Last week, I was speaking at a conference on "Building and Maintaining Sales Motivation." After the program, several people came up to discuss my concept of a "drive statement."
At this time of the year, everyone is working on their sales business plans for 2013 and finishing budgets and forecasts. While every plan should include goals and objectives for training, marketing and sales incentive programs, this is also the perfect time to consider how you will maintain your sales team's emotional focus on exceeding your goals. Creating a drive statement can assist you.
A drive statement is a series of words or a sentence that describes your overall theme for your sales team for an entire year. This statement is reinforced at every potential opportunity. It may appear on your internal letterhead or made into a banner and hung in your sales area. It's used to reinforce your training programs.
For example, I have seen one that was simply "Growth!" This word reinforced the company's focus on sales growth, professional growth, market share growth and company growth. Another was "Brilliant Execution." This particular company wanted to reinforce the sales process and sales strategy execution, as well as increase the focus on customer service. The company had defined specific steps to improve all aspects of the sales function and it wanted everyone to know that it expected brilliant execution!
A more complex statement was "We will dominate our market with an assertive approach and create a unique experience." This company wanted to make the statement that becoming No.1 in the market was important. Using the word "assertive" meant the company wanted a more aggressive attitude within its sales and marketing departments; the additional use of "unique experience" meant a touch of creativity or the opportunity to stand out was important.
Think through your goals for 2013. What approach and attitude do you want your sales team to consider or act on throughout the year? Then engage several team members to assist you in developing a sales theme or drive statement. I encourage you to share your thoughts on this topic in the blog comments below.
At your 2013 sales kickoff meeting, create an atmosphere of excitement when you unveil a well-planned-out business plan where sales, marketing and operations are coordinated and your sales team leaves the meeting motivated to exceed their goals. Plan a fun event but make sure your team knows your drive statement and how it relates to your vision for the year.
If you would like a few ideas on creating a sales kickoff meeting send me an e-mail at Ken@AcumenMgmt.com.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on December 03, 2012 at 11:59 AM0 comments
On a recent flight to Seattle, I pondered what this week's blog might contain. While reflecting on the past year and looking forward toward 2013, it occurred to me that a quick summary of a few basic actions sales leadership must take to succeed would be of value.
Step One: Build an Active Recruiting Plan
Most sales managers get fired for not hitting the desired sales goals. Normally, the reason is because they have a lack of salespeople selling their products/services. You must know your average transaction value versus your yearly or monthly sales objectives. The key question is: "Do you have enough salespeople on board to achieve your monthly number of required sales transactions?"
A sales manager must look ahead by 90 to 120 days at future potential revenue objectives and understand your manpower requirements. Recruiting is sales leadership's marketing campaign for sales leads. Build an ongoing program to ensure you have the right talent in place to exceed your goals.
Step Two: Know Your Pipeline Metrics
This is something I have written about before but it is what can bite the sales manager. You must know the accurate value of the pipeline 90 to 120 days out (depending upon your sales cycle). The question you must ask is: "Do you have enough number of opportunities both in value and number of opportunities to achieve your upcoming monthly quota?"If not, what can you do to ensure you build up the pipeline values so that you will have enough opportunities to achieve the monthly objective? It's November; what is your February pipeline value? Do you have the necessary values to achieve February's goals when it's Feb. 1?
Step Three: Is Your Team Trained?
Recently, one of my new clients, a technical team member and myself listened in as two of their salespeople gave a demonstration to a major new client sales opportunity. It became obvious to the president that the salespeople were not professional or even capable of handling the meeting. It was enlightening and a crucial step toward increasing the need for continued focus on sales training. The sales team had been neglecting our recommendations for how to improve their skill level, and now there will be an increased buy-in by management and peer levels to focus on sales skills.
- Make more sales calls with your team.
- Build in a quarterly salesperson skills-evaluation process.
- Increase more role-playing in your sales-training meetings.
- Build a quarterly sales-training program.
Step Four: Improve Your Professional Business Acumen
Make sure you read the local business sections in your local papers, The Wall Street Journal, business magazines and Web sites. Read three business books a year and join a sales leadership "peer group" of other sales managers to learn how others are increasing their leadership skills. This step will improve your ability to discuss the business trends of the day with prospects and your sales team, increase your stature within your management team and improve how you manage your team.
Follow these four steps and your odds of surviving the usual 18-month window that most sales leaders live under will improve. If you have not downloaded our whitepaper, "Top 40 Sales Management Actions To Build Predictable Revenue" from our Web site, send me an e-mail at Ken@AcumenMgmt.com and I will send it to you.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on November 26, 2012 at 11:59 AM0 comments
My speaking and sales leadership consulting practice causes me to work with many people who are experiencing stressful situations, like having to learn to manage a sales team for the first time or realizing that their organizations are not performing at optimal levels.
James Robbins, the author of Nine Minutes on Monday, captures the reader immediately by building on the story of him climbing a mountain -- at one point, almost at the summit, he becomes unsure if he can make it to the top. As the book moves forward, Robbins continues to share stories that make his points and describe his easy-to-follow plan to enhance your leadership and the performance of your team.
While any student of management and leadership may be familiar with a few of Robbins' tactics, what makes his book a must-read for all management levels is his formula and his challenge to simply spend nine minutes each Monday to consider nine simple questions. An example is: "How can I promote a feeling of autonomy in one employee this week?" Each question is simple, but profound in its potential impact on your team.
Too many times in this fast-paced world -- especially if you're a sales manager -- we neglect the basics of leadership and the need to build the appropriate culture that drives performance. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that this is a favorite topic of mine. Robbins can provide you a pathway to becoming the real leader you need to be in any sales leadership position.
The author builds his case for his formula by beginning to address the fundamental needs of all employees and yet provides answers and direction with examples of individuals who have applied his techniques. One of his nine points is "The Need to Play." In that chapter, he describes the importance of having fun...with an example from a funeral home!
At the end of each chapter is a "Summary" page that recaps the chapter's lessons and provides one of the nine questions to consider and a key action step. At Robbins' Web site you can download other tools, as well. Buy the book, read it, apply Robbins' plan and find out how in the end, he made it to the top of the summit by learning the ultimate leadership lesson.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on October 22, 2012 at 11:59 AM0 comments
An upcoming election, roller-coaster days on Wall Street, Middle East issues, budgets being cut...there are many distractions.
With that economic domino effect hitting us all as 2012 begins to wind down, ending the year on a high note will be more challenging than ever. At Acumen, we've been offering the following advice to our clients and their sales teams:
- Keep it in perspective. Recognize that if you are in the IT sector, it is the best place to be in tough economic times. You sell what's especially in demand right now -- solutions that can increase efficiency, cut costs and enhance customer relationships.
- Stay optimistic. Remember that clients and prospects are seeking help and you're in a position to both reassure and assist them.
- Work harder. (Sorry, but that's what's needed.) Try to stretch yourself both in terms of attracting new customers and better serving existing ones. Sell professionally; execute brilliantly.
Meanwhile, the standard end-of-year scenario still applies, too. As always, this is when accelerated compensation programs kick in. More importantly, it's when many management bonus systems take effect, rewarding executives for driving certain levels of pretax income to the bottom line or attaining their revenue targets. And it's no wonder that, just like every year at this time, sales teams feel like they're in the last 100 yards of a big race.
Following are five additional steps to help you stay out in front as you approach the 2012 finish line:
- Count the days. In the same way that consumers track holiday shopping days, know how long you've got left to sell this year. Doing the countdown adds urgency to the process for you and your prospects. (Hint: How can you use the remaining weekends to boost business?)
- Consider all your resources. Can you turn to colleagues to strategize about opportunities and develop winning tactics? How about doing site visits? Can an existing client or a vendor contact help create credibility with prospects?
- Plot closing strategies. Think about why prospects need your solution and exactly how they'll benefit from implementing it, whether it's generating revenues, improving productivity or better serving customers. Then figure out a reason for them to act now. You may have a sense of urgency driven by end-of-year deadlines for quotas or bonuses, but you need to show prospects how moving forward at this point will benefit them.
- Make contact twice weekly. Never let a week slip by between meetings with prospects. If you see them on Tuesday, see them again on Thursday. Stop by at a convenient time, but always have a valuable reason to visit, such as providing an implementation plan or a reference letter.
- Keep prospecting. Sales organizations often drain their pipelines by the end of December. January may be strong with leftover business, but February, March and April typically lag. It's important to ensure that marketing and prospecting levels remain constantly focused on future pipeline development. We recommend that you take your calendar and block out specific times for prospecting between now and year's end.
One last tip for coping with today's economy: In the downturn following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I developed a short personal motto that successfully reinforced the need to keep moving forward. It was: "Take action. Stay positive." I suggest that you develop a similar slogan to help you navigate these difficult times. Having a strong foundation can make all the difference in how you end the year and position yourself for 2013
Posted by Ken Thoreson on October 16, 2012 at 11:59 AM0 comments
During the past few days, I have been suggesting to my clients several ideas to ensure they finish off the year in a strong style. I thought I would offer them below and ask for more ideas from our team of readers.
- Increase the number of days per week you perform one-on-one sales strategy coaching to verify that all salespeople know where they are in the sales cycle and have asked the proper questions. Make an extra phone call where you can coach and question sales actions.
- Encourage your salespeople to work together on challenging each other's sales strategies. Team them up.
- Create an end-of-year sales contest with individual and team goals.
- Add two mornings of telephone blitz days for prospecting. Invite people to a November seminar/business breakfast meeting. Increase your prospecting ratio to load up December and January pipelines.
- Create a fun event -- Halloween parties, fall seasonal events and so on. There is a lot of stress and pressure in the end-of-year push. Thank your own team.
- Assign a certain number of customers (say, 10) to each salesperson each week. Make sure they have a good reason/strategy and product/service offering for each client. Make sure they make the calls to the appropriate person at the client's office. Inspect this!
Setting Up November
- It's the Thanksgiving month! Create a Customer Appreciation Event. Via a postcard or a letter from the president, invite everyone to your offices. Add a few vendors, as well, and offer additional services/product offerings. Invite your best end-of-year prospects, too.
- For those early-stage prospects in October who will make a decision in November, a special Thanksgiving discount/promotion code that ends on Nov. 23 can be suggested and then launched in November.
- Roll out a 25-point weekly sales game where each salesperson must earn 25 points a week based upon activity (for example, 5 points for a presentation, 5 points for an order, 5 points for prospecting, and so on). Send me an e-mail and I will send you a sample.
- Make each salesperson review their entire 2012 calendars from January to October. Ask them to look for missed appointments, suspects that did not make a decision or any networking individuals that need to be follow up with.
Let me hear what other ideas you might have -- e-mail me or leave a comment below. Let's all work together to make 2012 finish strong!
Posted by Ken Thoreson on October 08, 2012 at 11:59 AM0 comments
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in another conference -- my 14th of the year. Conferences are always a great time to hear other speakers, learn new ideas and meet new people. During the session, I led a panel discussion titled "Killer Strategies for Prospecting" and spoke separately on "Leveraging Your Business by Partnering." I thought I would highlight a few points from both sessions since they are pertinent for everyone as we move into 2013.
There were four panelists, all with real-world experience in selling and marketing. We talked about a variety of topics, but specifically discussed the topic of what marketing's contribution and responsibility to growing the sales funnel is versus what is expected from the sales team. As you would expect, there was a lot of give and take and great audience interaction on this topic.
Some thought that marketing was simply meant to build awareness of the products and company to soften the entry for a salesperson. Others believed it was to increase the relationship position, as prospects today more knowledgeable because of Web site and Internet access (see "The Well-Equipped Prospect"). Still others believed sales must prospect and any leads from marketing were simply "gifts."
The key element, I believe, is to realize that there is a relationship between the marketing funnel and the sales funnel. Both are responsible for keeping the sales funnel full and adding X number of prospects into the funnel each month. Some thought that it was a four-to-one ratio.
Here are some other tips:
- Your Web site must be a sales tool. Make sure your salespeople use it in your sales process and that it includes customer testimonials.
- Instead of lunch workshops, making them "business breakfast sessions," especially for net new prospects.
- Develop a select profile of who you want to market to.
- Direct mail is back (compared to e-mail blasts).
Leveraging Your Business by Partnering
In this session, I encouraged my audience to recognize that prospects are looking for longer-term relationships from fewer vendors and they want their purchasing decisions made easier. It must also be recognized that as businesspeople, we cannot possibly offer every solution to every client.
However, by learning to partner with other organizations, we can increase the value to our prospects. I proposed, based on my experience, that working a partnering model will bring your organization one salesperson's quota per year without absorbing the cost of sales in hiring another person.
The key element is that from an executive level, every organization should develop three to five "business-eco systems partners." These are defined as organizations that sell non-competitive but related products and services to the same markets you address.
The model for a successful partnering program should include the following:
- It must be based upon trust and a true win-win approach.
- A written plan that includes metrics for six, 12 and 18 months must be agreed upon by all partnering members.
- Cross-training of sales teams and cross-marketing programs must be developed.
- Executives must meet quarterly to review the program's success.
- It is critical to select the right partners that fit your culture and market profile.
- Salespeople should also continue to develop their network of referral sales.
If you would like a copy of Acumen's Partner Analysis Guide book, send me an e-mail at Ken@AcumenMgmt.com.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on October 01, 2012 at 11:59 AM0 comments
This occurs almost every time I speak or at every initial client visit. Whether the organization is using CRM or not, chances are it has not taken the time to define, write out and train the sales team on how to use prescriptive a sales process.
Why is this important enough to write about? A sales process gets results!
Recently, a client and I spent about two hours simply documenting what a salesperson should do on each of the various steps of the sales process. It enlightened the sales manager and created the beginning of a new sales-driven culture for the company. What happened?
- In thinking through the logical progression and the actual actions the salesperson should take, we altered the second step and changed what the salesperson was to say and sell during that stage.
- We created one additional professional service product that could be re-sold.
- The sales manager began to fully understand not only what the steps in the sales process were, but more importantly why the salesperson needs to execute on them.
- Actual definitions of each action within each stage were specifically defined. Why is this important? Pipeline values become more accurate. Let me describe this in more detail: Let's assume there is a "demonstration" stage in your sales cycle. Ask yourself when do your salespeople move the prospect to the demo stage. When it is scheduled? Or after it is completed? This is an example of the kinds of details that will come out during the process.
- During the sales process your company's value proposition must be proven. You can build a step or an action that takes place at the appropriate stage that can validate your messaging. We created what we expect to be a unique idea for the client to prove theirs.
- One of the most important aspects of creating a prescriptive sales process is changing the sales process! What I mean is, if you and your competitors use the basic sales stages in the same sequence and say and do the same things, no one stands out and the prospect becomes confused. When there is confusion, generally there is no decision. Change your sales process to stand out, be different and make the customer remember you. Refer to my previous blog on the end of solution sales.
- We added a last step: a follow-up at 90 days post-implementation or -installation to validate customer satisfaction and ask for a reference letter.
The next step is for the sales manager to teach the salespeople how to execute and then "inspect what you expect" -- that is, make sure the sales team is using the process as it is defined. Set a 90-day plan in place to implement and evaluate the results. Create four or five metrics to measure its effectiveness, validate it is being used and to listen to your team. If it needs to be altered to increase effectiveness, that is OK. But before you change, make sure you are fully understand the impact.
Let me know your thoughts on creating a sales process. What has worked for you? What hasn't? Leave a comment below or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on September 24, 2012 at 11:59 AM0 comments
Last Tuesday around 10 p.m., after getting back to my home from a neighborhood activity, I turned on the TV to catch the last news of the day and checked my phone for e-mail. The latter is not an unusual routine for me as our client base can be in multiple time zones around the world. On that night, I had two e-mails from a sales manager from the Eastern time zone that had come in after 9 p.m.
While there are always instances where our jobs require us to put in the extra time, it is important to find balance -- the time to clear your mind and seek fresh air.
After I responded to the client, I received two e-mail responses in return; it was now 10:30 p.m. While the week had been stressful for him -- he let go a salesperson, hired another major position and discovered a few major problems -- I sent back an e-mail: "Rest, sleep, you will need more fresh air in the morning!"
With the day-to-day stress levels that sales leaders face, it is critical to focus on your personal self as well as the health of your team and company. The most successful sales leaders are creative, have high levels of energy and are mentally alert to the variety of situations they face each day. If you are stressed out, you burn out and become ineffective.
I have written often in my monthly newsletter, Why Sales Managers Succeed, on the various responsibilities of the sales leader. Maintaining a personal and fresh perspective is the most important. If you are tired, you will not coach effectively or think clearly when working on various sales strategies with your team, and you will not provide the leadership that is necessary to propel you revenues to the next level.
Each of us must find a means to "open up the brain" (I always say that the brain is like an umbrella -- it only works when it is open). I know in my professional life, I need quiet time to recharge. Some need physical activity while others need people or games to let them find that fresh air.
In my keynote program, "Gourmet Living: Building a Personal and Professional Recipe for Success," I provide a variety of ideas to help individuals build a better life. When you have fresh air, your life will be in balance and success will follow. Check out my YouTube.com videos to listen to my thoughts on life.
How do you find your fresh air? Love to hear your ideas -- share them below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on September 18, 2012 at 11:59 AM0 comments
Over the Labor Day weekend, I picked up a book titled Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World's Sales Leaders. It was authored by Thomas Baumgartner, Homayoun Hatami and Jon Vander Ark, with a foreword written by Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.
What makes this a great read for sales leaders at any size organization is the real case-study examples the authors used to prove their strategies. Within each defined strategy, the authors broke out the specific steps required to achieve the stated goal. This provided a detailed description of how specific sales leaders approached a problem.
The authors, all consultants from McKinsey and Company, took data elements and individual interviews to produce almost a handbook-style guide that should be on every sales leader's shelf. When I read these kinds of books, I tend to have a pen in my hand and fold over the page corners where I find the key important points; after 225 pages of this book, I counted 19 pages folded!
While many of the authors' examples are from enterprise and global organizations, the concepts and lessons are appropriate for any sales organization. The first key point that I came across is in a section called "Sales Experience Matters." There, the authors emphasized the importance of the customer's sales experience. They challenged sales leaders to ask themselves, "What do my customers want from the sales experience?" I know that when I craft sales process maps for clients, this question is always considered, and I always focus on creating some sales action or tool that is unique and that our competition is not doing.
The second point I picked up on was the need to focus on improving sales operations. That's all operations including all non-quota-carrying activities that support quota-carrying activities. What are you doing is this area?
Lastly, the authors focus on changing the culture within the organization. They highlight several great examples of sales leaders building momentum and driving new program initiatives. Examples included increasing the tempo within the sales team, increasing the coaching and sales management interaction, and demanding results, results, results!
The last chapter includes a great table with 12 questions that can be used to assess your sales organization. Within each question, the authors define "Good" and "Great" best practices.
Overall, this is a good read with many ideas that will keep you occupied during any airplane ride or a day on the dock! What good business-oriented book have you read recently?
Posted by Ken Thoreson on September 06, 2012 at 11:59 AM0 comments
During a meeting with a new client, several old topics cropped up. Since I seem to run into these issues quite often, I thought it would be good to address them on this blog.
The client has been growing -- not at an aggressive pace, but slowly -- and the sales organization was in chaos, working opportunistically on various sales deals and randomly in the marketplace. The result: The delivery organization is bogged down, low profitability and no insights into the pipeline or sales activity.
While I don't have the space to fully outline each of my recommended actions to the client, here are the five necessary actions to increase the level of focus.
First, inspect what you expect. As the president or VP of sales, your job is to ensure that the sales team is acting in the manner you expect. Can the team sell your company effectively? Can it discuss your products/services professionally? Is it working intelligently? Is it focused on increasing skill levels?
Second, determine whether your sales team accurately and consistently uses your CRM software. I often find that reports are inaccurate because the salespeople are not fully trained on how to use the software, or are not focused on how to enter certain data properly. CRM training should take place each quarter.
Third, "working smart" is smart. Have you determined the ideal profile of your most profitable clients (i.e., their top five characteristics), and is your marketing and sales team focused on finding and selling them? Both of these will increase the velocity of your order pattern and profitability. Your messaging must also be aligned to these prospects. Check out your competitors' Web sites to determine how their messaging compares to yours.
Fourth, ask yourself whether you are focused on penetrating your existing accounts. Rather than creating salesperson business plans, which I discussed my post on forecasting for the second half of the year, this particular client will be implementing "account planning." Account planning should be done quarterly with each salesperson creating a standardized plan for X-number of clients. The exercise asks each salesperson to describe their relationship with and knowledge of the account. The key is the sales manager and salesperson must agree on the account strategy and five tactical actions the salesperson will act on to further penetrate or even sell the account. Like the salesperson business plan, each account plan is presented to the entire sales team.
Fifth, build a recipe for your business. Frequent readers of my blog know of my "gourmet living" program that assists people in finding their ingredients for success. At my client's office, we are in the process of determining what leading indicators of future business are appropriate to track and what level of actions by the salesperson are necessary to ensure they exceed quota. For example, for this client with an "inside sales team," we simply went into the phone logs to identify how many calls per day were made by each salesperson. With remote salespeople it instantly showed extremely low volumes of activity. Focus on managing the details.
These five steps are only the basics, but by focusing on them, your business will improve -- guaranteed! What are your recommendations for other actions?
Posted by Ken Thoreson on August 27, 2012 at 11:59 AM0 comments
I normally don't focus on specific sales training topics, but after several sessions of training sales managers on how to create effective sales strategies -- and even experiencing several sales situations within my own business -- I thought I might raise this topic via three points:
- When I was selling business-focused software to the midsized market, we were trained to spend time with the people in the office during the early stages of the sales process and build a solid relationship with them.
- During the demonstration phase the president of those companies always brought the key people that would be using the software. During the proposal phase, those individuals were normally there when we introduced the investment and training programs.
- It seemed like 90 percent of the time, the president always looked at those individuals or "influencers" -- who had no ownership in the company and may not have had a management title -- and said, "What do you think?"
The power of the influencer is amazing. If those influencers had confidence in my solution and recognized that the benefits of my proposal would improve their job and the company, their vote was always, "I think it makes sense!"
While in many sales situations we find that the salesperson is not calling high enough in the decision-making process, don't forget to nurture those key individuals that can bring power to your recommendation. It maybe informal power, but it is still power. In developing your sales strategy make sure you seek out those individuals that your product/service will impact within the organization and include them in key steps of your sales process.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on August 22, 2012 at 11:59 AM0 comments
Climbing Mount Everest takes skills, planning, a strong team and luck. But it's how people work together that matters the most.
The same applies in business. While I was in Hong Kong leading a two-day sales leadership workshop, I picked up a Chinese newspaper where there was a lengthy article on this very topic in the business section. Immediately, I knew it would be a good topic for the blog.
The article discussed hiking deaths that have occurred and how several hiking organizations focus on climbing the mountain and their different planning styles. This included an IMAX film team as well as guided-climb teams. Each team had different objectives and styles but they had common goals. In summary, the article reviewed how any organization can use the same concepts these climbing teams used in leading successful organizations.
The author also included an assessment scorecard to measure your own organization's capabilities. The scorecard rates teams by four categories: goals, roles of each member, processes and interpersonal (GRPI). Organizations can score their team on a scale of 1 through 5 (where 5 is the best score) for each of the four categories. This GRPI model can improve team efficiency and effectiveness by enabling leaders to focus first on what is needed to strengthen the team, instead of rushing into a task (and possibly failing).
Next time you have a major objective, use this process and assessment scorecard to ensure success. You don't want to fall short of your summit! And if you want to learn more, check out the book Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, an adventure consultant.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on August 13, 2012 at 11:59 AM1 comments