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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.

How Your Parents Set You Up For Failure in Sales

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

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

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

What do you have to do in sales?

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

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

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

Why Great Sales People Should Act Like CEO’s

“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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Critical Questions to Answer for a Fast Marketing ROI

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

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

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

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