Selling Microsoft

Finding Some Sales Sanity in 2010

Last year may have been a depressing one for sales teams, but every difficult situation has a lesson in it.

After layoffs, reduced pay, postponed opportunities and more difficult sales conditions, sales teams and their leaders ended 2009 strained, depressed and tired. Nailing up a new calendar generates its own optimism, but many sales teams would do well to look carefully at their 2009 performance for opportunities to do better even if 2010 isn't a much more business-friendly year.

1. Review your entire 2009 calendar.
Look for patterns and empty spaces. Did you have enough appointments and were the appointments you set worthwhile? Did you maximize your time? Did you find any account names you had forgotten about? As a result of reviewing your 2009 calendar, what changes in scheduling will you make in 2010?

2. Look at your wardrobe.
Do you look the part of the professional salesperson or leader? Your personal attitude and how you carry yourself is affected by what you wear and your own self perception. Shined shoes, fresh shirts and blouses, pressed slacks and color are key. As a sales leader, you might consider running a contest where the winner gets a clothing allowance.

3. Honestly review each sales opportunity you lost in 2009.
Were you creative or did you simply work as if you were on autopilot? Were you ever really in the opportunity or simply comparison fodder? What could you have done differently, if anything, to have won each of those opportunities?

4. Did you grow professionally in 2009?
Did you move forward in your sales, organizational, technology or industry skill level? How many books or seminars did you read or attend this past year? Write out a plan for 2010 in which you will do something personally to improve your level of professionalism each quarter.

5. In 2009, how many new people did you meet who can help you network?
Building leverage in your local market by actively building relationships is critical. Each salesperson should have a minimum of five relationships with other non-competitive contacts that sell into the same types of accounts. They may refer you into accounts you are not aware of or even provide you information that can help you win once an opportunity opens up.

6. Did you expand your social media and sales technology exposure in 2009?
How active are you in using LinkedIn, Jigsaw, Microsoft CRM or other tools to expand your sales reach? Were you using LinkedIn to develop your relationships or prospects? In LinkedIn, how many knowledge groups have you joined?

7. How well did you take care of yourself last year? Are you happy?
Especially in challenging times everyone needs time to recharge. What did you do to keep yourself exciting or physically in shape? Did it work? Did you expand your hobby? Make it a point to work at relaxation or fun. In 2010, plan to keep yourself fresh.

8. What was your hourly earnings rate in 2009?
More importantly, how many selling hours -- time spent in face-to-face mode -- did you work in 2009? In reality, there are only 10.5 months in a year to make a 12-month quota. Did you track your time in 2009? In 2010, what do you want your hourly earnings rate to be? How will you be more efficient?

9. Did your sales formula work in 2009?
Take time to determine the basics. (How many face-to-face meetings did you make with a pre-sales technical rep? How many demonstrations, proposals or executive presentations did you make?) You should know these by month and then compare your results. Did you exceed your quota in 2009? If not, what will you do in 2010 to ensure that you do? What activities need to be increased to achieve your sales budgets?

You've heard Albert Einstein's famous definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Here's my corollary: Focus on new ideas and actions and expect better results. Let's all focus on making 2010 a sane and prosperous year.

About the Author

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. You can reach him at