how much more do you have to lose before you start to integrate some of the right selling activities into your daily and weekly routine?
Please feel free to contact me if you need help on where and how to integrate any of these activities to help you become a great sales person.
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.
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
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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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
How many times have you wanted your sales teams to just make more calls thinking that is the best way to increasing sales? Organizations that fail to deliver real-time intelligence to their sales team fail to maximize their efforts and hence get hung up on “making more calls” as the solution.
While most sales managers and owners love reports that measure their sales team’s activities in order to forecast sales, they may be missing opportunities by not focusing on reports that provide necessary information that would allow them to create a better strategy to begin with. Their current strategies and tactics are based upon dated information that could be months old and hence are often useless to make a difference quickly.
So if what gets measured gets managed, what information should you be measuring and delivering real-time to your sales team to be more agile in the field to increase sales?
- Sales of customers by demographic segments
- Profitability of customers by demographic segments
- Sources of new leads by demographic segments
- Dollars in each stage of the funnel
- Conversion rates for each stage of the funnel
- Average value of each opportunity in each stage of the funnel
- Achievement % to budgeted sales and profitability
- Market share % and industry trends
- Distribution by product line and products by demographic segments
- Customer attrition rates
- Customer satisfaction rates
- Production forecasts
- Delivery and project completion progress
Now more than ever, sales managers need to provide their teams with more timely insight and detailed sales analytics that can deliver a competitive advantage to their sales team, allow better forecasting by the sales manager, and increase sales for the company much faster than they would be able to if they were only tracking activities.
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.
“You are the CEO of your territory so you should act like one.” I was told this all the time during my years of selling and leading sales teams in various industries. I have since passed this advice on to every sales person and sales team that I have worked with since I started my practice.
More than any other position in the company, sales has a tremendous amount of autonomy and like a CEO, this freedom gives the sales people an infinite amount of latitude in how they are going to achieve their goals. Sales performance is based on success like that of a CEO and therefore the best sales people should approach sales like they are a CEO.
What should sales people and CEO’s have in common?
They leverage others to help – they don’t try to do it all themselves. Great sales people know how to leverage the entire organization. Good and average sales people try to do it all themselves.
They show leadership – without leadership it’s impossible to gain the support of the organization, to build support teams, to rally the client, and get those teams you need behind you.
They have problem solving skills – problem solving is one of the greatest, unmeasured skills today. Great CEO’s solve problems. Great sales people solve problems for their company and their clients. They have an uncanny knack for understanding how to get around hurdles, address challenges and accomplish what others can not.
They have Business Acumen- It goes without saying that CEO’s have great business acumen and unfortunately, most sales people do not. Sales people should embrace business knowledge and grow their understanding of complex and simple business concepts.
They take Risks – by definition, CEO’s take measured, calculated risks. They understand that nothing is guaranteed and growth comes from expansion. Selling is no different and the best sales people take risks. They understand the next big sale does not come from doing what everyone else is doing.
They have a Vision – Like CEO’s the best sales people have a vision and they see the forest through the trees. They can see where the industry is going and see where their clients “need” to go. They know when a product is going to loose its edge 12 months in advance and use that to their advantage.
They are committed to personal development – CEO’s become CEO’s because they are constantly striving to get better, embrace personal development, and are always growing their skills. The best sales people are constantly evaluating their skills and should always strive to get better. They know what they are great at and what they need to get better at. They leverage their strengths and surround themselves with those who are great at what they are not.
I am a huge fan sales people and during my 25 plus years of sales leadership, I have watched sales people that have these traits succeed farther than myself and I have watched sales people fail because they were unable to change the way they conducted themselves in business and embrace these ideas. If you can embrace and integrate the characteristics of a CEO, then you can be great in sales.