“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.
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.