Get Your Sales Team in Shape For Profitable Sales Growth

         

 

Are your salespeople prepared to win in the market they face today? Are you sure? Market leaders are taking the time to clearly understand their markets, their problems, buyers, and buying process to make purchases. Market losers plan to work harder, doing more of what they have been doing that did not produce results. Losers believe it’s just an “execution problem” a “motivation problem” so they plan to “manage” their sales team’s activities even closer. Market leaders are getting their teams in shape for the market of today.

In March of 2009 I decided I needed to get in shape. Years of traveling two to three nights per week, poor food choices and lack of exercise and I found me in the worst shape I have ever been in. It was not something that happened over night, but over a long period of lack of focus. So the first thing I did was get moving. I started working out like a maniac. I took spin classes at 4:00 am and then I would lift weights and end my workouts on the elliptical machines. This went on for months, and although I did have more energy, I was not losing weight.

More Activity alone was not producing my desired results.

So I attacked this like a business problem; I started doing research. I found that I fell into the same trap many people assume when trying to get healthy; activity drives healthy results. Therefore we assume more activity should produce even more desired results right? Wrong! The more I read I learned that 65% of your health is determined by the food you consume (inputs) and 35% is activity (execution).

I was focused on activity with little attention to what I was consuming, what was going into my body. I found with the right focus on inputs, you don’t need to have 2-2 ½ hour workouts. A strong workout of 40-60 minutes produced greater results. Within twelve months I lost 80 pounds, became healthier, and I now have more energy and more time.

I find a many businesses try to fix unhealthy sales results by demanding more activity without focus on key inputs.(strategy)

 

 Managers quickly direct their sales teams to more activity although the current activity is not driving the desired results. (Einstein’s definition of insanity)

Just as there is a proven formula for creating a healthy body, I have found a similar model to create healthy sales teams that drives profitable sales growth.

65% of your profitable sales performance is driven by strategy (inputs)

 

35% of your profitable sales performance is the result of sales team execution            (execution)

 

( Ironic most of us have this backwards)

 

 

 

Strategy

 

To insure your salespeople are equipped to be effective and efficient in the market of today you must have a clear understanding of your market, market problems of today, and map how your buyers buy today. These inputs will strengthen the core of your sales team performance with a power that the majority of your competitors do not have.

So how do you get started?

Get out in the market

 

Ask open-ended questions

 

Meet with customers and those who you did not sell

 

Identify the problems they face today

 

Equip sales with a value proposition that resonate with buyer needs of today

 

Map the buying process buyer’s use

 

Create a sales process that mirrors how your buyers are buying today

 

Develop sales tools for areas in the buying process where the sale grows dark and stalls

 

Constantly review the buying process and adjust your sales process, add tools as needed

 

 

 

Activity

 

Once you clearly understand how your buyers are buying, how they are making buying decisions today, equip your sales team with a new sales process and tools. Manage their activity using the sales process that mirrors how buyers want to buy.

“Your focus must be on how your buyers want to buy and not on how you want to sell.”

 

How do we execute new sales process?

Share the buying processes you discovered with salespeople

 

Train your sales team with the sales process you developed to serve how your buyers are buying

 

Teach your salespeople how to, and when to, use the new sales tools you created

 

Create sales tools that share the problems you solve in the markets voice

 

Create key performance indicators that measure key steps in the sales process

 

Constantly assess your new defined sales process for areas the sale seems to go dark

 

Lead your sales team by managing sales opportunities through the defined sales process steps

 

Identify salespeople who may need additional, individualized training, or may not be embracing new process

 

The core strength of your sales team’s performance is based on clearly understanding your market…stay close to buyers

 

 

Applying a sales process that supports how your buyers want to buy will produce healthily results in sales revenues and profits.

 

“If you have not changed your sales process in the last 6 months it’s broken.”

 

“If you have not produced new sales tools in the last three months, you are losing sales you could be winning.”

 

 

 

How about your team?

Do you clearly understand the problems your buyers are facing today?

How are your buyers buying today?

 

How do your buyers shop today?

 

Who is involved in the buying decision, and what additional information do they require?

 

What problem does your product or service solve for your market?

 

Market leading sales teams understand their buyers, buying criteria, and how they want to buy. They design sales processes that mirror how buyers want to buy and they equip their sales teams with sales tools to help buyers buy.

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Want to Jump Start Sales and Morale? Write a “Passion Statement” For Your Business….

 

Business leaders for years have been taught to write a mission statement, a values statement , distinctive competence, and their Unique Sales Proposition. Leadership teams are sequestered off to three-day retreats to write these statements only to often return and go right back to practicing what prompted the retreat in the first place…Why? The reason is far too often is the “work” they did at the retreat was all “head work” and lacked “heart work”.

The quickest way to jumpstart sales as well as the morale of your team is to create a “Passion Statement”.

 

So what is a passion statement? A passion statement is something I help my clients to create that explains;

  • what problem your product or service solves?

 

  • who do we solve it for? Who are our buyer personas?

 

  • what emotion does our solving the problem create in our clients?

 

  • what emotion does solving our clients problems create for us?

 

If you study companies who have become market leaders they very seldom set out to build huge profitable companies. In the majority of the cases they saw a problem that someone had and set out passionately to solve that problem. Their focus was not as much a business as it was a quest.

For years we have heard; “fake it until you make it” , unfortunately however you can not fake a passion to serve your clients and your market.Your customers will quickly detect inauthentic commitments to serve.

An authentic passion ( quest)  to serve your markets unresolved problems takes your business to another level in the minds and hearts of your market.

 

Let me give you two examples of companies I have helped. One is a typical stale example without passion often find after interviewing their team and their customers, the other a passion statement we all can rally behind.

Example A

 “our business’s purpose is to create wealth for our owners and shareholders. We plan to accomplish this by charging the maximum price the market will bear for our product and service and we plan to hold our employees and partners accountable to this objective…” ( don’t worry once the CEO understood this was his teams’ perception ( and his customer’s) of why they were in business we helped them to change this )

 

Client Name not shared for obvious reasons

 

Example B

 

“Our passion is to helping consumers with physical disabilities from the waist down experience the rush and  freedom that results from riding a motorcycle.We are committed to helping our clients connect to their passion or riding”

 

Mobility Conquest

 

 

Which company would you like to buy from?

Which company would you like to work for?

Which company is “selling” you and which company is “helping you buy”?

 

If you had to state your company’s passion statement today…is it more about what you want? Or is it about serving an unmet need of your customers? ( by the way, I do not mean the statement written on posters, shared in quarterly meeting …I mean the mission your team ( and your customers) perceive it to be)

 

Who would you rather compete against… company A or B? Why?

Ok …I hear you CFO’s and bottom line driven CEO’s out their saying …”Ya… but…” so let me assure you that if you study the most profitable market leading companies they have a passion statement.

Still not a believer? In my next post I will share the signs that you need a Passion Statement.

Leads,… Tire-kickers…, and Prospects…Oh my!

 

 

Nothing can throw a monkey wrench into the alignment of sales and marketing efforts like the lack of common terms we use all the time like ; “leads” , “inquires” and “prospects” .

Nothing drives team members back to the safety of their silo’s of ;” I did my job” quicker than a lack of common language when it comes to what everyone refers to as “ leads”.

We also see frustration that results in tarnished relationships when the manufacturer / supplier lack a common lead language with his or her channel partners, dealers, and distributors.

So to set the record straight I want to share what I have always taught my sales and marketing teams that reported to me over the years as well as my clients’ teams.

 

 

Leads

 

Simply put a lead is someone who has raised their hand, and basically expressed the following;

  • I have a problem
  • I think your product or service can solve my problem
  • I have the ability to pay for your solution if it truly can solve my problem

 

A lead therefore is someone qualified to have a problem your product solves, they want the problem fixed, and they have the money to pay for it, or a way to pay for it.

 

 

Inquires (tire- kickers)

Inquires are people who have expressed an interest in your product. What we used to call “tire- kickers” back in the day. These are folks who walk by your booth like they were trick or treating and fill their show bag full of brochures. Or they surf the web in areas of interest and reach out (like a virtual trade show) and ask for brochures to be sent to them.

  • they may or may not have a problem your product or service solves
  • they are not sure if your product can help them , but they are interested in learning more
  • they may or may not know the cost of your product or service
  • they may or may not have the ability to pay for your product
  • they are curious and may be shopping for a solution or just information for themselves and or someone else

 

They basically walked by, surfed by… and said; “cool…tell me more”. They did not say; “great, I want one, where do I send the check?”

 

Prospects

 

Prospects are those folks out there in your market that your product or service could help. Some know they have a problem that needs a solution, and some may not. Some may not even see the condition (problem) you solve as a problem, but just one more thing they have to live with.

  • they may be aware they have a problem , or may not
  • they may know your company and have a perception regarding your products and services and the problems they solve, or they may not
  • they may have a perceived cost to fix their problems in mind, or they may not
  • they do not currently buy from you , and they may be buying alternative solutions

 

Prospects often represent over 70% of any market and are often great resources for market information and determining unresolved problems as they discuss in the book Tuned In.

As you can imagine many discussions end in frustration that begin with; “I sent you 122 leads last week and you have not closed any of them.” Really? Were they truly “leads”, or were they “tire kickers” or were they simply “prospects”?

The key is Market leaders must develop a common understanding, a common language to insure relationship within their teams grow. If you work with a manufacturer who sends you “leads” or you are the manufacturer who sends “leads “ to channel partners you must define what this term means and the corresponding expectation.

If you are a Market leader, and your sales are a science and not an art, you understand the buyer, buying process and can clearly communicate the expectations of leads and inquires.

If you work with (for) a market loser, every inquiry that “fogs a contact us form” is a lead and is a potential sale you failed to close.

Market losers spend more time trying to; “Hold people accountable” ….their salespeople, their dealers, their channel partners and so on when they should be spending that time gaining an understanding of your buyers.

If you do not like my definitions it does not hurt my feelings. What is key is to clearly state what the terms thrown around in meetings truly mean and get everyone on the same page. Once you have a common language, you can work on building a perceived expectation for each term.

A common language is critical to clearly articulate where a buyer is in the buying process. A common language insures you, your partners, suppliers, and your salespeople have the right tools in place to keep the conversation moving to the next phase of the buying process so you can eventually close.

How about your team…do you have clearly defined definitions of the words like; Leads, inquires, and prospects?

 

Do you and your suppliers, your distributors have a common language?

 

Do you have a Market Loser calling you wanting to know why you have not closed “leads” when in reality they were just “inquires”?

I would value you sharing how your team defines a lead, inquiry, and or prospect.

”V” is for “Velocity of Message In New Cadillac Commercial”…without any words

 

 Cadillac Performance Team!

The burden of clearly communicating your message is on you as the manufacturer and or supplier. Recognizing this you must develop a concise message that reflects the problems your product or service solves for your buyers. Given the amount of messages the average consumer receives each day, you have a “minute to win it” …their attention that is.

Messages that are clear based on a thorough understanding of your buyers, buyer unresolved problems, and buying criteria instantly connect.

 

Messages that require an interpreter result in: Big-Money-Wasted as I shared in my post about a BMW message that literally made a theater of consumers grown when it came on.

 

Below is a good example of understanding what your buyers want and communicating your message…even without words. Cadillac has “Velocity of Message” which will result in sales velocity. (Sales that have direction, growth, and create momentum)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz0jCTJ2sys

What do you think Cadillac was trying to communicate in this ad?

As consumers do you miss the “feature and benefit BINGO” approach or do you value companies that have a clear message…even without words?

 

If your buyers were to view your creative, your message, without copy, would they understand your message?

 

Is Sales an Art or a Science….it Depends on Your Marketing

 

 

Is Sales an “Art” or a “Science”?

 

There is no general answer that applies to all organizations as it depends…..it depends on your team’s demonstrated competency in marketing. (Believe it or not)

An “Art “implies creativity as well as varietability and” science“is about process, method and constantly assessing and experimenting with process, and managing  the process.

A number of clients over the years have stated their needs as; “I need you to create a repeatable sales process for our team”. However, in most cases they lacked a clear understanding of their market, buyers, buyer needs, probelms, and the buying process. They wanted me to study their “sales super star” and replicate them throughout their team. However sales processes built from the inside out produce marginal sales increases and often increase the gap between your team’s “sales speak” and “the buying process”. What you need to do  is create Sales Velocity.

So what sould  teams desiring  to be market leaders to do?

I was asked to speak at a conference recently for business owners and their senior teams. Prior to my presentation, I reached out to the organization’s members and asked;

“In the areas of marketing and sales what topic would you like me to discuss?”

I could have discussed a number of topics, but I wanted to provide their members the maximum return based on their needs.  I was interested to see if the recent and current economic environment in any way changed what I typically here when I ask this question.

The responses varied from;

How do we get our salespeople to sell new products?

 

How do we motivate our salespeople to focus on opening new accounts?

 

What is the best way to measure the ROI of marketing?

 

How do we align sales and marketing to reduce waste and increase productivity?

 

What is the best marketing vehicle to drive sales now? Quickly?

What is my take on “social media” and it’s ROI?

 

How can I be assured my next investment in a new product launch meets goal ?

 

I felt I could speak for a week and not do justice to all the  questions independently,  so I grouped the responses into two buckets;

What is marketing and how can it impact sales in a way that produces the greatest overall return?

 

How do we create a repeatable sales process that works, has an immediate and long term impact?

 

I shared my findings with the event coordinator to insure the direction I was taking would serve his association and his goals. He shared that the two topics I chose were like thorns in the side of his membership as they keep bubbling to the top of discussions. So I asked questions to better understand past discussions and he shared two comments his owners and senior leaders shared in private;

“Our salespeople are just not working hard enough, I know times are tough, but for what I pay them they need to sell through those objections”

 

“I think a large % of our overall marketing spend is a waste, fluff, and does not provide the return any other expenditure would be required to produce.”

 

Interesting…..

So I decided to open this presentation with a question for the room;

Is Sales an Art or a science?

 

Before I share where this discussion went….

What do you think?

Is sales in your organization an Art or Science? Why?

 

If you could pick Art or Science, what would you prefer sales to be in your organization? Why?

 

I will share in my next post the results I observed and any feedback and comments on this post. I will also share the desired state and my answer to this question.

Proven Steps to Profitable Growth; Step one Truth, …Understand Your Internal Truths

 

One of the roles I must play to truly serve my clients is that of a “Heretic”. I often listen to business leaders discuss how what distinguishes them, their team, their product or service in their marketplace. They confidently state ; product quality, our service, and my favorite of all…our relationships is our competitive advantage… Bla…Bla…Bla. That is when I need to explain that in today’s competitive global economy, quality, customer service and relationships are not differentiators. Very quickly some leaders become defensive and start discussing how “I don’t understand their industry…” and they often start sharing how “their competitors suck”. Again, you may have weak competitors, but the fact that you may or may not be better than competitors that suck is not a way to differentiate yourself or create a sustainable competitive advantage…(sorry)

The Bible is provides us some very clear advice in this area…” “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? ( Matt. 7:3) and this advice rings true as leaders must look within their own organizations and establish their internal truths.

 

 

Having a core competency in; service, quality, or market relationships is not enough anymore.

 

Your team must have something that differentiates you in your market as Jack Trout explains in his popular book: Differentiate or Die. The authors of the best selling book: Tuned In, refer to this as your “distinctive competence.” The difference between a core competence and a distinctive competence is the latter differentiates you in your market.

 

You must gain a clear understanding of your distinctive competence in your strategic planning.

 

Assuming you established Market Truth as I discussed in my previous post, the next truth you must clearly understand is your internal truth(s). To help my clients establish their internal truths I like to ask a number of questions;

 

  • What do your customer’s say your team does better than your competitors?
  • What are the strengths and capabilities of your team leaders?
  • What is your team’s track record in terms of market growth over the past five years?
  • How many new products have you launched in the last three years?
  • Did those new products meet or exceed your launch objectives and ROI targets? Why or Why not?
  • Has your team introduced existing product(s) into new markets in the past two years? Did you meet or exceed your sales goals?
  • What is your current unused capacity that does not require additional investment?
  • What is your team’s ability to raise funds to support growth?
  • Do you have the access to funds to support your growth?
  • When was the last time you or one of your team’s leaders spent time in the market?

 

For example, I was asking these questions with one of my new clients in the past and their senior team all said the same thing but in different ways; “ we are not good at new…” What was interesting however was that at the recent off site strategic planning meeting it was decided that they would leverage new products to hit next year’s sales objectives. When I interviewed some of their key accounts they too confirmed this teams poor track history in launching new products. One clients said “ they are a great vendor, but they launch new products before they are ready, so we plan to wait six to eight months after their next launch to insure the product has all the bugs worked out before we buy…” Ouch!( their sales plan was not in alignment with clients waiting six months to buy) Again , what was disturbing was the mid level managers and their key accounts all knew a truth that the only people who failed to see were their senior management team. Sometimes senior leaders see issues and put band aides on them hoping they will heal on their own.

As you plan for a profitable future year … Rip Off the Band Aide(s) and Position Your Business For Growth in 2010.

Another new client wanted “more sales” . However, when we reviewed their internal truths the reality was they were currently at 90% of their production capacity and could not service new business. Had we launched a plan to gain new customers we would have frustrated those new clients as well as existing customers ( and their employees) as their service levels would have suffered. As we peeled this onion further we found a large percentage of their current orders were not profitable. So what the owner saw as a need “more sales” was actually a problem with a sales compensation model not in alignment with overall sales profitability.

You must establish internal truths, distinctive competencies, and identify your weaknesses when building your strategic plan. What we are discussing is about  

leveraging what you have. I am not saying as leaders you are not to improve weaknesses and bridge gaps . However what I am saying is you must authentically and openly humble yourself and your team to your internal realities.

Understanding your team’s strengths, as well as weaknesses and limitations insures the strategic plan you write for 2010 growth objectives is obtainable.

 

Market leading organizations clearly understand market and internal truths.

 

 

 

Market losing organizations can be identified by strategic plans not in alignment with their market or internal capabilities.

 

 

 

 

What kind of organization do you work for?

 

 

Does your 2010 strategic plan rely on effectively launching new products? (even though the last launch was supposed to sell 2,000 and only sold 2?)

 

 

 

Does your senior leadership team have the horsepower to take your business into a market leadership position?

 

 

 

Are you relying on those that got you’re here to get you there in the future? How’s that working for you?

 

 

 

Does your 2010 strategic plan count on you leveraging a capability your team does not have?

 

 

 

Have you reviewed the “why’s” your team failed to meet some of their objectives in 2009? Have you corrected what you found?

 

 

 

If you failed to achieve some of your 2009 strategic plan targets was it a “strategy” or “execution” problem? …you sure?

 

 

Market leaders understand the importance of identifying internal truths when strategic planning.

 

 

Market leaders understand the power of leverage. They leverage their distinctive competencies that solve market problems.

Proven Steps to Profitable Growth; Step one, …Establish Market Truth

The first key step in writing a powerful flight plan (roadmap) to grow your organization profitably is; establishing market truth. There are many truths we need to insure the strategies and corresponding tactics and key performance indicators are in alignment with the true market opportunity. Unfortunately a large percentage of business leaders use their gut and intuition and fail to establish current, relevant market truth before they launch market strategies.

The leaves are almost off the trees as I drove South on Route 71 in Ohio last week to work with one of my clients. It’s that time of the year for cold damp rains, grey cloud cover, and this time of year business leaders are sequestered off to key offsite meetings to write their strategic plans for next year. As I discussed in a recent post: October – November…National Strategic Planning Months…When Do you Focus on Strategic Plan Execution? …it never ceases to amaze me that over 70% of sales growth objectives were not achieved in 2009, and yet those same teams will receive sales quota increases in 2010. What are the leaders of these businesses thinking? Is it their assumption that 70% of their sales team is just incompetent, not trying hard enough, or are they just trying to “will” their businesses to succeed? As I discuss in my guest blog post far too often the true issue behind businesses not achieving key performance indicators is more related to your teams ability to execute effective market driven strategies. Since I discuss how to overcome the execution and accountability management challenge in the post I provided a link for above, in this post I plan to discuss one component of truth needed to; build market driven strategies that increase shareholder value.

As I discussed in my post : don’t look now but your lack of market knowledge is showing , far too many leaders are making decisions and writing plans based on dated or worst case incorrect information. How does this occur? The leading cause for Leader Market Disconnection Syndrome ( LMDS) are the Hippo’s in your organization calling audibles without any market data to support their directives. The reality is; thinking is hard work.

 

 

When you peel the onion and find the true “why’s” behind your team missing its goals you will find it is not for the faint of heart and requires a strong emotional intelligence.

 

The quickest way to build strategies that drive explosive sales and profit growth is to get re-acquainted with your market.

 

Years ago there was a great commercial in which a business owner called a meeting and instead of pontificating about opinions. gut instinct and intuition he distributed airplane tickets to his senior executive team and sent them out,…out into their market to visit belly to belly with those mysterious entities called “customers”.

 

 

If you want to create a business plan that results in explosive growth in 2010 and beyond get out of your office and dive deep into your market now.

 

What you will find very quickly is the market has changed considerably in the last 15 years from when you carried a sales bag. The market has changed significantly in the last six months! As I discuss in my post: Are you Enabling your Sales Force or Emasculating them? some of those changes include;

 

  • longer sales cycles
  • more influencers involved in the buying decision
  • greater pressure on terms
  • increased pressure from international suppliers
  • as well as many more…

 

The first step in establishing market truth is to get out in your market and speak with your customers, potential clients, and those potential clients you recently quoted and failed to win.

 

While your sales team will tell you the reason you did not win the contract was price, my personal experience and research has proven time and time again price is not even on the list of reasons why your buyers do not buy. As high as 50% of lost sales are due to the sales process not having the right sales tools to help their buyer buy.

Market leading organizations continually outpace market losers and one of the key reasons why is their clear understanding of their market, its problems, and their changing buying processes and buyer criteria.

Market losers listen to disconnected Hippos and increase their sales objectives although they failed to meet goals last year.

 

 

Do you work for a Market Leader or a Market Loser?

 

 

When was the last time one of your key leaders met belly to belly with a customer? Potential customer? A customer you bid but failed to win?

 

 

Is your organization launching strategies that are market driven or Wall Street driven?

 

 

Are the new goals you are asking your team to achieve built from the market up with real current market data, or are they the result of ROI justification meetings with product mangers who never left the building?

 

 

Step One, Truth: Establish Market Truth