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 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.
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.
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”!
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.
The question “How do we grow sales quickly?” is asked in every business on a weekly basis. The easy answer for us is that you would not have to ask that question if your sales function was doing three simple activities on a regular basis.
Asking for additional business from existing clients
When was the last time you met with your top clients to review the current business you were doing with them, showed them what else you could do for them better than others, and asked what they were planning that you might be able to help them with?
Asking for referrals from existing clients
Your clients have stayed with you for a reason. When was the last time you asked them who they knew in the industry that you could help as well and who else they do business with where you might be a fit?
Asking for new business from other “ideal” future clients
Can you identify your best clients and why you have been able to be a partner with them? Take your success and replicate it by producing a marketing piece about why people do business with you and send it to other “ideal” prospects with a call to action about engaging you.
These simple activities are often overlooked because businesses get caught up in their business and do not focus on them. Make these activities part of your regular sales meetings and their will be no need to have conversations about how you can grow sales quickly.
Salespeople are expensive to organizations and are expected to have a return on investment anywhere from 3 to 10 times their value depending on sales margins. However, most salespeople only sell 60% of the time because they are involved with too many non-selling activities. This in not necessarily their fault and the problem can be corrected by integrating the non-selling activities into the internal job positions they already have.
Activities without providing proper resources:
- Supporting customers
- Providing quotes and RFP requests
- Collecting payments
- Developing marketing materials
- Coordinating internal resources
Activities with the proper resources in place:
- Networking with strategic partners
- Collaborating with current clients on additional opportunities and referrals
- Meeting with more qualified prospects
- Closing more ideal clients
- Making more money for the company and themselves
Don’t let your revenue generating positions do non revenue generating activities. Any organization can increase their opportunities in the market if they have the right people in the right positions doing the right activities.
Recently on American Idol, Phillip Phillips sang Stevie Wonder‘s “Superstition” to close out the first “American Idol” finals round.
Steven Tyler said, “you just are…Okay”…. Jennifer Lopez liked how he made the song his own and said “you killed it.” Randy Jackson liked his originality and liked how he interpreted somebody else’s song and told him “You drive your own car in your own lane!”
That hit a point with me about the entrepreneurial companies I work with on a weekly basis and how they have had success doing things their way but are not always fully understood.
When an entrepreneurial company wants to do something new, navigate into a new market, or develops a new way of doing things, they do not always get positive feedback from the direct “stakeholders” about what they envision or what they are trying to accomplish. Two reasons for this are 1) that they have not effectively communicated why they are trying to do something new, and 2) they do not have the right people in place to execute their vision.
Have a vision, set a goal, create a plan, communicate the plan to all parties involved, inform everyone of their role in the plan, live by example, and do what you say you are going to do. Once these things are in place, you can hold people accountable to their role in the plan and you will be driving your own car in your own lane and continuing your success.