Wanted – Humble Sales People

iTEJd_6QOne of the challenges when you're hiring salespeople (or coaching them) is the dichotomy between being confident and being humble. Part of being effective in sales is coming across as knowledgeable and confident, but if your sales people push that too far they'll be seen as arrogant and cocky.  What would happen if they came across as humble and curious as well as confident? You can explore this tension between confidence and humility as you're interviewing salespeople.  Ask tough questions and change topics quickly to see how can they handle pressure. Also, ask for examples of how they've grown and what they've learned - then listen carefully for stories of humility and curiosity.

From a practical sales perspective, the balance between confidence and humility really comes down to being a great listener. Nobody wants to talk to a know-it-all, and yet so many sales people spend all their time focusing on mastering the technical aspects of their product. You certainly need to know your product, but more importantly you need to know what questions to ask. It's not about having the right answer, it's about having a great set of questions – without being overbearing – that can uncover the compelling reasons for a prospect to buy and help them understand the full impact of their current situation.

An arrogant salesperson will ask a question then begin to answer it before the prospect has a chance to jump in to contribute to the conversation.  Or, they'll asks overly complex questions that make the conversation harder than it needs to be. Many salespeople falsely believe that showing off their intellect and demonstrating their technical knowledge makes them seem more confident.  Usually they are just masking their insecurity and are afraid to just have a conversation.

In our experience, the most effective questions are simple, direct, and straightforward. Most importantly, a good salesperson takes the time to pause after asking a question. There’s no need to rush in and start talking right away if the prospect is considering your question.

Humble sales managers can make a huge difference as well.  We’ve seen great sales people get promoted to become a sales manager, and suddenly it's like they walked through a magic portal with the title "sales manager" above it and forget to ask questions. The very thing that made them so effective and helped them rise to the top of their sales team was likely their ability to ask great questions and be a great listener. Yet, when they become a sales manager, they forget all about that and instead they start telling their team, "Well, here's what you need to do."

What ends up happening is rather than developing a team of diverse personalities, each with their individual strengths, they start building a team of clones. Sometimes that can work well in the near term, but ultimately they’re limiting the growth of each team member by just making them do the job their way. It's not about telling your team, "Do this, do that, here's what you need to do next in this situation," because you're doing the thinking for your sales people. Instead, think like you're back in a sales role. How can you get them to the right answer? How can you ask them questions that help them discover what they need to do next?

If your sales people come to the conclusion on their own, it's their idea and they'll start to apply it. They'll have more ownership. If you just tell them what to do and it doesn't work, they can blame you. For salespeople, be humble and ask questions. Ask questions that make the prospect think and give them a pause to answer the question. For sales managers, rather than telling your team, “do this, do that,” ask a question to help them get to the right answer. Being humble enough to ask questions rather than show off how much you know because you were once a top distribution salesperson can really make a big difference.

Dog Days of Summer

Dog days of summer, slow down, CEO

Are you accepting excuses from your sales team during the dog days of summer? When the weather turns nice everyone wants to enjoy long weekends and warm summer nights. But as prospects disappear, are you letting your sales team fall behind when they don’t need to?

One of the challenges we see with companies across the board this time of year is that everything slows down. It's tough to add new deals to the pipeline. It's tough to keep current opportunities moving forward. Particularly in a complex, multi-party sales environment. People are taking vacations this time of year, so if one of the key decision makers is out or on vacation, everything just takes longer. People take longer weekends and it's just easier for them to delay. You know how it goes, “Joe's not back until next Wednesday, we're meeting on Thursday, but then I'm on vacation the following week”.

It makes for stalled deals and slow movement. When that happens, it's really easy for your sales people to slow down as well. They take their foot off the gas, accept put offs, stalls and delays from their clients, and just wait until things get better. As a CEO what can you do to solve this slow down?

  1. Number one, everyone on your sales team needs to increase their activity level. While prospects may slow down, your sales team can counter that by increasing their activity levels. More calls, more voicemails, more emails, more InMails via LinkedIn. Think in terms of “polite persistence.” You don't want your sales team to be a pest, but you absolutely want them to consistently pursue prospects in multiple ways. It's not that buyers and decision makers aren't working this time of year; it just takes more effort to make contact with them.

As they’re doing that they can create a commentary. Coach them to say things like "Hey I know things slowdown in the summer, just wanted to find out if there's anything moving on this opportunity. When's the next time we should talk? You were supposed to get this to me by Friday, I didn't see it, how we doing?" Have them actually talk about the fact that it's slower in the summer and that's ok.  Just acknowledge it, and again, increase the activity. The other thing sales people need to do at this time of year is ask more questions. It's easy for the prospect to coast through the summer and not have an urgency to move forward. It’s not ok for your sales people to do the same. They need to ask questions to create urgency, to create incentives to move faster on these deals. Make prospects realize the benefits they'll accrue when they buy your solutions faster. That's what's going to separate and create urgency even in the dog days of summer.

  1. Second, remind them that while in July and August things really slow down, September is right around the corner. We get past Labor Day, kids go back to school, everyone's back from vacation. Buyers and decision makers look at their calendar and they realize, oh my goodness, I've only got four months left to make my number this year. If you wait until September to get going, you're already behind. It's your responsibility to make sure your sales team uses these dog days of summer to build momentum going into the final year-end push. 

 
  1. Third, remember many companies are starting their budget process in the August/September time frame. How can your sales team start planting seeds for getting in the budget for next year? Do they have the urgency to start filling their calendars right now, even though its summer?

As a CEO, are you accepting excuses and put offs from your sales team?  Ask them to do a little bit more during the dog days of summer and you’ll have a much stronger pipeline in the fall.

Is Your Hiring Process Stuck in 2014?

shutterstock_104559317.jpgTwo years ago there were more candidates available than positions available. It was fun!  Hiring managers and HR recruiters were able to do all sorts of things to people applying for jobs.  You could make candidates go through multiple steps, take online assessments, and go through round after round of interviews. And the best part was, candidates HAD to put up with it.  They had no choice.  If they wanted a job they had to go through whatever you threw at them.

Guess what?  The market has shifted and is no longer employer-centric. Today there are more positions
available than candidates to fill them.  So if you still have an overly complicated hiring process you’re probably noticing a high attrition rate. Candidates simply are not willing to go through multiple steps to get to an interview or get the job. 

The challenge is, how can you streamline your hiring process without compromising its integrity?  If you use best practices such as Topgrading or our Sales Talent Acquisition Routine (STAR hiring system) you know how valuable it is to implement a rigorous selection process. Is your hiring process as efficient as it can be? 

We recommend taking a critical look at every step of your hiring process and looking for opportunities to streamline it. Review every single thing that you ask a candidate to do, from the candidate's point of view, and ask yourselves, "What value do I get from this step? Can I remove it without detracting from the rigor of our hiring process?" It's a balancing act. You don't want to take away from having a rigorous selection process, but you also want to restructure it to make it more candidate friendly.

In our practice, we help our clients hire sales people all the time. For years, we would have candidates fill out an application, and then ask them some basic questions. After they took the application, we'd have them take an online sales assessment. After that, if they were recommended, we would schedule a series of interviews. We found this process was no longer getting us the candidates we needed, so something needed to change. We decide to eliminate the initial application because with their resume and assessment we would get all the information we needed.  We didn’t compromise our rigor, we just made it more streamlined and candidate-centric.  What steps can you review, modify or simply eliminate from your selection process to do the same?

Once you’ve streamlined your selection process the next step is to make sure you have your hiring team fully engaged.  When you have a quality candidate who's interested and engaged in the process, have everyone on the hiring team on high alert and ready to go.  Nothing on their calendar is more important than engaging the candidate in an interview.  Do your best to accommodate the candidate, not the other way around. After speaking with candidates, come to a consensus quickly, and decide what you want to do. Quality candidates are not going to wait around. I've seen too many companies lose great candidates because they can't get their hiring team to engage in a timely fashion. 

Eliminating steps in your selection process and keeping everyone on your hiring team focused and engaged will help you win the war on talent. The companies who are able to maintain a rigorous, candidate-centric process, are going to attract better talent and hire better people. The faster you can get someone onboard, the faster they can get through the learning curve and begin producing results for your company.

Prospecting for Sales Appointments Is Not Dead

Blog Prospecting

Inbound marketing is a wonderful tool. We have added material regarding how to handle inbound leads to our training and development programs.  We have also added material and regularly coach our clients on how to use LinkedIn, Data.com, blogging, participating in relevant groups, and other tactics to create more awareness and drive potential leads into your sales funnel.  It’s important and if your sales people are still prospecting like it is 1987 you’re probably missing some great opportunities.

But don’t believe it when you hear your sales people or a consultant tell you prospecting no longer works for your business.  Yes, cold calls are difficult.  Yes, cold calls have a much lower return and take a lot more work (it may take 100 cold call attempts to book three qualified appointments).  Yes, it is much easier when you get an inbound lead, a referral, or best of all a solid introduction.  That said, developing the skills and regularly practicing the art of making cold contact with target prospects will help your sales people in all aspects of prospecting and will help them convert at a higher rate when they receive qualified inbound leads, referrals, and introductions.

When your sales people (or worse, sales managers) push back and resist the idea of making cold call attempts to grow your business we urge you to stand firm and stop accepting excuses.  You’re A-players will just get to it.  You B- and C-players will need more coaching and a higher level of accountability and activity monitoring. 

Here are five steps to help your sales people put greater focus on top-of-the-funnel sales activities:

1.     Establish daily targets

Set reasonable targets for minimum daily activities and let them know that is a requirement of their job and if they cannot do it they will need to do something else.  You may need to bolster your sales manager’s resolve on this, particularly if the level of accountability across the sales team has been weak.

2.     Outcome-based versus activity-based goals

We prefer outcome-based goals versus activity-based goals.  So for example, an outcome-based goal might be “have five (5) conversations with decision makers every day” or “book one (1) qualified appointment every day.”  Activity-based goals can also be effective and are particularly appropriate for newer sales people or sales people who are just learning the basics of prospecting.  An activity-based goal might be something like “make 30 call attempts before 9 am.”

3.     Right fit prospects

Make certain your sales people understand exactly who they need to target and focus their prospecting activities on potential clients who will be a great fit for your business.  If you need help, download our Sales Focus Worksheet to help get started.

4.     Practice, practice, practice….Review

If it has been awhile since your sales people have made a cold call, make sure your sales manager leads them through the basics and actually has them practice some calls with their peers.  Yes, sales people hate this type of role play.  Too bad.  You will get results faster if they go through a few practice calls before they start making live calls.  Once they start making calls, have them pull out their smart phones and record their side of the conversation so they can hear what they sound like and adjust.  Have them review these recordings with a peer accountability partner or with their sales manager.  Need help getting started?

5.     Low and slow

The single biggest mistake we see sales people make when they reach out to a cold prospect (even veteran sales professionals) is they lose control of their tonality and pace.  As they get nervous their tonality goes up and they start talking faster, both of which make them sound like a nervous sales person.  Remember, low and slow is the way to go.  They will sound more confident and competent.  This takes practice (see above).

Is your sales team prospecting on a regular basis? Share these tips with them, and find out how it could increase the leads coming into your funnel, and ultimately improve your sales numbers. 

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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Harvard Study Explains Why Sales People Talk Too Much

Sales Blog, CEO sales blog, Intelligent Conversations, sales questions, Mike Carroll, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Objective Management Group Partner, OMG Partner, Sales Team Effectiveness, Sales Results, Revenue GrowthAn article in today's Wall Street Journal caught my eye, "Science Reveals Why We Brag So Much."  It talks about a Harvard University study that finds:

"Talking about ourselves...triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money..." It goes on to say "In several tests, (the neuroscientists) offered volunteers money if they chose to answer questions about other people...rather than themselves...Despite the financial incentive...(volunteers) willingly gave up between 17% and 25% of their potential earnings."

Ask a sales manager who has been on a joint sales call recently and they'll tell you the test subjects got off easy.  When sales people talk about themselves instead of engaging the prospective customer in tough, timely questions they almost certainly give up more than 17% to 25% of their potential earnings!

This is one of the most common issues we run into when we work with a sales team.  Instead of asking good, tough, timely questions....questions that help the prospect think about their situation in a new way....questions that challenge the way a prospect is doing things currently....questions that reframe the issue and create urgency....questions that highlight the consequences of NOT acting to fix a problem....questions that help your sales person earn respect and credibility....questions that uncover compelling reasons for the prospect to move forward and more importantly to move forward with your company.  Instead of doing all of that, what do most sales people do?  What do your sales people do?

If they're like many of the sales people we meet when we first get started, they probably do exactly what the test volunteers in the Harvard Study did.  They talk about themselves.  They talk about their product.  They talk about the features and benefits of their service.  In short, they puke all over themselves and stick to what they know rather than engaging the prospect in a real conversation by asking great questions.

What would happen to your revenue growth if your sales people learned a different lesson from this Harvard Study?  What if they learned how to ask good, tough, timely questions that got your prospects talking about their problems and challenges?  About their strategies and plans?  About their company and their job?

This study cuts both ways. When your sales team learns to get out of their own way and ask questions that get your prospective customers talking, you'll have more awards to hand out and bigger bonus checks to sign at the end of the year.  How many of your sales people are capable of making that transition?  Do you have a sales team or just a group of professional braggarts?  How does your sales team measure up?

Top 5 Mistakes Your VP of Sales Makes at Trade Shows

sales, trade show, selling, exhibit, conference, sales process, sales strategies, selling at tradeshows, selling at trade shows, exhibit booths, marketing, marketing dollars, marketing budget, CEO, CEO Sales Guide, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, PresidentIf you are the person who signs the checks (the President, CEO or business owner) for all of the expenses that go along with exhibiting at trade shows, one of the things that can drive you absolutely nuts is trying to figure out how to get the maximum return on your marketing investment while also ensuring enough new business closes to justify the expense.

As many of our clients get ready for "trade show season" and prepare to send their sales teams off to exotic convention centers across the country, here are the top five (5) trade show mistakes we see VPs of Sales make that can absolutely destroy your return on investment.

  1. Planning as an after thought.  Running a sales organization can be a tough, demanding job.  There are so many moving parts to manage and often meeting with the VP of Marketing to provide input and feedback into trade show planning gets put on the back burner.  Huge mistake.  Your marketing team always needs a longer lead time than your vice president of sales believes.  If your sales team is busy talking about problems solved by product X and your marketing team produces materials and give aways for product Y, you've got a big problem.  Make sure your VP of Sales and your VP of Marketing schedule some time to plan well ahead of the show(s) you plan to attend.
  2. Customers or Prospects?  The great thing about exhibiting at the right trade shows for your industry is that everyone is there, including your current customers and prospective customers.  To maximize your sales teams time make sure there is a clear strategy about how to handle both groups and where sales people should spend their time.  Our advice is typically to talk with customers before the show to find out if they will attend and perhaps schedule some time with them before or after the show or during off hours.  It could be a dinner or a cup of coffee or just a quick hello.  Let them know that you value and appreciate their business and then set the expectation that your goal is to focus on new business.
  3. Focus on Getting Leads.  Many sales people (and sales leaders) attend these events expecting to get a lot of leads and connections - and they are often disappointed when they fall short.  In our experience the sales people who leave the show with the most leads and connections are the ones who focus their time, energy and efforts and making connections for others first. What would happen if before the show everyone on your sales team invested some time thinking about who they could connect, who they could introduce, and what they could do to help your clients and prospective clients?  Get your team focused on giving first, and they will receive plenty of leads and opportunities.
  4. Missed Opportunities.  If all you are going to do is set up your booth and stand there for 8 hours, don't even go. Get involved with the show.  Offer to moderate a panel.  Use the event to learn more about your competition and your market in general. Leverage the opportunity to have hundreds of short conversations as a training opportunity for your newer sales people. Provide on the spot coaching and feedback as you observe them interact with tradeshow attendees.
  5. Poor Execution.  The details matter. From pre-show planning (meeting with marketing to get the message right, identifying clients who will attend, calling prospects who will attend to book a cup of coffee during the show, etc.) to post-show follow up, successful sales organizations nail the details and execute with ruthless efficiency. Compare that to what you typically see as you  walk a trade show floor (bored sales people nursing a hang over) and ask yourself which side of that coin you want your sales team to be on?

Investing in the right trade show can provide oppotunities to connect with current clients, fill your sales pipeline with propsective clients, increase your company's visability, and learn more about your competition and your market in general.  Make sure your VP of Sales avoids these mistakes and you'll be on your way to a strong return on your tradeshow investment.  If you need some help we have our free Trade Show Checklist

Sales Leap Every Year!

Sales Leap, CEO Sales Blog, Sales Team, Sales Secret, Last Call, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, Leap Year, Sales Force Development Expert, Milwaukee, ConsultantWhat would your revenue look like if your sales team had one extra day to sell every year?  This year we get a bonus "leap day" and every person on your team will make a series of decisions about how they invest their time.  Those decisions will have an impact on the results they produce - not just on leap day, but every day!  Let me share a sales secret that can create an "extra day" of selling every single year, not just every four years during leap year.

First, let's spend a moment talking about sales measurables.  What do you measure?  How do you measure success for your sales team? If you're like most CEOs we work with, you probably have a very solid understanding of your proposal conversion rate.  You know that if you send out X number of proposals every month you will win $Y in new business.  A few CEOs understand how many productive sales meetings need to take place to generate X number of proposals.  And it is a very rare CEO (or business owner, or VP of Sales) who understands the daily activities required by every sales person, in every territory, to drive the right number of meetings (and frankly the right type of meetings), to drive the highly qualified proposals that lead to reaching or exceeding your monthly, quarterly, and annual revenue goals.  If you have this down, great!  If you don't, contact me and I'll quickly help you figure it out.

Whether or not you understand the daily activities required by each sales person on your team to drive the revenue results you want, here's a sales secret you can implement right away to add an extra day of selling every year.  Have everyone on your sales team form the habit of making one extra call before they go home every day.  That's it.  One small change - a simple decision they can make every day - that will drive massive results over time.

  • One extra call every day.
  • Five working days per week.
  • 50 weeks per year (assumes two weeks of vacation).
  • 250 extra calls per year.

How many days do your sales people make 250 phone calls?  For most sales people (unless they work in a call center or highly transactional environment), 250 phone calls would be an outstanding day.  Even if they only made an extra 200 phone calls per year, that would still be a great day of sales activity.  Once you understand your sales measurables, you can easily calculate the impact an extra 200 calls from every person in your sales organization could have on your revenue.  Hold your sales team accountable to this one simple decision - every day - and your sales will take a leap every year, year after year. 

What would happen to your revenue growth this year if your sales team formed this habit?  What can you do to make sure that happens, starting today?

Sales Focus - The $2,000 Cup of Coffee

CEO Sales Guide, Intelligent Conversations, $2000 cup of coffee, Mike Carroll, Sales Force Development, Rules for a Proactive Day, Time Management, Free Webinar, Sales Leadership, Milwaukee, WisconsinMy friend and client Bob Scherer took an exercise I had given to his sales team one step further and it's absolutely brilliant.  After reviewing one of our sales modules on "The Rules for a Proactive Day" I sent Bob a worksheet to help each sales person on his team understand the true value of their time.  It's pretty straight forward.  Just take your income last year divided by 2,080 and you will get your earning rate per hour.

So if one of your sales people made $100,000 in income last year their earning rate per hour was $48.07.  $100,000/2,080 = $48.07.  Of course this assumes your sales people only work a 40 hour week and in our experience most successful sales people usually work more than that, but that's a topic for another day.

The idea behind this exercise is to generate a productive conversation during a sales meeting to help your sales people understand that:

  • Not all sales appointments are created equally;
  • Time is scarce;
  • Time is money, and;
  • Time is a resource that cannot be replaced.

Look at a sales person's calendar and ask, "Was the cup of coffee meeting with Sue Smith really worth $50?",  and then follow up with a question like, "If you had to pay me $50 to go to that meeting, would you still go?"  Typically the discussion that follows has distinct and positive results.  First, it brings this issue into focus with a living example.  In addition, it helps your sales team understand the importance of proactive planning and how to best manage their calendars.  And it leads to making smarter decisions about which prospects a sales person should invest their time with. 

We've been doing this exercise with our clients with great results for years and years, but Bob wasn't satisfied. He took it one step further.  Instead of calculating the value of a sales person's time based on their earnings from the prior year, he looked at it from the perspective of what do they need to quote per hour to hit their sales plan.  This extra step created even more focus and clarity. 

We've since done this exercise with other clients and the results have been eye-opening.  For example, some of the people on the sales teams we work with need to quote on average $2,000 per hour to reach their sales goal.  That's quite a bit more than $50 per hour.  Keep in mind, that's an average target per hour - the reality is they may go a whole day without a quote and then have a $10,000 opportunity.  The other thing to keep in mind is as we work with sales teams on planning a proactive day, we plan five (5) hours per day so these averages are based on that number.  This time management approach builds in time for interruptions, got-a-minute meetings, returning voice and e-mails, sales meetings, and so on.

How does this impact your sales managers and how they monitor the proactive planning their sales people do?  Let's say you have a sales rep who wants to go to Cleveland to see a prospect.  It's a good meeting with strong potential.  And it's a full day out of the office.  If the answer to the question "Is this a $10k opportunity?" is anything but a resounding "Yes!" then your sales manager needs to raise expectations.  Who else can the sales rep meet with while they're there?  Could they have their initial discovery conversation on the phone instead of face-to-face to make sure there is a good fit? 

What kind of decisions would your sales team make if they understood the true value of their time and how much they needed to quote per hour to hit their plan?  Is the "cup of coffee" meeting really worth $2,000 (or whatever the opportunity cost per hour is for your sales people)?  We can send you a free spreadsheet and meeting discussion guide so you can do this exercise at your next sales meeting. 

Focus on Sales Process, Not Outcomes

outcomes, sales leadI recently finished reading Moneyball by Michael Lewis (I still look forward to watching the movie).  Great book with lots of examples and stories that apply to sales, sales management and leadership in general.  At one point in the book the author is sitting in a video room with Paul DePodesta (one of Billy Beane's lieutenants) watching a live feed of a game.  Rather than watching the commercial broadcast they just watched the video feed from the center field camera because that provided the best view of the strike zone.  DePodesta wasn't interested in watching the whole game as an ordinary fan would; rather, he was watching the fragments of the game that provided the information he was interested in.

"It's looking at process rather than outcomes," Paul says.  "Too many people make their decisions based on outcomes rather than process."

By narrowing their focus to specific process components Beane and DePodesta were able to see things other baseball insiders missed.  They were able to see the remarkable value of a disciplined approach at the plate that lead to consistently taking pitches rather than embracing the "swing for the fences" mindset that is more commonly accepted in baseball.

In our sales force development consulting practice we often see CEOs, Presidents, and Business Owners who put more value and emphasis on sales outcomes than sales processes.  It's similar to coaching a basketball game by only watching the scoreboard.  When this happens your sales team can get the wrong message and focus on the wrong behaviors. 

We've seen "award-winning sales people" fail and sputter six months later, unable to reproduce the big deal that got them the award in the first place.  We've seen sales people absolutely crushing their sales quota one month lose the big account driving those results the next month.

Focus on the sales process by picking 2-3 key metrics to track to create better discipline and more consistent results across your sales organization.  Remember:

- Sometimes sales people do everything right, and still don't get the deal.  Celebrate their discipline and fidelity to the sales process. 

- Sometimes sales people do a lot of things wrong, and still win the deal inspite of what they did.  Be grateful for the revenue then point out where they could have done better by following the process.

If your sales team knows what to focus on and can focus on the right activities day in and day out, the results will follow.  Are your sales managers focused on process or outcomes?   What would happen to revenue growth if your sales managers understood not just what happened (outcomes) but also how and why it happened (process)?  Which is more predictable?  Which is more forward looking?