Welcome to the Sales Department, where things seem to happen randomly, if at all, and excuses grow like weeds.
Nowhere else do business owners find themselves more frustrated.
But the sheer amount of sales improvement balderdash has made many of them despair that there isn’t a lot that can be done, short of cloning their best rainmaker. (You know, the guy who could hold you hostage by threatening to leave.)
Unlike our competitors, we will not promise you an easy road to unprecedented growth. Our roadmap requires focus and discipline throughout the organization. But first it might help to assess where some of the problems might lie . . .
- How readily, accurately, and compellingly do your salespeople articulate why a prospective customer should choose you over one of your competitors? It amazes us when we watch salespeople stumble through this most fundamental of fundamentals. For all the clichés in business literature about “value propositions,” the ability to make your specific advantages clear and relevant marks a critical first impression in any effort to attract new customers.
- Are your sales cycles somewhat predictable? Or do opportunities tend to meander at their own pace, with your salespeople seeming to exert little control or influence? Reps who cling to opportunities that have stalled long enough to grow Duck Dynasty beards are better advised to purchase lottery tickets. The progress of a sales opportunity through your pipeline should be predictable with a high-degree of probability. Otherwise, your forecasts are just make believe. Speaking of which . . .
- How reality-based are your sales forecasts? Have you gone back and assessed their accuracy, or attempted to determine how and where they go wrong? Many executives have grown cynical about forecasting. They’d be dangerously naïve if they hadn’t. Accurate revenue projections can be achieved, but they don’t happen by accident.
- Do you have clients who don’t know some of the other things you could be doing for them? Here is where executive frustration boils over into outright anger. They’re already clients, so you have their trust. You just lack their full awareness. Indefensible and inexcusable.
- Are your reps following a documented selling process, or just winging it? How well do you trust them to wing it successfully often enough to justify their freedom of choice? Some salespeople are good enough to improvise. Most aren’t. Most get lucky just often enough to convince them they don’t need the discipline of a proven process.
- How well can you unpack your cost of customer acquisition? First, don’t ignore the question because as a service company you don’t find it relevant. Second, understand that we’re talking about a lot more than just sales salaries and commissions, or marketing and advertising expenses. Only with a full understanding of those costs can you tailor a business development program that marries marketing messaging with sales process. Speaking of which . . .
- How well does your marketing and messaging map to the capabilities and needs of your boots-on-the-ground salespeople? A disconnect here can be a colossal waste of money. It may be time to consider Marketing as the front end of the sales process, and build metrics to assess its effectiveness.
- How many hours a week does your average salesperson spend within hearing (on the phone) or smelling (face-to-face) distance of someone who can write a check for your services? Amazing as it sounds, the truth is most professional salespeople spend fewer than eight hours a week in front of people who can actually buy from them. And we’re counting the time spent on the phone with such prospects. Time management can be a career killer. Put enough future carcasses together, and it can be a company killer.
- Have you developed specific criteria to qualify opportunities, or are they winging it here as well? Devoting time to closing people who genuinely don’t need, or truly can’t afford, what you’re trying to sell them makes no sense. Sales managers play an important role here, as does your internal CRM or sales automation programs. Speaking of whom . . .
- How well do your sales managers know the strengths and weaknesses of the people in their charge? Are they focusing their time proportionally? Do they suffer from an 80/20 problem? It’s a lot more important than managing to the metrics. How technically astute are the reps in their care? How well do they know their territories, whether that means geographic or vertical? Are they fluid listeners, able to pivot? Do they maintain alignment with the prospect? If your sales managers are buried in spreadsheets and reports, you have a problem.
- Does your comp program drive sales behaviors that align with the company’s strategic vision? Don’t make the mistake of counting every dollar the same. We’re not saying salespeople are coin-operated, but you should want them to exploit your comp plan to extract every legitimate nickel they can. If you don’t, you have the wrong comp plan.
- Have you established specific milestones that signal progress within the advancement of a sale? For everything you sell, for every kind of thing you sell, you should be able to develop a unique multistep sales model that indicates progress and highlights areas of concern. Without it, you’re relying on guesswork and the spin that comes from salespeople who see every glass as half full.
- Are your salespeople well attuned to how and why your customers buy, and why they sometimes don’t? Understanding the customer’s buying process is every bit as important as mastering your selling process. Unless they can remain in alignment with the ever-shifting customer concerns, the best they can do is spray and pray.
- Do you think your salespeople feel good about what they do for a living? This points to one of the most common business owner misunderstandings. It is not possible to be successful in a job that brings only monetary satisfactions.
- Do your managers have what it takes to maximize the capabilities of the people they direct? In this day of managing to the metrics, it might seem counterintuitive that sales success is at least 70 percent dependent on effective management. That’s where we come in.
If you aren’t happy with your answers to any of these questions, give us a call.
Coaching for Profit develops customized programs to grow your top line by working with the people who own the numbers – your managers and directors.
More sales through better management. It really is possible.