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End of Year Checklist for Sales Management

End of Year Checklist for Sales Management

Are you focused on making end of year numbers? That is only half the job for Sales Management at this time of year, the other half is being focused on planning for next year! We have created a checklist of major issues all sales leaders must work on to ensure the New Year will start off quickly and your goals can be exceeded.

The following checklist is not in any priority format, but simply a quick read list and a set of recommended actions for any executive or sales leader as they plan for 2017. I have attempted to provide a list of resources, downloads or offers to assist in providing value and support for all of our readers. If you have other ideas or suggestions please comment within the blog so that all of our readers can benefit.

  • Evaluate your sales team. What does each salesperson need to enhance their productivity in 2017?  Who are keepers, who are laggards? I like to recommend that Sales Managers create a Personal Development Plan for each person, if you need a template
  • Is your compensation plan working? Did it achieve your goals for 2016? In 2017 are the strategic goals of the company changing? Do I have to alter the sales compensation plan to help achieve the new goals? Take our online Sales Compensation Audit to determine any weak points or check out our blog for new ideas and select Sales Compensation
  • Is your 2017 overall Business Planning in progress? Assess your entire business and develop a score by department using our online Business Assessment.
  • Need to prepare a 2017 Sales Business Plan? Ask me for a template
  • Concerned about 2016’s tendency to not achieve quota each month or your inability to Predict Revenues? Download our List of the Top 40 Actions Sales Managers must activate to build a high performance sales team.
  • How many new salespeople do you need to hire during 2017? Do you have a recruiting marketing plan in place? How strong is your interviewing process and skills? Watch a video on recruiting and interviewing to help improve your organization.
  • If you are hiring, then you must tighten up your new hire on-boarding process, this must be a priority for any sales organization, you can find a template on our Sales Managers Tool Kit. There are over 40 robust tools located in the tool kit.
  • Time to plan your 2017 Sales Kick Off event; you need to have a theme for the year, make it fun, motivational and educational. Set the tone for your team at your kick off meeting, my blog has many ideas for this kind of event or ask for ideas or speakers for the meeting, select Sales Kick Off Ideas category
  • Does your sales team need new formal sales training? Check out two sites for an online video training courses that offer low cost, mobile access and adult training methodology. or Sales Gravy University
  • HINT: at your 2017 Sales Kick Off Meeting you should have your entire Quarterly Sales Training Plan ready to hand out, topics must include: Sales Training, Product/Services Training and Sales Operations.

If you have questions on any if these ideas let me know.

This is the time of the year to evaluate your successes, determine what issues must be changed or improved, and finish planning for the new year and also by the way…… exceed your 2016 quotas!

Have fun and go sell something!

Three Secrets to be Successful from John Wooden

Three Secrets to be Successful from John Wooden

As a Sales Leader or Executive these 3 secrets will help propel your sales organization to the next level. In preparation to speak to an international association conference I had been making notes and clipping interesting ideas from a variety of sources, one of them was from Success magazine.

One article was about a young coach, Dale Brown, and his first actions when he became for the first time a major college coach. He immediately scheduled a meeting with John Wooden, the Hall of Fame former UCLA basketball coach-known as the Wizard of Westwood.

After a full day of discussing a wide variety of topics around becoming a major college head basketball coach John Wooden said at the very end of day that Dale could have saved LSU a lot of money in travel expenses because there are just only three secrets. John went on; the three things that I am going to tell you are fairly simple if you want to be successful. Anyone that has read any articles or books by John Wooden, as I have, would have to read the balance of the article as his ideas are golden.

In Chicago I took each bullet and discussed the specific actions sales management must implement to execute on each element.

First: make certain you always have better players than anybody you play. This is pretty obvious to readers of this blog or have purchased my book “Recruiting High Performance Sales Teams”. One of my recommendations is to analyze each of your salespeople, are they Deadwood, Learners, Good for Now, High Achievers. Decide who to keep, who not to and build a recruiting process that ensures higher quality people. HINT: for every one person you hire, you need to interview five.

Second: make certain those better players put the team above themselves. This was the majority of my program that I called the Effect of Emotional Leadership, Sales Leaders must build a culture of team, of belief in the company/products/services and a focus on team accountability. This action can start with sales games, hearing customer success stories, sales compensation plans as well as genuine conversations. Top performing sales managers have the ability to communicate with positive vision, personal awareness and openness.

Third: don’t be a coaching genius, don’t give your players too much information, always practice simplicity with constant repetition. This secret I thought was very interesting as most sales managers either don’t train enough or train very poorly on sales skills, sales operations or product/industry information. The balance of Sales Managers probably train too much early in the salesperson’s life and then fail to reinforce effectively. What I stressed in Chicago is what I think Mr. Wooden meant-figure out what needs to be done during the sales process/sales call, effectively map it, describe it as to why it should be done and how it should be done and then focus your training on those actions and then practice often.

Just this weekend the University of Tennessee won a football game against the University of Georgia during the last 4 seconds of the game with a Hail Mary play. (A Hail Mary play is when you have 3 receivers run to one spot in the end zone and the Quarterback throws the ball hoping someone catches it, this week it was for 43 yards!) Tennessee’s coach Butch Jones was quoted after the game that they have practiced that play every week for three years and this was the first time he has used it! It worked when then needed it.

John Wooden is a legend in basketball, he was a master teacher and mentor to many. If you have not read his book I highly recommend it.

Build your sales organization around these rules and perhaps you will become a legend as well. If you have further questions or want to discuss other concepts from the Chicago presentation please reach out.

Why Your Website Isn’t Producing Sales Leads

Why Your Website Isn’t Producing Sales Leads

After studying more than 300,000 sales leads generated by online marketing campaigns, we discovered something that frankly surprised us:

  • 84 percent of website visitors convert on the first visit

Now, whereas e-commerce websites may not get conversions until the third or fourth visit, lead generation sites are playing a game of one strike and you’re out.

For this reason, lead generation sites must be just about perfect in terms of conversion optimization — which is what the following presentation, 10 Ways to Make Your Lead Generation Website Convert on the First Visit, will help you do.

The tips you’ll see range from navigation to content to design to the formatting of forms — all the elements of a website that make visitors fall in love with your company or click of your site to embrace a competitor.

Can you achieve perfection overnight? Probably not, but starting down the road sooner rather than later will pay off in more leads and better leads every step of the way!

What Smart Sales Leaders Do 

What Smart Sales Leaders Do 

Understand that the way to repeat business and continuous referrals is to serve customers in an exemplary fashion and not flog products and services at them. They don’t differentiate between sales and service; serving begets sales. They realize that in the long run, the customer relationship is the primary value sales creates for the organization.

Serve their employees in the same way they expect customers to be treated. If salespeople on the inside aren’t served well by their leader, it’s unlikely they will treat customers well.

Have a sales strategy that mirrors perfectly the strategic game plan of the overall organization; they use it as THE context for designing their priorities and how sales are compensated. Chasing sales tactics that don’t have direct line of sight to strategy results in sales dysfunction.

As a top priority, create a sales proposition that separates their team from “the sales herd”. They understand that the answer to the question “Why should I buy from you and not your competition,” is THE key element of their success. If their team looks like all other teams, customers have no motivation to choose them.

Don’t over-analyze everything. The degree of study depends on the risk associated with the decision to be made. They select a course of action that is “just about right” and get on with it.

Don’t look for perfection. The quest for perfection is a roadblock to execution. They understand that success is a function of doing lots of imperfect stuff fast.

Are known champions of change within their organization which gives them personal currency and the ability to garner resources to support their sales efforts.

Encourage salespeople to lose a sale if it means keeping the relationship with the customer. They do whatever it takes to drive home the message that deepening the customer relationship is the critical sales priority.

Spend copious amounts of time with their salespeople in the field. Learning what’s really going on. Determining barriers to performance. Make meaningful change. They don’t have an ivory tower mentality.

Are contrarian by nature? They believe that the source of opportunity lies not in copying what others are doing, but rather charting a course that no one else is on. They are “180 degree thinkers”. Benchmarking sales best practices is not on their radar.

Accompany salespeople to meet with customers regularly. They rely on obtaining customer feedback on organizational performance and input on sales performance from seeing them in action.

They are relentless and voracious learners. Standing still intellectually isn’t an option in a world changing every instant. Value added to the organization depends on sales leaders “keeping up.” They believe staying ahead requires learning leadership.

The smart generation of sales leaders know that success doesn’t come from an academic pedigree.

Smart sales leaders know that brilliant performance is the result of practicing the fundamentals of being different, staying close to customers, serving employees and executing strategy in the trenches.

Are you a smart sales leader?

Sales Development: Build on Strengths, Eliminate Weaknesses or Acquire New Competencies?

Sales Development: Build on Strengths, Eliminate Weaknesses or Acquire New Competencies?

If you had only $1 to invest in the development of a salesperson, how would you spend the money?

It depends…

As are most decisions in business, it’s not a simple matter of choosing among a number of possibilities.

There isn’t only one answer. It’s normally a blend of the options available.

The most important criteria for choosing the “right” solution depends less on what the sales pundits pronounce as the essentials of sales, and more on the strategic context of the organization.

The approaches vary with each organization; a boiler plate solution is not only misleading, it can lead to dysfunctional sales results.

Sales does not operate in a vacuum; its function is to deliver their part of the strategic game plan of the organization.

The appropriate mix of building on strengths, eliminating weaknesses or acquiring new competencies is driven by what the organization is trying to achieve.

Decide on WHAT has to be done by your organizational strategy and THEN, if you must, go to the experts to help you get there.

If you are a sales manager here’s the process I suggest you go through as you create a development plan for each one of your salespeople.

First, double back on the strategy of your organization. Make sure you understand EXACTLY what it seeks to achieve.

Your role is to translate the strategy to the sales tactical level. Determine the role of sales in delivering the strategy. Unless you understand in detail what sales must do to fulfill its strategic role you will have no context to decide how your sales force should be “developed”.

Break down the sales role into the specific competencies each salesperson must have to contribute to the overall sales role.

Look at each salesperson in terms of their specific skills and competencies. Where they are in alignment with the requirements; where do they fall short; where are there new competencies that need to be acquired?

For each salesperson, create a development plan based on your findings. Each person will have a different mix of “build on strengths” vs. “eliminate weaknesses” vs. “acquire new competencies” based on where they are today.

A one size fits all simply doesn’t work. Everyone is at a different stage of development relative to the organization’s strategy.

And as the strategy changes (and it will) sales development plans for each individual will likely require change as well.

When It Comes to Results, Focus on Your Customer

When It Comes to Results, Focus on Your Customer

As a sales leader, you live and die by your results. No doubt, you experience intense frustration when members of your team don’t seem to get it. Equally frustrating are the salespeople that are so focused on their numbers they turn customers and prospects off. What is the key to building a team that is focused on results in a way that customers and prospects appreciate and you are able to consistently meet your sales objectives?

#1: Focus on the customer’s results

This is really why we are in business. The purpose of business is to create value for customers first, and shareholders second (as a consequence of consistently creating customer value).

As you track opportunities in your pipeline, be sure that everyone on the team understands the outcome that the customer wants. While this sounds obvious, in the heat of battle, it is often lost. Salespeople often look at their pipeline as an indication of how much money they will make, rather than a reflection of the obligations to achieve customer outcomes. And it’s not just salespeople; sales managers can be just as bad. I can remember, early in my career, working for one sales manager that loved the fact that I consistently exceeded my numbers. What he couldn’t stand was my focus on ensuring our implementation projects were successful. When I communicated customer problems to him, his response was, “Adrian, it’s not your problem. You need to stay focused on selling.” Actually, it was my problem. First, win-win means we win “after” our customers win, not before. That means our customers problems are our problems. Second, it was my reputation. Salespeople live by making promises. If our word cannot be trusted, our promises are not worth anything and it won’t matter how flashy what we sell is, no one will buy.

#2: Real results are delivered over time

This is the fundamental difference between selling a transaction and selling a solution. Transactions happen at a moment in time. Solutions happen over time. By focusing on customer outcomes, your sales team is positioned to better understand where your customer needs to be in the long term. By understanding long-term goals, your team will better identify opportunities to partner with your customers over time. With a longer-term focus, both supplier and customer can work together more cooperatively in order to achieve the customer’s expected outcomes. Salespeople who focus on short-term, transactional selling may initially appear successful, but, in today’s demanding environment, their success will be short-lived.

This is a matter of delayed gratification. Anyone can spot the short-term transaction. It’s the mature sales professional, that can dig deeper and probe further in order to understand the bigger picture and the higher, more strategic priorities.

#3: Use metrics

Metrics enable you to clearly demonstrate to your customer that you are making a difference. Metrics should show your ability to increase sales, profit or productivity, or decrease cost and/or waste. By taking baseline metrics at the beginning of the project and then holding quarterly business reviews, you will be able to maintain customer excitement in your work together and demonstrate that you really mean business. You’re not just there to make money. You’re there to make a difference!

It is the passionate commitment and unrelenting focus on achieving customer results that is the key to every successful business today. As the world gets more complex, as competition increases and as customers become more demanding, those sales teams that have made it part of their DNA to focus on customer results and measure their success by their customers’ success will consistently rise to the top.

Evaluate your team’s focus on customer results by taking this quick assessment: Let’s talk about strategic account management.

Building the Emotional Formula for Sales Success

Building the Emotional Formula for Sales Success

Every player does not give 110% every day, it’s the coach’s job to increase their intensity and the effort they give

This quote came from Butch Jones, head coach at the University of TN.

Are you an emotional sales manager or a Sales Leader that creates the right emotion on your team?

This is part of what I call the emotional job of sales leadership, it is one thing to analyze data and create sales programs and systems, and it’s another to create the right culture. Last week my keynote at a sales conference was titled: Building a Culture of High Performance, during the program I discussed this side of sales leadership and the need for both personal and professional actions one can take to raise the bar of excellence.

In a turnaround situation this emotional aspect of sales leadership is critical, if you are building a new team it is a necessity. What does the emotional Sales Leader need to do?

  1. Stay focused on energy-yours and your team’s.
  2. Pay attention to their plans, their daily/weekly execution and their intensity.
  3. Be on top of everything…. Pay attention to the details to ensure EVERYTHING works.
  4. If you expect them to work at 100%, your focus, your energy must be 120%.
  5. Always be more aware than the team… of all aspect of the sales/marketing focus.
  6. As a leader in any organization recognize that your focus/intensity/enthusiasm must be above the ones your lead.

Your team wants to feel the energy and belief, as a Sales Leader work on this emotional transfer.  Being a leader and having vision and communicating emotional is a Critical Success Factor in Sales Leadership. In my book on Leading High Performance Sales Teams I cover the tactical steps build this belief.

Notice, in this blog I used the word Sales Leadership not Sales Management, there are two different aspects to building a high performance sales team, leadership and management- you must know the difference and you must be both!

When I spoke with Josh Dobbs, Quarterback of the Univ. of TN this summer (at the airport) his biggest comment was that Butch was a motivator, not a coach, not a buddy, but a motivator.

What are you doing to increase the intensity of your team?

Utilizing Individual Strengths: Is This How to Improve Sales?

Utilizing Individual Strengths: Is This How to Improve Sales?

As leaders, we’re constantly looking for how to improve sales. Our natural tendency is to find things that are not working and make them better. Specifically related to salespeople, our focus could be drawn to weaknesses, like prospecting or closing. This can lead us to send our teams to training that address these areas. Here’s something to ponder. Is that training helping the hunter salesperson to become stronger or fixing the weakness in a nurturing salesperson? I’d submit that the hunter’s find greater and longer lasting improvement through the training than the nurturing salesperson. What is that telling us?

Dr. Fredmund Malik, thought leader, author and professor claims in his book Effective Management for a New Era, “What Counts is Utilizing Existing Strengths. The emphasis here is on ‘existing’ strengths, not on those that must first be developed, and the essential element is ‘utilizing strengths’ and not ‘eliminating weaknesses’.”

I’m a believer in focusing on an individual’s strengths as a way how to improve sales because I implement this focus with all the teams I lead. I work as sales manager with up to seven sales teams at a time. One of my teams has a wide variety of strengths, and I’d like to share with you how utilizing these strengths has helped them produce new revenue highs.

In 2011, I took over a team that had one traditional hunter, two nurturers nearing retirement, a relationship-first rep and a new rep that works best with clear process. In addition, there were two family members selling whose strengths were not in sales and have now found their place in the company that best serves them and the business. The years before I joined the team, the leadership focus was on changing nurturers into hunters and openers into closers. The three-year effort led to little change. The hunter salesperson was selling more but not one else was making much improvement.

Prior to 2011 the team had never attained the annual goal set for them. They had never sold over $600,000 in new business revenue. Here is how they have done since 2011 with a focus on strengths.

In addition to hitting new revenue highs, the team also set new milestones for:

  • Average new business revenue per sales person
  • The number of salespeople selling over the 100,000K mark (4)
  • The number of reps who attained their goal (8 out of 9)

Their company has a 90% retention rate in revenue so the overall annual revenue of this small company has grown by over $2,800,000 over the past five years. They are growing very well at this time.

As you can see, the change did not arrive overnight but growth has been steady. Of course, there were other factors that contributed to this success, but focusing on strengths rather than fixing weaknesses was key. As a leader, you do need to decide to be consistent with this strong focus and make it part of your culture. In order to make the effort to utilize strengths be most effective, I needed to implement the following culture and practices.

  • Develop and support a team selling culture. When you develop a team selling culture, people can compliment each others’ strengths without fear of losing a deal because someone else will reciprocate later. This is not common in most sales teams and is why it must be encouraged and supported by leadership through patience, compensation and the facilitation of learning each others’ strengths.
  • Believe in my team and individuals. If you have the right people on your team, your belief in them and their strengths have more power than you might realize.
  • Develop a humble attitude. Focus on being the best team for customers. The job of the sales team is to bring in business and when they do, they’re doing their job. It’s not to be the hero of the company. Just as the job of accounting is to account for money and customer service is to attend to customers needs, the sales team has the role of bringing in sales. A humble attitude helps the team selling approach.
  • Create an empowering and accountable culture which places the responsibility of results squarely on the salespersons’ shoulders. When the responsibility is with the sales person, it’s no longer the managers’ job to “fix” weaknesses. The salespersons will decide to either fix them or not. The manager will support a desire to fix weakness and to leverage strengths but the focus is first on leveraging strengths.
  • Team members with complementary strengths. It’s hard to be whole if there is a strength missing. Rather than looking to duplicate your best producer find someone that can help make everyone better through their individual strength.
  • Recognize each person’s strengths and encourage the team to become stronger through teamwork.

Below is a list of the individual salesperson strengths on this team. As you read through the list, see if you can identify any strengths that exist on your team.

Hunter – knows how to identify markets that have problems we can solve and approaches them in a way to get their ear quickly.
Association network expert – they understand how to build credibility through association involvement and are consistent and patient enough to allow this credibility lead to sales.
Transparency – the person is willing to pass up on deals due to a bad fit and graciously communicate this to the prospect and on the way out pick up a referral for their integrity.
Educator – He knows products better than anyone else and how they might help solve a prospect’s problem. He does a great job at explaining this to his prospects in a way they can easily understand.
Service delivery – How a customer is taking care of is more important than them buying to this rep. They will work a little extra to make sure a customer’s happy and it can look like they are not using their time wisely until the referrals come in and the closing is easy.
Relational – Asking for things is not their strength but building relationships are. They understand that a solid business relationship that demonstrates you care leads to more business.
Processes – This person will always call for the process when we introduce new products or approaches.

Rather than trying to make people become all of these traits as a way to improve sales, focus on all becoming better communicators within their strengths. Encourage team selling in prospecting, networking, discovery or closing based on what will help a buyer make a good decision. Teach the team it is better to utilize strengths in themselves or others before allowing an individual weakness to get in the way of a buyer making a favorable decision.

If you have any questions about how to make this work with your team, feel free to leave a comment, send me a message or give me a call.

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