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What Slice of Pizza Do You Need?

February 1st, 2016

What Kind of Pizza Do You Need?

It seems every year brings new challenges, yet what I find is successful partners focus on improving certain areas within their business each year. It’s like pizza, you can see the entire pie, but the only way to finish it, is to take one slice at a time. During our business planning sessions we recommend to our clients to identify key success factors that need attention and to attack them one at time, rather than focusing on many different actions simultaneously and not refining or fixing the issue completely.  During the last 6 months we have surveyed hundreds of partners, the number one topic that came up was: prospecting, or building pipeline values so let’s focus on that!

I have listed a few slices to chew on in 2016:

  1. Prospective clients have done their homework as to their issues and potential solutions via the internet or other relationships.  This has caused the salesperson to alter their traditional sales approach.  We have found the salespeople who have not adapted to this change are struggling, as they have been use to “telling” their story vs “selling” themselves and their solutions.   The idea that magical mental stimulation must occur in selling is more important than ever before, knowing people, understanding the 5 business challenges business people face and connecting the dots between the person, the problem and your solution is a critical success factor. Work on role playing the “discovery” process, the art of asking questions, probing for information and building trust and confidence is critical. Once the prospect knows, that you know their issues and can fully discuss with them solutions that address their business strategies your win/lost ratios will improve. Sell to the business outcomes-not the technology.

HINT: your goal is to create an 18-24 month IT solution roadmap that aligns with the prospects business strategies.

  1. Acumen Power Networking or “6 degrees of Ken Thoreson… The use of LinkedIn and other online databases can now allowed salespeople to evaluate their top 20  best clients and determine who they are linked too, past employments,  what association’s they  are involved in, and their personal interests. Once this is completed, a salesperson can determine who know within their personal connected networks. Once your best clients are mapped, you can then work with your clients to connect with key net new prospects.  By first mapping your clients, then power mapping your prospects, the odds of connecting existing clients and your top prospects will increase. You can then leverage your clients during your prospecting and sales process. This methodology is certainly being used by top performers and we certainly see it as a continuing trend. 
  1. Get started fast in 2016! The first action salespeople need to do is reach out to every one if their existing clients, in a physical meeting if possible, and discuss with them their use/satisfaction and impact of the salespersons product/services on their company.  This will reinforce, hopefully, in the kinds of benefits in the products/services that are delivered-this builds belief in the company and belief by a salesperson is the most important emotion they must carry with them each day. It’s the inner desire to serve clients that separates the average performer from the top producer and if the salesperson truly believes in their product/services -they will go the extra mile to win the order.

The second action, during this client meeting is to discus with the clients “their strategic objectives over the next 24 months”. This will help the salesperson plan a strategic sales roadmap as to how their products/services can potentially be used to assist the client in achieving their goals.

The third action, with this client is to work them through an Account Plan. One portion of the entire plan is based upon mapping the current utilization of the existing product/services used by the client. Next the salesperson would walk the client through a Cross Sell/Up Sell program, showing them additional benefits of new offerings they have not taken advantage and how these additional products/services will leverage the clients existing products/services and bring new benefits.   NOTE: this takes planning prior to the scheduled meeting.

These 3 actions will help the salesperson get off to a fast start-by working with and selling existing clients where they have trusted relationships and proven solutions. Immediate revenues, larger pipelines and increased levels of belief along with better customer relationships is a positive way to start the year.

HINT: during these conversations the salesperson should also ask for one to three referrals from their existing clients.

Each salesperson must attend 2 networking events per month, the goal is expand relationships and awareness within the marketplace.  Check out the Microsoft Community Connection program to really find out how to grow your pipeline: www.MSCommunityConnections.com

  1. Each partner must develop 5 “Business Eco-System partners”, these are organizations/salespeople that sell non-competitive but related products/services into the same marketplace. Moving into the cloud partners must increase pipeline values, increase marketing programs and increase leverage in their business. Business eco-system partners may know of new opportunities, they may know selected people within certain accounts and they may provide solutions to your existing clients-making a salesperson a business resource for their clients. Effectively working this approach will bring in the equivalent of one salesperson’s quota per year without hiring additional people!
5. We believe in 2016 the focal points will be on velocity and execution; increasing the speed of the sales cycle and number of orders received. Based upon our Partner Cloud Acceleration experience we have found this is a critical success factor. While there has always been talk about “trusted business advisor”, we believe you achieve this through Business Guidance selling.  This is a phrase we use to describe not a new sales methodology but a concept that can be implemented within any sales framework.  Generally with any sales offering a salesperson either is increasing productivity, reducing costs or providing a certain benefit.

In Business Guidance selling, the salesperson during the proposal or closing stage, as they are selling their solution and the associated benefits, they link those benefits to a dollar value and then make a Business Guidance recommendation to the prospect.  The salesperson recommends they use those benefits/savings to impact a specific perceived need within the prospects company. These Business Guidance recommendations could range from: improving the web site, providing adding customer service training, etc… None of these recommendations are related to additional products/services from the salesperson’s firm.

This increases the need for a quality Discovery Stage within your sales process.

By acting in this way and providing this kind of insight you can separate yourself from your competition and not be perceived as simply another salesperson.  In 2016 and beyond clients are expecting more from their vendor relationships.

 

Ken Thoreson “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 16 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.

Ken@AcumenMgmt.com  www.AcumenManagement.com

Blog:  www.YourSalesManagementGuru.com

 

 

The Opposite Side of the Interview Table

January 12th, 2016

The Opposite Side of the Job Interview Table

Tips to Consider when considering a new Job/Employer

Recently a received a call from a former client, he wanted to discuss the potential of considering another opportunity. During the conversation it occurred to me that I have spent hundreds of hours writing a book: Recruiting High Performance Sales Teams and coaching hundreds of people on how to build an internal sales interviewing process, but I had never considered the situation from the candidate’s perspective.

I decided to begin creating a check list of questions that anyone in the middle of a job interview should consider before accepting a new job offer.  They are not in a particular order, but I suggested to my client to rate each question on a scale of 1-5, 5=High.  If you have other thoughts, please add them in the comment section.

My goal is simple, I have seen many great people take the wrong opportunity, to really succeed both the employer and the employee must be in alignment both from a job skill perspective and an emotional basis.  This check list is designed to ensure the interviewee does the due diligence that is necessary for success.

BTW: my client declined to pursue the new opportunity. 

  • What is their business strategy?
  • Why do they win in a sales environment?
  • How strong/sophisticated is their marketing?
  • How does the management team make decisions?
  • Has the existing management team had success in the past?
  • What happened to the last person?  Why did they fail? Or Leave?
  • Do they fit my culture?  What is the attitude of the middle management team?
  • What kinds of reporting do they have? How close do they manage their business?
  • What seems to be the capability of the existing sales team?
  • Do I have the necessary experience to do the job? Do I know what already needs to be done to fix the issue?
  • How well does the President communicate one on one or in a group?
  • What is the cash flow situation?
  • What kind of market are they in? Growth? Turnaround? Limited?
  • What niche do they have in the market?
  • What kind of player are they in the market? Dominate? Minor?
  • Are they a leader in technology?
  • What is their end game? Sell out? Buy others?  Are M & A opportunities brewing?
  • What kinds of support could I expect?
  • What kinds of turnover have they had in this job? Or other jobs that are important in the company?
  • What is the ownership?  Public, Private, Private Equity, ESOP?
  • What is their revenue trend the past 3 years?
  • Profitable?
  • Who does the position report to (title)?
  • How long has that person been with the company?
  • Will that person help me develop my skills and career?
  • What is the risk to my career if this opportunity does not work out?
  • What is the per cent age of probability of success?
  • Are they a quality company?
  • Do they really want me?
  • What makes them unique? Do I feel a passion for their business?

What did I miss? Any new issues to consider?

All the best in 2016!

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.

 

10 Sales Kick-Off Meeting Idea’s

December 21st, 2015

Sales Leadership: Ten 2016 Sales Kick-off Meeting Idea’s

 While working with a client last week it became obvious that we are moving into the time to finalize 2016 budgets, compensation plans and something most sales managers don’t take enough in developing their 2016 Sales Kick Off meeting.

Already many larger organizations are booking their sales conferences for the first quarter where they will invite their sales teams, vendors, resellers/partners to hear plans to make 2016 the “best year ever”. Keynote speakers, breakout sessions, new marketing plans and product demonstrations will all be coordinated to increase enthusiasm, salesperson belief and excitement that the New Year will bring.  I know this because I am already booked for five events already.  However just because larger organizations are planning their formal conferences, it doesn’t mean a smaller sales organization shouldn’t plan a Kick-Off event.

A New Year sales kick-off meeting can be organized as an off-site/overnight 2 day program or as simply as a ¾ to a ½ day event. You should schedule them no later than mid-February and many firms will hold a mid-year event as well. However the basics of any sales kickoff event should include the following planning ideas. These idea’s are not in order of priority.

  1. A theme for the New Year. This should be a positive statement of your major objectives and something that can be reinforced throughout the year. “Be Brilliant on the Basics” is only one example.
  2. Include time for sales training on sales skills and hand out a sales training book that will be your first quarter “must read”. You can use the book for extended sales training during your meetings. HINT: Roll out your first quarter sales training plans.
  3. Announce a first quarter sales contest. (see previous blogs for ideas)
  4. Announce a 2016 yearly sales contest, this should be a big prize for exceeding the salesperson’s quota. Examples include: a trip to a resort, a cruise or a trip to an island. Remember these kinds of incentive programs are not expenses but paid out of incremental revenues/profits. Your announcement should include pictures of the location, etc. See my book: Creating High Performance Sales Compensation Plans, for idea’s on sales contests. www.AcumenManagement.com
  5. Describe and show your marketing plans for the first six months-at least. This will show the salespeople how your organization is planning to support the sales team.
  6. Schedule the president of your company to give a short message on his/her philosophy on sales and the culture of your organization.
  7. You may or may not announce your new compensation plan at this event, it all depends upon the degree of change you are making. With minor changes, it’s a great time, with major changes schedule a separate meeting. HINT: Do not roll out the new compensation plan as the last topic of the meeting, schedule early in the afternoon, if your event is a full day meeting.
  8. Make sure you make the meeting fun!   As the sales leader work on activities that create the right culture and teamwork.
  9. Spend time having each salesperson presents their “Business Plans” for the first half of the year. Based upon the number of salespeople this can be done by breakouts into regions, smaller groups or as a single group. These business plans include not only forecasts but personal commitments to activity levels and professional growth.
  10. Bring in an outside speaker. This could include a customer telling their satisfaction with your firm, a sales trainer or a motivational message that propels your team to excellence.

This is your time to bring a coordinated program that set’s the tone for the New Year. Make sure you take the time to do it right.

What additional ideas do you have to make your Kick-Off special?

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.

Ken@AcumenMgmt.com  www.AcumenManagement.com

Blog: www.YourSalesManagementGuru.com

 

 

Sales Management & Discipline

December 14th, 2015

Sales Management and Discipline

Last week it happened-again. I received a call from a former client that was concerned about the status of their sales team and VP of Sales-it seems that their revenue was off more than $2M over the previous year and below their growth goal! The President wanted some answers and certainly a fix.

My first question was why did it take the President so long to recognize the problem or revenue drop and why wasn’t it addressed in June! After that conversation I next interviewed the VP of Sales.   After 10 minutes I had a good idea of what had happened or more importantly what had not happened.

The VP of Sales and President failed on one major tenet of sales leadership; they forgot about the need for discipline. Definition: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character, control gained by enforcing obedience or order, orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior. The President failed to pay attention to what the sales manager was doing and both let various “systems” that were in place fall away. In past blog’s I have discussed the need for sales management to have discipline, accountability and control, and while I had introduced this to my client several years ago it slipped away. BTW: This all happened even through the President/VP formally meet twice each month.

What the VP got focused on were tactical actions that caused him a loss of leadership, vision and execution and most importantly lost control of his time management. So what are our next steps?

  • Review session on the 5 styles of leadership/management and coaching techniques
  • Development of a Sales Plan for the new year with quarterly objections/goals
  • Re-Introduction of a 2016 salesperson business planning tool.
  • Kick start their sales recruitment plan-for him to attain his new revenue goals for 2016 he needs to hire 4 new salespeople ASAP
  • Re-install his quarterly salesperson training program
  • Analyze his marketing plans
  • Implement an Account Planning program for Growth, Target, Key Accounts
  • Increase the focus on CRM execution
  • Build a weekly/monthly/quarterly sales management checklist.

These are all fairly basic actions and frankly easy to fix, but without them and discipline to operationalize and make them part of the standards of a sales organization revenues become non predictable and potentially decline. In this particular client situation the VP of Sales now recognizes what must be done, he learned the hard way and luckily will keep his job.

If you want a copy of a white paper The Job of Sales Management; 40 actions to build predictable revenue, send me an email:  Ken@AcumenMgmt.com

Lastly, as a President or Sales Leader; it is critical to inspect what you expect and remember your sales team will pay attention to what you pay attention to.

What will you change in your sales organization in 2016? Let me know?

 

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.

Ken@AcumenMgmt.com  www.AcumenManagement.com

Blog: www.YourSalesManagementGuru.com

 

If you had it to do over again?

December 2nd, 2015

If you had it to do over again; what would you do differently-if anything?

Self Help for Salespeople

Every high performing salesperson and sales leader most likely has used this phrase to increase their professionalism.  Have you?  During the past 18 years of working with  and training sales managers around the world  this phrase is one of the most powerful lessons I believe we pass on to our clients, but it leads to additional unexpected benefits as well.

First, this phrase must be used by the sales manager on a regular basis; after every sales call they make with their sales team members and after every role play situation in their sales training meetings. Its purpose? It really has multiple purposes or results; 1) after a sales call it allows the manager to create a dialogue with the salesperson regarding the performance of the salesperson during the sales call and it allows the salesperson to also critique themselves before the sales manager offers their insights. One of the other benefits is during a sales training classroom situation. Using this phrase allows the salesperson to critique themselves prior to the sales manager asking the other participating salespeople for their reactions to the role play-before the manager provides their ideas. This group focus increases the use and redundancy of using this important coaching tool.

I have asked this question after many on-site sales calls, I have had salespeople tell me they thought the call went well except for something minor, when in reality they had not developed rapport, trust or closed the call without next steps—even after using our Pre-Call Planning Checklist! However after using the phrase over a period of time during our consulting engagement, we begin to see self-corrections and better insights into call preparation and sales call execution. It’s the attention to detail that is critical in improving performance.

Why all the attention of using this phrase so often and consistently? The reason is simple, most sales managers are not on every sales call! Consequently the objective for the manager is to drive into the salesperson to ask themselves after every sales call or customer interaction:  if I had it to do over again, what would I do differently-if anything?  This self-reflection is a must if you are going to create a self-managed and increasingly higher performing sales team.  Only through immediate review and correction can a professional continue to improve their skills and learn how to increase their personal effectiveness.

This is the pay-off for the sales manager-creating salespeople that are independent of their sales manager and that are self- improving.  These are the keys to building predictable revenue.

Let me switch to the second purpose of this question.  I use this phrase as an opener  in one of my keynote programs, I describe that training and consulting on sales management issues has allowed me to see how increasing the professionalism/success of salespeople and sales leaders  sometimes  increased their levels of personal success.  This balance between personal and professional levels of performance is the long term critical success factor.

I ask my audiences to evaluate their lives using the same question and then I say: while we can’t relive our lives we can change the way we live our lives.

In my many years of business life, the individuals who live their lives with a focus on creating a fulfilling experience are the ones that win in the end.  Ask yourself about your life, if you had it to do over again; what would you do differently-if anything?  As a sales professional you have the opportunity to impact the lives of those around you-beyond what you sell- but you first must be in control of your life. We have found that those individuals who are not in life-balance burn out, become ineffective or simply cannot connect on a personal level and achieve higher levels of success.

In my keynote I use a “Personal Pizza” and a “Professional Pizza” assessment tool each having 8 slices and I ask each person to rate themselves on a scale of 1-7 on each slice. Each slice represents one aspect of professional/personal life. This helps everyone see where they are in the professional/personal continuum.  (If you want copy of this assessment send me an email:  Ken@AcumenMgmt.com)

Focusing on improvement takes making a commitment but it’s the difference between being a professional and being an amateur:

A professional has a commitment to a calling…the education, training, and expertise that an amateur does not have. This commitment to become a true professional is a key to differentiating yourself in the marketplace.

Which are you?

If you had it to do over again; what would you do differently-if anything?

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.

Ken@AcumenMgmt.com  www.AcumenManagement.com

Blog:  www.YourSalesManagementGuru.com

Sales Compensation Planning for 2016

November 16th, 2015

Sales Compensation Planning for 2016

It takes time to get it right. As sales leaders or executives everyone must be focused on exceeding the end of year sales quota’s and budgets-but alas- it is mid-November and December will be quickly on top of you.  Over the next few weeks I will be discussing the components that all companies must begin to work on during the 2016 budgetary and business/sales planning process.  Initially the first step in overall business planning is to have the management team determine what per cent ages of overall revenue will come from net new client’s vs existing clients by product/service or Practice area. Once that exercise is completed then all budgets, marketing plans and sales compensation planning can begin. This is because based upon where your planned revenue is coming from, every aspect of marketing and sales could be impacted.  HINT: Business Planning is not just spreadsheet budgets but departmental planning with objectives and tactics designed to exceed goals.

The sales management process in developing sales compensation can be complex, yet the goal must always to create a program that is simple to understand and administrate. The ultimate concept in sales force compensation is to ensure that the salesperson’s and sales management’s plans are in alignment with each other and most importantly, in alignment with the objectives or goals of the organization.

This key point is why I always state that compensation planning is strategic not tactical. This is a short YouTube video that will help better understand what we mean by setting your goals.

Once that step is taken, you can take a free sales compensation “assessment” on Acumen’s website. It will help you judge the effectiveness of your existing sales compensation plan. www.AcumenManagement.com  Now that you have taken that action the sales management process must begin:

    • Determining acceptable levels of Cost of Sales,
    • Determining a QTD objective?
    • Should you use an accelerated or ramp plan based upon sales or margin or both?
    • Will there be special bonuses for reaching certain objectives such as add X number of Net New Customers.
    • Perhaps you may consider creating team bonus plan based upon exceeding a revenue/margin quarterly goal?

 

  • Depending upon your needs as a sales leader, that blog link will also provide you access to a large number of other blogs on sales management. On our website, in our store we have a series of On-Line Video training courses specifically on sales compensation and other topics of interest to any sales manager or you might consider our book on “Building Sales Compensation Plans that Work!”

My recommendation is to start early, work through various scenarios and most importantly Look For the Holes.

Looking for the holes means, once you have narrowed down your plan, test it, present it to others and let fresh eyes try to find the weak spots in your plan.  In my book we discuss creating a compensation committee and how to roll out the plan to your team.  Then you must practice your presentation. Strategic sales management must focus on increasing the sales performance of your team, hiring will help, training is a must, but a well thought out sales compensation plan will add the right fuel to mixture. If you have questions on your sales compensation plan, send me an email:  Ken@AcumenMgmt.com

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.

Ken@AcumenMgmt.com  www.AcumenManagement.com

Blog:  www.YourSalesManagementGuru.com

 

2015 Sales Predictions

November 3rd, 2015

2015 Sales Predictions

KEN: I wrote this magazine column last November (2014), I thought it might be fun to hear your thoughts on my predictions.

We believe in 2015 the focal points will be on velocity and execution; increasing the speed of the sales cycle and number of orders received. Becoming “brilliant in sales execution” during each stage is critical. This has to do with the customers need to quickly take action, their existing knowledge and margin/COS pressures.

Depending upon the specific industry you serve, various trends may differ; for example my primary focus is in the technology sector and there have been major disruptors introduced that have caused implications on the sales side. However as I consider the general area of sales we see several trends.

  1. Prospective clients have done their homework as to their issues and potential solutions via the internet or other relationship. This has caused the salesperson to alter their traditional sales approach. We have found the salespeople who have not adapted to this change are struggling, as they have been use to “telling” their story vs “selling” themselves and their solutions.   The idea that magical mental stimulation must occur in selling is more important than ever before, knowing people, understanding the 5 business challenges business people face and connecting the dots between the person, the problem and your solution is a critical success factor. New technical tools will be developed to assist the average salesperson in this area.
  2. Sales training is moving to a mobility mode. As salespeople face new selling environments, they will have access to instant insights designed to improve their sales skills and strategic information. This is a new trend that will evolve quickly in 2015-16.
  3. Moving the sales role inside maybe a new change for many, but one that is increasing in nature and is certainly a trend. Reducing COS, increasing touch points and use of technology will drive the outside/inside sales organization restructuring. This will continue as sales leaders look for new formulas to drive relationships, revenues and increased levels of activities.
  4. Power Networking. The use of LinkedIn and other online databases has allowed salespeople to evaluate their top best clients and determine who they are linked to, what association’s they are involved in and who they know within their personal connected networks. Once your best clients are mapped, you can then work them to connect with key net new prospects. This methodology is certainly being used by top performers and we certainly see it as a continuing trend.

Next, while there has always been talk about “trusted business advisor”, or now Challenger Selling, we believe you can achieve this status through Business Guidance selling.  This is a phrase we use to describe not a new sales methodology but a concept that can be implemented within any sales framework.  Generally speaking with any sales offering a salesperson either is increasing productivity, reducing costs or providing a certain benefit.

Business Guidance selling occurs while the salesperson is delivering proposal or at a closing stage. As they are selling their solution and the associated benefits, the salesperson must link those benefits to a dollar value and then make a Business Guidance recommendation to the prospect. The salesperson recommends they use those benefits/savings to impact a specific perceived need within the prospects company. These Business Guidance recommendations could range from: improving the web site, providing adding customer service training, etc… None of these recommendations are related to additional products/services from the salesperson’s firm.

HINT: This increases the need for a quality Discovery Stage within your sales process.

By acting in this way and providing this kind of insight you can separate yourself from your competition and not be perceived as simply another salesperson. In 2015 and beyond clients are expecting more from their vendor relationships.

Enjoy and may 2015 be your best year ever.

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.

Ken@AcumenMgmt.com  www.AcumenManagement.com

Blog: www.YourSalesManagementGuru.com

Did It Get Done?

October 27th, 2015

Did It Get Done?

That is a question most executives worry about and often have to ask their direct reports, this is especially true when thinking about Sales Management. In some situations the President of the company may have responsibility to manage the sales team or maybe they are attempting to manage a sales manager(s). In either case-attaining revenue objectives becomes a critical success factor-to a point where it might be distracting from achieving other responsibilities of sales management.

However the job of sales leadership demands more than revenue focus, in fact in my training programs and client consulting engagements I tell my clients that it is not sales management’s job to achieve quota-that is the salesperson’s job! It is the job of sales leadership to hire, train and manage the team properly and position them for success-that is why “getting it done” becomes a critical question. Ensuring that the necessary basic foundations are being achieved becomes important.

If the issue of not “getting it done” seems to be occurring with a client, we implement the following process to train and keep everything in focus. Each Friday afternoon each field Sales Manager submits a weekly and at the end of the month, a simple standard form or checklist that was created to ensure that “all the bases are touched”. I’ve listed a few examples from a typical checklist:

  • Attended  on-site sales calls with reps to observe sales behaviors and to coach?
  • Listened to phone calls to observe sales behaviors and to coach?
  • Scheduled a well-planned weekly sales team meeting to discuss results, new plans and build excitement?
  • Reviewed new salesperson applications and executed interviewing plans?
  • Randomly inspected CRM updates by salespeople to ensure they are updating it correctly?
  • Scheduled monthly sales training meetings and topics that are planned with specific dates/times?
  • Scheduled monthly one on one meeting with each direct report?
  • Confirmed future marketing programs

The key element is not to make the checklist exhaustive but detailed enough that the fundamental aspects of the job is accomplished.  I have seen many growing organizations begin to fail simply because the basics were being overlooked and without a foundation the system begins to fall apart.

Our clients have also taken this approach to each department within the organization. Building a prescriptive approach and holding direct reports accountable will almost always propel the organization to the next level.

If you are the sales manager or you are managing sales managers and want our weekly/monthly “Manage a Sales Manager” template send me an email; Ken@AcumenMgmt.com  This tool was designed to ensure both the President/EVP and the sales manager(s) are in synch and are working on mutually agreed to goals.  I have found quite often the field sales manager is busy and productive but their management is frustrated that other corporate objectives are not being achieved. The reason? Simply a lack of clear communication and lack of mutual priority setting. This tool will help resolve those kinds of problem.

What other items should be on your monthly sales manager’s checklist? Get it done.

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.

Ken@AcumenMgmt.com  www.AcumenManagement.com

Blog: www.YourSalesManagementGuru.com

Prospecting: Fill your sales pipelines now!

October 14th, 2015

The Telephone Is the Most Powerful Sales Prospecting Tool

By Jeb Blount, author of Fanatical Prospecting

KEN: This blog post is from my friend Jeb Blount, his new book is a must read for your sales book club: Fanatical Prospecting. Add it to your sales library today!

Question: “How do you get a salesperson to stop working?”

Answer: “Put a phone in front of him.”

That’s a little joke that elicits nervous laughs at my keynotes and seminars.

For thousands of salespeople, picking up the phone and calling a prospect is the most stressful part of their life. Many of these reluctant salespeople stare at the phone, secretly hoping that it will disappear. They procrastinate, get ducks in a row, and work to ensure that everything is perfect before they dial. Any excuse—and I mean any excuse—to do something else takes priority.

They work over their leaders, too. Whining that no one answers the phone anymore. Arguing that it is a waste of time. Complaining that people don’t like to be contacted by phone.

Last month a top-five insurance company hired me to work with his team. The executive who bought me in said that the single biggest challenge facing their new agents was prospecting. His words: “We are having such a hard time getting them to just pick up the phone and talk to people.”

When I arrived on the morning of the training, he pulled me aside and said, “I hope I haven’t put you in a bad spot. We didn’t spend time discussing the new reality in our industry, but no one answers the phone anymore. I realize you are going to do live phone blocks, but I wouldn’t expect too much out of them.”

We did three live phone blocks that day using targeted lists the agents brought with them. Over the course of the day, we had a whopping 51 percent contact rate—actual live prospects answering their phones. This was not a statistical anomaly. It was generated by 19 agents who made 1,311 outbound dials.

At the end of the day I sat down with my contact and showed him the numbers. He was both thrilled—as in “when can we get you to come back and do this again” thrilled—and bemused.

“I don’t understand how you got those results. Everybody tells me that people don’t answer the phone anymore.”

“Who is telling you that?” I asked.

“The agents,” he responded.

“The same people that you say won’t make calls?” I asked.

He slowly nodded his head as the weight of this realization sank in. Nobody answers a phone that doesn’t ring. Nobody Answers a Phone That Doesn’t Ring

Disproving the Myth

The myth that the phone no longer works—because people don’t answer—is disproven daily by thousands of sales teams across the country that survive and thrive on the phone.

The statistics don’t lie. We see between a 15 percent and 80 percent contact rate on the phones depending on the industry, product, and role level of the contact. For example, in the business services segment, contact rates are consistently between 25 and 40 percent.

This, by the way, is far higher than response rates with e-mail and light years higher than social media. All of the real-world evidence flies directly in the face of the myth that gets repeated over and over again that the telephone has a low success rate.

It gets better. We have stats on phone prospecting going back to the early 1990s, and we are seeing clear trends that contact rates via phone have actually risen by around 5 percentage points. We don’t know the exact reason why more prospects are answering their phones, but we suspect three drivers:

  1. Phones are anchored to people, not desks. It is common for prospects to answer their mobile phone when you call them—either because their mobile line is their only line or because their office line rolls over to their mobile line.
  2. No one is calling. Because so much sales communication has shifted to e-mail, social inboxes, and text, phones are not ringing nearly as much as in the past. Because of this, salespeople who are calling are standing out in the crowd and getting through.
  3. Prospects are getting burned out on impersonal, irrelevant (and often automated) prospecting e-mails. E-mail and social inboxes are being flooded with crap. Prospects are hungry for something different—a live, authentic human being.

 

Listen to me! The phone is your most powerful sales tool. Period, end of story.

Let me say this one more time slowly. There is no other tool in sales that will deliver better results, fill your pipe faster, and help you cover more ground in less time than the phone.

Here is the brutal truth: Salespeople who ignore the phone fail. They deliver mediocre results and cheat themselves out of hard cash.

So stop looking at it like it’s your enemy or an alien being covered in slimy tentacles. And no, it is not going to dial itself.

 

Jeb Blount is the bestselling author of Fanatical Prospecting and a Sales Acceleration expert who helps sales organizations reach peak performance fast by optimizing talent, leveraging training to cultivate a high-performance sales culture, developing leadership and coaching skills, and applying more effective organizational design. Contact: 1-888-360-2249 or visit: http://www.JebBlount.com

Build Predictable Revenue

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.

Planning

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

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.

Certification Process

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.

Execution

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.

Ken@AcumenMgmt.com  www.AcumenManagement.com

Blog: www.YourSalesManagementGuru.com