Last time, I mentioned the three ingredients that sales managers should have in their leadership pantry to maintain sales focus:
- Discipline: Orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.
- Accountability:"Obligated to give a reckoning or explanation for ones actions.
- Control: A standard of comparison for checking the results of an experiment or process.
We recommend that you actually share these definitions with your sales team and your entire company; this will help you increase everyone's focus on the need to execute brilliantly during challenging times. Accountability means that every department and every person -- sales, marketing, delivery and admin -- must be held accountable for meeting the expectations of their job.
(Hint: The expectations or standards must first be set).
By explaining the definitions first to your teams, you can fight the reaction of "this is micro-management." It is not; it is simply good management. Next, we discuss the concept of how "control" makes it all work.
If you haven't RSS'ed this blog, be sure to do it -- the link is here. And don't forget to check out my Web site for more selling resources!
Posted by Ken Thoreson on March 10, 2009 at 11:59 AM0 comments
I enjoy cooking, and that spirit, we'll build these next three blogs as my secret recipe for creating a wonderful and satisfying entree.
Last time, I listed three ingredients for success:
Discipline: Orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.
Accountability: Obligation to give a reckoning or explanation for one's actions.
Control: A standard of comparison for checking the results of an experiment or process.
This time, let's review Discipline. This relates to self-discipline for the manager as well as organizational discipline. To use an old phase, "It's great when the trains run on time" is the prescriptive analogy for what I am suggesting. A well-run sales organization knows that meetings start on time, are well organized, information that is expected is delivered on time -- no excuses, training is completed and all sales processes work!
When we interview top performers who leave organizations, their reasons for leaving are seldom earnings; it's the organizations sloppiness; frustrations that "nothing" works easily and lack of professionalism. Building discipline is an every day focus.
Our recommendation of the quarter was that in tough times, sales execution/training needs increased levels of focus. Twice a year, your entire team should read a new sales book. Our recommendation: Selling to Big Companies, by Jill Konrath (2005, Kaplan Business). Also check out http://www.sellingtobigcompanies.blogs.com/, a great site to find information and order your copy.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on March 03, 2009 at 11:59 AM0 comments
At a recent workshop, "Building a Business in Challenging Times," we discussed the role of sales management. I started to describe the various job functions of a sales manager, or what we believe at Acumen Management are the actions that must be focused on to build a high-performance sales organization.
I covered the concepts of training, metrics management, hiring/interviewing, sales coaching/mentoring, marketing campaigns and general operational management items that make up the day/week of any sales leader. The result of the discussion brought out Acumen's theorem on "the rigors of cadence."
Successful sales organizations are managed with discipline, accountability and control. We will explore each of these words in the next three blogs. But let's start with the concepts in the rigors of cadence, which means that sales managers must be rigorous in their expectations, challenging on training programs and they must perform their management duties of training, coaching, and operation management with a rhythmic pattern. This ongoing standardization and expectation brings a professional approach to everything, from the Monday morning sales meeting, to regularly planned sales training events, to the monthly sales management dashboard evaluation and to the quarterly salesperson development plan and formal review.
Successful sales managers build process and a prescriptive methodology that creates the discipline, accountability and control that creates predictable revenue. Future blogs will discuss what we mean by discipline, accountability and control, and how to bring the rigors of cadence to your sales organizations.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on February 23, 2009 at 11:59 AM0 comments
Besides this blog
and my regular RCP column
, I publish a newsletter associated with my company, Acumen Management Group
. In my latest newsletter, I mention the concept of creating a continency plan in case you have not built adequate pipelines/sales/marketing strategies to compete in more challenging environments. We recommended a plan if revenues drop 25 percent for what specific actions you might take. It's a good time to rate/rank each employee in each department, etc.
However the most critical aspects from a leadership position are to:
- Communicate often. Hold monthly employee meetings, send weekly presidential e-mails that address the rumor mill and provide insights into your thinking, and give some positive news.
- Avoid negativity. You need to bring energy to any situation, not drain it. Remember your body language, eye contact, voice and words are being carefully weighed by everyone.
- Take the initiative. Look for actions to take that are meaningful and show your focus.
- Promote teamwork and collaboration. When departments are combined or when you need two departments to work together more closely (sales/delivery), schedule regular meetings to discuss issues and address inefficiencies.
- Confirm all new business priorities and plan to explain/sell them to all employees often.
Have you added this blog to your RSS feed or passed it to a friend? I am looking for ideas that you might want addressed in future articles, blogs or newsletters. Write me or check out my Web site.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on February 13, 2009 at 11:59 AM1 comments
During the past few weeks as we have been leading our clients through developing potential business contingency plans for challenging times and during our workshops at the IW Business Builder programs "Build and Growth your Microsoft Practice in Challenging Times" (see Sharpening Up Your Skills
), we have stressed the following element: Focus on brilliant execution.
What we mean by this is based upon a management program very popular in the manufacturing section called "Lean Management." The program is based upon the concept that management and teams of employees must focus on each step of any particular process to eliminate waste/fat and therefore be more efficient and run the day to day operations more lean. At Acumen we are encouraging all our clients to consider setting up "teams" to focus on aspects of their operations, from delivery, to sales, to administration.
The first step is to analyze and fully document each function -- whether it is proposal generation to taking customer service calls -- and seek ways to take out costs and increase efficiencies. Management must consider this is not a one-time event but an ongoing philosophy and a never-ending process. Once one function is worked on -- and improved -- move to another departmental area.
For three months, we ran a series of newsletter articles titled the Sales Factory, breaking down the concept of manufacturing and how sales organizations must focus on production concepts to increase predictable revenue. If you want a copy of the three articles, send me an e-mail.
If you have not visited and downloaded the Playbooks and exhibits for your SharePoint, UC, Project Mgmt and BI practices from our Microsoft workshops go to: https://partner.microsoft.com/us/bb. They are terrific for improving your business planning, marketing planning and sales strategy.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on February 04, 2009 at 11:59 AM0 comments
As I prepare for a my road trips, off to Philly, NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis and then Detroit and Dallas, I thought I would list a few thoughts that I hope will help you be better prepared to succeed in 2009:
- Go back and read your entire calendar, whether it's paper based or Outlook or both. Look for missed appointments, a suspect that might need to be followed upon again, a networking partnering and events that you attended. Look and evaluate your time management, the number of appointments you made, the contacts you established and then make new resolutions based upon your "inspection."
- Clean your desk. It's a great mental exercise. Throw away papers that have simply accumulated, empty file drawers, create new 2009 files and throw away any folders that you have not used in two years. Take the same time to cleanse your PC. Delete old e-mails, update software and make a 2008 back up.
- Take a mental break. Force yourself to step away and reflect on your successes of 2008, focus on the good things that happened and write down your goals -- both professionally and personal. Then do something that you want to do, but have not had time to do: sleep, golf, cook, read a fun book, spend extra time with family ... just release your tensions.
Fairly simple things, but I have found that successful people have found a balance in their lives. The objective of these days is to refresh, refocus and take care of yourself. See you in a city near you or an airport ... and pass this blog to your buddies.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on January 26, 2009 at 11:59 AM0 comments
We have two bits of information to pass on. First we are naming the blog: YourSalesManagementGuru. We felt this gave us a fun name, but more importantly a context to continue to explore both sales and management topics that affect Partners today. Keep up the positive notes and keep the new ideas flowing. I am enjoying this experience of communicating often to the community.
Our theme currently with many of our clients is focus on brilliant execution. Our second bit of information is designed for owners and managers with that theme in mind.
Our second bit of information relates to a highly successful and on-going project we are leading for Microsoft. I am facilitating 28 Business Building workshops in 14 cities based upon a general theme of: Build and Grow your "Practice" in Challenging times! We have created four workshops covering the individual practices based upon business intelligence, unified communications, SharePoint and project management/data visualization. So far we have run them in Dallas, New York and Philadelphia with great reviews!
The quotes from partners: "Thanks, very enlightening," "Lots of great actionable ideas," "Not a waste of time," "My senior management would benefit from this," "One of the most valuable things from Microsoft," "Glad I didn't miss this," "Great Playbooks." Our ratings are consistently eights and nines out of nine.
Each session covers: 1) business planning, 2) GTM marketing planning and strategy and 3) sales strategy. To learn more, review the materials and register at https://partner.microsoft.com/us/bb.
- Atlanta, Jan. 16
- Chicago, Jan. 21-22
- Minneapolis, Jan. 23
- Detroit, Feb. 2
- Dallas, Feb. 4
- Denver, Feb. 20
- Boston, Feb. 27
- Irvine, Calif. March 16
- San Francisco, March 17
- Bellevue, Washington, March 19
If you miss a live workshop, there are a series of Webcasts based upon each workshop. They will begin in February.
Acumen hint: What are you doing to improve your skills? My challenge: read one book on sales skill during the first quarter.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on January 14, 2009 at 11:59 AM1 comments
Last week, I was interviewed for an hour on a talk radio program about small business and the current and future economic conditions. We started by simply discussing the FUD factor -- how fear, uncertainly and doubt have crept into our lives and impacts decision making, purchasing patterns and budgeting. I spoke to the need for leadership at the executive level. Whether you have five employees or 500, the game face is as critical as is sound planning. We discussed the topics I noted in my earlier blog entries, but at the end I gave the listeners four action steps to take:
1. Hold a company meeting. Speak the truth, but be positive. Speak to the reasons you started the company, the philosophy and the number of customers you serve. But also speak to the need for everyone to be efficient, cost effective and thinking about how to sell more, bill more and work together. The leader must take these opportunities to provide vision and strength.
2. Analyze your customer base. Determine what you have sold them -- can you upgrade them? Determine what you have not sold them, and then create a six-week plan to contact every customer. Make a list and make sure each customer is touched. In the six-week plan, include a minimum of one action a week that each salesperson and you must do to promote the company.
3. Seek leverage. Find two business ecosystem partners. These are companies that sell non-competitive but related products/services to your customer base. Then develop a plan to work together to share leads, hold joint marketing events, share customer lists, etc. The secret is to create a mutual goal that, by working together, each company will sell X dollars within 90 days.
4. Now get'r done.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on December 16, 2008 at 11:59 AM0 comments
"How do you get all those ideas for your articles?"
I get this question every once in a while when a partner contacts me or speaks to me after an industry conference or meeting. And it's the reason we have started this blog.
The easy answer is that the ideas normally come from the many partners we have worked with over the past 10 years at Acumen Management Group. The fuller answer is that the ideas also come from the past 25 years of working as a salesperson, a sales manager or a vice president of sales. I have been fortunate to experience great organizations and those that are more than messed up and great leaders and those that were less than professional. Toss in great economic times and four bad economic ones and I have the perspective and memory that generates ideas and hopefully accurate recommendations for others to leverage.
These experiences will prepare us to move forward in creating this blog; to help us learn together, improve together and address the daily challenges that salespeople, managers and executives face.
Yes, I said us! I am expecting you to provide topical suggestions, questions and comments on my thoughts. My purpose is share on a regular basis what I am "seeing" in the field with various clients, conversations I am exposed to, vendor information and thoughts from 30,000 feet as I reflect on the state of the union.
Help me name the blog! I've considered "Building Predictable Revenue," "Komments from Ken" and "Reflections from 30,000 feet." As you can see, sometimes creativity is not my strong point. The winning recommendation will earn a set of Acumen Management Group DVD's -- 5 hours of training on leadership, compensation, recruiting, value propositions and management systems worth more than $450.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on December 04, 2008 at 11:59 AM2 comments
So, it's official: According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, we've been in a recession since December 2007. In our Acumen Management Group workshop/webinars, we provide our own top 10 tips for working through economic tough times. I won't go through all of them here, but there are a few key elements to understand in order to keep building your business during the next 18 months.
Whether you are an executive or salesperson, remember: 1) It's a mental thing -- you have to be tough and push through the negativity, 2) it's a leadership thing -- each person must take charge of the situation and 3) it's a sales thing -- you will have to raise the level of execution and professionalism.
Check out my recent column on the topic.
After 9/11, I saw many of the same challenges from partners and customers. People were sitting back on their heels and were unable to make decisions. My motto is "take action -- stay positive." I use this motto to help me and to help our clients move forward.
I would like to hear from you on how you stay positive and move forward.
Posted by Ken Thoreson on December 04, 2008 at 11:59 AM1 comments