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.
We previously wrote about the characteristics of successful selling organizations and identified that they all shared strong sales leadership and had a strong sales management function in place. So what are the characteristics of these sales manager and sales management functions that leads to becoming a successful selling organization?
- They have a seat at the table with the senior leadership and is part of crafting the vision of where the organization is going both short term and long term.
- They are able to be the voice of the customer and sales team throughout the entire organization.
- They are always looking for better ways of doing things to get better results with both internal and external customers.
- They know how to prioritize activities and motivate others.
- They have a methodical approach to the market and are able to direct internal and external resources to deliver what was promised.
- They are capable of assembling a team and making tough decisions about them.
- They foster a culture of winning as a team.
- They use business intelligence, market research, and objectivity to drive decisions about what actions and activities are necessary to achieve their goals and objectives
- They are not afraid to give credit to others and share success with their team members.
- They focus on selling more to the market through their sales team by hiring the right talent, training them on the processes and systems, and coaching them for better performance.
Does your sales manager or sales management function share any of these characteristics? Feel free to download our presentation on both of these topics for your next sales meeting and contact us if you would like us to present these materials for your next sales meeting.
Does your company share the characteristics of such successful selling organizations as SAP, Oracle, CA Technologies, SalesForce.com, Monster.com, Cisco, Clear Channel, and VMWare? These are just a few on the Forbes 2013 list of top selling organizations. These are all companies that:
- Outpace their competition
- Are leaders in their markets
- Consistently deliver profits year after year to their share holders
- Are capable of hiring great sales representatives
We previously wrote about the 3 benefits of being a market-oriented and customer-focused organization so we narrowed the list down to 9 characteristics that top selling organizations share:
- They all have a vision of what they want to be and have the entire organization aligned on it.
- The all foster a culture of continuous improvement and learning where employees are expected to challenge the status-quo and help increase revenues, decrease costs, and increase efficiency.
- They all operate under a sense of urgency.
- They are all very process driven with a repeatable sales process.
- The are able to hire superior sale people because the have sales processes and systems in place.
- They are all results focuses and not activity focused.
- They all have leading indicators and metrics in place to measure success that is focused on new business and not just any business.
- Their compensation plans are aligned with the goals of the organization so their people are rewards to produce the right results.
- They all have strong sales leadership and a strong sales management function.
So how does your organization rate for these characteristics? Do you have some of these characteristics, are you strong in any of them and weak in others, or do you not have any of these? We invited you to be part of our survey to see how you rate your selling organization based on the 9 characteristics listed here. The results will be published in November 2013.
Please feel free to contact us if you need help with building these characteristics into your selling 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.
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.
The following is a summary from”To Sell is Human” by author Daniel Pink.
We are all in “Non-Sales Selling”
You don’t have to be a sales person to be in sales today. According to Daniel Pink, everyone in an organization spend 24 minutes of every hour trying to persuade, influence, and convince others to move. He calls it non-sales selling because it does not require anyone to purchase anything but in our world, that is still considered selling. You are simply trying to get others to move in a direction that you want them to go. But how do you get them to move? How do you sell them on moving?
Start with the end in mind
In today’s world which is full of distractions, we get a very limited time to be in front of people to talk therefore your message has to be concise and to the point in a way that people can hear and understand simply. Ask these three questions when you are formulating your message:
- What do you want them to know?
- What do you want them to feel?
- What do you want them to do?
Using these tree questions will help provide clarity to your message. Now, how do you deliver it?
Use one of these 6 different pitches for different opportunities
How may of us have been told to develop and “Elevator Pitch” at sales classes for networking events and any time we had the opportunity to tell someone what we do? Today, we have many other opportunities to get our message out there and with all of the distractions that our audience has, we need to be concise and deliver our pitch in a way that is relative to the people we are trying to move in our direction.
- The One-Word Pitch is mostly used in things like political campaigns and social movements. What is the one word that people will associate with how you are trying to move them. Words such as “forward”, “solidarity”, “joy”, and “believe” all have meaning depending on who you are.
- The Question Pitch should be used when your argument is strong and making a statement might not be the best approach. Ronald Reagan asked “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” to move people away from Jimmy Carter. “What is the cost of not doing this?” is a personal favorite of mine since people move when they can understand how much money they could lose if they do not make necessary changes.
- The Rhyming Pitch is typically used to simplify how we process the information we hear. One of the most famous rhyming pitches was used by Johnie Cochran during the OJ Simpson trial when OJ could not get the famous black glove on his hand. “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” became his battle cry for the closing arguments. “Woes unites foes” works better than “woes unites enemies” and “caution and measure will bring you treasure” work better than “caution and measure brings you riches”
- The Subject Line Pitch can be very effective when you have to use email to try and move people. Did you know that people and much more likely to open an email when they think they have something to lose or something to gain or the subject matter directly affects their work? Who would not open an email with the subject line:”Delivery options for dropping off your suitcase full of cash?”
- The Twitter Pitch is quick, painless, to the point, cuts through all the PR babble, and forces people to summarize what they want you to hear in 140 characters or less. Be sure to make it 120 characters or less if you want it to be retweeted.
- The Pixar Pitch involves six sequential sentences that Pixar executives have used to move the film industry to produce such academy award winning movies such as Finding Nemo, WALL-E, The Incredibles, and Toy Story 3. Try pitching your message in this format: Once upon a time_____________________. Every day, _________________. One day ________________________. Because of that, __________________. Until finally ______________.
The elevator pitch is not dead, it has just evolved to meet the need for us to communicate efficiently and effectively to the people we are trying to move.
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.