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.
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.
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
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“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.
The word “Consulting” has become just as eyeball rolling to business leaders as the word “sales” and the joke is that if you are not part of the solution, there is money in perpetuating the problem. Not having the right expertise to work within your organization to make the necessary changes properly has the same effect as not being able to complete a project before you start another one. It is the same problem that new employees experience after 18 month of employment…..They get caught up in the minutia of everyday business and eventually become part of the problem.
Companies have downsized their management and senior knowledge holders, lost their internal expertise, and the employees that have survived are so multitasked that nothing is able to be improved because no single individual is able to focus long enough on the task at hand.
A good “consultant” is able to work with their client to help identify a problem, develop and plan to fix the problem, use internal resources efficiently to integrate the necessary changes, and then leaves the client with a sustainable solution.
In a conversation at lunch with my first client that is still a client, we started to talk about all of the ongoing projects in the company outside the scope of my delivery and what is keeping them for accomplishing them.
I discovered that my client falls into the classic seven-eigthers group that most companies become part of when they cannot complete even one project before the next idea and direction comes from the top. Hence they only get 7/8 of the projects completed and then are surprised when there are still in the same position they were two years ago. Their agility and ability to move forward is non-existent.
Ever been told to finish what you start? FIFO is an accounting term for First-In-First-Out and if you apply that same principle to project management then every new good idea would see success because it would be placed at the bottom of the pile before it would be addressed. A simple practice that if re-purposed would help companies maintain their agility in the market place.
I am proud to report that all projects managed by me as it pertains to building their sales engine have been completed on schedule and the client is currently experiencing an increase of 38% in revenues over the same period last year.
A mentor recently reminded me that the word “sales” is not always perceived well when used in a conversation. It is unfortunate but true because some “sales people” have ruined the reputation of all of us through non-standard practices that are remembered and shared with others. Even those companies and employees that I coach have trouble being called “sales people” even though what they do does have an impact on company revenues. Maybe that is why most businesses do not even print the word “sales” on business cards.
The primary duties of anyone in the business development field is to create opportunties for their company by finding a need in the marketplace and filling that need the products or services that their company offers. How do you do that without being “sales’ like? I would offer that the activities that you do have an impact on how you are perceived and that some of the best sales people I have know have never been described to me as “sales people”.
What do these people do differently that leads to increased opportunities for their companies?
- Perform strategic business reviews with current clients that helps them understand how you have added value to their business and what other services you offer
- Conduct lunch-n-learn sessions for account managers in other companies that can refer you to opportunities in their client base.
- Schedule breakfast and lunch meetings with centers of influence that are secondary stakeholders in targeted companies you want to work with.
- Focus your free time and champion a non-profit by volunteering your services to help with their fund development.
- Ask current clients for referrals.
- Introduce your clients to prospects, strategic partners, and other service providers that help them grow and improve their business.
- Make sure all of your family and friends know what you do.
Working any of these tactics into your activity calendar will help you increase your opportunities without the traditional sales tactics that are taught in videos and highlighted in the movies.