18 posts categorized "Sales Management"

April 19, 2011

Dan Pink on the Surprising Science of Motivation

Dan Pink on the Surprising Science of Motivation

 

So, what do you make of this?  How should this information change the way your company approaches things?

April 18, 2011

Keep the Score, Know the Score, and the Score Will Improve

ScoreboardImage via Wikipedia

Keep the score, know the score, and the score will improve!

This is what my first mentor, Ray Johnson, used to say to me all the time.  It was about this time back in the mid-90's that I was put through a full week of training on "metrics."  Can you imagine, a full week with a consultant and a dozen other mid-level managers from around the country stuck in a hotel conference room doing simulations to learn management by numbers?  (Fortunately for me, Denver was the host city and I could at least go home at night.)

Now we use terms like "scorecard" and "dashboard."  No matter what you call it, if you are in business to make money, you need to have one.

Ask yourself this question.  If you went on a year long vacation from your business and planned to return early only if you had to, would you be comfortable relying on the subjective verbal reports of those left behind?  Or would you prefer to see a weekly report of five to fifteen measurements from which you could objectively determine whether or not things were running well?

Of course we prefer the hard data!

So... why do so many businesses operate without it?  You tell me.  What "scorecard" experiences (or lack thereof) have you had?  Do they make a difference?

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April 11, 2011

The Importance of Shared Meaningful Vision

Tragically, Brian Klemmer of Klemmer & Associates passed away last week.  He created an organization with an audacious mission.  It was to "produce bold, ethical, compassionate leaders who will take action to create a world that works for everyone with no one left out."  These were not just words on a page stuck in a three ring binder collecting dust on a shelf.  On the contrary, these words were the foundation for SHARED behavioral expectations and are something to which people are held accountable.

 

C.W.A. ScottImage via Wikipedia

One of the foundations of Brian's teaching is that if business owners and leadership teams share a compelling vision, they will figure out the "how to's" necessary to achieve their aim.

 

Creating a vision that is clear enough to guide your business takes some real effort.  You can get started by making sure some basic questions are answered.

  1. What are the core values of the business?
  2. What is the core purpose?
  3. What is the core focus/niche?
  4. What will the business look like down the road (perhaps in 5-10 years)?
  5. Who makes up your target market?
  6. Why should those in your target market do business with you as opposed to your competitors?

Of course this is just a start, but the return on the investment of time required to create and share the vision can be extraordinary.  I have seen it re-energize and refocus businesses such that they get unstuck.  A business owner, leadership team, or a sales professional can become massively proactive while at the same time gaining the confidence to stop second-guessing and flip-flopping on strategy.

I have had clients find new purpose and clarity after forming a clear vision, which is exciting.  Ironically (and just as exciting), one of my clients, a partnership with offices in Chicago and Des Moines, decided after spending some time trying to create a shared vision that they did not want to be on the same page.  They could have struggled for years trying to reconcile two separate answers to the above questions, thus the way for them to get unstuck was to form separate companies.

Does your business feel stuck?  Do your sales results feel flat?  How might clarifying your vision clear the way for improvement?

 

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March 28, 2011

2011 Goals, Focus and Clearing the Path

Traffic Jam in DelhiImage via Wikipedia

Here we are at the end of the first quarter of 2011.  Are you on pace to reach your business goals for this year?

Two disciplines that strong business leaders and sales professionals use are Focus and Clearing the Path.

FOCUS

Focus starts with a clear vision for the year.  This consists of around three to five things that the business or sales professional must achieve by the end of the year.  Imagine what would happen to a business or a sales career if three major objectives could be completed every year for five years.  However, if the list of objectives is too big, or does not exist, then 2011 will be business as usual. 

CLEAR THE PATH    

Of course many businesses have an annual plan or a vision, but they get bogged down and stuck with the issues that arise every day.  The strongest business leaders and sales professionals know how to quickly identify, discuss, and then SOLVE these issues.  In other words, they don't merely talk about the issues day after day or week after week.  They deal with the issues and move on.

Is your business moving forward?  Are you narrowly focused on a few big objectives?  Have you identified the issues and distractions that may be holding you back?  Do you have a habit of dealing with these issues in order to stay on track for the year?

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October 03, 2010

Popcorn Prospeting

Maize for popcorn, cultivated in Hungary, prod...Image via Wikipedia

Imagine watching someone making popcorn on the stove.  They put oil in a skillet and put it on the hot stove.  Once it gets hot, they throw into the skillet a single kernel of popcorn.  When it pops, they gently pick it up, dip it in melted butter, sprinkle a pinch of salt on it, and finally they eat is slowly.  When they are done, they throw another kernel of popcorn into the skillet and wait for it to pop.

As you continue to watch, you notice that some of the kernels don't pop.  After watching and waiting (and occasionally shaking the skillet) this person gives up on the kernel and throws another one in.

How long will it take for this person to get full?  Forever?

This is the way many business owners and sales people try to develop business.  They find a few prospects that appear promising and they completely focus on them waiting for them to pop.  As a few of them pop, they are well cared for by the business owner and sales professional.  Once the deal is done, they look to throw in another prospect into the skillet to see what happens.

Obviously, the lesson here is to throw in a lot more kernels.  How much?  Well, how big is your skillet?  Throw in as many as you can manage without having "popped" kernels spill out of the skillet onto the floor.

How do you know if you are one trying to develop business just "a few kernels at a time?" 

Use a sheet of paper, a spreadsheet, or some sales/CRM software to track what you are doing.  The low tech version is to list all of your prospects on a piece of paper and record the date they became a prospect. 

Wait one week and review the list.  Did you add a prospect?  Wait another week.  Did you add a prospect?  If your list tends to stay the same, then you are waiting for just a few kernels to pop.

This week, set a realistic goal to add some new kernels.  Over time, test the capacity of your skillet and you will find yourself getting closer to "full."

Of course, there is a whole lot more that one can track to help them manage their pipeline.  What advice to you have?  What has worked for you in the past?

 

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July 06, 2010

In This Economy, I Just Can't Sell ...

Recently I participated in a conversation with a few sales people during which one was asking the other, "How do you sell a product that is twice the cost of mine?  I can't get anyone to buy in this economy."

Poor Economy In "this kind of economy," the danger for business owners and sales professionals is that they start to buy into statements like "nobody is buying" or "nobody can afford our products or services."  The truth is that tragically, many businesses have been devastated by this economy.  But thankfully, most businesses are surviving and some are thriving.

What is certainly true across the board is that b2b buyers are seeking more value for their dollar.

So, that begs the question, why have some sales professionals experienced a much steeper drop in sales than some of their peers and competitors?  Here are four possible reasons. 

Paradigm

Some business owners and sales professionals have an abundance paradigm.  They believe that there is enough business to go around for those who are good at what they do.  Thus, they have maintained or perhaps even increased their sales activity.  They are the sames sales professionals who still make phone calls even though "nobody ever answers their phone anymore" and they are the same people who get out and network even though "networking doesn't generate business anymore."

On the flip side, those with a scarcity paradigm, deep down, don't believe that they can sell in this economy.  They prefer to just go through the motions every day until things get better.

Disciplined Focus on Margin

Some business owners and sales professionals focus on margin per sale.  They expend most of their energy on clients and prospects to whom they can provide the most value.  For many reasons such as internal efficiency and client appreciation, this work is the most profitable.

Business owners and sales professionals that focus on gross sales are apt to chase opportunities that are not as closely aligned with their competencies, thus they expend disproportionate amounts of energy on marginally profitable clients.

Branding

Business owners and sales professionals with a strong personal business brand (one that has F.O.R.M.) tend to get more and higher quality referrals and they are able to build trust and credibility faster.  This results in a faster sales cycle and higher margin.

Those business owners that focus on pure "sales activity" and ignore or put little effort into their own brand tend to get fewer referrals.  Those referrals that they do get tend to be more price sensitive rather than focused on ultimate value.  Furthermore, because their own brand is not distinct, they are poorly positioned to command "full price" in a weak economy.

Sales Process

Finally, business owners and sales professionals with a solid sales process are able to demonstrate a greater understanding of the impact they have on their client businesses.  They design better solutions for their clients thus they can close more deals at higher margins.

Those business owners and sales professionals with a poor sales process struggle to understand and demonstrate the full impact that they can have on client businesses.  They tend to provide undifferentiated solutions, thus they must compete upon price rather than value.

What other thoughts do you have as to why some business owners and sales professionals find it harder to compete in a weaker economy?

Photo on flickr by annie9641
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June 24, 2010

Keeping the Pipeline Full--A Sales Habitudes Overview

Woman with Chart

For a limited time, this Sales Habitudes Overview video will be available on this blog.  Hopefully it will provoke some deep thinking about your business development and sales practices.

Your feedback regarding the content and presentation would be greatly appreciated.

(Note that it may take a few seconds for the movie to start.)

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May 17, 2010

Narrow Your Focus to Increaase Sales

One of my client's was recently told by someone in his network that he might be focusing his brand too narrowly.  The argument was that he is going to miss opportunities if he does not let prospects know about the full breadth of his expertise.   Naturally, we got into a discussion focused on this question:

Snow owl "Can your brand be too narrowly focused?"

First answer this question.  Is your long term branding OBJECTIVE to increase profits year over year, or is it just to let everyone know what your company does?  Of course the objective is to increase profits!  Letting everyone know what your company does is a means to that end.

To achieve the increased profits objective, you may pursue one or more of the following STRATEGIES.  Lower your expenses.  Increase prices.  Increase sales to existing customers.  Increase sales to new customers.  Focus on retention.  And so on ...

Assuming that increasing sales to new customers is a STRATEGY that you intend to pursue, the next question becomes, TACTICALLY, how do you get your foot in the door?  (Of course, there are several questions to ask yourself about which doors and how many that we can't address in one post.)

The answer might be to identify one or a few "hot button" issues that your target market deals with and brand your company as the "go to" company regarding those issues. 

Once your foot is in the door, you will have the opportunity to discuss the breadth of your expertise and your full line of products and services.

If you are concerned about missing opportunities by being too narrowly focused with your branding efforts, ask yourself this question. 

As a small b2b business describing yourself with statements like, "We can handle all of your __________ needs," how will you compete against other businesses that are pursuing a "foot in the door strategy?"

Price?  Service?  Bigger advertising budget?  Better customer incentives?  Focus on retention? 

The takeaway here is that a narrowly focused sales strategy and branding tactics designed to support the sales strategy will  increase sales more effectively than a broad focus or no focus.

What are your thoughts?  Does this apply to your industry?  Does your experience support or debunk this idea of narrow focus?

Photo on dreamstime by Piotr Bieniecki

May 03, 2010

Sales Support Habits

Kayaking I just met with a client who is a Regional Sales Vice President.  One of the issues that we discussed was a "performance issue" with sales support at the corporate headquarters.  Specifically, they need to adjust their internal processes to meet the unique needs of a few new clients and it is hard "to get everyone rowing in the same direction."

Even after they have been told what to do and why, many of the staff people have difficulty making the adjustments.  This is not a "performance" issue as we generally think.  The people on staff have good character.  They are motivated.  They are intelligent.  And they care.

This is a Habits issue!

The expected quality and speed of their work has become habitual.  In other words, when they need to do a task that they are very familiar with, the basal ganglia is engaged.  This is the area of the brain where habits are stored.  It basically tells the pre-frontal cortex (where conscious thinking occurs),

"Hey, I got this.  You can occupy yourself with something else.  I will let you know if I need anything."

Ironically, the very thing that makes the supporting staff reliable also makes it difficult for them to incorporate change.  Furthermore, the typical management response is to appeal to reason to fix the problem by making speeches and sending memos explaining why the changes are important.

However, the habitual mind does not learn through reason.  It learns through experience and reinforcement.

The habitual mind does not think about what it is doing.  In other words, it does not reason, evaluate, or judge.  Like a computer program, when it is engaged, it just does what it is programmed to do.  To make changes that stick, new processes need to be "experienced" and reinforced through repetition.

When making change in processes that have become habitual, it is more effective to ...

  1. walk through the new changes with the staff (show rather than tell)
  2. practice the process with the new changes a few times (experience)
  3. closely monitor the new process for compliance for an appropriate period of time (reinforce)

Finally, be sure to show your appreciation along the way by individually thanking everyone for their effort.

More Blogs Posts About Habits

Make Marketing a Data-Driven Habit at Duct Tape Marketing

Nine Sales Habits to Work On in Q2 at IowaBiz

March 11, 2010

Honest Commitment to Sales Goals & Activity

Commitment on flickr by eschipul Being consistently great at developing new business either as a sales person or a business owner requires that you HABITUALLY do the right things, the right way, at the right time, on a regular basis (which is usually daily or perhaps weekly). 

The Sales Habitues training program is about identifying those right things, learning to do them the right way, and consistently scheduling them at the right time.  This takes tremendous commitment because learning new sales skills and turning them into sales habits does not happen over night or in a two hour workshop.

Recently I met Brian Klemmer and I listened to him address a large audience regarding personal change and honest commitment.  Brian runs a $10 million company.  With his own staff, he emphasizes that when they make sales commitments in particular, he and other leaders will base their decisions based upon these commitments.  It doesn't work if people commit to what they think management wants to hear rather than what they are committing to doing without fail.

In fact, Brian will ask his staff what they are willing to lose or give up if they don't come through with what they have committed to doing.

This week, I was working with a sales professional on her planning.  She has a weekly objective to have a specific number of face-to-face appointments with prospects.  She confidently told me that she plans to meet with eight new prospects a week.

I asked her if she were willing to write her company's owner a $100 check that he could deposit and keep if she did not meet with eight new prospects next week.  There was an uncomfortable silence.

The point is, as sales professionals and business owners, we are often not honest, or at least not realistic, about our commitment to our goals and activity.  We can't hit our sales goals and our personal financial goals nor can we become great where we are if we are not fully and honestly committed to achieving what we say we are going to achieve.

Don't let falling short become a habit.  Don't let your company down.  Don't let yourself down.

Find a way to make honest commitments.  Find a way to put skin in the game to keep you honest.

Feel free to contact me for ideas as to how you can get more skin in the game.

Photo on flickr by eschipul