Archive for prospects

Are Your Salespeople “Growing a Market”…Or Working a” Bread Route”?

Posted by on June 24, 2012 with 4 Comments

Are Your Salespeople “Growing a Market”…Or Working a” Bread Route”?

A common concern I hear from business owners is their salespeople are not effective at selling net new customers. New customers, if serviced properly become lifetime customers with current and future revenue opportunities and contribute to creating sales velocity. In addition, they make up for account attrition, you know …customers who go out of business or just go away. (another future blog needed as customers do not “just go away”) New customers result in additional commissions for the salesperson right? Since new customers are so key to every businesses current and future sales revenue goals and can add additional commissions then why are sales people not closing new customers?

One of the leading reasons I have personally experienced why salespeople are not growing their markets is ; they are working a bread route.

As I have shared before one of my first jobs was a route salesman with Frito-lay. Fresh out of college I drove an 18 foot step van full of Frito-lay products to my grocery stores, convenience stores, bars, and anyone else I could open. Frito-lay made the sale of new accounts one of my key indicators along with selling additional store placement displays and gaining shelf space. The one route sales guy who would beat me to my grocery store accounts was the bread route delivery person. They would always amaze me at how fast they could get in and out of a grocery store and move on to the next account. They started very early in the morning like me, but were often done with their route by 2:00 pm. The bread route driver was focused on visiting his current accounts, accounts he and his company have relationships with, finding out what they needed and filling the shelves. They had very specific routes and timelines and if the driver executed his or her route effectively they made a good living. The bread route driver made enough income serving his current customers that he did not need to open new customers.

Fast forward to today and I see bread route drivers in all kinds of businesses. These are salespeople who call on a bank of current customers who should need additional products and or services and if they work their route they should meet their personal income goals. Current customers are the easiest to deliver products to because you and your company have a relationship with them. They welcome you in, if you ask for an appointment they make themselves available…heck, they even reply to voice mail and emails!

Selling new customers requires connecting with new people you do not know, new companies you may not be failure with and risk. No salesperson likes rejection and every time you attempt to start a discussion with a potential customer, (someone you could sell but you are not currently selling) you risk rejection. In addition, since you do not have a relationship you often experience frustration through a lack of returned phone calls and emails, trying to get past the gate keeper, trying to determine the buyer’s process and criteria and so on… all the while needing to make your sales objectives (and commissions).

So how do you know if your salespeople are growing their market or working a bread route? I have a few questions…

  1. How many net new clients have they added in the last 6 months, last 12 months?
  2. What % of their monthly commissions is the result of net new customers over the past 6-12 months?
  3. If your salespeople report on sales calls, what % of calls are net new potential customers?
  4. Do your salespeople have “everyone” in a particular market that has ever bought from you? Or do they have a fraction of the total number of accounts?
  5. When you conduct four-legged sales calls with your sales people, do they take you around to current customers and drive by a number of potential new clients, or do they add net new targets along the way?

So what’s your gut telling you right now? Are your salespeople working a bread route or growing your market? How did your team score with the above questions? Below is how I have viewed the responses to the above questions when I have helped clients.

How many net new clients have they added in the last 6 months, last 12 months?

I monitor the number of net new clients. As a general rule and can vary based on the maturity of your industry and the frequency with which your team introduces new products….if a salesperson is not adding at least 5% of their total number of customers every six months, ….they are working a bread route.

What % of their monthly commission is the result of net new customers over the past 6-12 months?

In addition to the number of new accounts I look at the revenue those accounts contributed and also how that revenue grew the salesperson’s commission. Again whether or not you have a history of launching exciting new products designed to solve the markets unresolved problems or new product flops , the maturity of your industry, the experience and training of the salesperson…I look for at least 5-7% (ideally 10 %+) of commissions coming from customers they have opened in the last 12 months…if they have little or no commission from new customers…they are working a bread route.

If your salespeople report on sales calls, what % of calls are net new potential customers?

Winning new customers requires a great deal of activity. I am not however advocationg activity without focus as I have discussed prior as another problem salespeople often encounter.  The rule I have used in multiple industries is 20 unqualified prospects should turn into 10 potentials, and from that 10, 2-3 proposals and 1 new customer. If your salespeople are not trying to connect with at least 20 new accounts per month ( 5 per week) ….they are working a bread route.

Do your salespeople have “everyone” in a particular market that has ever bought from you? Or do they have a fraction of the total number of accounts?

If all your customers are lumped into one group and not segmented based on key accounts, targeted growth accounts and you have not identified targeted net new accounts… they are working a bread route.

When you conduct four-legged sales calls with your sales people, do they take you around to current customers and drive by a number of potential new clients, or do they add net new targets along the way?

I enjoy working with salespeople in the market. I enjoy interacting with salespeople, their customers and potential new customers. If you work with your salespeople and they take you only to happy customers and drive by potential net new clients and have not started or attempted to start discussions with them…they are working a bread route.

So how did your sales team fair? Are they growing a market or working a bread route?

As long as they hit their sales numbers do you care? Should you care?

If your salespeople frustrate you by poor execution in closing new business, it could be because they are working a bread route. In my next post I will discuss how to change that behavior and drive net new customer revenues for your sales team.

Customers Are Not Your Best Source of Information To Grow Your Sales?

Posted by on December 21, 2010 with 1 Comments

 

Customers Are Not Your Best Source of Information To Grow Your Sales?

When companies desire to grow their sales they often reach out to their customers to find what they could be doing to grow their business. The trouble is your customers already have a relationship with you. They heard and understood your value proposition enough to buy from you. You need to speak with them; however you must also meet with those who did not buy from you.

If you really want to grow your sales you must speak with potential customers and those your team has quoted. Since they never bought from you they are more likely to not overlook your clunky web site navigation or your salespeople who showed up and threw up without ever understanding the problems the buyer needed solved. They may tell you your brochure is a great explanation of who you are, but fails to tell the buyer the problems you solve for them.

Look at this another way…of the conversations your salespeople have each day…which is greater …the people who say yes…or the people who say no? Let’s say your salespeople close 15% of leads. Doesn’t it make sense to have a focused understanding of why the majority of the people your salespeople speak with say no? As well as what you need to do to help them say yes? Chances are your current customers have the same issues and your overall buying experience and customer satisfaction will improve by adding those who do not buy when you do your market intelligence.

Who does your team speak with when they want updated market info? Just your customers?

Who does the interviewing?

Why or why not should salespeople do the interviewing?

Have you used this process? If so please share what you learned?

Don’t Kick Your Salesperson’s ASS, …Help Them Find Their Number….

Posted by on June 17, 2010 with 1 Comments

 

One of the easiest things a sales manager, (business leader) can do is resort to a; “boot on the throat”…” a throat to choke” ….and “Ass Kicking “mode. After all it takes very little effort, knowledge or skill to be a critic and a bully.

True leaders help train and motivate their teams.

 If your desire is to hit and surpass your sales objectives….Help your salespeople “find their number”.

I see it all the time, a new product launches or a new sales goal is distributed to a sales team and the key performance measurement: Sales to plan is not met. The easy route is to start “Ass Kicking”. You know …the weekly and by weekly conference call thrashings in front of their  peers. The sales update calls at 5pm on Fridays that last until 7pm. The “contemplation of your navel” market reports on why they can’t hit their sales numbers and their future action plan to change the results.

Yes this may drive some momentary, fear driven results, but this is not how you create sales velocity. In 99% of the cases I have been asked to help figure out why sales objectives were being missed it was not lazy salespeople who needed their butt’s kicked. A frequent cause was poor (or a total lack of) sales training. In these cases struggling salespeople are told to “stop making excuses and just make it happen, figure it out”. However the reality is the reason your team is missing numbers can be traced back to your understanding (yes you) of your market and buyers problems, buying criteria, and buying process.

Sales velocity is sales increases with direction and momentum and it is never driven by fear.

If your salespeople are struggling with sales, particularly new product sales and or new business sales my advice is to stop… the beatings as the morale is not improving and “help your salespeople find their number”. Their number is how many rejections they have to experience to have a win.

For example at one time in my career I ran business development for an ad firm. After tracking my calls I found my number was 18. If I made 18 calls I would get 2 appointments and from those two appoints I would close 1 new account. Instead of dreading the call process it became a game. Each rejection meant I was one step closer to a yes. Over time I also tried to improve that number.

A couple of funny things happen when you track how many rejections your team receives;

First, they make more calls. More calls mean more opportunities to win, more opportunities to start conversations.

Secondly, if your sales team has been properly trained on how to listen to buyers, determine their unresolved problems, and they understand the problems your product solves….you will have a number of net new potential clients dropping into your marketing funnel. Some of these accounts may not buy for 12-14 months, but if you compliment your calls with a lead nurturing campaign you have a high probability of closing them when their problems, (their pains) become unbearable.

As the leader you must listen to your team and look for diamonds as far as what is working and share it with your entire team. In addition you must look for common reasons sales do not occur and work with marketing to create sales tools for these common roadblocks in the flow of the sales process.

So do me (and your sales numbers) a favor …

Track number of rejections for each team member for 60 days. Gain an intimate knowledge of common reasons buyers are rejecting your salespeople.

 

Have your salespeople report on their number of rejections each week and you will see more net new sales and your marketing funnel will increase exponentially to help your future sales numbers.

Or go ahead and Kick Some Ass….it sure worked when you were a salesperson right? …Oh it didn’t? It actually made you feel like a number, and you lacked a loyalty to that manager and or company? Or you left that team, that idiot boss and now you lead the competitor’s sales team?  Interesting…did the ass kicking make you seem desperate to your accounts at the time and the deals you did close were below your targeted profit margin? Hmmm…so what makes you think “Ass kicking” makes your team feel any different?

Does your team track number of rejections?

 

Does each of your salespeople know their number?

 

Does your organization use those individual rejection numbers to identify team member who need training?

 

If you are in sales, do you know your number?

 

Do you find when the pressure is on salespeople chase new business differently? Are they making things up on their own? Making promises your product or service can never achieve?

You always have a choice.

You can “let the beatings continue until the sales and morale improves”….’let the Sh@t flow down hill…”or you can chose to lead your team. You can help them, motivate them to make more calls, and clearly understand your market, buyers, and have a record setting year.

Leads,… Tire-kickers…, and Prospects…Oh my!

Posted by on May 5, 2010 with 2 Comments

 

 

Nothing can throw a monkey wrench into the alignment of sales and marketing efforts like the lack of common terms we use all the time like ; “leads” , “inquires” and “prospects” .

Nothing drives team members back to the safety of their silo’s of ;” I did my job” quicker than a lack of common language when it comes to what everyone refers to as “ leads”.

We also see frustration that results in tarnished relationships when the manufacturer / supplier lack a common lead language with his or her channel partners, dealers, and distributors.

So to set the record straight I want to share what I have always taught my sales and marketing teams that reported to me over the years as well as my clients’ teams.

 

 

Leads

 

Simply put a lead is someone who has raised their hand, and basically expressed the following;

  • I have a problem
  • I think your product or service can solve my problem
  • I have the ability to pay for your solution if it truly can solve my problem

 

A lead therefore is someone qualified to have a problem your product solves, they want the problem fixed, and they have the money to pay for it, or a way to pay for it.

 

 

Inquires (tire- kickers)

Inquires are people who have expressed an interest in your product. What we used to call “tire- kickers” back in the day. These are folks who walk by your booth like they were trick or treating and fill their show bag full of brochures. Or they surf the web in areas of interest and reach out (like a virtual trade show) and ask for brochures to be sent to them.

  • they may or may not have a problem your product or service solves
  • they are not sure if your product can help them , but they are interested in learning more
  • they may or may not know the cost of your product or service
  • they may or may not have the ability to pay for your product
  • they are curious and may be shopping for a solution or just information for themselves and or someone else

 

They basically walked by, surfed by… and said; “cool…tell me more”. They did not say; “great, I want one, where do I send the check?”

 

Prospects

 

Prospects are those folks out there in your market that your product or service could help. Some know they have a problem that needs a solution, and some may not. Some may not even see the condition (problem) you solve as a problem, but just one more thing they have to live with.

  • they may be aware they have a problem , or may not
  • they may know your company and have a perception regarding your products and services and the problems they solve, or they may not
  • they may have a perceived cost to fix their problems in mind, or they may not
  • they do not currently buy from you , and they may be buying alternative solutions

 

Prospects often represent over 70% of any market and are often great resources for market information and determining unresolved problems as they discuss in the book Tuned In.

As you can imagine many discussions end in frustration that begin with; “I sent you 122 leads last week and you have not closed any of them.” Really? Were they truly “leads”, or were they “tire kickers” or were they simply “prospects”?

The key is Market leaders must develop a common understanding, a common language to insure relationship within their teams grow. If you work with a manufacturer who sends you “leads” or you are the manufacturer who sends “leads “ to channel partners you must define what this term means and the corresponding expectation.

If you are a Market leader, and your sales are a science and not an art, you understand the buyer, buying process and can clearly communicate the expectations of leads and inquires.

If you work with (for) a market loser, every inquiry that “fogs a contact us form” is a lead and is a potential sale you failed to close.

Market losers spend more time trying to; “Hold people accountable” ….their salespeople, their dealers, their channel partners and so on when they should be spending that time gaining an understanding of your buyers.

If you do not like my definitions it does not hurt my feelings. What is key is to clearly state what the terms thrown around in meetings truly mean and get everyone on the same page. Once you have a common language, you can work on building a perceived expectation for each term.

A common language is critical to clearly articulate where a buyer is in the buying process. A common language insures you, your partners, suppliers, and your salespeople have the right tools in place to keep the conversation moving to the next phase of the buying process so you can eventually close.

How about your team…do you have clearly defined definitions of the words like; Leads, inquires, and prospects?

 

Do you and your suppliers, your distributors have a common language?

 

Do you have a Market Loser calling you wanting to know why you have not closed “leads” when in reality they were just “inquires”?

I would value you sharing how your team defines a lead, inquiry, and or prospect.