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The 6 Questions That Great Sales Leaders Ask

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:

  1. What went great this week?
  2. What got in the way?
  3. What is your plan for next week?
  4. What does success look like next week?
  5. What changes do you need to make for that success to happen?
  6. 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.

Developing Your Execution Plan for Next Year

In our previous posting, we identified that most companies forget to build any “execution” into their business plans, financial plans, marketing plans, and sales plans.  Most sales and marketing professionals are very good at telling others what they want to do and hope to do, but terrible at telling others what they are going to do and when it is going to be completed. So, let’s develop your execution plan to merge with your other plans for next year.

Including Others: Nobody likes having a list of things handed to them to do and being given goals that seem unachievable.  You need to include the people that will be completing the necessary activities in this planning process.  It will help you understand what their capabilities are, identify the potential skills gaps are for you to invest in training or hiring another person, and it will help everyone understand what you are trying to accomplish and what their roles will be.

Setting Goals: We will start with the end in mind by first setting a goal of what exactly needs to be accomplished. What does success look like when we look back at the end of the year? Do you have a financial goal or a non-financial goal for next year? Are you targeting a specific sales goal (as an organization or individually) or do you want to launch a new product/service, hire a key employee, buy a new piece of equipment, build an inbound marketing function, enter a new market, on board a number of new customers, or break ground on your new building?  It does not matter what the goal is, but you need one, upon which, to align all of your resources and activities.

Reverse Engineer Success: Picture the instructions you laid out in front of you this past weekend to assemble that new TV stand, mount the stand alone wine rack, or install that kitchen sink faucet.  What are the key things that have to happen in order for you to get this done? What are the milestones that have to be met and what are the deadlines?  What tools do you need? What needs to happen step by step to get the job done?

Example 1: Let’s use an example of gaining 10 new clients next year: If your close ratio is 10%, you will have to pitch to 100 targeted prospects. If only 50% of your prospects let you pitch to them, then you will need 200 targets to meet with.  If only 50% of targets meet with you, then you will need 400 targets. If only 50% of prospect turn into targets, then you will need 800 prospects……See where this is going? You will need to look deeper then at how many leads you need, where those leads are going to come from, and how you are going to reach them. You also may want to look at the quality of leads you are chasing to be more efficient.

Example 2: How about hiring that new key employee as an example.  We will assume that you are not going to hire someone first and then start to find business to keep them busy and pay for them.  Define how much additional business you need for that position to add value to your efforts and then plan the steps that it will take in reverse order to get there.

Assign Duties/Accountability: Go back to our goal of gaining 10 new clients.  We now understand how many leads we need and maybe where they are going to come from. But however, we have not created the plan to contact them and convert them into clients. What are those key activities that need to be completed? How are we going to market to these leads? Who is going to contact these leads? How are we going to contact them?  When are we going to contact them? What happens if we don’t contact them? What is going to prevent us from contacting them?  Having your sales team develop their own plans will help keep them focused on what they need to do and help identify what support will be needed to keep them doing the right activities.

Develop Leading Indicator Metrics: Most sales management efforts are still like using a rear view mirror to drive forward.  Just tracking the activity from last week is not going to help you but looking at the results from last week will….and make them public for all to see! Again, go back to our goal of gaining 10 new clients.  Everything sales people do should be focused on growing their sales funnels and moving opportunities through their sales funnels…..that’s it!  Anything else needs to take a back seat, be automated, or be delegated to a support role.  With this in mind, how many meetings does the sales person need to have with “new” prospects per week?  How many new opportunities do we need to identify per week?  How many pitches do we need to make per month?  Focus on the metrics that will guarantee success based on your numbers.  If they are not met, then you can start asking questions about what is not happening based on best practices/training and what needs to be changed (coaching 101).

Release the Hounds:  No time like the present.  One useful line I remember from one of my coaches was “Every day that passes is an opportunity lost”.  So there is no time like the present to start focusing on what you need to do today to ensure your success in the future.  If you have a 6 month sales cycle and you do nothing today to grow or move opportunities in your funnel, guess what you can guarantee six months from now?

Execution will be the key to achieving your goals next year and following years.  If you need help developing an execution plan or if you would like a copy of our Integrated Sales and Marketing Calendar to help keep everyone on task and on time, please contact us and we’ll get a copy of it to you.

The One Word You Will Forget in Your 2015 Plans

“Execution”. Short posting right?

We have reached that time of the year again where sales teams are trying desperately to meet their goals and put together last minute sales plans, where CFO’s are developing the financial plan and top line revenue budgets to be met in 2015, and where leaders are revising business plans and looking to make changes based on the lack of meeting goals this year or the hopes of making goals next year.

It is also that time of the year where you (the sales and marketing experts) start down the annual marketing plan path looking to do market research, re-define your target markets, plan the content for your new products and services to launch, make SEO changes to your website, update social media profiles, revisit your SWOT and competitive analysis, communicate your mission statement, develop your marketing communications tactics and activities, schedule tradeshows, look at the 4 P’s, begin the begging process for a budget from your CFO, establish  goals, define what metrics your are going to use to measure success, hopefully use some sort of system to track the results of your efforts, and put all of this nicely into a report that makes you look really busy to the powers that be.

Sound familiar?  This scenario is being played out in companies all over the globe.  You have all the latest articles that tell you what the trends are for next year, you have the latest templates downloaded from the various marketing associations for planning, you have your three focus words for the year, You even have a useful spreadsheet that a consultant left behind which performs brilliantly as a tool for organizing it all.  But there is still something missing when all of the planning is complete and the appropriate approved forms are filled out and submitted to the leadership team for their 2015 files.

Where is the execution in all of this? Someone will eventually have to do the activities that are necessary to make all of these plans work. I guarantee that most of you will overlook the following questions and just submit plans on what you “want” to do and not what you are “going” to do. You will need an execution plan and it will need to answer the following questions:

  • What exactly has to be completed?
  • When does it have to be completed by? What is the timeline?
  • Who is going to complete the activities?
  • Who is capable of completing the activities or do we have to invest in training?
  • What additional training and skills do we need to invest in?
  • What tools and resources have we given that person to make sure they are successful?
  • What benchmarks do we have to measure improvement?
  • What happens if that activity is not completed? What are we at risk of losing if we don’t get that activity completed?
  • What changes are we prepared to make if we can’t get the activity completed?

At the end of the day, the word “execution” and the execution plan are the only things that should matter to you for achieving your goals in 2015 and future years.  Without execution, your plans mean nothing and you can guarantee that you will fall short. Look for our next article on how to develop an execution plan.

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.

Plan ahead

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.

 

 

Benefits of Being a Market-Oriented Organization

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.

10 Reasons your sales effort is complacent

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  1. You do not have regular sales meetings.
  2. A member of your team quit and you have no CRM to access account information.
  3. You spend less than 60% of your time with customers.
  4. 20% of your selling efforts accounts for 80% of your sales.
  5. You recently lost sales because you did nothing.
  6. Your sales cycle is longer than last year.
  7. Your customers are buying less.
  8. Less than 25% of your sales come from new customers.
  9. You have seen less than 4 customers and prospects in the last week.
  10. 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.

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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Do you measure activities or do you measure what can make a difference?

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.

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.