Tag Archive for: sales

Sales Process vs. Technique: Which Matters More?

If your sales are not at the level that you’d like, the best thing you can do is have your salespeople brush up on their sales techniques so that they perform better, right? Wrong! Achieving predictable, long-term revenue growth is not as simple as sales training.

If you’re guilty of repeatedly investing in sales technique training hoping that it will boost your sales, you’re not alone. As a fractional VP Sales, I’ve seen many business owners fall into this trap.

Why Sales Training is Not the Way Out of a Slump

When your revenue generation is not at the level you’d like, you may assume that it’s because your salespeople are under skilled and that sales training is the easy fix.

What my experience as an outsourced sales VP has taught me is that virtually 100% of the time, the problem lies in the sales process, not in the skills of the sales reps. You could have the most talented salespeople in the world, but if your sales process is flawed, they will not perform well.

When I go to work with a team, the first thing I do is assess whether they know what to do. Because you need to know what to do before you perfect how to do it.

A story for you about this concept…I asked my son to paint the front porch this summer. I spent some time going over the painting technique (the “how”) and left him to decide the best way to apply that to get the job done. Well, he ended up doing a great job with the painting itself but he also managed to [literally] paint himself into a corner! I shouldn’t have been too surprised, since I hadn’t told him he should start on the opposite side and paint himself to the stairs (the “what”).

Aside from being a funny story, this is an example of why someone needs to understand a process before honing their ability to do specific parts of that process. In the context of your sales team, that’s why sales training won’t help if your sales team doesn’t understand the sales process.

A Diagnosis of What’s Most Often Wrong

When sales are down and business owners come to me for help, they’ve usually already self-prescribed sales training. My analysis of their sales process usually reveals one of the following:

  • There are things they should be doing that they’re not
  • There are things they shouldn’t be doing that they are
  • They’re doing the right mix of things, but in the wrong order
  • They’re doing things to the wrong degree

Let’s use a baking analogy to examine the difficulty business owners often have with diagnosing the problem with their sales. My clients come to me saying their soufflé is continually flat- they just can’t get it to rise. They wonder whether the temperature of the oven is wrong, or if there’s something wrong with the way they put it in the oven.

When we go back and look at their recipe, it usually turns out that they’re missing some ingredients or mixing them in the wrong order. When you have the process incorrect, the results are not going to be what you expect.

A Recipe for Sales Success

Speaking of recipes, a recipe for increasing sales is the magic 4 R’s formula. Sales training and a bit of extra motivation are not going to cut it. Your sales team needs to be doing:

  • the Right Things
  • the Right Way
  • to the Right Degree
  • at the Right Time.

If they do, you are guaranteed to get reliable and predictable revenue growth (you can read more about each of these 4 R’s here).

Where the magic comes in is the particular mix of these things that is right for your business, depending on your industry, your specific market, and your geographic area. Although there’s generally a list of the ‘right’ things to do in sales, the right way to do them usually varies according to the culture and customs of different regions. The right time refers to the need to approach buyers at the right time; sending a salesperson in to meet a prospect at the wrong time is setting them up for failure.

This is why the sales process is a bigger priority than the sales technique. If you don’t have the right 4R mix for your business, even the most highly skilled salespeople won’t get the results you hope for.

So, When Does Sales Technique Matter?

I’m not saying that improving sales technique isn’t important- just that it should come second to optimizing your sales process. Sales techniques such as rapport building, mirroring, and knowing which questions to ask and how to ask them are obviously crucial parts of sales.

Sales technique is about understanding buyer pain points, figuring out how their situation can be improved, and the business value they want to get from making that change. In chapters 4, 5, and 6 of my book Sell More By Selling Less, I outline in detail how salespeople can strategically identify pains, desired gains, and value drivers.

The way salespeople ask these questions is technique. Understanding the responses and putting together a solution that will solve pain points, make an improved situation a reality, and deliver value increases the likelihood that the buyer will say yes. To do these things is process, not technique.

Most people think sales training is the priority, and process optimization should come second. In reality, it should be the opposite. Process optimization should be the first thing you tackle if you want to see a sustainable increase in sales.

If you’re spending money on sales technique training without sales process optimization, you might as well be throwing that hard-earned money out the window. If you’d like to discuss more about why optimizing your sales process is more important than technique, reach out by phone or email. I’m always happy to help.

Revenue Growth Isn’t Everything

One of the most common traps I see business owners fall into is making revenue growth the most important driver for their business. As ironic as this may sound [coming from me, a revenue generation consultant], revenue growth isn’t everything.

Why Growth Shouldn’t Be Your Only Metric for Business Success

Obviously, growth is vital for the long-term survival of your business. As a fractional VP Sales, I certainly appreciate the importance of revenue growth as an indicator of business health.  To ensure long-term success, growth of course needs to go hand-in-hand with profitability.

When you focus purely on growth, your attention gets shifted away from the efficiency of your processes and profit is likely to take a hit.

There are plenty of examples of companies that adopted the “growth at all costs” model of doing business only to realize they had scaled unsustainably, had customer acquisition costs that are way too high, and ultimately experienced a drop in profits.

Why Declining Revenue Isn’t Necessarily a Bad Thing

A plateau or even a dip in your revenue is no reason to panic. In fact, sometimes it’s a good thing.  It causes you to pause and reassess all things revenue generation.  Before you start worrying about decreased revenue, take stock of your cost of sales.  The resulting profit picture will tell you more about the efficiency of your sales processes than your revenue does.

Tips for Lowering Costs of Acquisition from a Fractional VP of Sales

When it comes to sales, your profit is related to lowering your cost of client acquisition. To do this, you need to optimize your sales processes so that you not only increase your throughput of leads but also increase your ratio of paying customers to leads worked. Here are some key factors for you to consider in order to streamline your sales function and decrease your costs.

Put the Right Processes in Place

Establishing repeatable, reliable processes is the first thing you need to do to optimize sales performance. Having a purpose built sales process in place guides your sales team through each sales stage and empowers them to provide a consistent experience to prospects.

Not only does this contribute to a higher win rate, but it also makes it possible to measure the effectiveness of each stage of your process to help you determine how you can optimize further.

Find the Right People for Each Role

Once you’ve got the right pieces in place, you need to make sure you’ve got the right people executing each of those process steps.

As Jim Collins points out in his influential management book Good to Great, it’s crucial to ‘get the right people on the bus before you decide where the bus needs to go.’ In other words, you need to ensure you’ve got the right talent in the right positions so that your team can operate as efficiently as possible.

Unsurprisingly, when you’ve got the wrong people in the sales department, they will be slower, less efficient, and less effective- not to mention quite unhappy about having to execute on those steps. Let’s look at a specific example of why this is the case and the knock-on effects it can have on your business.

Keep Your Closers Free to Close

Different roles require different skill sets…obvious, right? Yet you’d be surprised how often business owners have their best salespeople doing business development work or account management, to the detriment of the business. Sure, you may have that anomaly salesperson who happens to be excellent at both research and sales outreach. But chances are that’s not the case.

What’s more likely is that you have a great salesperson who hates research, who when given a business development task may take 2 hours to do what a research person who enjoys that task could do in 20 minutes. This is bad for business for multiple reasons:

  • It’s an inefficient use of time and resources.
  • A salesperson who isn’t good at research won’t get great data.
  • The salesperson in this scenario probably won’t want to record the detail in the CRM, leaving a weak point in the historical data your company needs to draw from.

Now consider these impacts in the context of how many salespeople you have and it’s clear why assigning a business development function to the right person is an easy win!

Similarly, once they close a deal, your star salespeople shouldn’t be responsible for onboarding the client and keeping them happy. After all, the first rule of business is to keep what you have, then to grow – so keeping a Closer bound to an existing account is a surefire way to have new sales grind to a halt as that salesperson focuses on keeping that customer satisfied and on board.

This responsibility can and should fall on the shoulders of someone who has the time and talent for nurturing accounts. Depending on your business, this may be an implementation team, an operations team, or some other type of internal support team.

Focusing on Growth Without Addressing Operational Issues is Lethal

As we’ve seen from the above examples, single-mindedly pursuing growth without addressing areas of weakness in your sales process and sales effectiveness can harm rather than help your business.

By taking the time to strategically address operational issues, you can improve the efficiency of the sales process, lower costs, reduce sales staff churn, and ultimately achieve sustainable revenue growth.

Want to know more about why it’s more advantageous to focus on profit than simply striving for growth? Reach out to me, and I’d be happy to draw on my experience as a fractional Vice President Sales to discuss how this is relevant to your business.

Increasing Revenue Through Your “Why”

As Simon Sinek has famously said “customers don’t buy what you do, they buy Why you do it.” Your “Why” is your number one differentiator. When your “Why” isn’t front and centre your company is commoditized, you don’t stand out and buyers see you as being just like all the others.

Getting to Why is a deceptively challenging task. When working as a Fractional VP of Sales with my clients, I typically hear classic statements like “we help our clients to increase profitability” or “we assist our clients in becoming market leaders in their industry”. These statements, though they may be true don’t get at the heart of Why.

A true Why statement articulates your company’s existential reason for being. It communicates how your products and services improve your customer’s situation down to the personal level.

I know that examining your Why to this level is daunting. You are likely saying “how do we articulate it?!”. There are many great thinkers out there and an equal number of models and processes to follow to help you find clarity around articulating your Why. It’s a highly satisfying experience that when best done engages all team members across all departments.

Why have a “Why”?

Whether you are a distributor of office supplies, a reseller of complex software or a custom designer of fine furniture there are hundreds of providers who do precisely what you do. It’s vital that your buyers see and feel at a visceral level how you are unique, different and worthy of partnering with. If they don’t then you run the risk of being commoditized and have every sales interaction proceed quickly into a downward price negotiation.

Once crafted, your Why will become the most powerful communication tool you have. It will inform your marketing messaging, be the bedrock upon which your employee engagement stands and serve as the foundation for your sales conversations.

The buyer’s journey with companies who leverage their Why is fundamentally different from those that don’t. The Why companies start with the statement of who they are and Why they do what they do. The questions they ask buyers are less about features and functions and more about how their products and services will be used to help the buyer’s enterprise as a whole – along with helping their customers. Next time you are being sold to ask, “is this person selling from their Why, or are they just trying to sell me stuff?”

Companies that sell from their Why will outsell the competition. Further, they have more engaged employees and lower turnover rates. This increased continuity leads to a better customer experience for their client base. Investing in uncovering and capturing your Why is absolutely worthwhile.

There is of course a great deal of detail and nuance around capturing your Why and leveraging it in your sales process. It never hurts to call in some outside expertise to help you navigate the process of defining your Why. This is one of the things I can help with as an outsourced VP of Sales. I am happy to chat if you’d like to learn more.

How to Scale Your Sales Function

If you are responsible for establishing and growing your sales function, then I encourage you to buck convention. Do it differently and reap the rewards.

Conventional wisdom is to hire a salesperson, give them a laptop and a cell phone and have them go forth and sell. I recommend going against this conventional wisdom. When your sales function is in growth mode, simply adding salespeople won’t give you the revenue growth you desire. You need to fill each of your different player positions first before adding depth to your roster.

Start by hiring a business development professional. Have them take their first month and research the right CRM for you. If you’ve got one already, have them confirm or deny it’s the right one for you. There are many, many choices out there so have them do their homework. 

Next, give them four weeks to build out your lead outreach process so they can work systematically to fill both your marketing and sales funnel with viable leads and prospects. Only then should you hire on a sales professional to work through the sales process and close deals. 

Here’s why; the business development function is very different from the sales function. The person who gets joy from the business development function often does not get joy from the sales function and vice versa. In my role as a fractional VP of Sales, I often speak to business owners who have sales rep turnover issues. The root cause of this turnover is that sellers were brought on without a viable sales funnel. They had 90 days of business development work to do and then became frustrated and believed they had no path to sales success…so they left.

With your sales professional onboard, capture the process they will follow to turn prospective buyers into paying customers. Document this in your CRM in the form of your sales funnel.

With your business development and sales function now up and running as separate roles, take another eight weeks and refine both your business development and sales processes. The goal is to increase the deal size and the sales velocity. This is accomplished by looking for ways to be more effective and efficient in researching and activating leads and then running the resulting prospects through your sales process.

With this work done you can now determine where you should add depth to your roster. Is your sale/market/industry such that you need more business development resources and fewer sellers or is it the other way around? Is it that you need to add key account salespeople rather than local or regional salespeople?

There is of course a great deal of nuance to all the suggestions above [which is often why I play a fractional sales management role to support business leaders]. If you’d like to chat, I’d be happy to share my insights with you.

Top Reasons Why B2B Sales Prospecting Should be Outsourced

If increasing your close rate is not the path to revenue-generating success, then what is?

In my work as a sales consultant one of the least common problems I encounter is companies that have a hard time closing business. Generally, when an opportunity that is a good fit presents itself whoever is at the wheel of that sale manages to bring it home. The bigger challenge and root cause of not meeting revenue growth goals is when there is no “next deal” behind the one at hand. Regardless of whether or not a seller closes the deal in front of them the end result is the same – there is now a gap in their sales funnel.

Reaching of revenue growth goals is accomplished by managing the cycles of the sales funnel. As deals come in, they are worked and move through to their ultimate dispatch. Classically, salespeople love the act of closing business but are not so keen on the acts of lead development and business generation. Thus, your best closer may be left with nothing to work on after they close a deal. Maintaining a steady inbound flow to the top of your organization’s sales funnel will lead to both short and long-term revenue growth.

It used to be that salespeople would do their own prospecting and business development. That’s not best practice today.  There currently exists a wealth of service providers who make it illogical for you to put a highly paid sales resource toward top of funnel work. This work is typically noncomplex and can be readily done by an outsourced service. Further, it might in fact be better done by them. Your best closers might not be your best researchers. Your best relationship builders might not be your best data miners.

As recently as five years ago this tier of service providers did not exist. Today you can find lead research experts who will mine and create lead lists. You have firms that will take those lists, further refine, and vet them and begin email and social media outreach sequences.  Other firms will then take the results from those outreaches and set appointments for you. Some will even do all of the above. All of this for a monthly fee that is often 25% less than the cost of a full-time employee.

Using these services help you achieve revenue growth in many ways.  They…

  • Free up time in the day of your best salespeople to allow them to do what they do best, build relationships with customers and close business.
  • Eliminate peaks and valleys in your sales results. As your sellers sell, their funnel is constantly being backfilled for them, rather than the sales process halting as they do the filling themselves.
  • Increase sales velocity by having appointment set with the right decision makers upfront, rather than your salespeople having to go through trial and error to get there on their own.
  • Keep morale high within your sales team as each team member gets to focus on the thing they love doing more of the time and have more success doing it.

I have had direct working relationships with many such providers. Too many to mention here. If you would like to learn more about where to start looking, please let me know. Always happy to help.

 

The Most Under-Utilized Sales Leadership Tool

Appreciation is the most underutilized leadership tool. After working with literally 1000’s of employees as a fractional sales leader I’ve learned this first hand.  

I’ve not encountered an employee who felt they got too much appreciation – and many who felt they didn’t get enough. Have you ever offered appreciation to someone and had them respond “please, enough of the platitudes. I know, I am wonderful!” I know I haven’t. I recall reading Keith Richard’s biography in which he talks about the relief and relaxation he felt after coming off the road, but that he had gotten used to 65,000 people per night chanting his name and came to miss it quite quickly! 

Quite recently I was dealing with a pervasive and thorny Accounts Receivable issue at one of my clients. Sales was upset at some customers being put on credit hold and others not getting credit approval to open accounts.  When I started asking around, I found that not only were these departments silo’ d, the walls were made of bricks. In speaking with the finance group I came to learn the challenges they were facing and quickly understood how critical their work was to the health of the company. They felt sales didn’t understand their pains.  I expressed my sincere gratitude and appreciation for their hard work on a tough task, and the lift in spirits and tone of the conversation was immediate and palpable. I came to learn that no one had ever given them such appreciation. 

In working with the marketing department at another client they were feeling down. The challenges they faced were significant and the amount of work on the plates was huge. They were very much struggling to keep their heads above water. As a sales group we decided to be overt in expressing our appreciation for their efforts.   The VP marketing responded with “thanks so much for your overt appreciation.  It’s great that my team knows how you feel!”.  She felt the power of appreciation.  Opening the door of appreciation was the start of a great collaborative relationship.

Overt expressions of sincere appreciation are often a surprise to the recipients because it is not often they get them. It lays the foundation for a positive working relationship and increases the likelihood that colleagues will extend themselves to help each other out. In these days of remote work and The Great Resignation having employees know that they are appreciated is nothing short of vital. Positive conversations in the hall or by the “watercooler” just aren’t possible anymore.  Leaders need to be purposeful in expressing appreciation wherever and whenever they can.

If as leaders we don’t openly and regularly model appreciative behaviour we are missing an opportunity to anchor this into our company’s culture.  Sincere displays of appreciation and gratitude seem to stimulate more of the same. It is an authentic and easy way to strengthen the fabric of any team.  Knowing that your work matters and is appreciated is one of the top influencers in employee engagement and job satisfaction, and an easy one for leaders to satisfy.  

If you’d like to discuss the power of appreciation further just let me know.  Always happy to help. Rob

Why hire a fractional VP Sales? 

Why hire a Fractional VP Sales instead of a full time one?  If you need serious sales horsepower to solve your revenue generation challenges but a] don’t have the resources to pay for a full-time senior executive or, b] feel that your leadership group isn’t ready for one or, c] both, then fractional might be an excellent alternative.

The gig economy and great resignation have combined to create an amazing pool of highly qualified fractional sales leadership talent for hire. For the uninitiated, fractional means that rather than being a full-time employee they act in a consulting capacity on a part time basis to help you maximize your company’s revenue growth potential.  In this relationship you get everything you need from a sales leader without having to take on a full-time employee.

Because fractional leaders work with other clients as well as you, they bring current “been there-done that” experience.  Often from multiple industries, countries and company sizes.  This can be applied to your situation towards maximizing your growth potential.  Rather than “here’s how we solved this challenge 20 years ago at my previous company…” their advice and direction for you will sound more like “here’s what’s working out there in today’s market with today’s conditions.  Let’s consider these options… ”  

Part of being a successful fractional leader is being easy to work with, even in challenging times.  They are adept at fitting in quickly and getting results.  As you’re likely looking for senior sales leadership because you are in rapid growth mode [or the opposite], this skill set is invaluable. Having someone who can come and integrate themselves into your team readily shortens your path to results.

Fractional sales leaders are often overqualified. They are authors, speakers and well tenured consultants with a strong track record of success. They can bring road tested and proven intellectual property and solutions that deliver value to you in the immediate and short-term, as well as the long term.  Setting the foundation for long-term revenue generation success while achieving short-term wins is a recipe for success.

Because of the fractional nature of their working relationship with you, their only interest is improving your condition. They are not looking to settle in, get comfortable and hit cruise control. They have no ulterior motive other than your mutual success.  Also, they don’t get mired in non-core job role minutia that typically distracts the full-time VP sales.  They, and the rest of your team are very clear that they are there for one reason only which is to increase sales.  Further, they bring objectivity and a fresh pair of eyes to your challenges as they did not grow up within your company [or maybe even your industry].

Finally, a Fractional VP sales gives you a depth and breadth of experience you perhaps otherwise couldn’t afford.  Their total Target annual compensation is generally speaking less than what you would pay for a full-time employee with the same credentials. As self-employed contractors they also don’t bring any benefits costs burden to your payroll.

A Fractional sales leader is of course not for everyone or every situation. Sometimes your challenges call for someone who will live within your 4 walls day in and day out.  Despite being a fractional sales leader myself I have counselled business owners to hire a full-timer.  If you are curious to learn if a fractional sales leader is right for you just let me know. I’m always happy to chat.

 

Choosing Your Sales Tools

For business owners, hiring sales overachievers is only part of the revenue generation success equation.  The other part is the toolkit you provide those folks to excel and maximize revenue.

Building a sale is just like building a physical product. Done the right way it is an efficient and effective process with defined inputs and construction methods that result in a consistent outcome. If building a physical product you gave your workers inferior tools you know what will happen to both the process and the outcome. It’s the same with sales.

This is not about giving your team the “best tools that money can buy”. It’s about giving them the right tools at the right time. From lead generation data mining tools to CRM to marketing enablement software the sales tech stack space is so crowded it is difficult to know where to begin to start tooling up your team.

Starting at the top of the sales funnel your team needs a place to source leads, a way to find their contact information, a repeatable way to reach out to buyers, a defined process by which they move leads through the sales funnel, a value-based sales method to follow to conduct buyer facing interactions and finally a way[s] to measure all of these activities along the way.

Top of funnel management is the space where I’ve seen the greatest proliferation of options over the course of the last few years.  At the far end of easy are outsourced lead and appointment generation services. They have significantly evolved in that they now use structured outreach and contact protocols to warm up leads prior to contacting them to ask for meetings. This significantly increases the quality of the meetings that are generated.  

At the other end is the plethora of do-it-yourself tools that exist.  In fact, if you use an outsourced business development service these are the tools their folks will be using. At its most basic LinkedIn is the place to find your Ideal customer. A web scraping tool like zoom info [expensive] will give you all the information you need to know about that person and where to reach them.  Tools like hunter.io [relatively inexpensive] will get you bits and pieces of contact information, likely enough to conduct an initial outreach.

Moving down in the funnel your team needs a templated way to conduct an email outreach campaign to warm up contacts before calling them. At its simplest this is a series of emails sent to potential buyers explaining who you are, what you do and how you might be able to help them. Also included would be informational content of value for the recipients to click on to learn more about you and your offering. Creating effective emails is both an art and a science and is an iterative process. Hubspot has great content about how to construct such sequences and track their effectiveness at converting leads into meetings and ultimately paying customers.

Once an opportunity is secured your team needs a sales funnel process map they can follow to move leads through the sales funnel from the 1st diagnosis of needs meeting to Closed Won.  Basically this is an inventory of all seller activities and buyer commitments required along the way in order for a sales opportunity to be converted into a paying customer. Skipping steps or doing them in the wrong order will result in poor sales performance, unhappy customers or both. Working with your team to plot this path will ensure everyone can check the boxes along the way and ensure that when a sale is made it is sturdy enough to last.

Having a value-based sales methodology for your team helps ensure that they are selling the value your products and services bring to their buyers rather than simply the features and benefits. Customers buy value. If your team diagnosis buyer needs 1st, then talks about how your solutions will meet those needs and wrap up with the value [in business terms] your solutions will bring they will significantly increase their sales conversion rate.  There are many, many sales methods out there [I happen to have written a book explaining mine, “Sell More by Selling Less-Mastering the Conversational Sales Method” https://robmalec.com/the-book/].  Pick the best fit for you and your sale and you will be golden.

CRM is the place where you measure all of your sales inputs and outcomes. Doing so allows you to course correct your sales process towards maximizing revenue generation success. CRM is another extremely crowded space. It’s been my experience that company size/scale and how much of your marketing function you want to integrate into it are the primary drivers for selecting your CRM. Do your homework here. For smaller companies buying into an expensive CRM with many functions that they never end up using is a common mistake [Zoho is great for small enterprise].  For midsize companies the trap seems to be buying into a CRM that is not an exact fit for the needs and ultimately having to pay expensive configuration consultant fees. I’ve seen that large organizations will buy and build out a CRM platform that is so robust it becomes non-user-friendly. 

Choosing the toolkit for your sales team is no small task. I’m happy to chat if you would like some help.

Not Reaching Your Sales Goals?

Wondering why your business isn’t reaching its Rev Gen goals? Here’s the things you should be looking at to diagnose what’s at the heart of the problem…

 In the realm of sales KPIs there are leading and lagging indicators. Lagging sales indicators such as revenue sold versus sales plan are the ones most all business owners keep their eye on.  However, leading indicators are where the real money is. Measuring the incidence of those things that cause a sale to happen will provide rapid and accurate insight into where your revenue will be in 30-60-90 days.  Further, it will give you time to course correct to hit your goals.

The leading indicators you should track for each of your sellers are sales velocity, opportunity size, sales leads researched, sales leads reached out to, planned buyer facing sales meetings and proposals issued.

Sales velocity is a measure of how quickly an opportunity converts from when it is identified as viable to when it is closed won.  This number varies significantly depending on your average deal size, the product you’re selling and the market you’re selling it into. Smaller dollar value and less complex sales should close faster. Higher dollar value and more complex sales with multiple decision-makers will close slower. Do a backward analysis on how many days your opportunities remained in the sales funnel to establish your benchmark, and then strategize as to how you can make that number smaller.

Opportunity size refers to the dollar value of your average sale.  When calculating your average, take out deals that are unusually small or large as they will skew the numbers. The higher your average deal size [relative to the price point of your products and services] the better. The Land and Expand sales approach is a good one but if your initial Landing sale is very small it means you are having to sell to the same account multiple times in order to Expand and generate the revenue you could have secured in the 1st sale.

Sales leads researched and sales leads reached out to track your sales team’s top of funnel sales activities. This work is the heavy lifting of selling and most sellers don’t enjoy doing it. Once they get viable opportunities they will neglect filling the top of the funnel. This of course is a major strategic and tactical error. Having a lead funnel that is robust greatly increases your Sleep at Night Factor because if an opportunity doesn’t close then no worries, there are other viable ones right behind it.

Planned buyer facing sales meetings is of course a big indicator of sales success. A quick look into the calendars of your sellers will give you instant insight into the potential for their sales productivity. The best sellers will have ample meetings scheduled in their calendar. Poor performing salespeople will often have empty calendars for the upcoming week.

Proposals issued represent the number of sales opportunities your team is bringing to the point of closure. Be aware that a higher number is not always better. A seller who is providing quotes too early is likely skipping several important steps within the sales process and in doing so will decrease their close ratio.  This is where knowing your close ratio [number of proposals issued to closed won deals] comes in handy.

CRM of course allows for simple tracking of all these leading indicators. It’s been my experience that within the first 1 or 2 weeks of tracking your leading indicators you will get big insights into the sales effectiveness and efficiency of your team. There’s lots of nuance to setting up these measurement structures and rolling out. If you need any help around how to do that I would be happy to chat with you.

Hiring Sales Overachievers

Hiring Sales Overachievers

Q:  What is the [not so] secret to your company over achieving its sales goals?  

A:  Hire amazing salespeople [of course].  Here’s how…

Ever thought you’ve hired a great sales person only to see them underperform and exit the organization in 9 months? Aside from being frustrating, this is an expensive experience. Paying 9 months of salary [plus any commission guarantees, benefits etc.] for no net new revenue is painful.

At its best, hiring has its inherent risk that the party you’ve hired is not “the right person being put in the right seat on the bus”. To make a hiring decision even harder, any salesperson worth their salt will sell you on them, and next thing you know they are on the payroll. There are some specific things you can do to increase the likelihood you can hire a sales winner.

This might sound weird, but hiring based solely on sales track record is a mistake. What was sufficient to make a salesperson successful at another company, even if it’s in the same industry, may in fact be different than what’s required to be successful at your company [I’ve seen this numerous times]. Sales track record is of course important but by no means is the only criteria on which you should base your hiring decision.

Hiring for a salesperson’s Rolodex [contact list] is also something I’ve rarely seen work. I’ve watched companies overpay for seemingly well-connected salespeople only to find that after they come on board the new customers from old contacts don’t materialize.

Great salespeople, regardless of industry, typically share the personality traits of resilience, initiative, competition, achievement orientation, courage and high accountability.

A resilient salesperson will be able to handle rejection inherent in the job. One who has great initiative will make things happen when others cannot. One who is competitive and achievement oriented will be internally dialled up to beat sales goals. Those who possess courage will be willing to try new things and adapt towards being successful. Those with high accountability will not blame market conditions and the like for lack of sales success. My guess is you can easily see that the salesperson who does not possess these traits and characteristics has a lower probability of success.

How to determine if your candidate has sufficient levels of the traits and characteristics required for sales success? Google “behavioural interviewing” and you will find all you need to know. Asking questions that begin with “tell me about a time when…” is magic. Proceed to ask about when your candidate had to draw upon the success traits and characteristics.  If they in fact possess them, they will readily come up with examples of when they’ve leveraged them. If they don’t possess them, their examples and stories will be weak.

Behavioural interviewing is just one part of the hiring equation. I generally recommend a 4 step hiring process comprised of an initial interview to screen for overall fit, a 2nd interview to assess personality traits and characteristics, a 3rd interview for some type of “sell back” interaction so you can experience what your buyers will experience and finally an interview in which the candidate presents their 30-60-90 day plan to tackle their territory.

The 1st interview is pretty standard and the 2nd is described above. The 3rd interview involves asking the candidate to sell you something. The purpose of this interaction is to determine if they understand how to conduct a sales call, ask great questions focused on uncovering buyer needs and close the interaction. The 4th and final interview allows you to understand your candidate’s business literacy and their ability to make a presentation with something at stake.

Of course this hiring process is modified and adjusted based upon the sales role being hired for. The approach would be different if hiring for an entry-level position versus hiring for a Senior Accounts role.

There is a meaningful amount of nuance to conducting this hiring process. If you would like further detail, please let me know. I’m always happy to help.