Are Your Sales People Suffering From QDD?

Are your Sales People Suffering from QDD?

Your marketing team developed a lead gen strategy that seems to be dropping a number of potential opportunities into your marketing and sales funnel. The accounts feel like they have a good possibility of becoming orders since they are from your core industries and you know they are buying products and or services just like yours. You have been tracking what looks like a strong return on marketing dollars invested based on the number of new opportunities. The entire senior management team is excited and is waiting in anticipation of hitting the sales and profit numbers. However as the sales leader you are not seeing these opportunities moving along the sales journey from opportunity to prospect to lead, and you are not seeing closed sales dollars? Why? Your salespeople are suffering from QDD.

I get excited when a team finally embraces the concept of marketing and driving what should be warm opportunities to my sales team. They took the time to do the market work and determined problems their markets have and positioned their products as solutions to those current problems. They understand your company’s value proposition and have launched your message. The number of new opportunities is climbing each week and reviewing some of the account names you know they buy a product or service like yours…but you are not seeing new orders? How can this be? Having lived this scenario more than I care to admit, what you are experiencing is QDD; Quick to Disqualify Disorder.

As I have shared many times; “Salespeople are like water and they always find the path of least resistance”…In this case it is easier to disqualify a prospect than qualify one. When presented with new opportunities sales super stars say; “awesome, I know they buy products like I sell and I will one way or the other figure out the problems they currently have and sell them”. If your salesperson is suffering from QDD they say; “ah, I have heard of this company( even if they haven’t) , I tried to sell this company six years ago( one voice mail) , I doubt they will buy, they are probably happy with their current supplier and just price shopping us, so I will follow up.” Do you hear the difference in mind set? The sales star understands the value he and your products bring and is excited to help serve one more person. The salesperson suffering with QDD will “go through the motions” but already believes he or she will not sell the account. The sales star is seeking to serve, the QDD salesperson is focused on disqualifying the opportunity quickly so no one asks the status and next step to win their business. Who do you think will win the sale?

How do you know if you have someone on your sales team suffering from QDD?

By the Numbers

The first thing I do is look at the numbers…how many opportunities has this person been given in the last 3-6 months and how many went from possible opportunity to lead to close? Compare this to others on your team and if you find a disproportionate amount of opportunities are not turning into qualified leads, your salesperson has QDD.

By Mix

Review the product mix sold by your team. Quickly you should see a few patterns emerge. Look for anyone on your team who does not meet a similar product mix. What I am particularly looking for here is new products, sales from products you have been aggressively marketing. Salespeople suffering from QDD will have their product mix heavily weighted with older products or services in your offering.

 

By Margins

Assuming your marketing group has done their job and the products you have and are launching are brilliant solutions to unresolved market problems, you should have priced them at a higher margin based on the value they provide. Salespeople with QDD will have the lowest blended profit margin for their area of responsibility. They do not understand how to sell value so they take a commodity and relationship selling approach.

By Listening

Sales super stars will focus on the value, the value the customer will receive once their problem is solved. They are excited to help the customer, serve the customer they are shocked if they don’t move to the next step in the sales process. Salespeople with QDD will tell you their (your) customers are all about price and we are too high. The shame is when I interview buyers on why they do not buy as I do, rarely is price even on the list. What buyers do say is the salesperson did not seem to understand my problem, did not listen, and therefore I did not trust their solution. You very likely could of, should have won their business, but because your salesperson is suffering from QDD the buyer lacked trust. You will also hear another why you are not able to break into this account and it will sound something like; “he’s got a great relationship with his current supplier and won’t even consider us.” Relationships are important don’t get me wrong, however if a buyer trusts you can better solve a problem than a current supplier you should at least move to the next step in your sales process and not be dismissed so early.

View the CRM

Take time to review the CRM entries. Sales stars will be logging discussions, and have future appointments scheduled and maybe even new business quoted. Salespeople with QDD will have a series of entries that say; “left voicemail” and “sent email” and the prospects will only have one or two entries. Sales stars know you need to engage with buyers 8-10 times before activity occurs. QDD salespeople go through the motions, as if to say; “yes, I did my job, I made the call, but they obviously were not interested or they would have called me back,” They are focused more on showing activity than driving results.

So how about your sales team?

Are you hitting your sales and profit goals?

Do you have one salesperson consistently missing their goals?

 

Are you seeing this salesperson not moving opportunities through your sales process to the next level?

Are you concerned one or more of your sales team has QDD?

 

QDD cripples sales growth efforts. Arguably all good sales stars have a bit of ADHD , but this along with a compelling desire to serve and win they charge forward believing they have the talent and products to win. QDD salespeople believe if new sales were out there they would have already won them. They are not sold on how sales occur today and are waiting for things to get back to normal. Well, this is the new normal and they must adapt.

The first step in solving any problem is identifying you have it. If this post made you wonder about one or a couple of salespeople on your team I recommend you take the five steps above to learn if one of your team members is QDD. Aside from lost sales that could have, should have been won, I want to warn you QDD is highly contagious and must be identified, quarantined and cured as soon as possible. This condition is curable if the salesperson agrees they want to fix it. If you have a team member who does not agree they have symptoms of QDD and are not willing to change you must quickly remove them from the responsibility of calling on new prospects and possibly explore more of a service to existing customer’s role.

 

 

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.

Sales Tool Helps Buyer Parrots Lay Golden Purchase Orders in Your Hands

golden egg hand

 

In a recent post about are your salespeople calling on power or parrots I shared how your sales success or failure may be in the hands of the parrot buyer’s ability to present and sell your solution to decision makers and influencers within their organization. Time and time again a salesperson reports back after “good meeting’s” that they will win the purchase order. Weeks turn to months and the buyer has gone dark. What is happening with the order we expected? What can we do to shorten this sales cycle? What can we do to insure we win the order? In this post I will share one technique to help you, help parrot buyers lay golden PO’s in your hands.

 

Buyers today are doing a tremendous amount or research on the internet. It is estimated that as much as 60%-80% of the sales process is over before the buyer contacts your salesperson. Now more than ever we must find ways to help our buyers buy. Often buyers are actually trained buyer parrots that accumulate and repeat information they have heard to key decision makers and influencers in their organizations who have the power to buy. Here’s the problem; do you want your sales results, your team’s ability to achieve your sales growth targets, your income at the fate of a buyer’s ability to present and sell your product and or service? Ya…I didn’t think so.

 

How can we equip and empower buyers to effectively present and sell our products and services to decision makers who have the ability and power to approve purchase orders?

 

One technique I have used in a number of industries is to provide the buyer a presentation slide deck that speaks to the specific buyer persona’s of those who do have the power to approve the purchase. So what is a buyer persona? Per one of the leading thought leaders in buyer persona’s Adel Revella;

 

“Buyer personas are examples of the real buyers who influence or make decisions about the products, services or solutions you market. They are a tool that builds confidence in  strategies to persuade buyers to choose you rather than a competitor or the status quo… insightful buyer personas readily inform strategies for persuasive messaging, content marketing, product or solution launches, campaigns and sales alignment.”

 

If you want to learn more about buyer personas I recommend you download and read; The Buyer Persona Manifesto.

 

In one company we found we were presenting buyers and those buyers had to gain the approval of the; CFO, CEO, COO, and Engineering. We spent some time interviewing these key decision makers and identified what was important to each, the criteria they used to make decisions, and what they needed from us to make those decisions. For example;

 

CFO– they made decisions based on number, return on investment, mitigating risk for the least cost, insuring the investment supports the strategic vision of the organization. They hope and plan to be CEO one day. They want to make smart business decisions that demonstrate their ability to move into this job when the time is right. They want to avoid decisions that jeopardize or could limit their plan.

 

CEO– frequently from an accounting and finance background with strong understanding of operations. Sets the vision and is constantly looking for anything that could be a roadblock in achieving that vision. Responsible to shareholders, often the owner, they are about growing the company profitably and investing in equipment and services that support that growth.

 

COO – operations focused, key words; efficiency, production, productivity. Often grew up through the manufacturing ranks as plant manager, may have had some purchasing and quality control experience. Focus is on meeting the needs sales has sold as effectively and efficiently as possible. In this example we kept hearing the desire to reduce manufacturing variance.

 

Engineering– They have a laser like focus, all data no emotion to solving the problem to be solved with this purchase. Needs to make sure you clearly understand the problem they are solving. They not only need to see and hear your solution but also see the information and decision process you used to make this recommendation. They want information and ideally open communication with your engineers to have the ability to speak with someone highly educated like themselves and not someone trying to sell them.

 

 

Based on the above we created a slide deck of 10-12 slides. The first two slides were basically a requirements summary sharing our understanding of the problem to be solved. The rest of the slides provided what each key decision maker with power needed to commit to purchase. In addition to the slides we provided an appendix that included product data sheets, engineering drawings, key content web links, engineer contact information within our team, and a deep dive in data should an engineer wish this information. For example, we provided a ROI on the product and shared expected returns. We provided testimonials from other well known companies in the same industry. We established a cost on doing nothing and a weekly cost of not purchasing. The last slides clearly mapped out the steps and expectations of how to commit, what they should expect when. Ideally we always asked to present these slides in person, via web conference, but worst case we have now equipped the buyer with a sales tool to gain funding to support the purchase.

 

What will surprise you most is we did not talk a great deal about us, if all as much as the problems we solve, who we have solved them for and provided what we have learned others have needed to make informed buying decisions.

 

How about your company….

 

Do you provide tools to help buyers sell your solution internally? Or do you count on your brochures to do that?

Do you understand who the power decision makers are in the buying journey your customers go through? If so who are they in your industry?

 

What tool(s) have you created to help educate and inform key influencers in the buying decision?

 

While the statistics show buyers and influencers feel 97% of their interactions with possible vendors are not worthwhile, isn’t it time your company becomes one of the rare 3% who proactively provides useful, relevant , insightful information in a way and language your influencers need to lay golden purchase orders in your hands?

“Lead to Close Percentage”, The Canary in Your Coal Mine for Sales Forecasting

knowing your lead to close percentage is key to improving sales

knowing your lead to close percentage is key to improving sales

If you want to get CEO’s talking, one of the hot topics is what I have referred to earlier is the “Great Disconnect” as it relates to sales execution. Some common burning problems that CEO’s often share with me on their drive home at night are about their frustration with regards to sales performance…

Why is sales an art and not a science in their organization given all the technology available today?

 

How can I get my sales team to operate like my plant?… more manageable, more predictable?

 

 

How can I tell quickly and early enough that my salespeople will or won’t hit their sales goals each month?

 

How can we drive the variability of sales forecasting out of our current sales forecasting process?

 

How can we get a greater return on marketing dollars invested?

 

The question I use that often makes the phone call grow quiet with that all too familiar pregnant pause is: What is your team’s “lead to close percentage”? Your lead to close percentage is the canary in your coal mine of sales and acts as an early predictor of future sales performance. When you ask salespeople how to grow their sales they will say; I need more leads. The reality is you do not need more leads you need to improve your lead to close percentage on all the leads you already have.

 

My grandfather grew up in West Virginia and his father like many men back then was a coal miner in addition to having the family farm. My grandfather used to share with me how miners would bring canaries down into the coal mines as they were a quick early warning sign that there were toxic unhealthy gases seeping into the mine and they needed to leave the mine quickly. Canaries are particularly susceptible to toxic gases like carbon monoxide and methane found in the stale air of mines back then. The life of a canary in a coal mine was often short but meaningful. Your lead to close percentage indicator is the canary in your sales mine.

 

So what is the “canary in your coal mine of sales”?

 

Your “lead to close percentage” is one of the best indicators of future sales performance.

 

57% of companies in a study indicated converting qualified leads into paying customers as their top funnel priority (Marketing Sherpa)

 

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

 

Do you know your “lead to close percentage” for your sales team? …for each salesperson?

 

It is difficult to manage, fine tune, and improve something until you make it a Key Performance Indicator that you track. Once you start tracking your lead to close percentage for your team and each salesperson you will quickly be on a path to taking the frustrating variability out of your sales forecasting process.

 

In my next post I will share specific ways to improve your lead to close % one you have agreed to make it a key performance indicator your sales team will track and report on.

Will a “Sales Force Sink Hole” cripple your plans for what should have been a strong sales year?

sales sink hole

 

The year is starting to show some strong sales velocity potential. Customers have a lot of cash to spend and need to solve problems they just lived with when the economy was so poor. Sales are picking up and the cost cutting you have done over the past 3-4 years is now producing strong profits. This year is projected to have strong sales performance right? ( at least that is what you told the board) Not so fast….Nothing hurts and sends a sales growth trajectory spinning out of control like losing a sales superstar or a few star sales people. When a sales superstar leaves, studies show at a minimum two more will follow shortly there after. In a study done a year ago on general job satisfaction; 60% of employees plan to leave their current job once the economy improves. The economy is showing improvement and a number of companies are  investing in plants and equipment, new technology and creating a strong foundation to support their market growth opportunities. What if all that investment is built on a” Sales Force Sink Hole”?

 

The recent story in the news of a family who had just gone to bed like any other day then had one of their bedrooms sucked into a sink hole under their home and killing a family member Jeremy Bush in an instant was sad and frightening. The sink hole opened up under his home with no warning and literally swallowed the bedroom of their home in an instant. My parents now live in Florida and they too are now worried …” do we have a sink hole under our home that could just swallow our home and possibly hurt or kill us?”  Sink holes are depressions in the earth caused by water eroding the bedrock below the surface. Acidic water slowing works on dissolving small amounts of bedrock and washes it away and then one day a sink hole  emerges when there is nothing left of the foundation of bedrock that normally would have supported the weight of layers of earth and sediment. Rain following long periods of drought often triggers sink holes (I hear some of you saying….enough with the geology lesson…what’s your point Mark?)

 

I am concerned… I see number of companies vulnerable, even as their market conditions that suggest the sales drought is over that will fail because they have a “Sales Force Sink Hole” about to open and swallow any chances they had of having a profitable year. (and negatively impact their bottom line for years to come)

 

Why do sales superstars leave?

 

What causes a sales supper star to leave and often have 2 or more other sales stars to leave as well?

 

When I ask senior leaders why as sales super star left they often quickly dismiss my question with: they left for more money…is this true?

 

I decided to tackle this question like I would for a business development challenge. The first place to start is gathered market truths and do not assume anything. So I reached out to a number of Linked In groups and asked sales leaders, salespeople, marketing, and business owners why good sales people leave. Once we gather the market data, we will group it into common causes, then develop a product (strategy in this case) to solve the unmet, urgent market problem. In this first post I will share just the raw market data I gathered. If you have other reasons why you have seen sales super stars leave an organization (often at the worst possible time) please add to the discussion in the comments section. In following posts I will group common problems, identify ways of predicting sales force sink holes and how to prevent them from occurring.

 

Below are the results from recent questions I posed on Linked In and personal interviews with salespeople on why sales superstars leave your organization. Buckle up I plan to go fast…

 

Inadequate training

Consolidating markets

Brand damaged product

Trust broken with management

No defined sales process

Don’t believe in what they are selling anymore

Stress

Ethics

No sales on boarding process

Don’t want to be on a B or C team, want to be with other winners

Bad Boss

More money

Lack of freedom

Asked to learn on the fly

Poor compensation model

Capped commissions

Change in commissions

Change in compensation model

Change in benefits

Poor product quality

Lack of support

No training

No clear future growth opportunity

Not feeling motivated

No marketing support

Operations driven organization

Engineering driven organization

Accounting driven organization

Job was not what I was told it would be

Understaffed support

Too hard to sell what we have

Micro management

New CRM

Change in Strategy

New company leadership disconnected with what really happens in market today

Lack of sales tools

Dated sales tools

Asked to do non sales activities

New Culture does not match salesperson anymore

No new products

New products that do not work

High sales goal for new products that do not launch on time

Comp plan designed around hitting new product goals, product not ready

New product launched with quality issues

Asked to sell something I know is not what we promise

Unrealistic goals

Cut in my expense budget but bigger goals

Work harder to make the same (often less)

Account conflict

Spend more time trying to keep sales I made than making new ones

Change in customer service

Raised prices above market price with no perceived benefit to buyers

Competitors beat us to market all the time with new innovative products

New products that fail

No clear target or goal

Changing goals and priorities

Something in their personal life changed

Desire to grow skills and responsibility

Growing quotas with shrinking commissions

No leads

Not feeling senior management values the role we play

Not feeling valued by my boss

Internally focused and not market focused

Poor company leadership (making same mistakes over and over again)

Playing favorites (treating some salespeople on team differently, not same standards)

No recognition

No praise for job well done

Told “just make it happen” without proper tools

Do not feel appreciated

Not paid what was promised

Not paid expenses timely

Capped commissions

Poor leads

Poor job Satisfaction overall

Change in territory

Asked to chase payment

Change in products I can sell

Unstable company

Company just sold

Company for sale

No common agreement on what is a “sales lead”

Company up for sale

No empowerment to make decisions in market

Slow response to needed answers to close a sale

Channel conflict

Rude, ego driven new leader

Asked to be a farmer when I am a hunter

Disconnect between Management Expectations and Market Reality

Wrong strategy

Market shift

Market I built reassigned and asked to build new territory

Bad strategy

Treated like sales is a necessary evil

No strategy

Change in go to market strategy, dealer model now selling direct

Dated strategy

Told we make too much money

Failure to innovate

Because I hit my goals; given unfair share of new team sales quota

Burn out

Hostile work environment

Change in a benefit like company car taken away, company credit card taken away

Lack of freedom

Lack of respect from company leaders and immediate boss

Not paid based on size of sales I produce

Mature Market

Bored

Treated like we are disposable

 

The above are a list of raw feedback when I asked why sales supper stars leave. To make sure we are on the same page I am not discussing why poor performing salespeople leave as I believe we should try to improve them and if that does not occur we should encourage poor performers to leave. The topic I am exploring is why Bill, who has been with you for 12 years, consistently blows away his goal year after year, who you think you are paying well , up and leaves and joins a competitor….how and why does this happen?

 

How about your company…does any of your salespeople share the above?

 

How many of the above concerns would your sales people say are occurring in your sales team today?

 

Is your future corporate financial performance at risk to a Sales force Sink hole? ..you sure?

 

Is your company at risk?

 

Have you lost a sales super star in the last six months? Why?

 

Do you account for the loss of good salespeople in your cost of quality meetings?

In the following posts I will group the concerns into common issues and themes then close by sharing how to develop a culture sales leaders are attracted to and want to be a part of.

Improve Sales; How do you improve sick sales before they become terminal? Not a sales management issue

In my last post I shared that sales teams have received their new sales goals and often the results first quarter are sick and not close to plan. This time of year in particular, sick sales is an epidemic. Unfortunately their leaders misdiagnose the symptoms and the sales flu lingers and sick sales can become terminal if not properly treated. One common mistake teams make is assuming they can just manage their sales teams to better performance.

As I shared in a post some time ago; “you can not manage fruit ripe”. Curing sick sales is not about taking a quick pill and driving your sales team to work harder. However if you ask CEO’s a number 32% of them believe they just need to make their salespeople work harder. That’s one of the reasons why I often share with companies that sales should not report directly to the CEO?

As we discussed symptoms of your team having the sales flu include;

  • new product sales missing plan by 30% or more
  • key sales performers leaving after last year’s bonus’s are paid
  • gross profit decrease of 3% or greater in the last 30 days
  • loss of a key account
  • 40% or more of your sales team missing sales goals
  • Your competitor launched a new product that took the market by storm

If you misdiagnose the sales flu as a sales management problem you are likely to start popping some quick pills to remedy the symptoms like; launch a CRM system, increase the frequency of sales meetings, add new sales reports, and possibly start interviewing new potential team members to upgrade your talent.

CRM solution

I am not saying adding a CRM system or upgrading the one you have will not add value. However if you do not clearly understand the process buyers are using to buy , and mirror your repeatable sales process to the way buyers want to buy, even the best CRM system will not help your teams results.

Increase the frequency of sales meetings

I see teams go from quarterly and month sales meetings to weekly sales meetings when sales results need to improve. Managers who use this tactic believe the problem they are having is an accountability problem and subscribe to the old adage “ the beatings will stop when the moral improves” and we know that is not the case. They believe if the salespeople have to report poor results, frequently enough, the sales results will improve. From my experience this will not motivate your top sales performers and actually result in their leaving your team and joining a competitor.

Add new sales reports

The assumption with this tactic is the salespeople do not know their sales results are sick so adding a few more reports will somehow improve their sales results. This tactic, like more meetings, results in your salespeople spending more time not selling and actually hurts your teams sales performance.

Hire new salespeople

Leaders who immediately start interviewing new salespeople when their sales performance is sick are looking for a quick fix and often fail to consider they may be introducing a new disease to their current team. This tactic believes the reason for your poor sales performance has to be your people and its time to upgrade your talent. If a sales manager on your team recommends this tactic I guarantee its because they have not spent enough time in the market with their current salespeople. In my experience the biggest reason why sales performance suffers is poor marketing and not understanding the sales opportunity, and not inexperienced sales people.

Is your team considering the purchase of a new CRM to improve sales?

Have you already announce more frequent sales meetings to fix sales?

Are you asking your salespeople to spend more time writing reports and less time in front of buyers?

Have you started looking for new sales talent to upgrade your team’s skills?

All of the above may make you feel someone better, but you are not taking the time to truly diagnose the reason(s) your sales performance is not meeting goal. The quickest way to truly understand what your salespeople are experiencing is spending time on four legged calls meeting with potential buyers.Trying to improve sales performance without clearly understanding your market is like taking an antibiotic to make the flu go away.” You may  feel you are taking the appropriate action but the sick sales symptoms will linger and often make your entire team miserable.

Add Inside Sales…Fix Sales Problems

"serving customers with inside sales"

by Mark Allen Roberts

In my last post I shared how salespeople need to learn their A B C’s in terms of account segmentation to insure their salespeople  are spending time in areas that match your sales plan and insure sales goals are achieved. Nothing drives your CEO crazier than finding out your sales team is not hitting plan, and six months into the year he discovers sales is not executing the go-to-market plan everyone agreed to follow. One way I have used to insure sales teams execute sales plans is the implementation of inside sales. The first reaction I always receive when presenting inside sales is:we can not afford it. My answer is always;

You Can Not Afford Not To Have Inside Sales to Hit Sales Goals

In this post I will share my thought process on why inside sales is even more critical in today’s selling environment than ever before, how inside sales can turn cold calls into warm calls, increase sales with your C accounts, increase new customers, and reduce your current cost per sale and add more profit to your bottom line. Inside sales also offers a number of other benefits we will discuss, but I hope the above mentioned benefits are enough to keep you with me.

How has the sales environment changed in the last 5-8 years?

I used the same process I would use in a market trying to determine shifts, I interviewed a number of sales people and listened to what they are experiencing selling products in today’s market. Some of the common comments included:

My buyers have to justify each expenditure to the “higher ups”

C-level executives need to sign off on all orders

About 70% of what marketing gives me I do not use.

I have to speak with all kinds of people I never had to sell before; CTO, CMO, CEO, CFO…

Customers are not stocking up and they are taking much longer to buy, while our marketing programs try to reward customers to buy volume, but they are buying Just In Time

My buyers have the C-suite recommending competing vendors to our products and my buyers are spending time chasing these leads the C-suite read about or heard about at the country club…

My buyers say they are “cautiously optimistic” about our economy and therefore are not cutting Purchase Orders

Couple some of the above with the studies that indicate 70% of buying is occurring before the buyer makes contact with a salesperson even the most adamant skeptic must agree buyers are buying differently today and the sales process must adapt if you plan on hitting your sales numbers.

Inside Sales can turn Cold Calls into Warm calls

In addition to staying in contact, touching, your C Accounts, inside sales can establish trigger alerts through Google Alerts that give them a heads up when a trigger event occurs that may indicate a sales opportunity. For example, let’s say a manufacturing plant expanding has been proven to be a trigger event for turning suspect customers in to prospects and even quotes. Inside sales can establish a limitless number of Google Alerts to let them know when a trigger event occurs in the market. Your alert would look something like; “Ohio Plant expansion”. When that alert is triggered inside sales can search Linked in by company, make phone calls and send your product information to the right person ant the right time. Marketing should provide template tools to insure the communication connects to possible buyer pain points for this type of buyer by market. If the alert is for one of those large accounts, in your market sweet spot you have wanted to sell, inside sales will send information and make contact then introduce the field sales person. A common transition would sound something like ; “ as we have discussed it sounds like you are exploring products to support your plant expansion, we have our product specialist in your market on September 15th, would you like me to set up a time for him to meet with you and better understand how we can help you? “ I recommend providing inside sales a finder’s fee bonus on accounts they feed to outside sales that turn into orders. I often use some % of the first order’s profit.

Increase sales with your C accounts

Working with the VP of Sales and marketing you can establish strategic touches. Some that I have used include;

  • “thank you for your recent order, people who purchased ____have also purchased _____”
  • “I noticed you have not ordered since __________ and I wanted to check in on you”
  • “You asked to be kept in the loop on new products, did you see our _______ click the link in this email and it will send you to product information”
  • Promotions – I recommend a quarterly product focus, and have inside sales send an email and within 7 business days call to follow up, “did you see we are running a promotion on _______”

The key focus is service not sales. Inside sales tone and voice should be about helping the customer. All communications must feel relevant to your buyers and timely. When I say timely I am referring to communications that feel like they came just when the buyer needed them, like you know them.

Increase new customers

As we discussed above, inside sales will be constantly being alerted to triggers that may lead to new business. In addition, now that field sales have only A and B accounts, they can work the targeted accounts in their market opportunity profile.

Reduce your current cost per sale and add more profit to your bottom line

What does it cost your company to have a field salesperson call on an account?  For years I have used $500 as the cost of a call, but it may have gone up. You need to add the salesperson’s base, expenses, medical and all overhead to determine a cost. I have heard some people tackle this different way by having a daily cost of a salesperson model. Whatever you use, there is a cost. What is the cost of losing a key customer? The cost of losing a C account? What does an inside salesperson cost? In most cases their targeted compensation is 1/2 that of a field salesperson, and their only expenses are added phone calls and postage.

If you do not have inside sales today, I recommend a phased approach with regards to field sales commissions. In some cases, which will be an eye opener to many, the C accounts are the vast majority of your field sales commissions. Let me say that again in a different way; the majority of the commissions you are paying your best and brightest field salespeople who are not growing current accounts or opening targeted new accounts would have probably come in anyway, even without a field salesperson. I often implement a split commission structure in the first year as we transition to inside sales and this gives field sales time to refocus and not realize too much of a hit on their targeted compensation in year one.

Inside sales helps focus  on creating the greatest return on sales investment

Quick numbers…. Let’s say your field sales team member is costing you $700 per day. Let’s assume, because the field sales person has time to work current customers they increase their base key account sales by only 3%. Let’s also assume you reduce your account attrition by one key account per territory, and the salesperson only opens 4 new key accounts per year. In addition, as I experienced personally, your C accounts are now feeling you care about them , that they are important , and you are reaching out frequently with solutions to problems they were surprised you knew they had and C account sales grows over 10%. Inquiries from the internet speak to a live person and have their questions answered quickly and all inquires are treated like they could be customers. Your cost to support C accounts has decreased by 50% increasing your ROI on sales compensation invested…..I’ll say it again ;

You Can Not Afford Not To Have Inside Sales to Hit Sales Goals

The last benefit I also realized from inside sales is it often becomes your farm team for field sales. Your inside salespeople gain valuable experience often dealing with some of your most demanding customers. They learn your product lines and the problems they solve, your markets, and as your team grows often they can be called on to serve in a field sales capacity. They also learn to rely on the buying process you have taught them and when they venture out into the market follow it because they have experienced how having a sales process that mirrors how customers want to buy drives sales results.

So how about you…do you have an inside sales model?

What benefits have you realized from having inside sales?

What do you do strategically to insure inside sales and field sales work well together?

Given the shifts in how buyers are buying today, an inside sales position is key to insuring your sales team makes quota.

Is “Mullet Marketing” Hurting Your New Product Sales Launch?

 

“short in the front…all business in the back”

The product everyone has been so excited to launch is now in the hands of your sales team.

 

You thought this day would never come fast enough as your life has been a series of meetings, planning, possibly training and now your “birthed your baby”. However if you are like 90% of the organizations out there you are practicing “mullet marketing” and  you are missing ( falling short) of your new product launch sales goals and making that baby uglier by the day.

 

Why do new products fail to hit sales goals so often? The answer is often “Mullet Marketing”.

 

I was flipping channels the other day and a comedy was on from the 1980’s and the main character had a mullet haircut. As the character explained his hair cut was; short in the front and long ( all business) in the back…and it struck me how this is how most companies launch their new products.

 

Teams build a new product and or service and they rush to market so as not to miss a perceived window of opportunity. They feel their idea is so brilliant that how could it not be a huge profitable hit? They leap from idea to tactics. ( no strategy because they have not done the market work)

 

Then reality hits and the Silo’s form as everyone spend time and energy trying to cover their tails….

 

Product Management

“We talked to our key accounts and they said it would be a hit…must be a sales execution problem

 

Marketing

“ we hit our timeline on the web content, ads, and brochures and coffee mugs… must be a product design issue…”

 

Engineering and Design 

“ you’re lucky to launch anything given the terrible product requirements we received, luckily since marketing and product management dropped the ball we designed something even better than what they were asking for…”

 

CFO

“ we conservatively invested $xxxxxxxx expecting a strong ROI and we are not hitting anywhere close to the numbers we were given and I’m looking for a throat to choke

 

CEO

“ we are having a tough enough year as it is, we were counting on this new products revenue, don’t tell me why you can’t hit your numbers…”just make it happen!”

 

 

So what happened? You thought your new mouse trap was going to take the market by storm.

In the majority of cases it is the result of; Mullet Marketing; a short amount of effort before launch then all hands on deck after launch to figure it out and drive revenues. Teams that practice Mullet Marketing often measure each silo’s specific goals without a cross functional goal that defines a win for the team.

 

Market leaders understand the importance of marketing and product management prior to product design and definitely prior to launch. Market leaders spend time with customers, as well as non customers to understand the market. They clearly identified the market problem, the product requirements, buyer personas, buyer criteria and buying process.

 

Market losers believe they can “baffle the market with their brilliance” and we often hear this product is so smart …”even a monkey could sell it.” They spend very little time in the market doing their research and as a result spend a great deal of time and energy ( and more $’s)  trying to drive revenue after launch.

 

So what kind of marketing is your organization practicing?

 

Just as a mullet hair cut stands out in our society today, companies practicing “mullet marketing” stand out as market losers in the markets they serve.

 

Have you ever seen mullet marketing work?

 

Who in your organization is held accountable to “figuring it out” and or “making it happen”?…after a mullet marketing product launch?

 

Have you been in a meeting of the silo’s…how did that turn out?

 

Market leaders understand the importance of spending the most time and energy prior to launch to enable and empower their sales teams to win new product sales.

 

How Can Marketing Make Your Company Wealthy?

Go to "Energize Growth NOW: The Marketing Guide to a Wealthy Company" page

 

Being diagnosed as an entrepreneur does not have to be terminal. Far too many entrepreneurs launch with unrealistic expectations, and if they are members of the 1/3 of companies that do survive more than 18 months, they fall prey to “the entrepreneurs’ dilemma”.

As an entrepreneur you probably were working for someone else and found a market opportunity, a need, and a problem that needed to be solved. Chances are you brought the opportunity to your company and they quickly dismissed your idea. So what are you to do? Do you keep trying to convince your “hippos” the size of this opportunity or do you break out on your own on a quest to solve this problem so obvious to you?

If you are wired to be an entrepreneur you set out to solve the problem, and if you truly understood the problem and designed something that solved it completely, you start experiencing sales. This is a fun time because if you did your research before launch, your marketing message clearly explains what your product or service does and buyers instantly get it.

At first your biggest challenge is how to make more…quicker. The next thing you know you are hiring others and you now have a “team”. You now have a CFO instead of your wife paying the bills. You are hiring others from the industry and training them to meet with the customers you once served personally.

Then it happens one evening, usually after 7:00 pm on the drive home (late for dinner again) you do a gut check; “Am I having fun anymore?” If you are honest with yourself the answer is often “no” as you is now “running “a company. Your days of meeting with customers and potential customers are replaced with meetings, planning, and holding your team members accountable. (You became a hippo) You begin noticing a decrease in the incremental sales growth per new employee hired.

The days of you jumping out of bed at 4:30 am long before your alarm goes off are replaced with the ring of an alarm at 6:30 a.m. and …dread, another day of work. If it sounds like I have been there I have…”been there… done that….have the t-shirt”.

The good news is being an entrepreneur does not have to be terminal. There is a great book I finished not long ago titled: Energize Growth Now, the marketing guide to a wealthy company by Lisa Nirell. If you find yourself in the entrepreneurs’ dilemma or want to avoid it, I recommend you buy this book for yourself and all your leaders within your organization.

I found the book provided high level strategies for plugging back into your market as well as tools and rules that are applicable the day after you read this book.

It is not too late to energize growth in your company.

I particularly liked her chapter on increasing your company’s wealth quotient and seven principles to position your company for higher valuation.

It is time we rethink how we “do “business and break the entrepreneur’s dilemma. This book reminds us how critical it is to stay focused on creating value for your buyers and market , and in so doing your wealth quotient as an organization will continue to climb.

Are you in the beginning to experience the entrepreneur’s dilemma?

Do you find yourself needing the alarm in the morning, longing for the days you did not need an alarm?

Are you looking for a road map on how to increase your organizations’ wealth quotient?

I highly recommend Energize Growth Now.

Is Sales an Art or a Science….it Depends on Your Marketing

 

 

Is Sales an “Art” or a “Science”?

 

There is no general answer that applies to all organizations as it depends…..it depends on your team’s demonstrated competency in marketing. (Believe it or not)

An “Art “implies creativity as well as varietability and” science“is about process, method and constantly assessing and experimenting with process, and managing  the process.

A number of clients over the years have stated their needs as; “I need you to create a repeatable sales process for our team”. However, in most cases they lacked a clear understanding of their market, buyers, buyer needs, probelms, and the buying process. They wanted me to study their “sales super star” and replicate them throughout their team. However sales processes built from the inside out produce marginal sales increases and often increase the gap between your team’s “sales speak” and “the buying process”. What you need to do  is create Sales Velocity.

So what sould  teams desiring  to be market leaders to do?

I was asked to speak at a conference recently for business owners and their senior teams. Prior to my presentation, I reached out to the organization’s members and asked;

“In the areas of marketing and sales what topic would you like me to discuss?”

I could have discussed a number of topics, but I wanted to provide their members the maximum return based on their needs.  I was interested to see if the recent and current economic environment in any way changed what I typically here when I ask this question.

The responses varied from;

How do we get our salespeople to sell new products?

 

How do we motivate our salespeople to focus on opening new accounts?

 

What is the best way to measure the ROI of marketing?

 

How do we align sales and marketing to reduce waste and increase productivity?

 

What is the best marketing vehicle to drive sales now? Quickly?

What is my take on “social media” and it’s ROI?

 

How can I be assured my next investment in a new product launch meets goal ?

 

I felt I could speak for a week and not do justice to all the  questions independently,  so I grouped the responses into two buckets;

What is marketing and how can it impact sales in a way that produces the greatest overall return?

 

How do we create a repeatable sales process that works, has an immediate and long term impact?

 

I shared my findings with the event coordinator to insure the direction I was taking would serve his association and his goals. He shared that the two topics I chose were like thorns in the side of his membership as they keep bubbling to the top of discussions. So I asked questions to better understand past discussions and he shared two comments his owners and senior leaders shared in private;

“Our salespeople are just not working hard enough, I know times are tough, but for what I pay them they need to sell through those objections”

 

“I think a large % of our overall marketing spend is a waste, fluff, and does not provide the return any other expenditure would be required to produce.”

 

Interesting…..

So I decided to open this presentation with a question for the room;

Is Sales an Art or a science?

 

Before I share where this discussion went….

What do you think?

Is sales in your organization an Art or Science? Why?

 

If you could pick Art or Science, what would you prefer sales to be in your organization? Why?

 

I will share in my next post the results I observed and any feedback and comments on this post. I will also share the desired state and my answer to this question.