May 25th, 2010
(You must do more than just 10 these days.)
In today’s investment world advice on portfolio management can vary from; “hold firm with your existing stocks”, to “take advantage of a great opportunity to buy at these lower prices”. The first scenario of holding firm for the long term assumes that your existing portfolio contains quality securities, is properly diversified and has been managed with an appropriate, long-term perspective.
In the world of sales management and revenue generation we would like to make the same assumptions for taking a long-term perspective. This would be true even if your sales team consists of quality people with good attitudes, records of success and has been properly managed. However, the timeframes on which sales mangers are focused are short-term. Sales leaders face the need to keep their sales team focused on the goals and activities that make teams and companies successful. In today’s market, it is easy for salespeople to be distracted.
In the present economic situation, there is an exciting opportunity to increase market share as your competitors lag, and build a better sales team through increased focus. To win now we have defined a tactical program of eleven key actions that will lead to a winning approach and all sales leaders to take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime, during what we call the lifetime of the opportunity:
1) Build the Right Motivation
It is critical to maintain focus and activity and decrease distraction by paying attention to the attitude and motivation of your sales team. Build belief in your company, products/services by visiting your satisfied customers, asking for reference letters, or having customers visit your office and speak to your entire organization as to their satisfaction. Create fun in your sales meetings and build sales contests/games that are focused on achieving the activity levels that will increase your sales pipeline and sales opportunities. Find out what rewards are important to your sales team and create rewards that will reinforce these.
2. Review your product/service packaging and pricing to ensure that you are capitalizing on your strengths and meeting competition.
This is a perfect time to review your existing profit margins and sales cycle length by product line and make short-term adjustments to determine the elasticity of your product and increase revenues and margins. Create or amend the features or offerings in your various packages or even create new packaged offerings! Confuse your competition with new offerings and you may even find new added value options you had previously overlooked. Find ways to be different!
3. Analyze and profile the sales team and distribution channels that you need to penetrate your markets.
First, list the attributes necessary to maximize sales of your product, and then determine if this is best accomplished through a direct sales organization or channels/partners or both! Second, create a customer focus group and ask them how best to serve them, what they are looking for in a relationship and seek to understand the levels of support they require. Third, make a decision on the five best attributes or profiles for your sales employees and channel partners. Analyze your existing strategy and each channel partner you as to how they match up to your profile. You may find new partners/alliances that will open up new accounts and even new markets.
4. Muscle up your sales team
Now is the perfect time to increase your recruiting and potential hiring. Today a Sales Manager must interview 25% of the time. The reason? There are many very good salespeople now available and looking for the right opportunity. Create the ideal five attributes of successful salespeople and establish a “tight” interview process that ensures you increase the quality of your team.
HINT: You can always interview, it doesn’t mean you must hire. Hire the best people for the job – not the “best available”.
5. Analyze and strategize each sales opportunity
With perhaps fewer opportunities and increased competition, schedule time with each salesperson or in a team setting to “think though” each near-term sales opportunity. Make sure your team is using internally developed or commercial tools to analyze the status of each opportunity and develop the various tactics to increase your probabilities. Specifically:
- a. Pinpoint and develop ways to counter objections
- b. Determine buyer decision criteria
- c. Establish client decision makers and influencers
- d. Initiate multi-level contact with multi-level influencers in the prospect’s company.
6. Seek out influencers that will recommend your product/service
Analyze the type of organizations or people that impact your client decision process. These may be consultants that work in the same market or prospect base or other sales organizations that would benefit directly or indirectly from the sale of your product or service. Develop a plan to establish who are the decision makers at these organizations and create a campaign using your sales and management team to present these influencers with the benefits of your firm and seek to secure their commitment to work with you. This on-going action can lead to the equivalent of a normal salesperson’s quota value of sales!
7. Create an active marketing campaign to create new sales leads
Create a smart campaign, not a blast or mass appeal plan. First, establish profiles of current clients – determine the five reasons they use your products/service. Second, hit your market with a stronger and clearer message. Focus on ROI and productivity gains. Third, establish a plan of action for the next six months and make sure you have included a sales follow up – execute your management review.
8. Review your current compensation plan to ensure it meets your companies goals
Clearly document your current plan and tabulate payments against results over time. Is the plan achieving your original goals? Is the plan reinforcing desired sales activity behavior? If it is not, develop a new plan and gain internal buy-in from your team. Focus on shorter-term goals and implement a new plan with commitment to keep it in place for at least six months. Use the existing market opportunity to focus on short-term achievements.
9. Increase your investment in training of sales skills, product/service knowledge
In tighter times your team must perform more affectivity. Review your past efforts, take an inventory of training needs based on individual salesperson comparisons against your desired profile. Schedule on going training programs. Develop your own internal programs to ensure your salespeople fully understand and can sell your product/services and then arrange for commercial sales skill training programs. You will experience both short-and long-term benefits. Focus on increased levels of training for six months.
10. Develop an active program to contact every customer
This is a great time to establish a program to make contact with each client to fully understand their situations, their use of your product/services, offer new “packages” and seek references for new potential clients. Make sure you are effectively using your CRM or SFA programs and with each existing customer contact update your database with more up-to-date information. Verify your sales team is properly making the right contacts that have been recently made with every prospect and client. Develop, execute and monitor a program of continuing contact with all targeted clients, prospects, influencers and partners. Review and measure your progress each week/month at your sales meetings.
11. Build better planning into your sales organization.
Increase your effectiveness by implementing planning into your sales process. First, define the specific steps of your sales process and ensure that each salesperson executes those steps effectively. Second, develop detailed 6-month individual salesperson business plans. Third, create specific named account tactical sales plans for those key strategic accounts and follow up on your salespersons’ planned activities vs actual actions.
We have used the word execute many times in this brief article, it is the critical word. Where we find successful sales management, we find individuals who can plan and who can successfully focus and execute their programs. These 11 Actions will enhance your sales team, increase revenues and build a focus in your organization when it is critically important. Take Action…Stay Positive.
Ken Thoreson is the managing partner of the Acumen Management Group, Ltd; a North American based consulting organization focused on improving the sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. For more information call (423-884-6328 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org