Know Your Competition: 2010 Prep

Strategic sales managers know they must be creative when it comes to developing a sales strategy. With fewer opportunities in most pipelines these days, salesforce management is increasingly focused on executing brilliantly on each and every sales opportunity.  

One component in sales team training is to perform a semiannual competitive assessment. Here's a brief description of the steps to follow to accomplish this most important action to improve your win-loss ratios:

Step 1: With our clients, we like to recommend identifying the top five firms that seem to be involved in most sales opportunities. Certainly, this number can vary.

Step 2: Depending on the number of salespeople, we assign each competitor to one or more salespeople. They're told they have three weeks to create a 15-minute presentation on each assigned competitor. This presentation should include the following headlines: "Your Strengths vs. the Competitor," "Your Weaknesses," "Why We Should Win" and "How We Could Lose."

Step 3: Prior to the individual presentation, smart sales managers must "inspect what you expect," meaning review each presentation. This ensures the content is what you want and that the salesperson has done the proper research.

Several hints to make this truly effective sales training: One, suggest to the salespeople that they request a brochure via their Web site (this will test how well it works and if there are follow-up calls). Two, copies of their Web site should be in their presentation. Three, identification of their value proposition/marketing message MUST be included (this helps you validate your unique value proposition). Four, a physical "walk by" of their office lobby to gain a perspective of their image is nice. And five, include any information from past Won/Lost reports. Some salespeople will even phone the sales offices and request to speak with a competitive salesperson to "hear" their sales pitch and report on what they learned.

One last hint: Sales managers should build a sales library of competitive proposals. Every time you win an opportunity, ask for copies of the competitive proposals. (If you've built the right relationship, there should be no reason not to receive them.) And if you lose an opportunity, always remember to pick up your proposal!

Ken Thoreson, president of Acumen Management Group Ltd., "operationalizes" sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 12 years, our consulting, advisory and platform services have illuminated, motivated and rejuvenated the sales efforts for partners throughout North America. Move up and move ahead! Acumen Management provides keynotes, consulting services and products designed to improve business performance. 3f4qb8v9ge

Posted by Ken Thoreson on October 08, 2009 at 2:30 PM0 comments


It's Time To Recruit, Not To Hire

After eight days and six cities, I hope to make sure this message is clear: It's been a busy week! I missed last week's blog because of some of that travel, but I hope you used that time to contemplate the ideas in the post on sales compensation planning for 2010 -- it's a critical component for building a high-performance and self-managed sales team.

Another very critical component in creating a high-performance team is attracting and selecting the right level of talent. Hiring correctly is the No. 1 problem in the channel. 

While the jury is still out on the Minnesota Vikings and their recruitment of Brett Favre, Sunday's game proved the value of having a person on your team who has the right experience and can make things happen.

Let's recap: With two seconds remaining, Brett scrambled and hit a receiver in the back of the end zone. It was a come-from-behind win over the San Francisco 49ers. He said in post-game comments, "I kept telling myself and my teammates that we can still win this game." He accomplished a similar victory as a backup quarterback in his first game as a Green Bay Packer and has continued this pattern throughout his career more than 40 times.

So, here's a situation where the Vikings had two quarterbacks competing for the starting job, but they recruited Favre before the season started because he's proven that he's one of the best.

Sports analogies are cliché, but here's my point: Recruiting must be a constant focus of sales management. At this time of year, many top performers are assessing their current employer and asking if they are positioned with a winner, if the frustrations of the past year or two have been worthwhile, and what progress they made professionally. 

If you're not constantly seeking new and better talent, you will find that the top sales talent may not be looking in your direction when positions open up. We always tell clients that they need to develop a marketing campaign to recruit talent as well as to find prospects.

Favre came out of retirement. Likewise, with the general business environment, remember that there is also talent available due to cut backs, layoffs and some people opting to retire earlier.

In our book, "Recruiting and Hiring a High Performance Sales Team," I suggest that for every one salesperson you hire, you need to interview five and that a minimum of three people interview each person. I can't get into a complete recruiting, interviewing and hiring process in this blog, so here's one nugget to take away: Building a recruiting machine with a defined interviewing process will help you take the emotion out of hiring and help you select the winners required to make your organization a super team. 

Our Web site has a free video on hiring smart and it's there that you can also get our On Line Sales Manager's Tool Kit that includes a complete interviewing kit as well as a three-week, New-Hire On boarding training schedule.

Ken Thoreson, President of Acumen Management Group Ltd., "operationalizes" sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 12 years, our consulting, advisory, and platform services have illuminated, motivated, and rejuvenated the sales efforts for partners throughout North America. Move up and move ahead! Acumen Management provides keynotes, consulting services and products designed to improve business performance. 3f4qb8v9ge

Posted by Ken Thoreson on September 28, 2009 at 11:59 AM1 comments


Sales Compensation Planning for 2010

It takes time to get it right. From sales leaders to executives, everyone must be focused on exceeding the end of year sales quotas and budgets -- alas, it is mid-September and October will be quickly on top of you. Over the next few weeks I will be discussing the components that all companies must begin to work on during the 2010 budgetary and business/sales planning process.

The first step in overall business planning is to have the management team determine what percentages of overall revenue will come from net new clients vs. existing clients by product/service or practice area. Once that exercise is completed, then all budgets, marketing plans and sales compensation planning can begin.

The sales management process in developing sales compensation can be complex, yet the goal must always be to create a program that is simple to understand and administer.

The ultimate concept in sales force compensation is to ensure that the salesperson's and sales management's plans are in alignment with each other and, most importantly, in alignment with the objectives or goals of the organization.

You can take a free sales compensation assessment on Acumen's Website. It will help you judge the effectiveness of your existing sales compensation plan. Once that process is completed, the sales management process must begin: Determining acceptable levels of cost of sales; determining a QTD objective; an accelerated or ramp plan based upon sales or margin, or both? Will there be special bonuses for reaching certain objectives? Perhaps a team bonus plan? What sales contests will you run (see my earlier post for ideas).

For more sales compensation, ideas, go here. Depending upon your needs as a sales leader, that link will also provide you access to 22 other articles on sales management we have published.

On our Website and in our store we have a DVD and a book, "Building Sales Compensation Plans that Work!" My recommendation is to start early, work through various scenarios and, most importantly, look for the holes. Looking for the holes means, once you have narrowed down your plan, go and test it, present it to others and let fresh eyes try to find the weak spots in it.

Strategic sales management must focus on increasing the sales performance of your team. Hiring will help and training is a must, but a well thought out sales compensation plan will add the right fuel to mixture.

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Challenging times dramatically widen the differences between high-performing organizations and average organizations. After the past 15 months, many teams are now both mentally tired and extremely short on confidence. This session is critical for positioning your firm to move up and move ahead in 2010 and build predictable revenue under any economic circumstances.

This session will cover the top five focus points of successful companies and how they build a culture of success. Find out if you are a leader or a manager! Learn the 5 styles of leadership and 7 styles of management and when to use them. We will also cover the profile of successful executives and why CEOs fail!

Register for the Master Class here.

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Ken Thoreson, President of Acumen Management Group Ltd., "operationalizes" sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 12 years, our consulting, advisory, and platform services have illuminated, motivated, and rejuvenated the sales efforts for partners throughout North America. Move up and move ahead! Acumen Management provides keynotes, consulting services and products designed to improve business performance. 3f4qb8v9ge

Posted by Ken Thoreson on September 15, 2009 at 11:59 AM2 comments


Focus on the Finish

After seven days of recovering from minor foot surgery, I was pondering what others were doing this weekend that I couldn't: golfing, boating, grilling, hiking and partying with friends. Well I did do some partying with friends but it was more like hobbling.

As I relaxed reading four books and watching movies, my mind would drift as to what I should be doing and what other sales managers must be thinking about --- facing the next four months.

Last week, I filmed two video webcasts, "Building Predictable Revenue" and "Hire, Train and Re-Train High Performers." With that experience fresh in my mind, I wanted to provide a quick "sprint to the finish" blog that all executives and sales leaders should keep in mind for the next few months:

Focus on the short-term sales results. We have spent numerous blogs and Acumen newsletters on what that means. Simply put, resources must be applied to strategize and tactically execute brilliantly on all aspects of the sales process. "Think creatively and acts accordingly." Do you have a copy of Acumen's sales strategy guidebook? Check out our store on the Acumen Web site.

Plan for 2010. Yes, recruiting top performers that can impact 2010 is also a priority. College football recruiting falls within a two-year window -- finding the players that will impact your team for next year is critical. Top salespeople are now evaluating their current business relationships and levels of satisfaction. Do they know you want them?

Focus on lead generation. Building pipeline levels now is critical, not only to have a good fourth quarter, but to ensure you start 2010 with a lot of potential sales activity. Our economy is not hot, but increasing your sales opportunities will result in sales results.

Have fun. Our sales teams might be tired -- mentally and physically -- as well as we might be. It is the job of the sales leader to be a catalyst for change and continuous improvement. You must realize that each day, each week and each month for the next four months is your opportunity to create optimism, encourage your team, build belief and increase the energy of your entire organization to achieve your company's objectives.

Lastly, if you have not set a yearly sales incentive trip for your team (entire company team or sales team), NOW is the time to announce a sales trip, set the goals, energize your entire team and focus on exceeding your goals.

Realistic optimism is critical now for increasing the speed you sell your way out of this economic situation. The winners are those capturing market share and overtaking their competitors.

Build predictable revenue for 2010. If you have not received our "Top 40 Actions Sales Managers Need to Execute for Predictive Revenue," send me an e-mail.

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations internationally. Ken also motivates organizations with enlightening keynotes.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on September 08, 2009 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Adjusting The Recipe

Many of you who have known me over the years know I enjoy cooking and may have heard my cooking stories. Well, Saturday evening we decided to make a scallop recipe. The only challenge was my pantry did not contain all the necessary ingredients that recipe called for and living where we do, it is not a 10-min. drive to the store. So, I improvised.

Instead of dried, sour Michigan cherries, I used dried cranberries, probably from Wisconsin. In place of fresh clam juice, I added a small amount of chicken broth. After using most of the other recommended ingredients, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner.

During my keynote message, The Power of Impact, I speak often about the correlation of cooking to building a positive approach to life and finding your personal recipe of success. The same is true for sales leaders in increasing the success their sales teams.

During challenging times we must increase our focus in looking for new and creative ways to help our sales team win. In many situations, you may have fewer resources than you have had in past times or you may be competing with a firm that has additional levels of value not available to you. Or, your prospect may be considering your proposal vs. spending the money on a totally different need than an IT plan.

Sales managers must blend into sales training sessions, one-on-one calls and even group sales, meetings the need for your sales team to "think outside of the box" and to look for other ingredients that will help you complete the sale. Your job is to challenge conventional wisdom and work to "mix up" the game.

Executive sales management requires you to consider: repackaging your services/solutions, changing pricing, changing your selling process that proves your value proposition or even creating an event that makes your prospect sit back and really listens to you.

One very successful salesperson I know even dressed up in Knights armor and made a sales call to stress the "white knight" theme and protection they would bring to the prospect's company. I am not suggesting you do a lot of silly things. I'm simply saying that if you don't have as many tools or advantages as your competition, then as sales leaders you must help your teams discover what ingredients they need to put in place to help them win more often. It's all the more important especially as we move into the important fourth quarter.

Respond to the blog or send me your creative ideas that are helping you win! Let's work together to make winning recipe and close out the year with a banquet.

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations internationally. Ken also motivates organizations with enlightening keynotes.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on August 24, 2009 at 11:59 AM3 comments


Re-Wiring the Sales Brain

In challenging times, the difference between high performers and average performers widens. This statement was very evident during last week's Sales Leadership Summit especially during our roundtables when everyone discussed their biggest challenges. The most frequent comments related to the need to build the right kind of motivation into their sales teams or, as someone suggested, the need to "re-wire their sales brains." What was meant by that comment was the need for management and individual salespeople to change the way they manage the sales process.

The primary change is something we call POV or Point of View. In most cases average salespeople can hide in good times, but in challenging times they struggle and it shows. The reasons for their struggles are that in most cases they only know the sales process and functions/features of their particular product or services. 

In POV, the salesperson must work to understand the prospect's: 1) business, 2) industry, 3) professional needs and 4) personal needs. The salesperson must understand how they can be of service to the prospect and how they will impact the prospect's business. And just as important, they must have the mental strength to be persistent. I mean persistent not from a sales process perspective but rather from one of leading the prospect to a decision that is the right one for them.

The often-used analogy of healthcare summarizes the POV concept. When you see a doctor who recommends surgery, you normally agree, set the date and show up. In today's and, frankly, tomorrow's soft economy, we must all seek to understand the impact we will have on our prospect's business and strive to take a stand -- mentally -- that we are there to:

  • Reduce costs
  • Increase operational efficiency
  • Increase revenues/profits, or
  • Improve customer relationships

Plan you sales training meetings to reinforce these points but also to role-play/videotape your sales team in sales situations. Work on it until the brain has been re-wired to a POV style.

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations internationally. Ken also motivates organizations with enlightening keynotes.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on August 17, 2009 at 11:59 AM3 comments


Sunday Night Sales Management

In the beginning, it was serious training. When I started in the tech sector many years ago, selling software/services/technology, I was lucky. The manufacturer that I worked had extended sales and product training resources, as well as active sales management that worked with small groups of salespeople. This was a sales-driven organization where you had to start fast, you could earn great money and you worked with sales professionals.

I was hired out of college along with a batch of other youthful people, and that meant we all had to learn how to sell, how to convince much older individuals of our expertise and learn our solutions -- in fact, we actually installed and trained our clients on the solutions! The most critical lessons we learned were during our Sunday night sales management training.

Every Sunday night around 7:30 my sales manager would call me. I hated those calls, but I learned they had their purpose. Sunday evening was about being prepared for the week, my manager’s questions were always the same:

  1. What are you priorities for the week?
  2. What are we doing to close your opportunities this week?
  3. How many appointments do you have for the week?
  4. What can I do to help you this week?

What did his actions drive? The desired result! At 5 p.m., before our meeting I was already preparing for those questions and my head was into the week well before the 8 a.m. Monday meeting. My behavior changed when I realized that Friday afternoon was the real time to be prepared. One day an older, more experienced fellow salesperson and I discussed the Sunday night calls and he simply told me that he spent Friday afternoon “grading” his past week and planning his next week, if there were holes in his schedule. He told me that he felt better leaving the office with that job done and he enjoyed the weekend knowing his new week was already under control.

After more than 20 years in the same industry and working for myself, I still use this combination: Friday is spent with weekly evaluations and organization and Sunday evening I prepare to review. I make sure my to do list is prepared and my work projects and new business development plans are laid out.

During our sales management training programs I always discuss "Discipline, Accountability and Control" as important philosophical components of a high performing sales organization. I learned it early in my career.

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations internationally. Ken also motivates organizations with enlightening keynotes.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on August 06, 2009 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Standing Out, Who You Are

In my last blog, I mentioned I have been attending the National Speakers Association conference. What an experience! During three days we worked on keynote content, learned new ideas on platform delivery and observed some of the top professional speakers in the world. So, what does that have to do with sales management or my sales training programs?

Almost from the moment I arrived to the very last break-out meeting, the most common questions were: "What is your expertise?" or "What do you speak on?" It was wonderful to hear how many people could clearly articulate their value proposition or message. Unfortunately, there were others that simply struggled with expressing their message. It was absolutely clear who were the true professionals and who knew their business.

In the 12 years of consulting with partners, we believe the inability for salespeople to "stand up" and clearly and simply describe what their company does and why prospects should purchase from them is the No. 2 problem in the channel. As sales managers, we must build into our sales training programs, on a recurring basis, a process to keep your messages top of mind. The best training we recommend is to videotape each salesperson giving the company'svalue proposition. This should be done privately -- one salesperson at a time. At your next sales training meeting, play each of the salesperson's videos in front of your entire sales team. In most situations it will expose anyone whose message has an obvious lack of clarity. After that meeting, give everyone two weeks to rehearse and practice and then perform the videotaped exercise again. You will be amazed at the results. As sales leaders, it's important to perform this sales training exercise twice a year.

Hint: We also highly recommend you post a sign or banner in your office with your message and work to reinforce this message to all of your employees.

You might also like to know about our upcoming Sales Leadership Summit, from Aug. 11-12, at Davidson Village Inn in Charlotte, North Carolina; for questions send me an e-mail or call 800-792-8346.

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations internationally. Ken also motivates organizations with enlightening keynotes.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on July 30, 2009 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Conventions and Personal Development

I am leaving Saturday for Phoenix -- yes, in July! It is the National Speaker's Association conference and as a member, I decided to invest in my personal development.

During the day I will be listening to programs, attending break-out sessions and networking with my peers. At night I will be working on my client projects. 

Going to this event is always very interesting. Normally, I am giving the keynote or leading a break-out session at a vendor's or association's conference. With WPC going on this week and other industry events, it is important that even with the economic challenges that you may be experiencing and  even if cash flow is critical, attending these kinds of events must be considered a priority.

Learning new things, picking up one or two new ideas and even re-energizing your own mind can help you lead your organization during tough times. You may even gain insights into new sources of revenue that will propel your organizations as the economy begins to recover! "Invest in yourself" are the key words.

In our last blog we mentioned creating a personal development plan for each of your team. As a sales leader you need to have your own plan as well. On our Web site, you will find  a link to our new book (look for the yellow widget)  on sales and sales management. It contains hundreds of ideas that you can use to: 1) challenge your current thinking on sales/leadership and 2) open the minds of your sales team to new and different concepts in selling.

Every salesperson on your team should read it. Really, it's great summertime reading!  If you would like a copy of Acumen’s recommended list of executive books for your library, send me an e-mail.

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations internationally. Ken also motivates organizations with enlightening keynotes.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on July 16, 2009 at 11:59 AM0 comments


Salesperson Review Time

To set the stage for the second half of the year, now is the perfect time to perform a formal salesperson review. We've found that in many organizations, other than measuring the percent age of quota attainment, salespeople aren't formally reviewed as many other employees might be. Once we institute our programs, long-term sales success and less sales turnover occurs.

Effective sales-force management requires creating an environment for individual recognition, development and planning. In our "Sales Management Tool Kit" -- a library of sales management Word/Excel documents -- we use a process and tool to ensure that individual attention is paid to each salesperson. We encourage our clients to meet with each salesperson twice each year and complete a formal document that clearly describes the sales manager's opinion of the individual's performance, including actual sales vs. quota, but also attitude, sales training, sales professionalism, CRM knowledge, areas of strength and weakness, etc.

The key to this meeting is to understand the salesperson's perspective and form a mutual agreement on the contents of the salesperson's development document. This process is designed to allow the sales manager and salesperson to openly build a relationship based on honest communication, which leads to the real benefit of this process.

The ultimate benefit or objective is to create a mutually agreed-upon plan on which both the salesperson and sales manager agree to work together for the next six months. This action plan would include sales training programs, personal and professional goals, as well as any personal commitments that the salesperson wishes to make.

If you want to order the entire "Sales Management Tool Kit," go to Acumenmanagement.com or e-mail me for the "Salesperson Development" document.

Meanwhile, are your sales contests working out? Are they creating fun, activity and sales? Let me know, and have a fun summer!

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations internationally. Ken also motivates organizations with enlightening keynotes.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on July 06, 2009 at 11:59 AM0 comments


First Half of the Year is Over!

It's a wrap, but everything must continue to move forward with increased levels of urgency. In many situations, cash flow is tighter, pipelines have been impacted and sales cycles have grown longer. That's the reality.

But as sales leaders and executives we need to take this week to reflect on the first half: What went better than expected? What things didn't work? ...

Actions that need to be taken this week:

  1. Hold a two-hour sales meeting with your entire team:

    1. Brainstorm on what needs to happened to have a successful 2009
    2. Each salesperson must report on their first half achievements and what personal commitments (sales, personal and professional) they are making for the second half
    3. Ask each of them how they will help the entire company to be successful.
  2. Next make sure your six-month marketing calendar is completed with the necessary levels of activities to generate pipeline values.
  3. Complete your next 90-day sales training plan.

Then write out your personal vision and commitment statement for the next six months. This paragraph should describe your objectives and goals, and add a personal sentence or two that describes what you will commit to from a leadership position.

Also .... reread all my past blogs for other ideas that will propel your sales organization.

One More Note: Something new is available in July to help you position your organization for growth -- Acumen's Leadership Summit, a gathering of executives and sales leaders. The Leadership Summit takes place July 14-15 at Davidson Village Inn in Davidson, North Carolina. For details, send me an e-mail or call 800-792-8346.

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations internationally. Ken also motivates organizations with enlightening keynotes.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on June 30, 2009 at 11:59 AM0 comments


More Summer-Time Sales Management

Based upon the many comments I received on the last blog, I wanted to offer an additional idea to improve your sales management process. With summer time vacations and economic conditions affecting current budgets, strategic sales managers must ensure today that they have adequate pipeline values for July/August/September.

We have discussed in past articles and blogs the need to create a sales and marketing dashboard in order for you to always know the actual values, but what I am recommending is a thorough house cleaning or scrubbing of your sales team's pipeline.

Effective summertime sales management requires you to evaluate each opportunity honestly using tough qualifying and strategy questions.

Action Plan: Depending upon your organization, do the following:

  1. Hold a strategy meeting with the president of your organization, one salesperson and you, the sales manager.
  2. Look at every opportunity. Everyone must ask/answer tough questions. We use 12 Magic Questions when doing this; if you want them, send me an e-mail.
  3. Determine the win/loss ratio by salesperson.
  4. If the dollar values or number of opportunities by month are below required levels, create a sales activity game and marketing campaigns. The results must be managed week to week (See this RCP article on sales games).

"Inspect what you expect" needs to be your motto now to ensure everyone enjoys the rest of the summer.

Top Sales Experts Advice: Summer EditionNew Summer Reading
Our new book is out, jam-packed with sales and sales management training ideas. Sign up for a VIP membership at Top Sales Experts and receive my latest e-book absolutely free (value $19.95). Top Sales Experts membership is just $25/year when you join today. To take advantage of the offer, click here.

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations internationally. Ken also motivates organizations with enlightening keynotes.


 

Posted by Ken Thoreson on June 19, 2009 at 11:59 AM1 comments


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