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:
- What went great this week?
- What got in the way?
- What is your plan for next week?
- What does success look like next week?
- What changes do you need to make for that success to happen?
- 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.
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.
“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.
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.