Building a Profitable Sales Process – Client Onboarding

Customer, Client, Start Up, On-Boarding, onboarding, after the sale, new customer start up, building a profitable sales process, close more business, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, Baseline Selling, Milwaukee, Consultant, Sales Expert, Objective Management Group, Partner, Wisconsin Sales, selling, sales management, CEO Sales BlogIn our previous article in this series on Building a Profitable Sales Process, we discussed the importance of asking for the business.

Using a simple, three-question close that should seem like a natural part of the conversation (if you’ve had the right kind of conversation up until that point).

Need help with the right conversations?
 
To review, the questions are: 

  • Based on our discussions, do you feel we understand your situation and what you need?
  • Do you feel we have the expertise to help you?
  • Would you like our help?

If everything goes according to plan you should get a yes, yes, and yes. If you get a no along the way that probably means you skipped a step in the process and you need to go back to discover either what you missed or what has changed on their side.
 
For this article let’s assume everything goes as it should and they say, “Yes, we’d like your help.” Congratulations, you got the sale! Now what?


The next steps in the salesproces
ask mike a questionYou need to immediately pivot and say “Great, here’s what we need to do next.” And then set a series of covenants to set expectations for the next steps. Your next steps will depend on what it is you’re selling, but generally speaking you probably need things such as:

  • A signed purchase agreement
  • A purchase order
  • A check or credit card
  • Agreement on next steps
    • Set date for project kickoff meeting
    • Get technical drawings or specifications
    • Set up introductory meeting with key people on each side
    • Order materials
    • Establish or reconfirm timelines
    • And whatever else might be necessary for your situation

The same principles that keep the sales conversation on track – building and maintaining a strong relationship, crisp clear communications regarding next steps, and strong covenants about what the next steps should be – will keep your customer onboarding on track as well.

 
Setting Up Operational Success
One of the biggest friction points we see in every company we work with is between sales and operations. In fact, we had a CEO tell us “I know your program is working because Joe is complaining a lot.” Joe was the Vice President of Operations and while a high level of frustration in that position often correlates with strong sales results, we don’t want it to impact our newly acquired customer. Your sales people can help themselves tremendously by setting the right expectations – both internally with their partners in operations and also externally with the customer. The most common complaint we hear from operations managers is:

“Our sales people will promise anything to get the order, even if they have no clue what they’re committing us to do!”

 
So how can your sales people minimize this operational friction? 

  • Communicate early and often. 
  • Get input from operations before making a commitment to the prospective customer.
  • Qualify the prospective customer by making sure they agree to accept what you can and cannot do.  Nothing frustrates a customer like getting the order with an expectation that they’ll receive their product in two weeks only to find out there’s a six-week backlog.
  • Stick together.  Don’t throw operations under the bus or blame your company if circumstances change and the timeline is extended.  If you’ve built the right relationship and have earned trust from your customer, they will understand your situation and appreciate your direct communications.
  • If there’s bad news, share it right away.  Delay is the deadliest form of denial.  Hoping it will somehow come together at the last minute isn’t a good strategy.
  • Communicate early and often (yes, we listed it twice).

 
Remember to Say Thank You
 
A quick call from someone higher up in the organization (could be your VP of Sales, could be the President of the Division, or it could be the owner or CEO) to let the new customer know  you appreciate their business and giving them permission to call you if they need anything will go a long way toward supporting your sales people and setting them up for future success.  Customers (new and old) want to feel appreciated and a simple thank you note or brief phone call can make a big impression.

What would happen if you put some focus on client onboarding in your organization? Do you see the typical friction points between sales and operations? If so, what can you do to smooth it out and improve communications? What would happen if you were more purposeful about saying "thank you" to your new customers? Would implementing this type of system improve your company's performance? Would you like some help?

Contact Mike Carroll when you would like to discuss the salesprocess, operational success or operational friction.
 

Contact Mike Carroll  

  
 
 
  

Sales Concentration - Clear Your Mind and Truly Listen

 

 

 

 

We have talked about sales focus in previous articles.  Whether it's focusing on a narrow suspect list to improve prospecting effectiveness or focusing on the key metrics that drive results, sales focus has been a recurring theme. 

In this article we'll talk about a different type of sales focus - your ability to concentrate during a live sales conversation. 

When you think about the amount of time we actually spend "in live sales conversations" as a percentage of our overall time, it amazing that we would allow anything to get in the way.  And yet many sales people we coach allow themselves to get distracted by issues that are not helpful to the task at hand:
  • Personal Issues - pressure at home to increase income, the need to achieve a better family/work balance, the challenge of helping an ailing parent, etc.
  • Work Issues - pressure to increase performance, the need to complete paperwork and CRM updates on a more timely basis, concerns about who is getting promoted or is on track to win an award, etc.
  • Self-Esteem Issues - difficulty recovering from rejection, challenges overcoming self-limiting beliefs, insecurity about knowing everything you can about a new product or service, etc.
  • Outside distractions - wondering how your fantasy football team did this weekend, thinking about plans for an upcoming vacation, worrying about a volunteer committment, etc.
We eventually need to deal with all of these issues, but if they begin to sneak into the back of our minds during a live sales conversation and cause us to lose focus and concentration, they begin costing us money.  Every sales person has outside distractions to deal with - successful sales people are able to clear their mind and really concentrate on the conversation they are having.
 
When you achieve this kind of focus, a bomb could go off right next to you and you wouldn't notice.  How can you achieve this type of concentration?
Here are some tactics we share with our coaching clients:
  • Clear your mind immediately before walking into a prospect meeting or picking up the phone.   Just take a moment to take a deep breath and visualize a successful conversation.  
  • Schedule a specific time to worry.   Take 15 minutes every day and write down everything on your mind that is causing you to worry.  Then write down three (3) specific actions you can do to address the issues on your mind.  This habit will help limit these outside distractions by creating a specific outlet for them - and you'll make progress on solving these issues by taking action to address them.  
  • Give yourself a break.   It's ok if you slip up and fail to block distractions or negative thoughts during a sales conversation. It's not ok to spend the entire day beating yourself up about it.  Just make a committment to do better next time and move on.  
  • Think about earning respect.   Sometimes we allow our need to be liked by the prospect to get in the way of asking effective, thought-provoking questions.  Instead of thinking about how to get the prospect to like you, think about how to get them to respect you (and a great way to do that is to ask tough questions).  
  • Exercise on a regular basis.   Get out and take a walk, go to the gym, take a swim, etc.  Find an outlet to get your heart rate pumping and you'll find that you will have greater focus when you need it (during a sales conversation) and will feel better in general.
As a sales professional your greatest strength is your ability to listen and ask great clarifying questions to help your prospects think about their issues and challenges from a different perspective.  And the best way to do that is to follow these ideas to clear your mind and allow yourself to truly listen.  

Sales Effectiveness & Improvement Analysis
  • How long is your sales cycle?
  • Could it be shorter? 
  • What would your business look like if it were? 
  • Are your sales managers capable of coaching your team to set strong agreements at the beginning and end of each sales meeting they go to? 
Need answers? Ask for a sample of our newest analysis report
 - Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis - and we will follow up with you to find out if it makes sense to talk about helping your sales organization become more effective.

Four Ideas to Shorten Your Sales Cycles and Keep Things on Track

Sales Cycle, Keeping Sales Conversations on Track, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, Milwaukee Sales Expert, ToutApp, Postwire, sales toolsOne of the more common frustrations I hear when talking with Presidents, CEOs and Business Owners is that their sales cycle seems to be taking longer and longer.  They'll describe how their sales people get great meetings, ask good questions, find opportunities that seem to fit what they can do, qualify the budget, prepare a proposal,

and then....everything grinds to a halt.

The sales train comes right off the tracks.  Calls are not returned.  E-mails are ignored.  Prospective clients seem to disappear into thin air.  

What happened?  And more importantly to the executives and owners I talk to about longer sales cycles, what can you do about it?

Here are four ideas you can implement today that will dramatically shorten your sales cycle, sustain sales momentum, increase revenue, keep your sales team focused, improve feedback from prospects so your team understands how prospects are engaging when prospects disappear, and keey sales conversations on track.

 

 

 
 

1) Begin every meeting with a strong agreement
This is something every sales person on your team can do. Have your sales people set expectations at the beginning of the meeting to clearly define the purpose of the meeting and what they want to accomplish by the end of the conversation. This simple step keeps everyone on the same page, sets a goal and expected outcome, and idenfities any potential misalignments. All in the very first 5 minutes of the meeting.

A strong agreement at the beginning of a meeting sets a clear agenda for the call and will seperate your sales people from everyone else calling on that prospect.

 

2) End every meeting with a strong agreement
This is also something every sales person on your team can do.  No matter how the meeting ends there should be a clear next step. Let's say the meeting is dreadful and there is no potential for future business. An appropriate step might be taking that prospect off your list.

Let's say the meeting was good, but the timing is not right. A great next step is to ask the prospect "could I call you in 3 months" or whatever the appropriate timeframe might be.

And when it's a great meeting wher the timing is right and the conversation should move forward? A great next step will summarize the key points agreed upon, define the next steps each person needs to complete, set a timeframe as well as the next meeting or phone call. Actually scheduling it right on the spot will greatly increase the momentum and keep things on track.

 

3) Use Postwire to share and distribute information
At every stage of the sales process a common next step is to send additional information (design specifications, product information or brochures, case studies, testimonial videos, and more). Rather than just e-mailing it and hoping they read it, we have been using Postwire to create pages for prospects where they can go to one place to view all of the relevant information to the sales conversation.

The presentation is much better, you can include videos and other media, and you can track whether they open the information, when they open, whether they forward it to someone else in their company and much more. This creates a better client experience and will help your company and your sales people appear far more professional than just sending an e-mail with a bunch of attachments.

 

4) Use Toutapp to manage your e-mails and track engagement

Bring greater consistency to the sales communication process using this great little application. Instead of each sales person on your team reinventing the wheel every time they need to send a follow up e-mail, break down the wall between sales and marketing and have them work together to create common templates that apply to each stage of the sales process.

Not only will this save time for your sales people, it also helps them be more timely in their follow up. For example, you can set an alert so when the prospect opens the e-mail your sales person can call them right then and ask "did you get that e-mail I sent to you?"

Time kills deals and if your competition has this kind of insight and your sales people are just following up whenever they get to it, who do you think is going to win the business?

 

Sales Effectiveness & Improvement Analysis
How long is your sales cycle? Could it be shorter? What would your business look like if it were? Are your sales managers capable of coaching your team to set strong agreements at the beginning and end of each sales meeting they go to? 

Need answers? Ask for a free overview of our newest tool - the Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis - and we will follow up with you to find out if it makes sense to talk about helping your sales organization become more effective.

CTA sales effectiveness improvements analysis





 

 

  

Are Your Boring Sales Meetings Driving Growth and Change?

Boring sales meeting, six ideas to improve sales meetings, sales meeting topics, sales manager ideas, sales productivity, weekly meeting rhythm, Intelligent Conversations, CEO sales blog, Mike Carroll, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, management consultant, growth consultantHow effective are your sales managers at running a good sales meeting? How engaged are your top performing sales people? How much is this costing you in terms of lost productivity, lower morale, and higher turnover on your sales team?

Here’s a quick test you can do by sitting in their next sales meeting. Put aside the fact that your being there may change everyone’s behavior.

Just ask one of your sales managers if it would be alright to sit in for a few meetings just as an observer.



Here’s what I want you to observe:  count the ratio between statements your sales manager makes and questions your sales manager asks.


You  might be surprised by the results!

Too often the sales meetings we observe tend to focus on unimportant administrative tasks and boring progress status reviews. Too often we hear statements, proclamations, and updates instead of questions, discussions and collaboration. That's why most your top producing sales people dread going to sales meetings and will find just about any excuse to be somewhere else.

What would happen if all of the administrative updates happened offline before the weekly sales meeting? What would happen if every week your sales managers spent no more than 15-20 minutes on updates and then focused the balance of the hour on a particular sales challenge or market opportunity? Would your sales people make incremental progress if every week they spent 40-45 minutes collaborating with their teammates in engaging discussions facilitated by your sales managers?  


Here are six (6) potential topics to consider:

  1. Prospecting Focus - ask your sales managers to go beyond a quick review of the top 20 prospects each sales person is targeting. Instead they should facilitate a conversation about why they picked those prospects, how they're approaching them, what they say when they get them on the phone, which questions and examples create the most urgency to schedule a meeting, what activity levels are driving success across the team, and so on. Everyone on the team should walk out with clear next steps and expectations to meet and report on at the next sales meeting.
     
  2. Overcoming Objections - have your sales managers facilitate a brainstorming session to identify the most common objections (price is always number one) the sales team encounters. Rarely will the list go beyond 12-15 total objections.  Work through the top two to three (2-3) objections as a group and then assign the rest and have each sales person outline strategies to overcome/address/handle/neutralize the objection assigned to them and present it at the next sales meeting.
     
  3. Voice of the Customer Exercise - have your sales manager work with each team member to select a current client and conduct a brief interview to understand

    a) what the customer likes best about working with your company (descriptive and results focused),
    b) what they would change if they could change one thing about your company (opportunities for improvement), and
    c) where they would focus their time and efforts or who they would call if they were the sales person (prospecting and referral opportunity).

    Each sales person should share their findings with the team and your sales manager should facilitate a discussion around what this feedback means and how to use it on upcoming sales calls.
     
  4. Question Funnel Exercise - what are the six to eight (6-8) most common problems or challenges your customers and prospective customers face? Ask your sales manager to facilitate a discussion and brainstorming session to document ALL of the questions a sales person could ask to uncover these common problems and challenges.  What questions and discussions will expose these issues?  What are the different question sets that will help a prospective customer "discover" the impact these challenges are having on their business.
     
  5. Market Trends - what changes are happening in the markets you serve that could impact your prospective client's ability or urgency to buy your product or service? Is the competitive landscape changing? Is there a new technology or business model that could disrupt your business? Are there regulatory pressures? Are there capital challenges or financing requirements that could delay a project start up? What are your sales people hearing in the market that everyone should know about? Can your sales manager facilitate a discussion that helps everyone on the team drive that discussion on sales calls rather than react to it cold?
     
  6. Win/Loss Analysis - have your sales manager select a recent deal (either a win or a loss) and go deep into what happened. What went really well that should be repeated whenever possible? What didn't go so well that should be avoided in future opportunities? How repeatable and avoidable are these factors? What are the specific activities, behaviors, and deal components that a sales person can control and drive in future deals? Are your sales managers strong enough to go beyond the celebratory "high five" for wins or the surface-level "post mortem" for losses? What lessons should every sales person on the team learn from each big win or loss?

If your sales meetings have become a boring exchange of updates and progress reports, why not have your sales managers jump start them with any of these topics, or whatever issue is most pressing at your company? If they run out of ideas, simply have them ask everyone on their sales team to write down their top three _______ (sales challenges, sales successes, obstacles, growth opportunities, process improvement ideas, referral strategies, closing questions, and on and on) and then faciliate a discussion about that.

 

Need help getting started?
Contact me and ask about how we can help increase the focus for a series of sales meetings.

 

FREE Sales Accountability Plan!
The difference between top producing sales people and everyone else is their ability to hold themselves accountable on a consistent basis. Our simple, four-step Sales Accountability Plan will help you do just that.
 
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You Will Definitely Miss Your Sales Target This Year!

Blindfolded Salespeople, CEO Sales Guide, revenue growth, sales excellence, planning, sales forecast, pipeline, growing business, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, MilwaukeeDid you hit your sales forecast right on the nose last year?
Are your powers of predictive forecasting so strong that you nailed it right down to the penny? Of course not! 

I was talking   with my client Dave Baney – a very smart consultant in Chicago – and he gave me a new perspective on a belief I’ve long held. You’ve seen me discuss the importance of focusing on activities rather than results. What Dave pointed out was that in his consulting practice he only spends 10% of his time defining the annual budget and then 90% of his time defining the activities needed to drive the results.
 
 
What activities should your sales managers focus on? 
Don’t let your sales managers spend too much time this month working on getting the sales forecast "perfect" because I guarantee they won’t hit it (exactly). Instead, focus on identifying the activities required to not just hit it, but absolutely crush it! What activities should your sales managers focus on? Have them work backwards from the sales goal - whether by sales person, sales territory, product line, vertical market, or any other way you want to track a sales goal - and then have them focus on....

  • Typical revenue per sale and the number of sales required to hit that revenue target...
  • Propsoal win rate and the number of proposals needed to win more than the number of sales required above...
  • Number of conversations and meetings required with qualified prospective customers to generate the number of proposals needed above...
  • Number of phone calls, referrals, in-bound marketing leads, and other activities required to get into the number of conversations needed above....
These numbers will vary by sales person, by sales territory, by time of year, by market segment, by product line, and so on. It is very easy for sales people and managers to get lost in the muck and not know where to focus, so make sure they keep it simple by focusing on just two (2) or at most three (3) driving numbers that produce the outcomes you want.  
 
 
The breakdown
To absolutely crush the sales forecast, make sure everyone on the sales team overshoots the required activities at each step. For example:
  • Let's say John Quotacrusher needs to sell $100k per month to hit his sales goal for the year.  
  • The average sale is $25k, so he needs at least four (4) wins of about that average size per month to reach goal. (Aim for 5)
  • If he closes about 50% of the proposals he submits, that means he needs to generate eight (8) proposals per month. (Generate 10)
  • Let's say about half the meetings and conversations he has with qualified prospects turn into a proposal opportunity, that means he needs about 16 good meetings every month. (Schedule 20)
  • And then let's say he needs to speak with about five (5) potential prospects for every qualified meeting he sets up, which means he needs to call or be introduced to about 80 prospects per month, to generate 16 good meetings every month. (Aim for 100 conversations)
  • That breaks down to or about 20 conversations per week with potential prospects, or about four (4) per day.  Maybe John will get referrals, introductions, and in-bound marketing leads to hit that number, but to do it consistently he will need to prospect as well.  How many calls will that take?  It depends, but let's say it takes five (10) dial attempts to get into a conversation with a decision maker at a potential client, which means John needs to make about 40 outbound dial attempts per day to maintain the right activitiy level to hit goal, assuming he's not getting other leads, referrals, and introductions. (Aim for 50 attempts per day)
How closely your sales manager will monitor John will depend on whether or not John is ahead of or behind plan,how strong his pipeline is, how the product he is selling is doing in the market, and many other factors.  For a sales person who consistently exceeds their goal, your sales leader might be fine just spot checking the number of proposals being generated and the overall proposal win rate.  
 
 
Conclusion of the breakdown
For a struggling sales person who is falling further and further behind each month, your sales leader may want to inspect activities earlier in the process. That might mean looking at the number of meetings scheduled and if that number looks looks shaky (or the quality of those meetings is suspect), then your sales leader should investigate how many conversations the struggling sales person is having. And if that looks weak, they need to look at the list they're calling and maybe sit in on some prospecting calls and closely manage that activity.
 
When you go through this exercise with your sales leader and work your way back from a sales goal, what do your numbers look like? And how does the activity your sales leader is monitoring align with the numbers at each step of the sales process? Do they know the numbers at each stage? Don't worry about hitting your sales forecast, focus on the day-to-day, week-to-week activities your sales team needs to hit and you'll absolutely crush it.
 
  
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Is Selling More Difficult Today?

sales challenges, consultative selling skills, changes in selling, CEO Sales Blog, SisyphusIf you’re like many of the CEOs, Business Owners and Presidents we work with, one of your key frustrations is trying to understand why it’s so much harder for your sales team to drive consistent, predictable, sustainable revenue growth.
 
Like Sisyphus, just when you think you have your sales organization under control, things fall apart and you are back at the bottom of the hill.
1. What's changed?
2. Why is selling so much more difficult today? 
 
 

Here are a few key ways selling has changed in the past five years:
 
People and businesses are changing
The people you want to sell to have much more information and it’s easier to get. The level of pricing transparency and product information available means potential clients have much better intelligence. Just a few years ago potential buyers often agreed to see sales people from several different companies and then used these meetings to gather information and gain different perspectives on the market as well as your product or service.
 
Now that it’s easier to get that information (and it gets easier and easier every quarter) two things have changed for your sales people.
 
1. First, it’s much more difficult to get appointments because potential buyers don’t need sales people for product and market information as much as they used to.
 
2. And second, when your sales people actually get an appointment the buyer is much further along in their decision process and is looking for someone who can really understand and help them implement and integrate your product or service into their environment – just showing up and talking about features and benefits will get your sales people tossed out pretty quickly.
 
 
Thinking thinking thinking
There’s less money to spend and your potential customers are doing far more due diligence about spending it (how to spend it, where to spend it, why not to spend it). Even while balance sheets look stronger than ever and many companies are sitting on tremendous piles of cash, potential buyers are being much more conservative with how they invest it. And who can blame them? 
 
The best hedge against economic and regulatory uncertainty is to maintain higher levels of cash. So every buying decision – particularly new projects and investments – will get greater levels of scrutiny and due diligence than just a few years ago. Your sales people need to take the time to truly understand the business impact your product or service can have and help the buyer discover that benefit by asking more questions, better questions, and questions that cover a broader range of issues. Tired old sales tactics such as pin-down questions – “do you want to order today or next week?” – simply won’t work in this deliberate buying environment.
 
 
The rules of selling have changed
No more showing up and collecting orders. Selling is harder and your sales team needs to master the art of consultative selling. They need to ask more questions, better questions, questions that cover a broader range of issues, and questions that add value to the entire process by helping a potential client think about their business differently. Your sales people need to be flexible thinkers who can adjust, adapt, and truly work with the potential client to drive toward a better understanding of the business issues and challenges (even when they discover business issues and challenges that your product or service cannot address).
  
 
As a leader what can you do about it?
It's time to ask yourself some tough questions.  Do you have the right sales people to get your business where you need it to grow?  Are your sales people capable of adapting to this more demanding sales environment? Do your sales people have the consultative selling skills required to succeed? If not, where do they fall short and are they change-ready?  Are your sales managers focused on the right things to drive consistent growth in this environment?  Are they change-ready and capable of leading the transition? If not, where do they fall short and what should you do first to address it?
 
 
How to Master the art?
eBook about Sales FocusUntil your sales people master the art of selling consultatively as a means of differentiating themselves and articulating your value proposition you will be perceived as a commodity and sales success will often come down to price. Until your sales leaders understand what behaviors and tactics need to change and how to facilitate and lead that transition, your goal of driving consistent, predictable, sustainable revenue growth will remain elusive.  
 
The difference between top producing sales people and everyone else is their ability to focus their time, energy, and sales efforts on their best prospect and client opportunities on a consistent basis. Our simple Sales Focus Download the Sales Focus eBook hereWorksheet will help you do just that.