Tag Archive | Selling Skills

Developing Your Execution Plan for Next Year

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.

10 Characteristics of a Successful Sales Manager and Sales Management Function

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?

  1. 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.
  2. They are able to be the voice of the customer and sales team throughout the entire organization.
  3. They are always looking for better ways of doing things to get better results with both internal and external customers.
  4. They know how to prioritize activities and motivate others.
  5. They have a methodical approach to the market and are able to direct internal and external resources to deliver what was promised.
  6. They are capable of assembling a team and making tough decisions about them.
  7. They foster a culture of winning as a team.
  8. They use business intelligence, market research, and objectivity to drive decisions about what actions and activities are necessary to achieve their goals and objectives
  9. They are not afraid to give credit to others and share success with their team members.
  10. 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.

9 Characteristics of Successful Selling Organizations

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:

  1. They all have a vision of what they want to be and have the entire organization aligned on it.
  2. 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.
  3. They all operate under a sense of urgency.
  4. They are all very process driven with a repeatable sales process.
  5. The are able to hire superior sale people because the have sales processes and systems in place.
  6. They are all results focuses and not activity focused.
  7. They all have leading indicators and metrics in place to measure success that is focused on new business and not just any business.
  8. Their compensation plans are aligned with the goals of the organization so their people are rewards to produce the right results.
  9. 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.

The 5 Types of Sales Reps – Which One is Right for Your Business?

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 3 Types of Selling Activities That Lead to Sales Success

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.

  1.  Attending networking events relevant to your potential clients and referral partners interests.
  2. Sponsoring seminars and speaking engagements that attract potential clients and referral partners.
  3. Setting appointments with potential clients that meet your ideal client profile regarding their needs.
  4. Setting appointments with referral partners to help target opportunities to work together.
  5. Meeting with current clients to further understand their business and where you can add value.
  6. 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.

  1. Understanding who your potential client really is, what they really want, and how they buy.
  2. Presenting as a team with your technical expert to qualified potential clients.
  3. Providing your potential client with two closing options.
  4. Overcoming objections and put-offs that arise unexpectedly.
  5. Giving your potential client all of the information they need regarding integration and delivery.
  6. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Making sure all of relevant customer information is updated in your CRM where others can find it when they need it.
  3. Delegating non-selling activities to the proper support people so you can stay focused on the selling activities.
  4. Taking time to grow your knowledge about business success and industry innovations.
  5. Taking time to grow your skills, capabilities, and belief in yourself.
  6. 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.

7 Sales Metrics and 7 Questions You Should Utilize for Sales Growth and Sales Coaching

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.

Why can’t I close sales faster?

With sales cycles getting longer, understanding the problems you are faced with will help you change the way you sell for faster sales.

1.  Your sales process is not aligned with your prospect’s buying process.   Most companies design their sales process on how they sell to the market without regard to how the market buys from them.  If you start to think as a buyer, you would be able to identify potential obstacles earlier in the sale and develop solutions around them.

2.  You do not follow your process.  When you do not follow all of the steps when building a model or replacing your brake pads?  What if pilots and surgeons ignored their processes and checklists?  Experts say that it takes 10,000 hours to master your profession, so until then you should probably follow the steps.

3.  You have not created a sense of urgency by discussing “risk” with the buyer.  The best question you can ask if you feel an objection to your solution: “What is the cost of not doing this?”  If you can you’re your prospect that the rewards outweigh the risks, you will help them say “yes” faster.

What steps should you take to correct these problems?

1.  Define how your customer buys.  If you ask “What would you like to see from me to help you make your decision”, you will save a lot of time trying to figure out what they want.

2.  Have a goal for each and every sales call.   When you understand all of the stages a prospect goes through in their buying process, you can identify milestones that need to be met for the prospect to reach the next stage.  What needs to happen in your next call or meeting to make that happen to keep the sale moving?

3.  Talk about rewards with your prospects. Companies are always concerned with committing funds to something that is not necessarily tangible.  Help your prospect understand the opportunity costs of not saying “yes”.

By aligning the way you sell to the way your prospects buy, following a repeatable process, and helping the prospect see the rewards of saying yes, you will close sales faster.