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.

Advertisements

Attention Entrepreneurs; You Can’t “Manage Fruit Ripe”

 

 

 

They say that which makes us strong can also be our biggest weakness. Entrepreneurs are no exception to this rule as our driven, confident, and focused nature can often inhibit new product success. Entrepreneurs often have such confidence in their personal abilities based on past success they take shortcuts in launching new products and when sales fail to meet plan they believe they can “manage fruit ripe.”

“When it comes to new product sales; you can not manage fruit ripe”

 

After my last post I had a number of people reach out to me saying: “ Ok we get it, we should do research prior to launch …but what should we do if we are in a launch that is not hitting plan?” As I have shared in past posts…I have made a number of mistakes over the years.I have kicked off new products and then had to figure out how to make it work; “make it happen ” on the fly.  So I thought I would do a follow-up post and share what I said to those who contacted me directly.

Entrepreneurs who launch on gut and not market truth often start trying to “manage fruit ripe”. They are so tied to their  plan their failure to achieve goals has to be a sales problem. Based on my experience, over 90% of new product sales falling short of plan are not the result of “poor sales execution” but the result of not having good current data  and or understanding of your market, and is actually a marketing problem. Without current accurate market data one if not all of your four P’s of markting are probably wrong. Entreprenuers are smart people. If given good information they make decisions that grow businesses profitably. If given old or wrong market data one or more of your four P’s will be wrong.

As the owner, leader,you are the boss… so if you want to try to manage the fruit (sales) of your new products ripe… go for it. I have seen many try ( heck, I have tried) and I have yet to see this approach correct new product sales below plan and create sales velocity. 

If you find yourself in a launch based on gut and old or poor data, what should you do?

 

  1. Assess what you have learned ( experienced) during launch so far
  2. Conduct win loss interviews
  3. Identify common roadblocks to sales and bust through them with new sales tools
  4. List what you still need to know and assign priority and timelines
  5. Adjust your strategy based on the current market data you gather
  6. Test new strategies before you scale them
  7. Repeat what works
  8. keep asking questions, determine why customers are buying and not buying
  9. Challenge your four P’s of Marketing ( at least one is off)

 

( or put another way; get the data to answer the four yes’s …as quick as possible)

 

 

So how about you…have you launched a product without having four yes’s first?

 

What did you experience ?

 

What corrective action did your team take?

 

Does it take longer to do research on the front end? Or fix roadblocks during launch?

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.

How Do We Create: Repeatable, Sustainable, Profitable Growth in our organizations?…Study Both Market Leaders and Market Losers

 

 How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In

 

 

 

As leaders we are drawn to success stories. We study businesses teams that seem to defy the odds and win. Teams that realize profitable sustainable growth, even in the worst economic conditions, command our respect and admiration. However, for us  as leaders to create teams that drive ; repeatable, sustainable, profitable growth we must study both the market leaders like Apple as well as those that were once leaders who fell from grace like Zenith.

I just finished another book that will definitely be on my must read list for business leaders; How the Mighty Fall; and why some companies never give in, by Jim Collins. As I page through the book once more I see page after page with highlights, underlining’s and notes in the margins. I have been a fan of Collin’s since Good to Great. I enjoy his non emotional, almost scientific approach to the dynamics of business.

Collins identifies the value business leaders can gain by studying companies who did not win and actually fell from grace.

I remember Zenith TV’s when I was a child growing up in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1960’s. They were the best TV’s. If you were to ask anyone who the leader in TV’s was they would have said Zenith back then. However today they are non existent. What happened?

How does this fall from grace occur?

 

What did they do wrong?

 

Is it something that was preventable or inevitable?

Are their common early warning signs we can watch for so our teams do not move from a position of “market leader” to “market loser”?

 

 I particularly found his identifying the stages of decline brilliant as I have lived each with various clients over the past 25 years.

Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success

 

           Stage 2: Undisciplined pursuit of More

 

                      Stage 3: Denial and Risk of Peril

 

                                Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation

                                             Stage 5: Capitulates to irrelevance or Death

In addition to providing the common steps once market leaders often faced on their fall, he also provides what he calls; “markers” or early warning signs to see if your team is in one of the five stages of decline.

I highly recommend this book for business leaders who want to passionately serve their markets while increasing their shareholder value. In this book he draws on an analogy of how a “sick” business is like a sick person. On the outside they may look fine, but upon further investigation you find illness. If you find” Sickness” early enough you can take corrective action to cure the problem and avoid future pain. If arrogantly left unchecked, often due to the “hubris” of stage one, businesses become sick and it can be terminal.

 

How about your organization? Could your team be in one of the five stages of decline right now?

 

 

Does your business need a check up?

 

 

Does your team have a culture that would admit a problem?… or do you have Hubris? (Excessive pride that brings down a hero)

 

 

Are you battling an 800 pound gorilla in your market that is in denial? Is your team positioned to help your market when they fall?

 

 

 

I want to leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes from this book;

The path out of darkness begins with those exasperatingly persistent individuals who are constitutionally incapable of capitalism

 

 

“There is no law of nature that the most powerful will inevitably remain at the top. Anyone can fall and most eventually do”

 

 

“There are more ways to fall than become great…”

 

 

“Great companies can stubble badly and recover”

 

 

 

I think it was Lincoln who said; “those who do not study history are destined to repeat it” I recommend you and your leadership team read and discuss; How the mighty fall. I ask you humbly challenge yourself and your leaders to insure your team are destined for profitable growth and not a fall. 

How Can Marketing Make Your Company Wealthy?

Go to "Energize Growth NOW: The Marketing Guide to a Wealthy Company" page

 

Being diagnosed as an entrepreneur does not have to be terminal. Far too many entrepreneurs launch with unrealistic expectations, and if they are members of the 1/3 of companies that do survive more than 18 months, they fall prey to “the entrepreneurs’ dilemma”.

As an entrepreneur you probably were working for someone else and found a market opportunity, a need, and a problem that needed to be solved. Chances are you brought the opportunity to your company and they quickly dismissed your idea. So what are you to do? Do you keep trying to convince your “hippos” the size of this opportunity or do you break out on your own on a quest to solve this problem so obvious to you?

If you are wired to be an entrepreneur you set out to solve the problem, and if you truly understood the problem and designed something that solved it completely, you start experiencing sales. This is a fun time because if you did your research before launch, your marketing message clearly explains what your product or service does and buyers instantly get it.

At first your biggest challenge is how to make more…quicker. The next thing you know you are hiring others and you now have a “team”. You now have a CFO instead of your wife paying the bills. You are hiring others from the industry and training them to meet with the customers you once served personally.

Then it happens one evening, usually after 7:00 pm on the drive home (late for dinner again) you do a gut check; “Am I having fun anymore?” If you are honest with yourself the answer is often “no” as you is now “running “a company. Your days of meeting with customers and potential customers are replaced with meetings, planning, and holding your team members accountable. (You became a hippo) You begin noticing a decrease in the incremental sales growth per new employee hired.

The days of you jumping out of bed at 4:30 am long before your alarm goes off are replaced with the ring of an alarm at 6:30 a.m. and …dread, another day of work. If it sounds like I have been there I have…”been there… done that….have the t-shirt”.

The good news is being an entrepreneur does not have to be terminal. There is a great book I finished not long ago titled: Energize Growth Now, the marketing guide to a wealthy company by Lisa Nirell. If you find yourself in the entrepreneurs’ dilemma or want to avoid it, I recommend you buy this book for yourself and all your leaders within your organization.

I found the book provided high level strategies for plugging back into your market as well as tools and rules that are applicable the day after you read this book.

It is not too late to energize growth in your company.

I particularly liked her chapter on increasing your company’s wealth quotient and seven principles to position your company for higher valuation.

It is time we rethink how we “do “business and break the entrepreneur’s dilemma. This book reminds us how critical it is to stay focused on creating value for your buyers and market , and in so doing your wealth quotient as an organization will continue to climb.

Are you in the beginning to experience the entrepreneur’s dilemma?

Do you find yourself needing the alarm in the morning, longing for the days you did not need an alarm?

Are you looking for a road map on how to increase your organizations’ wealth quotient?

I highly recommend Energize Growth Now.

Sales is a Science When You Have Strong Marketing….an Art When Your Marketing Sucks!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is sales and “art” or a “science”? It depends….is your marketing strong, or does it suck?

 

In my last post: Is Sales an Art or a Science I shared how I opened a recent presentation to business owners and their senior leadership teams with a question;

Is Sales an Art or a Science?

 

The responses were pretty predictable;

Felt sales was a science: 30%

 

Felt sales was an Art: 60%

 

Felt sales was both an art and a science: 10%

 

This was interesting, however I heard the soft comment I was waiting for: “It Depends…on your industry, team’s training, product, price, availability of sales tools, your web site….” (Perfect! Now we are going to have a discussion!)

Then they asked me…what did I think? Art or science? I said “yes” as sales is often both. I find where sales falls in the spectrum with art on one end and science on the other depends on the organizations competency in marketing.

Marketing? Yes, because the fundamental job of marketing is to have an intimate understanding of your market, its buyer’s problems, and how they set out to solve those problems. Competent marketing teams clearly understand the buying process, cycle and criteria. They create tools to help buyers buy.

Market Leaders

 

If you have a strong competency in marketing, you know your market, and its problems that need to be solved. You know the buyers; you have clearly stated buyer persona’s and you understand the buying process. Your message is clear and does not require a translator (salesperson) to help buyers understand the problems your products or services solve.

Market leaders have such a clear understanding of the buying process their sales is more of a science. The art in the sale for market leaders is the salesperson’s ability to ask open-ended questions and apply proven sales tools for the right step of the buying process that keeps the conversation moving to a sale.

In market leading organizations, sales are 80% science and 20% art.

 

Unfortunately less than 10% of organizations would be considered Market leaders. Those that are, dominate their markets.

 

 

 

Market losers

 

If your team lacks a competency in marketing you will experience it for yourself on sales calls. Your team plays; “ feature and benefit BINGO” in hopes they rattle off all your features and benefits and at some point your buyer yells “BINGO” as they put the pieces together with the problem they have, and they understand how they “think” you solve this problem.

 

Market losers really do not know the problems their products solve for their buyers, the buying process, or buying criteria. In most cases their products were built from the inside out and marketing was tasked with “creating the need” for their products…losers! 

Market losers launch products and believe they can “manage by objectives” and meet their goals by managing key performance indicators created without any knowledge of their market. 

Market losers  have high turnover as they replace those who fail to hit goal, and skilled team members leave to join market driven teams.

Market losers have websites that talk about their company, years in business, and they prepare the feature and benefit BINGO card for their buyers and salespeople.

 

For market losers 80% of sales is an “art”.

 

The CEO and CFO of market losing companies go crazy because there is a lack of predictability, and they can not “manage” their way to market leadership. In this model your salespeople need to disregard what marketing does provide, and listen to their buyers, understand buyer problems, and create their own sales tools that discuss how their product or service solves those problems.

The danger in this model is sales may be promising things your product does not do, and the message varies by salesperson and thus is not repeatable.

 

From my experience, I would say about 50% of the companies out there are Market losers.

 

They build products because they can and not because they should. They are sales driven or bottom line driven. They have high turnover and ironically the salespeople they are letting go today won awards for sales performance two years ago….so what changed?

From my experience 40% of companies are somewhere in between but striving to improve.

They often launch a product that becomes very successful and then have a series of launches that fail. As they grow, the leaders who knew the market are now “managing the business” and lose touch with the market and its problems. They forget it was their understanding of market problems that caused their success and often fall into the trap that they think it was their personal brilliance and or hut spa.

As I closed the discussion I asked everyone in the room to do two things in the next seven days….

  1. Go out and meet with your customers and ask questions about their business and the problems they are facing, and how they try to solve those problems

.

  1. Look in your top salesperson’s trunk of their car and or lap top and see the tools they are using

 

The good news is everyone can become a market leading organization and realize higher than market average profits, lower turnover and increased shareholder equity. When you clearly understand your market and buyers, and create sales tools to help buyers move through their buying process, you create a win-win-win.

So what kind of organization do you work for? Market leader? Market Loser? Or someplace in between? Why?

 

Hey Delta, …Buyers Make Decisions in “their timeframe” Not Yours!Your Goals do not Matter to your Buyers

 

Organizations that create objectives based on their needs and timelines and not their buyers miss key indicators and create frustration for their internal and external customers. Why do so many organizations create goals and key performance indicators from high within their organizations and not from the market and buyers in market?

Most organizations lack an intimate knowledge of their buyers, their problems, and buying process so they operate in “gut and intuition  mode.”

 

When organizations start building market driven goals with an understanding of the problems their products and services solve, key indicators and EBITDA objectives are met and exceeded.

If you have not gathered it from previous posts, I fly a great deal. Domestic travel has become more of a necessary evil experience (with the exception of South West). I have traveled on  business now for over 25 years, so I remember when air travel felt like the airlines valued me and my business.

International travel has become even more challenging. I traveled  from Phoenix to Manchester England recently on Delta. I had a long layover in Atlanta and  then 7 1/2 hour flight over the pond and I was in business. The first leg of my flight left Phoenix at 6:10 AM. so based on the rules for international travel I had to check in at the airport by 4:00 AM. Luckily I do not live too far from the airport so I set my alarm at 2:45 AM.  I arrived, parked the car, took the parking bus to the terminal, went through security and arrived at my departure gate.

I settled in with a book I have wanted to read  by Jim Collins and I was not looking forward to my 5 hour layover in Atlanta,… but you have to do what you have to do.

The gate agent announced;

We are overbooked on this flight and we are looking for 4 volunteers willing to take the later flight and we will give a voucher to be used for future travel…

I went up to the check in counter, and found I could indeed take the later flight and still have a hour to make my connection in Atlanta. However, since I was already at the airport, I decided to decline.

In about 15 minutes another announcement needing volunteers and her voice seemed more desperate. ( don’t customers know how important it is to Delta to get volenteers now?)

 As the boarding  time approached we heard additional announcements and eventually they found their volunteers who had “flexible” flight plans and they received later flights and cash vouchers. ( while our take off was delayed)

 

Hey Delta…when did your system know you were oversold?

Is this the ideal buyer experience for your service? …I think not.

 

If your system knew within 24 hours of the flight it was over sold, it sounds like you have an unresolved problem you need to solve that may actually turn into a service your customers rave about and save your bottom-line profits…Interested?

 

If you have the technology to remind me to check in 24 hours prior to the flight, …can you leverage that technology to request volunteers for overbooked flights 24 ours ahead of check in? If so I would have volunteered for free to have a few more hours of shut eye!

How about your organization?

 

Do you set sales goals and timelines based on your needs versus the markets? How’s that working for you?

Are your sales objectives and timelines created by internal Hippos who have a dated understanding of your market?

 

Or are your goals developed with a clear understanding of your buyers, their buying process and criteria?

Let me ask you a key question….

What % of your sales team met or exceeded their sales goals last year? If you are like most organizations as high as 70% of your team missed their sales objectives last year.

 

While on this topic let me ask you another question:

What % of your salespeople received a goal increase this year?…( that many huh?)

 

So let me get this straight, 70% of your team missed their sales objectives in 2009, and 100% received a goal increase in 2010? Am I the only one who has heard Einstein’s definition of insanity? [Hell, chances are you have used it in meetings with your team, why not look in the mirror when setting goals?] So your employees also suffer whn goals are made wiout an understanding of your buyers?

So what happens next?

 

Objectives are missed

 

Goals are adjusted down or inventory far exceeds actual sales, and EBITDA objectives are missed…again

And / or you discount your product or service so buyers react to your goals and timelines

Market leaders understand goals should not be a shell game, and they must be created from a clear understanding of your markets and how (when) your buyers buy.

Market losers create objectives in their Hippo watering holes called boardrooms with little or no understanding of their buyers, buying timelines, and buying process.They focus on their needs and not those of their buyers. They demand buyers to buy on thier timeline. 

 

Market Losers get frustrated because objectives and key timelines are being missed, and they try to “manage” their way to bottom-line objectives.

 

What kind of company do you work for?

What kind of a leader are you?

 

If you are a Hippo, when is the last time you left “the watering hole”?

 

When was the last time you bought or used your product or service?

 

When was the last time you talked to a potential buyer for your product?

Are you dictating when buyers must buy?

 

The solution is obvious….

Get out in your market and get to know your customers and potential customers today. When you do you will discover market problems and see opportunities for your team to solve those problems.

Who knows, you may also create raving fans who value a few extra hours a shut eye more than a $400 travel voucher.