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5 Reasons Blog

How to Shop for a Sales Consultant

Monday, October 29, 2018

So, you’re considering bringing in someone to help ramp up your team’s sales productivity. Hiring an FTE doesn’t make financial sense just yet, so you are thinking a consultant might do the trick. There are lots of them out there, so how do you go about selecting the right one? Here are a few things to consider that might make the selection process clearer…

Tap Your Network: Ask your colleagues who they’d recommend. Interview someone they rave about. This will get you started and give you a benchmark by which to measure other candidates by.

Can I Trust This Person: Obvious, right? You are going to put this person in front of your staff and so low trust = a no go. During your selection process go to coffee or lunch with the candidate. You’ll see more of the “real” them vs. in the boardroom setting and can better dial into your trust radar.

Sales Chops: Decide what expertise you need in your situation and probe to learn your candidate’s acumen. Is it in sales method [how to conduct a productive sales interaction with a buyer]? If the way this person sells to you is off-putting, stop there. You won’t like what they teach your team. Is it sales process [mapping the steps to take an opportunity from the Lead stage to closure]? Ask to see the tool set they’d install in your business. Is it Lead Generation [filling the top of the sales funnel]? Again, ask to see their models. Good looks like Intellectual Property that is formal, organized, coherent and branded – maybe even a book. Bad looks like sales tips and tactics verbally delivered, stray MS Word docs and scribbles on your white board.

Years in Business: The longer in business as an active consultant, the better. This means you are dealing with a proven entity. Beware the friend of a friend who’s been a Sales Manager for forever, is between gigs and is “doing some consulting.” Unless they’ve got a solid pedigree [taken a company exactly like yours from start up to $100M] this person may be long on tips and tactics but light on road tested and proven teachable IP.

Company or Individual: One is not better than the other. There are awesome folks in either configuration. Generally, the size of your sales team will dictate which is best. You may need a big firm to manage a roll out to your 1000 sales reps.

Fee Range: You get what you pay for, to a point. If you are quoted fees that look weirdly high, continue looking at other providers to either confirm or deny if they are just high or if their offer is superior. Low fees mean you may be dealing with someone who is new to the role and perhaps not skilled enough to help you sufficiently. Or it may be that they are not comfortable to set fees that reflect the value they bring. If this is the case, you don’t want this person training your sales team anyway. Dig deeper into their sales chops to determine which.

Experience Base: Experience in your industry is an asset but not a necessity unless you are in a crazily narrow niche business. Actual proven success in multiple industries is a clear sign that this party’s methodology and IP produce results.

Skip the School of Hard Knocks

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

You likely learned a ton about how to run your business by attending the School of Hard Knocks. You are likely [and justifiably] proud of making it through not only intact but looking pretty good! When it comes to the sales function however, skip school this time. If sales aren’t your passion, your results aren’t great, or you already have 1000 other things to focus on, bring on someone to steer the sales function for you and you’ll be ecstatic with the results. Here’s why…

You are Human – not a machine. Running a business is tough enough without piling on another departmental leadership function on top of that.

Revenue is the Life Blood of Your Company – If you are bootstrapping, Cash is King. If you are funded, revenue lengthens your runway. If your sales results aren’t great, that should be addressed.

Sales is Way Harder Than It Looks – Look at those guys and gals over their blabbing on the phone closing deals. What could be easier? Trying to optimize and implement a sales process requires a lot of bandwidth.

The Sales Cliff Sucks – If the sales wheel isn’t continually turned, funnels dry up quickly, and revenue falls off fast.


Your Options:

Your first and most obvious option is to hire a Sales Manager, or the like. This works if you a) have the money and b) are at a growth point at which this makes sense.

If you are at 2-3 sales people and revenues are trending up, then hiring this person is an investment that will likely have a great ROI. Also, hiring this person lets you work more “on” your business rather than “in” it. If, however, revenue is light at the moment it may not make financial sense to spend the dough on an FTE. The time to payback may be longer than you are willing or comfortable to wait. In this case there is another option.

That other option is to hire a consultant – just as you would for any other business function. There are sales consultancies of all stripes. Some are awesome at pumping up your team with motivational speeches. Others are great at teaching your team how to conduct highly productive sales conversations with buyers. Some work with you to optimize the steps of your sales process to increase sales velocity and deal size. On the upside whatever your need it’s likely you can get it addressed by a credible expert for far less than the cost of an FTE.  On the downside if your team needs hourly/daily leading, then a consultant by design can’t fulfill this.

If Sales is a passion for you and you have the bandwidth to tend to the team and run your business as well, by all means, keep managing the sales team. Otherwise, take action now and hand the reins to an individual who can focus squarely on the task at hand and drive your revenue results.

Will Your Sales Approach Support Your Growth Goals?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

How much revenue will your sales team close 90 days from now? If you can’t answer this question with any level of confidence you are not alone. Many leaders I chat with struggle to predict their sales team’s revenue even 30 days out. If you aren’t all over tracking your leading sales indicators, it’s next to impossible to know if how your team is selling will sustain your business’s growth goals. By rigorously measuring the rate at which those “things that cause sales to happen” occur you will quickly get to reliable forecasting and an optimized sales process.

Off the hop let me identify the magic ingredient that makes any dashboarding work - rigour. Sounds almost redundant but I bring up rigor because its the number one challenge in implementing and leveraging dashboards. If your data is inaccurate or incomplete due to lack of rigour you will make poor decisions based on what your dashboards are telling you.

To clarify rigour, I mean accurate recording by your team of their sales activities every day, as they perform them. No “I’ll wait until Friday afternoon to enter in all my CRM stuff” approaches allowed. Who has the energy on a Friday afternoon to enter a whole week’s worth of sales activity micro-data? No one, that’s who!

Moving on, here are the core sales activities that will serve as your leading indicators.

Diagnosis Meetings: Interactions with Sales Leads, the purpose of which is to Diagnose their Pains and determine if they are a Viable Sales Opportunity.  Not enough of these each week means a dry sales funnel in no time.

Demo Meetings: Meetings with Viable Sales Opportunities to demonstrate your product or service. Not enough of these weekly leads to a longer closing cycle as buyers often need to see what your product can do before saying yes to paying for it.

Solution Meetings: Interactions with Viable Sales Opportunities, the purpose of which is to finalize the version of your solution they’d like and allow you to solidify price.

Number of Proposals Presented: This value of this one’s pretty obvious.

As far as the goal quantity for each of the above, that varies widely from industry to industry and product/service to product/service. Generally, lower price point sales that are decided upon by a single buying influence require many more of each interaction type per week than high priced multi-buying influence ones.

The thing about sales activity goals is this – have one, for each activity. Work with your team to a) decide which things that cause sales to happen at your company should be measured, b) set the bar, c) adjust it over time until you discover the optimal amount of each activity required for reps to hit sales target. This continual optimization process is the path to confidence that your current sales process will support reaching your business’s growth goals.

An Otherwise Good Walk Ruined

Saturday, September 01, 2018

There is an old saying that goes, “golf is an otherwise good walk ruined”, referring to the frustrations inherent in trying to get that darned little white ball into the hole.  Achieving revenue growth may not always happen as quickly as we’d like, but it should not feel as frustrating as golf often feels.

Are you frustrated with your rate of revenue growth? If yes, below are some common causes of Revenue Generation Frustration and how to mitigate them.

You:  Business Owner & Sales Manager

Do you have a solid sales pedigree? If not, running even a small department can be challenging. Time ticks by and sales results don’t come.

If you are not a sales management expert, find a resource and get this task off your plate and onto theirs. Doing so is all upside – you lighten your load and have more time to do the stuff you love, such as leading the company into the future rather than being stuck in the sales weeds.

You: Abdicator

More dangerous than managing a function you aren’t an expert in, is not manage it at all. You just let your sales folks loose with a cell phone, laptop and gas card and wait for the sales revenue to come rolling in. This generally always fails.  Invariably results are tepid and when you finally dig in you find you are down 6 months sales salary and your revenue future looks pretty grim.

The sales function requires daily monitoring to assess what course corrections are required for success in the ever-changing business landscape.  See the advice in the paragraph above for how to fix this.

Low ROI

Your sales department should be self-funding. Salespeople should be generating between 3x to 5x their salary [depending on your margins] to be paying for themselves.

Take a good hard look and determine if your sales team is covering their costs. Factor in all costs related acquiring deals. There can be many reasons why they may be falling short [the comp plan is wrong, quotas aren’t right, headcount is too high, Lead Generation is too light]. Once you learn the underlying causes the fixes will be readily apparent.

No Leading Indicators

If your main sales success measures are primarily lagging ones [revenue generated, new implementations] you’ll continually be running behind.  Switch to frequent measurement – think daily, weekly, monthly – of those things that cause sales to happen.

A few to look at are:

a)       Pipeline Creation Rate: How many viable sales leads have been generated
b)      Number of Sales Calls conducted
c)       Number of Demos conducted

Identify your leading indicators and be rigorous in tracking them.

Flying Blind – No Dashboards

The value in measuring lies in using the data toward continuous improvement. Share the dashboards at minimum with the salespeople individually and review them together for coaching purposes.

Work together to determine what the numbers are indicating and what activity adjustments could/should be made to improve results. Depending on your appetite for a competitive sales environment you may share all results with the entire team.

No Recipe for Success

The number one cause of feelings of Rev Gen Frustration is a lack of a defined sales process. If no sales roadmap exists, the team may find their way more often than not, but it will be a continual struggle. This leads to lots of bad stuff [sales goals aren’t hit; commission payouts are low, and staff quit].

Hunker down with your sales team in a boardroom and capture a) your customer’s buying process and then b) your process to help them buy from you. This is the ultimate Rev Gen Frustration reducer.

Accountability And Sales Success

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Sales is the ultimate accountability sport. Win or lose, the scoreboard is visible for everyone in the company to see. The accountable sales team owns their results and continually strives to improve them. Getting to accountability is not always easy though. I have found a tool that makes that road a whole lot smoother. Let me share it with you.

The Oz Principle is a book by Roger Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman. In it, they describe a highly effective method any organization can follow to increase accountability towards performance improvement.

In the book the authors identify a line in business that separates success from failure. This line applies to every employee in every department – from sales to operations to management. Below the line is the blame game. It’s where people come up with excuses for why sales targets weren’t met or projects weren’t completed on time. Above the Line® is where people take ownership. These people look for solutions. They are the action takers; the ones who are committed to success.

It is perfectly normal to slip below the line once in a while. Sometimes it feels very legitimate to blame someone or something else for a current situation, especially when we feel helpless to change our circumstances. But what is discussed in The Oz Principle®, with comparisons to L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, is that it’s only through accountability that we find the best solutions & achieve greater success. 

We can tell we are below the line if we are ignoring or denying a problem, claiming it’s not our job, pointing our fingers at someone else, wanting someone to tell us what to do, spending our time covering our tails, or deciding to wait and see if the problem will go away on its own.

When this happens, it helps to keep The Oz Principle’s definition of accountability in mind:

A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results — to See It, Own It, Solve It and Do It.

This definition includes the 4 steps to achieving accountability: "See It, Own It, Solve It and Do It," which this book gets into in great detail.  When applied, this simple process works magic when it comes to getting a team to be more accountable for its situation and results.

The power of this book lies in its language. It provides a nonjudgmental, safe and respectful way to talk to your team about accountability, or lack thereof. To say “what I’m hearing from you sounds like Below the Line language” is far more respectful and productive than saying “quit your whining and get this thing figured out!”

I highly recommend this book to anyone in business. Over the years I have referred my clients to it innumerable times. Applying The Oz Principle changes the way your sales team looks at down markets and poor sales performance. It gives them a way to see their sales situation differently, take ownership of the elements that are theirs and create solid solutions that get revenue flowing again.


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