“New School” Version of an “Old School” Tactic

oldschoolYet again, Isaac Newton’s “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” came to mind as read Matt Heinz’ post about business cards. (See link below.) This time the lesson reinforced for me is that many – if not most – business practices never really become obsolete. Sure they need to be updated, adapted and tuned to take advantage of new technologies, but the fundamentals remain in place.

Methodical, relentless, continuous improvement of everything we chose to do is not optional.

Exchanging business cards is for sure an old school practice, but with a few tweaks, becomes decidedly new. Read the original post, then come back for a quick summary

How to convert business cards into an active network & pipeline

Next time you swap business cards:

  • Ask for permission to add a subscription to your blog (or your company’s blog) for the new contact
  • Send a LinkedIn connection invitation within 48 hours
  • E-mail the new contact with a link to or attachment of “someting I thought you find interesting”
  • Add the new contact to your CRM (via a smartphone-based card scanner)
  • Add the new contact to the appropriate “Contract Nurturing Track” (…you do have several “Contract Nurturing Tracks” tracks defined and automated, right? At least a “touch” every week/month/quarter/year, right?)

Update all your old school practices! (…or dump them!)

Job description for the 21st Century Sales Leader

So much is different. So much is the same.

Today’s Sales Leader needs to have all kinds of knowledge and skills that couldn’t even be defined 10 or 15 years ago – the technology that brought these things into existence simply did not exist. That’s in addition to a whole host of knowledge and skills that have been hallmarks of the sales leader’s job requirements for decades.

salesVPSo here you are – the executive to whom the Sales Leader reports… Or maybe you are a Sales Leader who has been asked for an opinion… What goes into the job description? What metrics should be used to determine the sales leader’s bonus? My opinion follows (with a bit of extra commentary.)

A. Responsibilities

1. Sales Process Engineering

Ensure sales force buy-in to a clearly defined and documented sales process that supports the organization’s goals, objectives and strategies. Continuously improve the quality of that sales process, train the sales force on it and provide tools to assist with its execution.. (This cannot be accomplished without a very clear sales strategy and a never-ending willingness to change. More info on SPE here.)

2. Opportunities & Obstacles Management

Maintain a program to identify and address the Top 5 Opportunities we as an organization are positioned to exploit. Maintain a program to identify and address the Top 5 Obstacles that inhibit greater sales achievement. (“O & O” is critical to ensure continued focus on the important vs. the urgent.) Use these two programs to manage the linkage between Sales and Marketing.

3. Sales Process Media

Develop and deploy digital media (text, image, audio and video) that supports and offloads work from the sales force. Coordinate SPM actions with Marketing. (The perspective needed for effective use of SPM follows:  “Our mission is to remove the human element from sales. We know we will never achieve it. But in pursuing it we will demolish sales process obstacles.” More info on SPM here.)

4. Sales IT

Work closely with IT resources to ensure adequate systems are in place to support Sales Operations. Ensure that these systems are fully utilized. These systems specifically include, but are not limited to a robust CRM system and Sales Process Media Platform.

5. Leadership

Maintain adequate staffing of the Sales Department. Minimize turnover of the top 50% of performers. Coach weak performers up to at least average performance or out of the organization. (Great sales leadership results in top performers who continuously improve, are highly satisfied with their jobs and have zero desire to go elsewhere. Notice the wording here addresses “what” needs to be accomplished, not “how” to accomplish it.)

B. Metrics

1. Financial

(Some things will never change!)

  • Meet or exceed revenue target
  • Meet or exceed profit target
  • Meet or beat expense target

2. Sales Process

  • Sales Forecast Accuracy (An accurate forecast is dependent on effective use of the CRM system to track sales opportunities, which in turn means the sales force has bought into the sales process. This is the critical metric for judging the effectiveness of Sales Process Engineering.)
  • Funnel Performance (These are the critical metrics for judging the effectiveness of Sales Process Media. Better performance on any of these metrics means that sales work is being offloaded to SPM, enabling sales personnel to become more productive. It is also a deeper-level set of metrics for judging the effectiveness of Sales Process Engineering.)
    • Number of active opportunities per stage
    • $ Value of active opportunities per stage
    • % of opportunities advanced by stage
    • Cycle time by stage

3. Leadership

(Together, these two metrics ensure that the right number of the right people are “on the bus” and “stay on the bus.”)

  • Headcount Plan Met (Yes or No)
  • Sales force turnover

Download an outline of the Sales Leader Job Description.


The Three Core Principles of Sales Process Engineering

There are countless ideas, principles, facts and nuances that alone and in combination contribute to a truly outstanding performance in sales or sales management.  We read the books and articles, listen to the speeches and lectures and learn from our own experiences and mistakes.  But what is the best way to organize all that knowledge so we can apply it most effectively?  The answer lies in the Three Core Principles of Sales Process Engineering.

Principle #1 – Continuous improvement of the sales process is fundamentally essential.

Who can argue with that statement?  It’s motherhood and apple pie.  It’s blatantly obvious that both individuals and sales teams must continually work hard at getting better.  If we stand pat and the competition improves, relatively speaking, we’re falling farther and farther behind.

speNo need to belabor the point.  None of us has any real choice other than to embrace and commit to the concept.  Just be aware that it’s one of those seemingly innocuous statements that carry implications with some seriously sharp teeth.  In fact, by accepting principle one, you have also just accepted principles two and three.

Principle #2 – Objective metrics – lots of them – are required to judge the quality, the amount and the pace of improvement.

Are you (and your sales team) better than average?  My company surveyed over 300 sales executives, and this was one of the questions.  Based on the responses, we “concluded” that 83% of sales teams are above average.  Hmmm…  Think about that.  Does the bell curve not apply to sales?

Consider a different question.  By what percent are you improving the quality of execution of each of your most critical sales activities?  If you are unable to produce the statistics, you have no valid means of answering the question.  You have no facts; nothing to back up your own subjective opinion.  In other words, you just violated your commitment to principle #1.  If you can’t show me your rate of improvement, how can you or I know if you’re improving at all?  Maybe you’re getting worse!

Here’s yet another question.  How many sales metrics are enough, how many different sales activities should be measured?  The hard, cold fact of the matter is that most sales organizations formally and regularly track only two; revenue and profit.

Take a different perspective and consider the big league baseball manager whose team is on a losing streak.  He calls a team meeting and informs the players that after a careful examination of the key metrics – both of them – he knows exactly why they are not winning and what needs to be done.  He informs them that all they need to do is score more runs and to keep the other team from scoring so many.

Gee thanks, coach…  In the context of baseball, using only two metrics is ludicrous.  It’s not possible to effectively run, no less coach and improve a team with only two after-the-fact, “results” metrics.  “Process” metrics – and lots of them – are requried before any kind of reliable coaching can be done.

In the words of W. Edwards Deming, “What gets measured, gets done.”  To that I would add, “The more that gets measured, the more that gets done.

Principle #3 – A well-defined sales process is a pre-requisite for determining meaningful metrics.

Humor me for a minute…  Take out a blank sheet of paper and write down the three key measurements you would use to judge the quality of the performance of your wicket-keeper.  I’ll wait…  Got them?

Maybe you recognized “wicket-keeper” as one of the players on a cricket team.  Odds are quite low (unless you are from the UK or India) that you were able to come up with any meaningful metrics.  Here’s the point…  If you don’t know anything about the wicket-keeping process, there’s no way on earth you can define even one meaningful wicket-keeping measurement.  In other words, until you implement principle #3, you cannot get started on implementing principle #2.

This concept also applies to sales.  You must have a clear, detailed, written sales process, embraced and used by everyone in your company.

Without that clearly defined process, development of meaningful metrics is simply not possible.  Without metrics you cannot know if performance of any given key sales task is improving or declining, or at what rate, or how you compare to others in your company or industry.  Not knowing if you’re getting better or worse or where you stand competitively to begin with, means you don’t really care that much about continuous improvement.

Think About It…

In God We Trust …everybody else bring data

What if you as a sales manager had data about your sales process like the example below.  Study it.  Think about it a bit.  The sample company has annual sales of about $46 million and uses a six stage sales process with cycle times and success rates by stage as shown.  (Your process might be 4 stages or 7 stages with different definitions for each, but that doesn’t change the point one iota.)

At the time of this snapshot, they had a total of $271 million potential sales at the top end of their funnel.  Historically, they know it takes 98 days to qualify 51% of that potential and move it to stage 2; another 31 days to get 54% to stage 3; etc.

funnel1

Now it gets interesting.  What if?  A sales manager can ask all kinds of “What ifs?” with this sort of data.  For example, what if all the cycle times, success rates and profit margin could be improved by a mere 1%?

funnel2

As you can see, sales would go up better than 7% to over $49 million and profit would go up 8+% to more than $13 million.  Hmmmmm….  Well it’s hard to  improve that many things all at once.  What if this company focused on just one thing; like reducing the cycle time of Present/Propose.  For them, this stage is totally internal – completely under their own control.  What if they took it from 18 days to 7 days?

funnel3

As you can see, that last “what if” would mean a 6 1/2% increase in sales and profit.  Get the point?  If you:

  • Have a defined sales process, and
  • Have collected data for few months

You can use this simple model to make data-backed decisions about where your coaching efforts should be directed.

It’s not guessing or gut feel.  It’s coaching to improve performance of execution of the parts of your sales process that will yield the greatest improvement to the bottom line.

Think About It…