Increase Sales/Fix Sales Problems: Do A Midyear Sales Gut Check

Increase Sales/Fix Sales Problems: Do a Midyear Sales Gut Check

Last year approximately 70% of sales managers achieved their sales goals and of that approximately 10% surpassed their goals. So that leaves 30% of the sales manager’s not hitting plan in 2013 and in 2014 their sales regions received another increase.

What can those at plan do midyear to insure they close the year at plan?

What can those not at plan through the end of June do to insure they hit plan year end?

Quick question: How are your sales performing to goal? If you are like most companies this year’s goal was difficult as we scratch and claw our way out of the recession and you just might hit plan. How can you be sure you not only hit your sales plan but exceed it? You need to perform a midyear sales gut check.

I have been leading sales and marketing teams for more years than I like to admit. (over 30 years… but who is counting) I have used a simple process that has often resulted in a dramatic increase in underperforming sales regions as well as keep the momentum building in regions at or above plan: a midyear sales gut check. What we do is basically review each sales region’s performance to the sales playbook you prepared when the year began. Now that half the year has passed we need to review how the region performed to the sales plan we developed to hit sales objectives. Change and the rate of change is constant in our dynamic markets and as Sales Benchmark Index shared in a  recent review on Jill Konrath’s new book Agile Sales discusses:

“Fighting these changes, or denying they exist, is pointless.  You need a new skill to cope with being an overwhelmed worker. The skill needed to exceed in this environment is agility.”

If you have never done this process I want to share how I have done it in hopes it adds value to you and your salespeople. I also highly recommend you buy Agile Sales. As David Meerman Scot shared in his recent post; Agile Sales Requires a Real Time Mind Set. Good sales leaders are always asking questions and practicing what I refer to as: Clean Sales Management. Your midyear sales gut check needs you to direct your questions internally as well as externally.

What did we set out to do this year? (restate goal(s) and how we agreed we would achieve them)

What are our goals in dollars and profit dollars contributed from sales?

Where did we expect them to come from?

How has this region performed through the end of June to the goals you established for the current sales year?

What is working? (and you need to do more)

What did you think would work, has not produced the desired sales impact and you need to stop doing?

What have we learned?

What are the results on key performance indicators that drive top line results? (discuss each)

Has the market experienced any strategic shifts that can be trigger points for new sales or challenges to existing sales?

Based on the data discussed what will be your three key focus areas for the rest of the year?

If you had to pick just one, with the intent that perfectly executing that one would make the other two obsolete…what would it be?

 

A midyear gut check is something I like to perform both for the businesses I am serving but also personally and I have added this process to every team I serve. If you have not tried this process I highly encourage you to do so.

Let me leave you with a few questions that may make you want to try this process…

How is your team performing to plan YTD?

What did you plan for this year and it worked?

What did you plan and it did not work?

Based on what you have learned what changes have you made to insure the sales plan is achieved year end?

( if I served on the board of your company this is one question I have asked that has left the best CEO’s pale and at a loss for words)

As the team who has been tasked many years with” just making it happen” we need to have the desire and process to gather current market data and agilely approach our markets to insure we achieve and surpass our sales objectives.

 

Does your team practice agile sales?

 

Improve Sales: Stop Creating “Snake Oil Salesmen”

 

making promises you can not deliver on

making promises you can not deliver on

 

 

The role of sales is a difficult one. You face more rejection than acceptance and have to break through the many roadblocks in connecting with potential customers you can solve problems for. We are paid to “make it happen” often in environments that are not conducive to sales growth both externally in our markets but also internally, in our own organizations. A common problem organizations face today is they are turning their sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” because their operations is failing to do what they said they would do.

When you study why buyers buy as I have, you hear things like;

I buy from people, companies who take the time to understand my needs, the problems I am trying to solve, and who “do what they say they will do”.

… let’s boil this down a little more;

I buy from people who listen, hear, and I can trust.

We have seen many changes in our markets over the past 7-8 years in how buyers buy as I have discussed in past posts. The reality I hope everyone will agree with is that how buyers buy has changed. As I have shared ; If you have not changed your sales process in the last six months….it is broken and you are losing sales you should have won.

We have seen many changes within our organizations in the last 7-8 years;

Less People

Less budget

Less time to do our jobs

Less inventory of finished goods

Less product in work in process

Less inventory at our customers

Less time to deliver, just in time

…and more competition, often from competitors who are so aggressive it feels like they must not truly know their costs ( or they are that mush better than we are)

My challenge in this post is with all these changes do you really know , based on your capabilities and market realities of today, what your organization is able to do? able to execute regularly, consistently, predictably? If not your salespeople in the market working with you most valuable assets; customers and potential customers and making promises you can not deliver on. To put it another way;

When your company fails to do what it says it does and or will do, you turn your sales consultants into “snake oil salesmen” and it negatively impacts your trust factor.

Back in the days of the wild west there were traveling salesmen who would stop in a town and sell snake oil. When we Google the term “snake oil salesmen” we find;

” a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is himself or herself a fraud, quack, charlatan, and the like.”

Snake oil’s origins are believed to come from an oil the Chinese laborers brought to America made from a Chinese water snake believed to cure joint pain.  However the snake oil salesmen of the wild west were known to plant people in the crowd who would lie and say how the oil cured their various ailments. Snake oil salesmen had a sales process of basically traveling town to town and never selling the same people twice because once you bought the snake oil and found it failed to do what you were promised, you did not trust that salesmen.

When your salespeople serve customers , win an order from buyers it is based on a foundation of trust. Buyers naturally , because they have been burned so many times over the years ( by other traveling snake oil salesmen) do not trust salespeople. So trust must be earned and the simplest way of earning trust is execution. ( doing what you say you will do in the small things and the big things, over and over again) When your operations team fails to execute what the sales people have been told to promise, it immediately breaks trust and creates brand damage.  This is particularly a urgent problem when you fail to deliver on promises to new customers as we only have one chance to have a “good first date”. ( first order experience)

The unfortunate reality in the world your salespeople live in day in and day out is their buyer’s perception is the reality they must deal with. The buyer rarely talks to your shipping department, plant operations group, your purchasing department, quality, and they are not aware of the internal challenges your team may be facing nor do they care. What they do care about is buying from companies who consistently do what they say they are going to do.

So let me ask you again;

Is your current operational performance turning your sales consultants into snake oil salesman in the eyes of your customers? 

Are your salespeople making promises based on a dated information set that was probably true five years ago but not true today?

Is your team aware of operational issue but treating them as politically incorrect secrets you hope your buyers and salespeople do not discover? 

Are the competencies you share in your brochures and web site still true today?

What expectations do your buyers have, and how is your team performing to those expectations? 

If your team is not focused on understanding what your buyers need, what your salespeople are promising, and what your organization is capable of executing today you need to be and you need to reboot your business.

In my next post I will share how to quickly access if buyers believe your salespeople are snake oil salesmen and how to quickly repair this perception.

 

 

Professional Services Marketing; a Must Add to your Business Book Library

 

When I surveyed CEO’s years ago, I asked; what is it that worries you? A common answer was ; not knowing about something new that could help my business, help us grow quicker and more profitably. I have to admit that makes me anxious as well. What if what has my hair on fire today has already been solved by someone else (in my experience is always has) and I am suffering needlessly?Wasting time trying to solve a problem already solved?  I received a copy of of the book: Professional Services Marketing in the mail , second edition, and found it helps solve that common problem business leaders share as it relates to marketing.

 

 

I enjoy receiving new books, new thought leadership in the mail. I often have authors reach out asking me to read their book and talk about it in my network communities and in my blog. When the team from Hinge Marketing contacted me about their new book I could not wait to receive it as I follow their content on a regular basis and find it smart and easy to  apply. The good news when you love reading is that  you are always learning something new. I had a mentor at Frito Lay once say; remember Mark, Leaders are Readers, and that has stuck ever since.

 

 

A common problem in service businesses is marketing. I have served a number of service related businesses; marketing and advertising firms, a third party administration firm for retirement benefits, financial advisers, attorneys, the market leader in product management and marketing seminars for high tech companies, internet marketing and blog service providers, PR firms, a podiatrist, a chiropractor, a software company that helped doctor’s offices become paperless, and sat on church boards ( the ultimate service business if you ask me)…to name a few and marketing was always a struggle. The most ironic of those were the marketing and advertising firms as well as PR firms who sold marketing services and created strategies to help businesses grow for their livelihood, but they struggled to market themselves. This gives me pause ….why? and what can be done to solve this market problem?

 

You do not need to figure this one out on your own…

 

Read the book: Professional Services Marketing, How the best firms build premier brands, thriving lead generation engines and cultures of business development success.

 

The authors; Mike Schutz ( co-president of RAIN Group) , John Doer ( co-president of RAIN Group ) and Lee Frederikson ( Managing Partner at Hinge) are seasoned professionals who learned how to serve their clients in the trenches, out in the markets with the rest of us. They are not theoretical but practical in their approach and application of the principles they share in this book. Their content is research based and I have followed their thought leadership independently for some time.

 

I must say I was skeptical when the book arrived (sorry guys) as I am a huge fan of the first edition of this book and I wondered how they could make it any better. I still have my copy highlighted with notes to myself in the margins. I remember buying copies of it when it came out in 2009 and sending it to clients and would be clients who were are struggling with how to market their services. However what I found was this second edition was needed as the authors point out;

 

In the old days, professional service firms could survive without much marketing effort. Put together a team of good people, deliver strong services to clients, and you might get by just fine on repeat business and client referrals. ..today you also need smart, effective marketing and a culture of business development success to attract a steady stream of clients and grow your business in an increasingly competitive world.

 

The second edition continues their field tested , research based approach to providing advice you can apply but also adds content about social media marketing, the importance on line marketing plays and they share case studies by market leaders we all know and admire. In one chapter they discuss; The battle to attract and retain a quality workforce is a key success driver in many professional services firms. Having lived in this world, when the authors share their thoughts on topics like this it immediately makes them credible….they have walked in my shoes and their content resonates with me. In another chapter they share what I refer to as politically incorrect secrets of most service firms; they spend way too much time focused on their competitors and not enough time understanding their ideal client and their problems. Been there, done that, lived that, helped my clients through that.

 

After finishing the book I have only one criticism: what this book shares is not just true for “professional service firms” but all the companies I have served. Many industries face the same problems and all would value reading this book and applying its principles. I hear the authors saying; “what Mark did you miss the chapter on identifying and focusing on the best market?” No, I did not miss your point and I believe in what you are saying. However what I have found is businesses from large manufacturers of mechanical equipment in the B2B market to B2C consumer product companies would value the advice found in this book. The reality is none of us are in the widget making business, we are all serving our markets, solving their problems while identifying the new ones that arrive. The sooner businesses adapt to what I teach in my seminars; “serve don’t sell” the faster they will see rapid, profitable growth. I think every church pastor needs a copy of this book. You solve so many problems for people ….if they only knew….that’s a marketing problem that has already been solved in the wisdom in this book.

 

I highly recommend you add the second edition of Professional Services Marketing to your list of books within arms reach of your desk. You will find yourself reaching for it often for practical advice that works in the markets we serve today just like the book: Crtl Alt Delete that I shared a few weeks ago.

Increase Sales: Turn your “Sales Bucket” into a “Marketing and Sales Funnel” That Generates Revenue

Steve Patrrizi new sales funnel

Steve Patrizi new sales funnel

 

In my last post I shared what CEO’s and business owners often share about sales: Why can’t it be more predictable, more systematic? The good news is it can. The unfortunate thing is most companies believe they have a marketing and sales funnel when in reality they have a sales bucket. A “sales bucket” is when all your opportunities, prospects and leads are all floating around together and many dying because you lack a process to help them buy. In a sales bucket opportunities that should become sales make a big splash when they enter your system but fail to leak out the bottom as a sale.  In this post I will share how I have helped companies turn their sales buckets into revenue generating marketing and sales funnel generating revenue on a consistent and predictable basis.

 

When I hear a business leader say: What we need is a repeatable sales process. We need the sales guys to be more efficient at closing business and bringing in the revenue.  What I hear them saying is : Why can’t my sales and marketing be more of a science and less of an art form? …it is too random, too unpredictable and it drives me nuts that I can’t count on the sales forecasts I am given.” These made me want to do some more research and answer the question: What is science?

 

At its very foundation science seeks to identify patterns. Through identifying and watching patterns, scientists uncover laws that are ultimately translated into math equations. These patterns follow one of two interwoven features; physical laws and environmental influences. With the common pattern of as high as 96% of leads going unsold…what is the pattern and what can we do to improve?

 

For companies who lack a marketing and sales funnel over the years the current market has only made this problem even worse. It used to be, back in the day, back when sales was the “keeper of the keys of product information” , marketing just had to dump prospects and leads into the top of the funnel and sales was responsible for pulling them through to a sale. The funnel and the function of the funnel changed as Steve Patrizi points out here. Today buyers are more informed and as much as 60%-80% of the buying process is over before they contact you. I read an article recently that shared the most important number in B2B marketing is 60%.

 

What does this figure mean for Marketing?

  • 60% …  This is no man’s land: a gap in the purchasing funnel that neither commercial function currently addresses.
  • The 60% mark is in that part of the mid-funnel that is critical in terms of driving the buyers’ consideration of a supplier for a potential purchase.
  • 60% also means trying to build a dialogue with customers without having the advantage of a Sales rep’s one-on-one commercial interaction.
  • Finally, 60% means moving beyond the “qualified lead” mindset.  In essence, once we have moved past the early stages of the funnel, we need a strategy for persuasion and attention-grabbing mechanisms.

Our job today becomes understanding how buyers buy, what common problems do they have, and turn our sales bucket into a slippery marketing and sales funnel that helps buyers buy.  So how do we do that? What have I seen work? Below is the process I have used to help take the art out of sales and make it a much more predictable, forecast able, outcome.

  1. Establish a common language – what does your team mean by a; Prospect, Inquiry, Opportunity, Lead?
  2. Go into your market, ideally on four legged sales calls and clearly understand how your buyers buy and the criteria they need to make buying decisions.
  3. Identify market truth’s
  4. Map Buying journey
  5. Create a marketing funnel that helps buyers buy
  6. Stop the “sales insanity” and map a repeatable sales process that turns leads to sales
  7. constantly sense and refine, adjust , be agile as your buyers change their processes change with them
  8. Measure, measure, measure…
  9. identify “the canary in your coal mine”, your lead to close %
  10. Nurture your leads, improve your lead to close % by helping them slide through the funnel with what they need when they need it.

make sales funnel slippery

Do you have a sales bucket with opportunities that should become sales (leads you paid good money for already) dying?

Do you know why buyers buy from you and why they don’t?

What do your buyers need today to make buying decisions?

Do your sales people have the right sales tools to make the sales funnel slippery or is buying from you like sliding down a sliding board lined with sand paper and splinters?

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have “Post Turtle Marketing”?…if so its preventing you from achieving sales goals

 

 

marketing post turtle

 

 

In my last blog post I shared advice on what to do if you report to a “post turtle sales manager”. We run the risk however of hiring people, promoting them and placing them in key positions without skill, knowledge or training in every area. One of the most dangerous areas to have a post turtle is marketing. In this post I will share what salespeople must do if they find they have “post turtle’s running marketing”. If you find you work in an organization that has post turtle marketing this blog is for you.

 

In today’s business climate it is one of rapid change. It should not surprise us as more and more information is available on the internet and as much as 70% of the buying process is done before the buyer calls a sales person. The trouble a number of sales teams face is having post turtle marketing support. The marketing team, if they have one, is comprised of people who are excellent at creating sell sheets, are proficient at negotiating ad costs, media buys, and purchasing logo coffee mugs and t shirts but lack an understanding or appreciation of how your buyers are buying today. They probably grew up through the ranks in your organization and seemed to have a proficiency in copy writing, maybe creative, and were awesome at creating excel spread sheets with customer names and executing mass mailings flawlessly. They insured your trade show booth arrived on time an in their defense this is what most companies thought marketing was. For many organizations this is what they thought marketing was, but today it is much, much more.

 

What is marketing?

 

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (marketingpower.com)

 

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” ( Peter Drucker on Marketing)

 

Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling the product or service. It is a critical business function for attracting customers. (Wikipedia)

 

Positioning; “an organized system for finding a window in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances” (Positioning; The Battle for your mind)

 

First, it’s marketing’s responsibility to see that everyone is playing the same tune in unison. Second, it’s marketing’s assignment to turn that tune or differentiating idea into what we call a coherent marketing direction. ( Jack Trout)

 

Marketing is the name we use to describe the promises a company makes, the story it tells, the authentic way it delivers on that promise. – (http://www.thedefinitionofmarketing.com )

 

…interesting, nowhere does it say design t shirts and coffee mugs with company logos or book ads in trade publications?

 

The market we serve today is dynamic and changing.

 

How do I define “Marketing”?

 

The fundamental responsibility of marketing is; to understand your market, its buyers, their buying process and criteria. Once you have a thorough understanding position your product and or service in the minds of buyers in your market based on the problems you solve for them”  ( Mark Allen Roberts)

 

What do we know?

 

We live in an Age of Digital Darwinism We are all super busy and If you can be dispensed of you will.

 

50% of leads are qualified but not ready to buy (Hubspot)

 

87% of B2B buyers said content plays a major role in vendor selection.

 

Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at a 33% lower cost. (Forester Research)

 

79% of leads are not converted to a sale because they are not nurtured along.

 

Assuming you agree with the above and you too have noticed a shift, a change in the market, what is a salesperson to do?…Adapt!

 

There are a number of very good marketing automation companies;

 

Hubspot

 

Marketo

 

Infusionsoft

 

Eloqua

 

Make sure you review each and find one that best serves your company, the size of your company and interfaces with your CRM.

 

 

Sales today is not about spending a lot of windshield time as much as lap top time.

 

Sales today is not about working more hours, working harder, it’s about leveraging technology and your market knowledge to work smarter.

 

Success in sales today is about nurturing your leads until they are ready to buy and if marketing is not doing it you must to survive.

 

Hitting and surpassing your sales goals today is about helping customers find you with brilliant marketing communication that shares the problems you solve for your buyers in the buyer’s language.

 

For years sales teams have been told to; just make it happen. Sales super stars are good at figuring out what we have to work with, creating our own tools as needed and making it happen. If you have post turtle marketing it is not helping you connect with buyers who are looking for you right now. As the “just make it happen folks” we need to take it upon ourselves to learn how our buyers are buying, the criteria they are using to make buying decisions and to be where they are looking. We must embrace the tools, studies and technology available and implement it to better serve the markets we are responsible for.

 

The salesperson of the future will embrace technology and leverage its capability to create sales velocity working smarter not harder.

 

What about your company?

 

Do you think marketing is about coffee mugs and t shirts?

 

Classical marketing teaches never let sales create their own sales tools, but if marketing won’t or can’t, what should they do? What are the risks if they do?

 

In closing I want to say that if your marketing department is still caught up in thinking their main job is creating sell sheets, trade show booths and a line of company logo clothing to build brand awareness it is not that they are bad people, or not adding any value. Someone needs to do those product and branding things. However they like sales need and must adapt. I had a preacher once say something that really rocked my boat and it applied here as well…” if you want to see where someone’s priorities lie, open their check book.” If we opened your companies’ marketing checkbook where does your marketing spend its budgets? This will be one of best indicators if the person running your marketing department today is a post turtle. The good news is there is no better day to change than today.

As salespeople, we are paid to make it happen hit our numbers. We are not perfect by any means, however to not use what we know about how buying today and adapting to better serve them is like hunting an elephant with a BB gun. You might feel good you are busy, but your odds of success are nil (and so will be your sales commissions). What I am sharing is marketing’s job make no mistake. However, if your marketing is not doing it, you must until they adapt. After all you are judged by your sales numbers, your results. For years you have figured it out and made it happen. Use that same pioneer drive and embrace how buyers are buying today and the technology available to improve your results.

Good Sales Results Today Does Not Immunize Your Sales Team From Poor Sales Performance in the Future

By Mark Allen Roberts

Assuming since you have never experienced poor sales results you never will is like assuming since you have never caught the flu you will never get sick. I hear it all the time; “Mark your content about staying close to how and why your buyers are buying is interesting but we don’t have a Sales Problem to fix”. Congratulations, and I hope it stays that way. My personal experience for over 30 years now has seen however businesses operate in cycles. One predictable cycle you want to avoid is when the phone “just stops ringing” and you don’t know why.

The leading cause of why businesses experience poor sales performance is losing touch with their market, their buyers, and specifically how they buyers buy and the criteria they are using today.

I returned home from Walgreens after getting my annual flu shot and my mind was racing with all the misperceptions the others in line were sharing about the flu, how you get it, how to cure it and so on. Imagine my surprise when my own wife said “why do you get a flu shot every year?….I have never had a flu shot and I have never had the flu” I went on to share with her that I am happy she has never been sick with the flu, and that just because she has never had the flu it does not mean she never will. The flu changes, evolves and new strains are born everyday and she may have been immune to the past strains but that is no assurance she is immune to current or future viruses.

I will close out this train of posts on how just as there are myths about the flu we also find myths about sales, sales performance and how to prevent poor sales performance. Myths that become beliefs over time are dangerous as they often impede and impair the preventative measures that could have kept your business healthy. Businesses you do not stay close to their markets and their buyers run the risk of poor sales. If your business is in the practice of telling your market as apposed to serving your market are already infected and will experience a poor sales performance outbreak often at the least convenient time. As someone who helps businesses get back on track and build sales velocity, I listen for common statements that indicate a virus is present in the core of their sales team. I listen for comments like;

Our buyers don’t need that…

Our buyers do not value …..

No one in our industry does…so why should we?

Our customers are not smart enough to understand…

Everyone in our industry has this policy …

We have been in business for 50 years we know what our buyers need…

We can not afford to ….

And my recent personal favorite: No buyers in our industry use the internet or social media in making buying decisions.

As I have said before, (and will probably say again soon) you could say that…but you would be wrong!

As someone who spends time in markets, a variety of markets, meeting with buyers on a regular basis one common trait they all have is buyers use the internet to educate themselves. The role sales once played as keepers of the product features and benefits information keys is over. Industry statistics show  70%-80% of the sales process is over before the buyer calls you today. Where are they gathering information about products that can solve their immediate problems? We see they are using the internet, social networks, industry trade group forums, and utilizing technology to gain product referrals and recommendations.

Not sold yet? Don’t believe me? Ok….In a recent Forbes article the author shared 19 things successful people do using social media. The article shares how 69% of adults admit to using social media. Ah ..I hear those voices again …”Not in OUR industry Mark”…Really?

Lets take a look at a recent white paper by HIS Global Spec titled; Social media use in the Industrial Sector. I really want everyone to download and read this report’s content. Some of the findings included;

  • 81% follow business / groups within their industry
  • 26% reference or read work related content
  • 36% had a Google + account
  • 47% view you-tube for work related purposes
  • 85% viewed you-tube product demos
  • 80% viewed How to video on you-tube

Why? Why and how are people even in the industrial B2B sector using Social media?

  • 52% keep up with the latest industry news and technology
  • 48% reach additional contacts and network
  • 37% find peer reviews and recommendations

If your business does not believe that up to 80% of your buyers are doing their homework on the web prior to calling your salesperson, or that your buyers are not using social media I can only guarantee you one thing; your company is invisible to a large number of buyers who are actively searching to solve problems your company can solve for them. Web sites that are basically virtual brochures that take up cyber space because we are supposed to have one because everyone else does do not help sales teams achieve sales goals or create a 21st Century Sales Pipeline.

Market leaders understand how their buyers buy, where they shop and gather information and leverage technology to insure their product or service solution is found.

Has anyone on your team said: “our buyers do not use the internet”?

Have you been in a meeting where a senior leader said we do not need to invest in that social media mumbo jumbo…?

How were your sales results from your last new product launch?

Are your salespeople asking for more or less qualified leads to meet with?

Some business leaders believe because they have never had sales problems in the past they never will and this is like believing if you have never had the flu you never will. The reality is just as flu viruses change over time so too will your buyers, their buyer journey and buying criteria. One change we all must face is buyers today are using the internet more than ever before and they are leveraging social media. To immunize your sales from future sales problems you must embrace the process of understanding how your buyers buy and strategically embrace new technologies the buyers are using today.

Improve Sales; Hiring Outside Help To Work On Your Sales Process Will Not Make Your Sales Results Worse


The first quarter of each new year often starts out as a struggle for sales teams to achieve their new goals. Your sales team has received a new and bigger goal, (there’s a high probability they missed last year’s goal) and now your team’s sales performance is poor or put another way; it is sick. When you ask business leaders why they will not hire someone to help  improve sales performance and immunize their team from future performance issues we often hear a fear that the market work will actually hurt sales and cause sales results to get sicker.

Assuming your team’s poor sales performance to goal will get worse by hiring an outsider to help your team is like believing if you get a flu shot, you will catch the flu….it is simply not true.

As I shared in a previous post it is not just a sales training problem, a sales management problem, or a poor economy alone. It is often so much more. Before we can clearly diagnose why your sales team is experiencing poor sales performance we need to identify a squash myths your team may believe.

I was in the line at Walgreens to receive my annual flu shot and I could not help but listen as people in line shared myths that they believed to be true about the flu and the flu shot it’s self. This reminded me of the myths I have heard over the years about poor sales performance and I wanted to dispel some of the reasons people use to rationalize poor sales performance. One that always amazes is me is leaders who chose to go it alone and actually believe working on their sales process will somehow hurt their sales.

Hiring an outsider who conducts win loss analysis will add a tremendous amount of value quickly. They will interview current customers, past customers and buyers in your market you have always wanted to sell. Their mission, if they are good is to identify the buying process, buyer journey and buying criteria your buyers  are using today. They will compare how buyers are buying and want to buy to your current sales process and identify what I call “spin cycles”. Spin cycles in the current sales process are places the sales stalls and basically spins instead of proceeding to the next step. Spin cycles are resolved by adding needed sales tools and or adjusting your current sales process steps.

If your team fails to stay current with how buyers are buying in your market your team risks contracting a disconnected market virus. The longer the virus runs in course through your team the more difficult it will be to cure. There are no quick pills, quick fixes, and without senior management support to cure this condition it can become terminal.

There is only one situation where conducting market win loss work can and often does hurt your sales is when you interview a buyer currently in the sales process. Buyers in the current sales process must not be interviewed until the sale is closed or lost.

How about your team….

Have you noticed an increase in price discounting over the last three months?

Has your sales close % decreased in the last 30 days?

Are 60% or more of your sales team missing sales plan goals?

Have you lost a key account (or two) in the last 120 days?

The above are some of the symptoms your sales and specifically your sales process are sick and your team has a disconnected market virus. There are no quick fixes for viruses but the best defense is a strong offence. A flu shot will expose your body to a very small sample of the flu and allow your body to build your immunities over time. Staying current with how your buyers are buying and the buying criteria they are using to make buying decisions is the best way to immunize your sales from experiencing poor sales results.

I would be remiss if I did not warn you that win loss analysis and working on your sales process will likely have some side affects;

  • challenge assumptions your senior leaders believed to be true and they will become uncomfortable
  • expose disconnected and dated processes
  • can cause some emotional upset when you learn lost sales were not based on price
  • may give your marketing team heartburn when you find 80% of the buying process is done before buyers call you and your current web site is invisible
  • may make you feel ill when you learn how your salespeople believe their main responsibility is to protect the fort and not help buyers buy

The side affect will pass overtime and your team will quickly become stronger and your sales results healthier as you adjust your sales process and introduce new sales tools to help your buyers buy.

Invisible Products; Death of your New Sales Goal

It’s that time of the year again with sales plans being launched and new commission plans being distributed. Meetings have occurred, financial modes built and presentations to the board done and the year’s sales plan was approved. Unfortunately, a number of teams will fail to achieve sales goals (often again) because their products and services are invisible to potential buyers.

I met with an entrepreneur who called and asked if I could help in fixing his sales problem. We met and after I asked him a number of questions I quickly understood what he described as “needing to fix sales his sales problem”.

Symptoms of the problem were described as;

  • failure to achieve new product sales goals on the last three new product launches
  • failure to grow new accounts, “it’s like my team is running a bread route
  • 0nly 40% of sales team achieved their sales goal last year
  • We lost one of our top accounts we have sold for 12 years
  • We lost two of our top salespeople in the last 3 years
  • I failed to hit the numbers I promised our board

Well I can understand why we were meeting…however what happened next was even more disturbing,… he went on to share how he felt I needed to fix the sales problem:

  • Sales Training – my guys need sales training, they need to sell through buyer objections
  • Time Management – they need to spend more time calling on new accounts
  • Compensationwe need to change our comp plan to there is more of an incentive to sell new products
  • PeopleI have been trying to put this off but I probably should hire a VP of Sales to herd these cats.
  • Product Trainingwe need to do a better job of training our sales people on products features and benefits
  • ProcessI want a defined repeatable sales process , sales forecasts have been a joke , I need to know production can count on the sales forecast we give them

This is always interesting ….a hard driving entrepreneur calls and asks to meet with me, and they share their problems then proceed to tell me how to fix them. (I would love to just once have the courage to say; “If you know the problems and how to solve them…why did you call me? “ ) Now I know how my doctor must feel when my right knee is acts up. As opposed to just sharing my symptoms and where it hurts, I proceed to share how other doctors have fixed my right knee since tearing my ACL years ago and explain how he probably should go inside my knee and clean up the cartilage, drain some fluid and probably give me a prescription for pain and an anti-inflammatory… (Sorry doc).

I agreed to help with one condition; I would meet with buyers in his market, his salespeople, and we would regroup to make sure we have an accurate understanding of the “why’s” the above symptoms are occurring (clearly understand the real problem) and then develop a corrective action plan, a roadmap to achieving his teams sales plan.

What we found were a number of what the entrepreneur believed to be true were areas we could improve, however the leading reason why his sales team was not achieving plan, particularly new product sales was his products were invisible to his market’s buyers in the process buyers were using to search for solutions to problems they were having. This team’s web site was basically a virtual brochure that talked more about who they were and not the problems they solved for their marketplace. With 70%-80% of they buying process being done prior to potential buyers calling one of his salespeople, competitors had much more influence on buyers early on, helping them shape how they believed they needed to solve the problems they were experiencing. His salespeople were being invited to quote much later in the sales process as “one of three competitive quotes required to keep their preferred vendor honest.”

When I shared this market information his first response was…”this may be true with consumer B2C products but not B2C customers.” However when I shared specific account interview notes with buyers he was much more open to discussing his web strategy. I shared that your products need to be found when buyers are doing their homework. Once a potential buyer finds your site you have a minute to win it as I discussed in a previous post. I connected him with a web SEO expert I have used in the past and helped him interview web site developers to address this root invisible problem in the heart of his marketing.

How about your products? Are they invisible to potential buyers?

If you conduct a Google search, right now, are your products found? (go ahead minimize this blog right now and search. I can wait…type in an inquiry in the form of you looking for a solution to a problem; do not use your product brand name)

Are your products found on the first page?

Was there more than one entry found for your products?

As you look at the page, if you were a buyer who would you think is the market leader in solving the problem you were searching?

Are there any case studies or customer feedback? Any for your product?

Companies spend millions designing and developing new products but often fail to invest in marketing. In the above example this entrepreneur spends on average $280,000 in new product design and molds, another $27,000 in new brochures and a few trade ads, $9,000 for a booth and attending his industries’ trade show, and he had a friend of the family who did web sites on the side do his web marketing?

This entrepreneur had a sales team committed to achieving sales goals. Could they use some product and sales training? ….yes. Should we modify the current compensation plan to reward new product and new customer sales? …agreed. Should we work on designing a repeatable sales process based on how buyers were buying…absolutely! However if we take the time to do what I call “the market work”, his real problem was a marketing problem and not a sales problem. His biggest problem to solve that would produce the quickest sales return on investment was his web marketing. His web site had not been optimized, to the best of his knowledge…ever.

Products listed on web sites in the form of virtual brochures are invisible to buyers desperately search to solve urgent problems they have and must be solved and are basically the death of your sales plan . Yes you can have your salesperson’s cold call until the dogs come home, but why not invest in your digital salesperson and start conversations with buyers much sooner in the sales process.