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.
In a recent seminar about “Building a Sales Management Function” that I was honored to facilitate, we talked about what metrics matter to an organization that wants to be forward thinking and use leading indicators instead of the traditional “Postmortem” metrics that most companies use. Looking backwards is fine if you are alright with using your rear view mirror to drive forwards, but companies that are focused on sales growth should be using a different set of Metrics. These seven metrics are both useful for production and for a sales management function to identify coaching opportunities for better sales performance.
These seven sales metrics are key to effective sales management for organizations focused on growth:
1. #of Face-to-face meetings with “new qualified targets” (not prospects or leads) regarding new opportunities
2. # of two-way phone or email conversations with “new qualified targets” regarding new opportunities
3. # of Face-to face meetings with existing clients regarding new opportunities
4. # of two-way phone or email conversations with existing clients regarding new opportunities
5. Amount of new opportunities added to their sales funnel
6. The # of actions that moved existing opportunities through their sales funnel
7. The amount of new business that closed from their sales funnel
These seven sales metrics will help identify how effective a sales rep is at both finding new business (volume) and moving business through the sales funnel (velocity). These seven sales metrics will also provide your sales management function with the information and business intelligence they need to coach your sales rep for better performance once you bench-mark them.
What questions would you ask as a sales manager to coach your sales reps once you have bench-marked these sales metrics?
1. How can we increase the average value of the new opportunities you find in new clients and existing clients?
2. How could we decrease the length of sale from 6 months to four months?
3. How can we increase the amount of opportunities in existing clients?
4. What else do you need to help add volume to your sales funnel?
5. What are the objections you are getting from clients and how are you navigating them?
6. What do you need to do differently next week to get better results?
7. How can I help?
You cannot manage want you do not measure and what you measure gets done, so what are you measuring and what else do you need to start measuring? A good sales management function will help their sales reps put money in their pockets so everyone is happy. I guarantee your sales reps want to know the measuring stick and know that someone wants to help them.
Please feel free to contact me if you need help identifying what sales metrics makes sense for you to measure for growing sales and how you can start using them to improve your sales performance.
Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- You do not have regular sales meetings.
- A member of your team quit and you have no CRM to access account information.
- You spend less than 60% of your time with customers.
- 20% of your selling efforts accounts for 80% of your sales.
- You recently lost sales because you did nothing.
- Your sales cycle is longer than last year.
- Your customers are buying less.
- Less than 25% of your sales come from new customers.
- You have seen less than 4 customers and prospects in the last week.
- You do not subscribe to any sales blogs or read any books on new ways of doing things.
If more than 3 of these reflect your organization’s selling function, you may want to consider making some changes to your selling processes, changes to your structure, changes to your compensation plan, and investing in some training.
In how many sales meetings this week is the owner looking at the sales funnel and scratching their head about the lack of movement of opportunities from one stage to the next? There seem to be plenty of opportunities and potential clients out there so what is the problem?
I guarantee it is a lack of proper qualification of the opportunity to begin with. The sales funnel needs to be cleaned up and by asking some basic sales leadership questions, you can help coach your team to identify the true opportunities to potentially “move the chains” and take them to the next level.
- Who is the potential client?
- What do they actually need and want?
- How do they make decisions?
- Who are the stakeholders?
- What other options does the potential client have?
- What is a clear next step that we need to do now to move this forward?
Many sales people can’t say “no” to potential opportunities and clients even though they are not ideal prospects. This causes their sales funnel becomes full of opportunities that get stuck at the proposal phase because they have no clue what to actually offer to them.
If you are looking at the sales funnel and can’t understand why the actually sales are not happening, try drilling down deeper into each opportunity with these questions to coach your team to move their chains.
If you need help integrating some of the best practices to help coach your sales team, please contact us to schedule a SWOT analysis of your sales structure, sales process, and sales skills
During my spare time while traveling for a project with a major Midwest manufacturer, I decided to summarize a take away I had from reading “The Four Disciplines of Execution”.1 The book is very relevant for any of us who have started major initiatives in our organizations only to watch them be stifled by competing priorities or as I call it, “the tyranny of the urgent”. These are daily need-to-do activities and organizational fire fighting that makes us wonder what we actually accomplished and did all day.
After an organization determines a relevant business goal they want to achieve and target date for completion, they traditionally measure their progress through what the book calls “Lagging Indicators”. These lagging Indicators are reflective of the goals that we traditionally set quarterly or annually such as:
- Increase sales from $500K to $625K by 2015.
- Increase the number of dealers from 10 to 15 by 2013.
- Reduce cost of sales by 10% by Q3.
- Increase average selling price per transaction by 5% by March
- Increase our market share by 10% by 2014.
Sound familiar? If achieved, any of these are all good indicators of success, but when does and organization traditionally look at the results? Most of them only look at their progress a few days before the target completion date. This can produce only one of two possible results: a sense of jubilation and desire to celebrate, or a instantaneous increase in your pucker factor that now has you worrying about your year, your career, and the future of your organization. Using these lagging indicators to measure success at the end of a target date is about as useful as looking in your vehicles rear view mirror to navigate in a forward direction.
What if you could measure your progress along the entire way toward your target date?
What if you were able to change your game plan at half time instead of the two-minute warning? What if everyone in the company knew could measure results on a weekly basis?
What do you have to start measuring to be able to do that?
The book introduces the development and use of “Leading Indicators”. Leading indicators measure the achievement of specific activities and activity levels that are necessary for you to achieve your goal. These can be as simple as:
- Meet with 10 new qualified targets per week.
- Present to 4 qualified prospects per week.
- Up sell 10 clients per week.
- Mail 100 new information packets to targets per month..
- Complete 3 field assessments per month.
- Participate in 2 trade shows per quarter
All of these leading indicators can be reverse engineered from looking at your past successes and determining what activities helped you get there. For example, if your goal (lag indicator) is to sell $100K of materials in 10 months to new clients, your average client is worth $10K, 50% of the prospects let you send them a quote, and you closing ratio is 10%, then you will have to talk to 200 prospects and propose to 100 of them to reach your goals. Breaking down these activities into leading indicators determines that you need to talk to 20 new prospects and propose to 10 of them every month or even talk to five prospects a week and propose to 2.5 of them on average. Your goal of $100K in new revenue in 10 months does not seem all that hard to achieve know what you have to do each week in the midst of the tyranny of the urgent.
The last words of advice from the book are to develop and maintain a public score card that helps everyone in the organization understand how they are meeting their leading indicators and progressing towards their goals on a weekly/monthly basis. Read here to understand the benefits of keeping score properly to drive accountability in your organization or contact SalesTechnik should you like help developing relevant leading indicators to help you achieve your goals.
1. The Four Disciplines of Execution: McChesney, Covey, and Huling, Free Press 2012
Type your new text here.
How many times have you wanted your sales teams to just make more calls thinking that is the best way to increasing sales? Organizations that fail to deliver real-time intelligence to their sales team fail to maximize their efforts and hence get hung up on “making more calls” as the solution.
While most sales managers and owners love reports that measure their sales team’s activities in order to forecast sales, they may be missing opportunities by not focusing on reports that provide necessary information that would allow them to create a better strategy to begin with. Their current strategies and tactics are based upon dated information that could be months old and hence are often useless to make a difference quickly.
So if what gets measured gets managed, what information should you be measuring and delivering real-time to your sales team to be more agile in the field to increase sales?
- Sales of customers by demographic segments
- Profitability of customers by demographic segments
- Sources of new leads by demographic segments
- Dollars in each stage of the funnel
- Conversion rates for each stage of the funnel
- Average value of each opportunity in each stage of the funnel
- Achievement % to budgeted sales and profitability
- Market share % and industry trends
- Distribution by product line and products by demographic segments
- Customer attrition rates
- Customer satisfaction rates
- Production forecasts
- Delivery and project completion progress
Now more than ever, sales managers need to provide their teams with more timely insight and detailed sales analytics that can deliver a competitive advantage to their sales team, allow better forecasting by the sales manager, and increase sales for the company much faster than they would be able to if they were only tracking activities.
“You are the CEO of your territory so you should act like one.” I was told this all the time during my years of selling and leading sales teams in various industries. I have since passed this advice on to every sales person and sales team that I have worked with since I started my practice.
More than any other position in the company, sales has a tremendous amount of autonomy and like a CEO, this freedom gives the sales people an infinite amount of latitude in how they are going to achieve their goals. Sales performance is based on success like that of a CEO and therefore the best sales people should approach sales like they are a CEO.
What should sales people and CEO’s have in common?
They leverage others to help – they don’t try to do it all themselves. Great sales people know how to leverage the entire organization. Good and average sales people try to do it all themselves.
They show leadership – without leadership it’s impossible to gain the support of the organization, to build support teams, to rally the client, and get those teams you need behind you.
They have problem solving skills – problem solving is one of the greatest, unmeasured skills today. Great CEO’s solve problems. Great sales people solve problems for their company and their clients. They have an uncanny knack for understanding how to get around hurdles, address challenges and accomplish what others can not.
They have Business Acumen- It goes without saying that CEO’s have great business acumen and unfortunately, most sales people do not. Sales people should embrace business knowledge and grow their understanding of complex and simple business concepts.
They take Risks – by definition, CEO’s take measured, calculated risks. They understand that nothing is guaranteed and growth comes from expansion. Selling is no different and the best sales people take risks. They understand the next big sale does not come from doing what everyone else is doing.
They have a Vision – Like CEO’s the best sales people have a vision and they see the forest through the trees. They can see where the industry is going and see where their clients “need” to go. They know when a product is going to loose its edge 12 months in advance and use that to their advantage.
They are committed to personal development – CEO’s become CEO’s because they are constantly striving to get better, embrace personal development, and are always growing their skills. The best sales people are constantly evaluating their skills and should always strive to get better. They know what they are great at and what they need to get better at. They leverage their strengths and surround themselves with those who are great at what they are not.
I am a huge fan sales people and during my 25 plus years of sales leadership, I have watched sales people that have these traits succeed farther than myself and I have watched sales people fail because they were unable to change the way they conducted themselves in business and embrace these ideas. If you can embrace and integrate the characteristics of a CEO, then you can be great in sales.
The question “How do we grow sales quickly?” is asked in every business on a weekly basis. The easy answer for us is that you would not have to ask that question if your sales function was doing three simple activities on a regular basis.
Asking for additional business from existing clients
When was the last time you met with your top clients to review the current business you were doing with them, showed them what else you could do for them better than others, and asked what they were planning that you might be able to help them with?
Asking for referrals from existing clients
Your clients have stayed with you for a reason. When was the last time you asked them who they knew in the industry that you could help as well and who else they do business with where you might be a fit?
Asking for new business from other “ideal” future clients
Can you identify your best clients and why you have been able to be a partner with them? Take your success and replicate it by producing a marketing piece about why people do business with you and send it to other “ideal” prospects with a call to action about engaging you.
These simple activities are often overlooked because businesses get caught up in their business and do not focus on them. Make these activities part of your regular sales meetings and their will be no need to have conversations about how you can grow sales quickly.
Recently on American Idol, Phillip Phillips sang Stevie Wonder‘s “Superstition” to close out the first “American Idol” finals round.
Steven Tyler said, “you just are…Okay”…. Jennifer Lopez liked how he made the song his own and said “you killed it.” Randy Jackson liked his originality and liked how he interpreted somebody else’s song and told him “You drive your own car in your own lane!”
That hit a point with me about the entrepreneurial companies I work with on a weekly basis and how they have had success doing things their way but are not always fully understood.
When an entrepreneurial company wants to do something new, navigate into a new market, or develops a new way of doing things, they do not always get positive feedback from the direct “stakeholders” about what they envision or what they are trying to accomplish. Two reasons for this are 1) that they have not effectively communicated why they are trying to do something new, and 2) they do not have the right people in place to execute their vision.
Have a vision, set a goal, create a plan, communicate the plan to all parties involved, inform everyone of their role in the plan, live by example, and do what you say you are going to do. Once these things are in place, you can hold people accountable to their role in the plan and you will be driving your own car in your own lane and continuing your success.