What are the top 12 ways to keep and attract top sales super stars?

 

By Mark Allen Roberts

super man

 

I believe there is a problem festering deep within a number of companies that may, if left untreated be the single biggest threat to your team achieving sales, profits and your bottom line objectives. A study not long ago said 60% of your employees plan to leave when the economy improves. Well the economy has and is improving? Is your organization at risk? Most companies think they clearly understand salespeople, what motivates them and how to motivate them to achieve super human sales results…and most are wrong. In this post I will share what sales super stars need, why sales stars will leave, and how to keep and attract top sales performers.

 

Like all my posts this post has been swirling around inside my mind for weeks. This one however has bounced around much longer. I have my opinions based on leading sales and marketing teams for over 30 years…do I share them? what if the experts have different opinions? My desire when I write it to share what I have found to work to help you make strategic corrections , adjustments before you find your business in a crisis of chaos. So how do I best serve you? The more I thought about it the more I delayed following up my last post; Why Do Star Salespeople Leave? (it is not what you think)… I decided to share what I have experienced and provide thought leadership from others in hopes of helping better serve you and your organization.

When I am asked to help a company turnaround their sales, increase sales, I always use the same process and it starts by identifying current market truths. I bring them into the light as the Bible guides us to do for once in the light we can clearly see them and address them before they become terminal. Then I seek internal truths about your companies’ true strengths, weaknesses and ideally clearly define your distinctive competence in the perception of your market. Once we have this information we can shape and design a go-to-market strategy that drives explosive results. So I want to use this same process to identify what I am referring to a “Sales Force Sink Hole” that could result in one….two…or even three of your top sales producers leaving your team and crippling your results. I hear that voice of clients past saying; let them leave I will just hire more… Before you quickly jump to being defensive you need to ask yourself some practical questions;

 

How long does it take for a new salesperson to gain traction and start truly adding value to your bottom line?

 

What is the cost of lost revenue when a Sales Super Star “just leaves”?

 

If you are truly honest, it takes much longer than it should for a new salesperson to gain traction and losing a top producing salesperson (or two or three) is estimated to cost you up to 10 X their annual compensation package. Note; When I keep saying one-two- or three it is because when your top salesperson leaves, studies show there is a high probability your other top performers will leave as well.  So why not intentionally create a culture that keeps and attracts sales super stars? Why not understand what truly makes sales stars tick and meet those needs?

 

What are the top 12 ways to keep and attract top sales super stars?

 

Trust

Be a company that has a history of doing what it promises, doing what it says it will do for internal and external customers

 

Communication

Take the time to clearly articulate expectations, objectives and why those objectives must be met, and quickly follow up on questions and concerns

 

Competitive

 

Top sales people are competitive, they need it, and they thrive on it so intentionally build it into your culture

 

Be a winning team

 

Top salespeople win, its what they do. They win new business, more orders from current customers and they desire to be on teams of other winners. Do you have a team of winners or do you need to fix areas of your company that are underperforming and have been for some time?

 

Driven

 

Most executives that do not have a sales background assume its all about “money”, but in reality top salespeople thrive in organizations that are driven to be the best just like your top salespeople.

 

Leaders have High Emotional Intelligence

 

Teams that are open and transparent, that welcome new solutions attract and retain top salespeople, they have the courage to say “I don’t have all the answers today but I know a process to find them, and I will”

 

Strong Values and Integrity

 

Do not ask your salespeople to compromise what is best long term for the market and its customers to hit short term financial objectives

 

Strategic Compensation Plan

 

A results driven plan that is easy to understand, reinforces desired objectives of your strategic plan, and has no cap, no claw backs

 

Listen

Organizations that learn to actively listen to identify and bust through common roadblocks in the sales process, listen and sense their market, that are agile and adapt quickly to strategic shifts in how buyers buy and the criteria they are now using to make buying decisions

 

Sharpen the Saw

 

An almost paranoid drive to constantly improve your people and processes with training and new technology

 

Passion

 

Make what you do about more than you, your numbers, make it a quest , top sales performer embrace objectives much bigger than themselves

 

Lead and Coach, do not Manage

 

We lead and coach people, we manage processes, don’t confuse the two

 

 

If you are committed to focusing on this area and intentionally creating a culture that keeps and attracts top sales performers then I recommend you also visit the below links to content to serve you and your team.

 

Clayton Christensen’s “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7007.html

 

Micromanagers: 6 Reasons your Employees Don’t Like You

http://www.recruiter.com/i/micromanagers-6-reasons-your-employees-dont-like-you/

 

War underway for top sales talent http://blog.sellingpower.com/gg/2013/06/3-reasons-to-apply-for-our-50-best-companies-to-sell-for-list.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2Fgerhard+%28SellingPower%29

 

10 laws of successful sales management http://www.thepeasegroup.com/_blog/Articles/post/The_Ten_Laws_of_Sales_Management/?goback=%2Egde_2392593_member_246416948

 

Communicate clear expectations http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505125_162-57586930/great-leaders-manage-expectations/

 

How to hire, find a sales star http://www.salesforcesearch.com/download/eBook-How-to-Find-Assess-and-Hire-a-Sales-Star.pdf

 

 

Hire recruiter if you can http://web2.salesforcesearch.com/bid/148121/How-Can-Sales-Recruiters-Benefit-Your-Business?goback=%2Egde_71410_member_246012667

 

10 tips to motivate people http://humanresources.about.com/od/motivationrewardretention/a/motivating_employees.htm

 

How people are motivated to work http://humanresources.about.com/od/rewardrecognition/a/needs_work.htm

 

How to motivate sales people http://sales.about.com/od/trainingasalesstaff/a/Motivating-A-Sales-Team.htm

 

Want to Jump Start Sales and Morale? Write a “Passion Statement” For Your Business…. http://www.nosmokeandmirrors.com/2010/05/24/want-to-jump-start-sales-and-morale-write-a-%E2%80%9Cpassion-statement%E2%80%9D-for-your-business%E2%80%A6/

 

Does my business need a “passion statement”? Take a short quiz…  http://www.nosmokeandmirrors.com/2010/05/26/do-i-need-a-passion-statement-for-my-business-take-the-short-quiz%E2%80%A6/

 

I hope you found the above useful and you agree keeping sales happy and productive is about much more than just “money”.

 

      “Sales Super Stars leave when their intrinsic needs are not met and they validate this decision with extrinsic conditions”

–          Mark Allen Roberts

 

What have you found to keep and attract your top sales performers?

 

Do you agree with the above 12 ways to keep and attract top sales super stars?

 

Which of the above do you believe is most important? Why?

 

 

 

 

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.

Dispel 5 Myths about Fixing Sales Today and Insure Strong Future Sales

0002-growth-graph

 

Over the last few weeks I have been discussing common myths business owners and leaders believe to be true about the fixing sales problems and how to immunize future sales performance. I recently went for my annual flu shot and the myths people in line were discussing as truths reminded me of the five main myths sales leaders need to lose to fix poor sales performance and how we can immunize future sales results. Before I can help you fix your sales problems we need to dispel the 5 myths that you may be carrying as market truths;

 

You cannot Train your way out of a sales problems alone.

 

You cannot Manage your way to improved sales alone.

 

The Economy is not the only reason for your poor sales performance alone.

 

Hiring outside help to work on your Sales Process will not hurt your current sales.

 

Just because you have Good Sales Now does not immunize you from future poor sales results.

 

What is the best way to immunize your sales performance from poor results?

 

Clean Sales Management

 

Clean Sales Management as I shared in a previous post entails being in your market on four legged sales calls with your sales team. As a reminder, you are not there to close sales but to observe buyers.

 

You need to answer;

 

Why do buyers buy from you and why don’t they?

 

What is their buyer journey today?

 

What sales process is your team using? (… if any)

 

What are common buyer personas your team is presenting?

 

What criteria are important to your buyers today?

 

When your buyers shop for a solution, where do they go, what process do they use?

 

Are there any “Spin Cycles” in your current sales process that no longer mirror how your buyers are buying today? (Spin cycle- those places in the sales process where the sale stalls, spins, or even goes dark)

 

What tools could your salespeople use to overcome or eliminate buyer Spin Cycles?

 

As a sales manager, and more so if you are the VP of Sales you have a number of activities all vying for your time and attention. Having been a VP of Sales and Marketing myself I experienced the following all pulling me like they had a gravitational power of their own;

 

Your CEO and President want answers to specific questions

 

Hitting your new sales goals

 

Hitting your profit objectives

 

Controlling expenses

 

IT wants to book SAP training and your opinion on what a CRM should do

 

A/R wants help collecting from difficult customers

 

Marketing wants your sales guys to ask their buyers …. (you fill in the blanks)

 

Forecasting

 

Cost of Quality meetings

 

Meeting with the CFO forecasting ROI and sales forecast for new products

 

HR wanting to have succession plans in place, quarterly performance reviews, performance improvement plans, and on-boarding discussions

 

Product Development wanting to know why we are not hitting new product sales

 

Meetings with Product Engineering discussing problems with their last new design

 

Product Marketing wanting to meet about why sales is not closing a higher % of leads

 

Social Media group wanting stories from the field

 

More meetings you did not even know were on the list

 

…do I need to keep typing or do you agree I have lived this?

 

If you try to do all of the above you can quickly become an “an office bound VP of sales” and this is the beginning of the death of a sales VP. The reality is you (we) need to do all of the above and more. However what keeps us employed, hitting our bonus objectives and answering the top four activities above; answering President and CEO questions strategically and timely, hitting sales goals, achieving profit objectives and controlling expenses…you need to be in the market practicing clean sales management. In your market you become aware of market changes, viruses, which can infect your sales results early and keep your team’s sales performance on plan.

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.

Improve Sales; You Can’t Have Poor Sales Performance because of “The Economy” Alone


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 your salespeople why you will often hear them rationalize  since “the economy” is bad  their sales performance is also suffering. Assuming your team’s poor sales performance to goal is solely based on a “poor economy” is like believing if you go to bed with a wet head you will wake up with the flu…it’s simply not true.

As I shared in a previous post it is not just a sales training problem, or a sales management problem 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.

I remember my mother telling us kids that if we went to bed with a wet head we would wake up sick. So we made sure we completely dried our hair before we went to sleep each night. We believed this to be true so we took action based on that belief. The strange thing is we still got sick on occasion and on those nights we did go to sleep with a wet head, we did not wake up sick the next day. (our hair may have had a mind of its own in the morning but we were not sick) However now as a parent I find myself sharing this myth with my children as if it were true. If you look into and investigate this myth you find that is it simply not true. (Sorry mom)

What myths do you and your sales teams believe to be true but make no sense?

One way salespeople today are rationalizing poor sales performance is; the economy. Specifically they share that the economy is the reason why they are not achieving their sales goals. It’s a lot easier to blame external factors than to look inwardly. Blaming the economy is actually a sign your team lacks accountability and is identified as one of the five sales management blunders. What is scary to me is so many actually believe this to be true. Admittedly the economy has an impact on sales performance. With the economic conditions  we have been living in buyers have changed. As the leader of your business you must understand those buying process and buying criteria changes and adjust. If you do not one day you will wake up with sick sales and your lack of market knowledge will be showingthis is usually where the “sales hunter” becomes the hunted.

As a leader you must not accept your sales team feeling like victims to the economy and you must position them to becoming victors in your marketplace.

How is your team performing to goal?

Have any of your sales team shared: “The Economy” as the reason they cannot hit their sales goals?

When was the last time you went on four-legged sales calls to see for yourself?

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

Are you practicing “clean sales management”?

Believing “The Economy” is the main reason your sales team is not achieving goal is like believing if you go to bed with a wet head you will wake up with the flu….it is simply not true. If you want to identify the truth cancel a few meetings and get out in your market and ask some questions. After about 6-8 meetings with buyers you will identify true “why’s” that are contributing to your poor sales performance and be well on your way to creating a sales improvement roadmap that will turn around your results.

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.

Fixing Sales Performance Problems; Frequently not a “How To “Answer

I am passionate about fixing sales problems and growing businesses profitably. For 30 years now I have been selling and or leading sales and a big mistake I often see executives without a sales background make is assuming the sales problem is a “How-To” ( Salespeople  do not know how to…)  problem when in most cases it’s a “Want-To” problem. (Salespeople do not see how this change will benefit them)

If you Google the word “Saleswill find over 2.7 billion entries.

If you search “Sales How To” you will find close to 4 billion entries.

If you search Amazon there are over 1.8 million books written on Sales.

If we search the words Sales Seminar you will find over 37 million entries.

And last if you search for Fix Sales Problems there are 175 million entries.

So let these numbers digest a bit and do you see anything odd ? There is a ton of “how to” advice about the topic of sales ….I wonder why? With so much How to information available, why are businesses still struggling with sales?

I had a meeting recently with some executives who shared their sales problems. I would love to say it was some unique new dilemma but in reality it’s something I have seen many times. As I asked questions I could tell they had researched this issue and found many people with similar advice on how to fix their sales problems. They have worked on this problem for over a year and have not seen measurable improvements. Why?

What have they done to this point?

Why is fixing sales problems so are to execute?

Defining areas to fix is pretty easy; however driving a behavioral change in your salespeople is very difficult.

The key to making any change in how you lead your salespeople is your  salespeople must be sold to want to make the change. They must see that this new technique, way, process, sales tool,technology will somehow make them more money and help them hit their sales goals or whatever you implement will fail…it’s just a matter of time. As a salesperson at heart and having led sales teams, I have researched  the personality of successful sales people and one common trait is a high score in the Utilitarian personality trait. This trait basically says; Salespeople do things if they feel what they are doing or about to do will somehow produce a desired reward in a short amount of time. The quicker this new technology and or training help them make more commissions the higher your probability of your sales team embracing and executing a new behavior. A behavior repeated over and over again becomes a habit and that’s what we all strive for.

One of the leading frustrations of CEO’s is sales execution. You have an off site meeting for three days and create a strategic plan and tactics with key performance indicators. One of your action items was sales training and its completed, but six months into the year the CEO discovers the salespeople are not doing anything different than last year ( and we all remember how bad those sales number were)…why?… Because no one sold the salespeople on why these changes, software, techniques would make them more income. Sales failed to make a change because you tried to solve a “want to” problem with a “how to” solution.

What new product or sales training has your team had in the last 12 months? Have you seen an improvement in sales?

Are all your salespeople using that new CRM System you just invested in? Why not?

Did you see a noticeable return on investment from those sales seminars last year?

If you answered no to any of the above you have been trying to solve your sales problem with a “how to” and failed to make it a “want to”

My wife teases me all the time that salespeople are the easiest people to sell…and its true! Why not sell your team instead of tell your team the next time you want to implement something new to support your vision to create sales velocity in your organization?

Is Your Web Site Adding New Sales or Just a Virtual Brochure Taking Up Cyber Space?

its hard to grow the sales of invisible products

its hard to grow the sales of invisible products on the web

Lets all agree that buyers are buying differently today than they did 10 years ago. I think most of us will agree buyers are buying different than they did 5 years ago. If you are out doing win loss interviews you will also find buyers are buying differently today than they did last year. With 70% -80% of the buying process completed by the time buyers speak with a salesperson we must adapt. In my last post: Invisible Products; The death of your new Sales Goal I shared how buyers today are doing online research and market leaders understand this behavior and strategically place content to help buyers shape their perceived ideal solution. Market losers keep cold calling and missing their sales goals. One way to fix your sales problems is to insure your web site is an active tool in helping you drive sales.

After my last post I received one of three responses;

Sales people; what are you saying; we don’t play as key a role in sales anymore? (I thought you were one of us?

I am a sales guy at heart, I have lead sales teams for 25 years but I have been forced to learn about how buyers buy and how critical market driven marketing is to achieving my sales numbers by helping my potential buyers buy. Sorry, but you are no longer the keeper of the feature and benefit keys.

Sales leaders; I have a web site but sales in my business occur belly to belly with buyers

Yes you could say that, but you would be wrong. Your buyers are now using the web early in the sales process and if you really want to crush that new sales goal, you must have a strong presence on the web to get invited to the dance.

Business leaders and owners: your post made me feel uncomfortable, if you are right how do I know if my web site is a tool to grow my business or a virtual brochure that looks pretty but is not adding any value to my bottom line?

I am not a web SEO expert but I will share the tests I do when helping a client determine if their web site is a sales tool or just taking up cyber space.

  1. Does your web site produce inquiries from prospective buyers? If so how many and is it enough to achieve your sales goals? If your answer is; yes we have more than enough leads that are turning into a record breaking sales year…, quit reading and get back to following up on those sales leads!
  2. Conduct a Google search for your products, your business. If you serve a particular region add that region. For example; “ ____(products and or services)  in Grand Rapids Michigan” If your products and business is on the first page of the search give yourself a score of 10 points, if not give yourself a 0. If your product and business are in the top three listings give yourself another 5 points and if you have a pay per click add that is also on the page give yourself 5 more points.
  3. Conduct the same process with Yahoo and BING. Score your results the same as above.
  4. What is your web sites bounce rate? The administrator of your web site can tell you this number quickly. A bounce rate is basically what % of visitors to your site found your site but bounced; they do not open a second page. If your bounce rate is under 60% give your score another 5 points.
  5. Does your website have content developed with SEO in mind? In other words content, stories that include key words your buyers use when searching for a solution to a problem they are having. If yes, give yourself 5 points.
  6. Does your web site have a blog? Add another 10 points.
  7. Does your web site have links to other thought leaders in your industry, supplier’s sites, complimentary products, and industry trade associations? If yes give yourself another 10 points for each link.
  8. Does your site have a Face book, twitter, LinkedIn , and you tube links? Give yourself 5 points for each link you have.
  9. Open your web site on a smart phone. If you can read your site and find products one of your buyers may be looking for give yourself 10 points.
  10. Do you have a pay per click (PPC Ads) strategy to complement your organic search efforts? If yes add 20 points.

So how did your web site score in its ability to drive sales for your business?

150- 200 points – you have a good site and it is a tool to help your salespeople hit their

sales goals

100-149 points – you have a good site with a strong foundation you need to build upon

70-99 points – you have a web site but it is not driving the leads and ultimate sales it

could be

Under 70 points – your products and services are invisible to the buyers in your market

In today’s market buyers are searching for solutions to problems they are trying to solve using the web. Yes you and your team can still cold call buyers and possibly work harder to hit your numbers. However why not work smarter and help your products and services be found when buyers are searching? What would you rather have….a cold call with someone who might need your product?… or a conversation with a buyer searching for a product like yours to solve an urgent problem they have?

Market leaders understand how their buyers buy and insure their web sites are tools to help buyers buy.

The above is how I quickly do a gut check to see if a client’s products and services are invisible. Do you have other ways to check the effectiveness of a web site?

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.