October 13th, 2015
Build Predictable Revenue In Your Organization
Make 2015 Your Best Year Ever!
In recent years, organizations have gotten better at analyzing financial statements, refining manufacturing procedures, reengineering business systems and improving marketing effectiveness. CEOs have strengthened their balance sheets with better asset management, reduced their inventory and cost levels with just-in-time methodologies, and increased direct mail and advertising effectiveness through thorough testing and reporting methods. But one area where additional improvements still can be made is the sales organization.
Smart companies are scrutinizing their strategic sales management plans, taking a closer look at everything from their pipelines to their forecasts. They are also taking a closer look at lifetime values, cost of sales, market share, sales processes and salesperson effectiveness. The reason is simple: All organizations, regardless of whether their sales are shrinking or growing, are under pressure to create a sales distribution organization that generates predictable, consistent, profitable results.
We believe most organizations can improve their profitability by increasing the Discipline, Accountability and Control within their companies. Many times we hear that “our company is too small to do these management systems that you show us, Ken”. My answer is simple; “it’s more critical when you are small to begin building management systems and tools because revenue and profitability are considered more critical in an organization. Start with a few simple tools and you will be amazed how you can leverage your time more effectively and begin to achieve revenue and profit growth in your firm.
Interestingly, I see many VAR organizations that are struggling. They often lack both a strategic and tactical sales plan. Before you get too deep into your 2007 strategic plan, ask yourself what kind of sales-management plan you have in place. Such a plan must include an amalgamation of the organization’s goals, individual salespeople’s desires and objectives, and a common set of measurement factors that ensures all parties are focused on the right activities for generating success.
The first step is to plan your revenue plan, in the exhibit below we have estimated revenues from four practice areas and “where potentially” the revenues will come from-i.e. existing clients or new clients. This exercise will begin to build your framework for allocation of sales and marketing dollars, marketing plans and the beginnings to create a dashboard to track your effectiveness.
So, where do you go from here? Focus on creating business plans for individual salespeople that define and bring together their goals with those of the corporation, and that coordinate activities with planned marketing programs (see “Planning Pointers,” above). We recommend that in a salesperson’s business plan you should make the salesperson define their weekly activity goals, set sales goals that reflect their “Best, Most likely and Minimum revenue or profit expectation levels. In addition, we like to see them forecast by suspect/client by product or practice area three times their quota. Plus in the business plan each salesperson should set their networking goals and their own marketing plans. Each plan should be created every six months.
If your sales team is focused on certain accounts, where you have defined five or ten Named accounts or you have certain accounts Targeted for your firm to “open”, then their Account Plan’s should include a specific strategy for each named account and five tactical sales actions to move deeper into the account, sell additional products or services into the account and increase the overall sales into that account. These account plans should be prepared every 90-days.
Sales-management planning systems dramatically refocus a sales manager to future business instead of past results. While most SFA/CRM or manual sales-management systems can enhance the effectiveness of a sales organization, they generally measure past activities and current sales funnel values. While this information is a must for all sales teams, the systems fall short by providing a rear-view mirror methodology to management.
A properly designed sales-management planning system changes all of that. With a sales-planning tool, a sales manager or executive can monitor expected performance; coach, mentor and provide a viewpoint of past performance; and measure results against the salesperson’s desired objectives. In addition, such a tool helps a salesperson and sales manager, who are looking at planned activities far enough ahead, to ensure that consistent activities are in place to build pipeline values that will provide enough prospect opportunity to exceed individual quotas or personal goals.
I like to say that it is the salesperson’s responsibility to achieve their monthly quota and its is management’s responsibility to ensure the proper mix of marketing and sales activities are in place that the 90-day pipeline is full enough to ensure quota can be made each and every month. This type of salesperson business plan can take the load off an executive and place on the people who is accountable for sales.
Like any new organizational change, the rollout of such a system must be carefully planned and explained to all salespeople. Ideally, salespeople should attend a group meeting with all members of their team, along with key members of the management team, including a controller/CFO and any vice presidents of marketing and delivery. Last, it’s wise for each salesperson to present a business plan and account plans to his/her peer group and management team.
We recommend that these meetings be serious events that incorporate some aspect of fun. The power of these personalized plans is actually realized when the plan is measured against actual performance. This is when salespeople get it. They recognize what it takes to achieve their personal and professional goals, and they see how creating better planning impacts performance.
Training and Development
The next step is create a sales training and development plan each quarter for you and your sales teams.
In our work with many Partners we find four essential elements failing, 1) when new employee’s are hired, there is a limited-at best-new employee training program, 2) on going sales training programs are sporadic and not focused on the key elements required to compete, 3) ineffective or nonexistent role play scenarios being run in sales meetings and 4) sales management is not coaching or mentoring, in the field, during routine sales calls. The result is uneven knowledge levels and a lack or discipline by sales management to reinforce MSS or other training programs.
It is critical that companies of all sizes focus on the need to train employees-continuously. In most Partner organizations there has been a focus on ensuring “certification levels” of the technical team are current, yet little investment is made to “certify” our sales teams. An Acumen truth: training programs do not have to consist of an expensive sophisticated program-just keep it to the basics.
To ensure success, several basic components need to be in place: first, a plan that defines the goals and components of a training program, second, a defined on-going process and third, and most importantly, proper execution.
The plan should contain an outline for initial employee training on job functional requirements, company product/service offerings, benefits and recurring plans for training existing employees. One element that most organizations miss in their training plans is the belief aspect of employee training. While it’s important to train on new skill development, product/service knowledge; maintaining employee’s interest and motivation levels are critical in today’s competitive economy. This focus on developing employee’s mental commitment and aligning their personal-motivational interests is called “re-recruiting”. As new employees enter into your company it is the perfect opportunity to set the tone. If you have letters of reference-they should read them, if you have awards-make sure they look at them and understand how you earned them. Next, make sure all new employees have a lunch or a meeting with the highest level position in their division or in smaller organizations with the President. It is at these sessions that commitment, attitude and loyalty can begin to be developed.
We believe in creating a detailed three-week New Hire training plan, the format is simple-yet complete. Each week is broken down into specific training and knowledge transfer components-with homework! Everything must be covered: legal documents, marketing case studies, how to use the phone/Fax/CRM, lunch meetings, as well as learning to sell/present your organization via the use of your company’s brochures/PPT. It is critical that each aspect of your New Hire Training Program is defined and as the salesperson completes each section the person responsible for the area “signs off/dates” that the new person has “passed”.
The Process: it’s ongoing
The process again can be a simple program. In designing a training plan take into consideration the follow elements: 1) sales skills, 2) product/services knowledge, 3) company operations, 4) industry awareness and 5) (if appropriate) Vertical industry awareness. We recommend that once a quarter you plan each sales meeting and sales training event. By preplanning in advance you can incorporate each of the five items into a comprehensive plan. In addition, each salesperson should have a six-month personal program that allows them to set their personal goals. This document begins the process of ensuring each person’s goals are aligned with the overall corporate goal. HINT: at monthly company meetings, semi-annual employee gatherings, (picnics/party) should also be utilized to reinforce employee development. Rather than simply “getting together”, use these sessions to bring in customers to tell of your success stories, speakers to work on team concepts or industry awareness programs.
One existing client has taken this concept and built a process within their sales organization that sets the bar! Each salesperson must pass several certification levels, each year! In one situation the salesperson has 15 minutes to review a case study, walk into a room where a professional actor role plays the client situation and three independent professionals evaluate the salesperson’s performance. The passing grade level must be achieved for the salesperson to move to the next level. HINT: These might be video taped for later review.
The better question: how do I start? Develop the written three-month sales training plan. A predefined schedule will end individuals having conflicting appointments or not being prepared for the training. HINT: assign sales people for most of topical training, (this will ensure they know it if they have to train on it) and schedule outside resources at least once a quarter. The benefit of a short-term plan and agenda are that current issues can be addressed and continuous training and employee focus is a company goal.
Employees are a critical asset. Most software systems have regular maintenance check-up’s and support agreements to keep them at current levels-do the same with your employee assets. Keeping your employees personal and professional objectives aligned with your corporate goals by “training and re-recruiting” will create huge dividends.
Ken Thoreson “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 17 years, our consulting, advisory, and platform services have illuminated, motivated, and rejuvenated the sales efforts for organizations throughout the world.
He was recently ranked for the third year in a row by Top Sales World magazine as one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers for 2015.
Ken has written 5 books, his latest book is: SLAMMED! for First Time Sales Managers, Ken provides Keynotes, consulting services and products designed to improve business performance. Need more sales management resources? Check out his Sales Management Tool Kit or the Acumen Project and his new Ignite Your Sales Team online video training program for sales leaders.