Fix Sales Performance; Stop Playing “Marko Polo “With Your Buyers

When we were young we often played the kids game Marko Polo in a pool or any body of water for that matter. The person who was “it” would close their eyes and shout “Marko” and all the others in the pool where not it would yell “Polo” . The objective of the game was if you were saying Marko to locate and tag others who said Polo and you win. Far too many salespeople today act like they are “it” and blindly shout out features and benefits to anyone in their market who will listen , just hoping one of their buyers yells polo and they can reach them fast enough to make a sale before the buyer moves.

Salespeople who do not allow buyers to play “Marko Polo” achieve and surpass sales goals.

I was asked to help a top sales star on a large elephant sale he was working for over six months but for some reason has not been able to close. I asked to meet with the buyer to try to understand what was preventing this salesperson from closing this order that could make his, and his companies’ sales year. On the drive to the account the salesman shared how he saw this opportunity as pretty straight forward. The buyer contacted him about six months ago and wanted to meet to discuss products and get a quote that may be able to fix a problem she was having. The sales person went on to say how every time he follows up on this proposal, the buyer changes something and needs to speak with someone new or adds another criteria that is very important and this has stalled the sale.

We met with the buyer and she shared that she did in fact contact the salesman six months ago because she found his product on the internet doing some research, asked around in her network and felt it would be a perfect solution to a problem her company was having. She asked for a quote and she went on to say how the salesperson did a great job of sending her a quote for what she requested within 24 hours. I could feel something was definitely off in this salesperson – buyer exchange so I started asking questions. I wanted to clearly understand the problem and the buyer was more than willing to share and actually take us both on a tour and showed us the situation. (this was the first time in six months this salesperson had been beyond the meeting office adjacent to the lobby) As I continued to ask questions I found the salesperson was firing features and benefits that could possibly solve the question …”Marko”. The buyer would then grow quiet as the salesperson played feature and benefit bingo just hoping something he was trained to say would stick and help close this big sale. I would start asking more questions and the buyer invited me to meet with their chief engineer who was in charge of the technical application and integration of whatever product they decided to purchase. I continued to ask questions and this engineer brought up new criteria and expectations the buyer had yet to share. I asked if anyone else was involved in the project and the buyer and engineer smiled and said “well this is Bob’s plant and nothing new goes into this plant without his blessing”. So I asked if we could meet Bob and they said he is typically a really busy guy who does not meet with vendors, but we will try.

Bob was in his office, perch if you will over looking the entire facility. The engineer asked if he had a minute and he saw all of us in his doorway and quickly said no, just gather their information and email it to me. So I stepped forward and introduced myself and said the reason we wanted to meet him was we understood this was his plant, and we were quoting this project to solve the problem we discussed and wanted to make sure we completely understood the problem from his perspective and wanted to make sure we gathered all the requirements . Bob agreed to give us 5 minutes and an hour latter we left his office.

When we returned to the buyer’s meeting office the salesperson moved into an awkward at best close. He even went as far as saying he could probably get a discount since their prices were going up in 30 days. REALLY? I could not believe he was using a tactic that might work on his small mom and pop accounts on this multinational corporation. The buyer grew quiet again. I quickly asked if we could meet again next week and present the ideal solution based on everything the buyer, engineer, and Bob shared.

The trouble with this sale is what I call “Marko Polo sales”.

How do you know if your salespeople are “Marko Polo selling?

  1. The buyer asked for a quote of a specific product and that’s what they received.
  2. Your salesperson does not know or understand the problem the buyer wants to solve.
  3. Sales has not identified all the decision makers and influencers
  4. Sales quickly provided a quote “Marko
  5. Every time the salesperson follows up something new comes up or someone new has to approve the quote “Polo
  6. The buyer is often not sure what the entire problem is to be solved so they are gathering information and share new criteria on each call. “Polo
  7. The sales person plugs the opportunity into their CRM system and calls the buyer every 2-3 weeks to see if they have made a decision? “Marko”
  8. Often the buyer goes dark and fails to respond to email or voice messages.
  9. Sales proceeds to get more aggressive trying to close and calls the buyer more often “Marko
  10. Ultimately the buyer makes a decision to buy your product or leave the pool “Polo

Unlike the child’s game if you catch someone leaving the pool you yell “fish out of water” and win….in sales you lose. Chances are the buyer found another salesperson who took the time to clearly understand the problem and their quote just felt right.

If you ask your sales star why the deal everyone thought he would close fell though he will say Price, Availability, and my particular favorite the competitor’s product had a feature ours did not have. In reality, if you do win loss calls buyers will tell you why they did not buy and price is not even on the list.

If you want to Fix Sales Performance; Stop Playing “Marko Polo “With Your Buyers!

We returned to the account a week later and presented an different solution and we asked our product engineers to also attend to answer any technical questions that may arise and after the presentation we took Bob and team to a near by installation so he and his team could speak with someone using our products. My client won the sale and went on to win all their facilities from what I understand over the next few years.

Are your salespeople playing “Marko Polo” with your buyers?

Have you lost a large order you thought you were going to win in the last six months?

Why did your salesperson say you lost this order?

Did you conduct a win loss call with the buyer to verify?

One of my early mentors used to say “time kills deals” The longer a possible sale drags on the less your probability of closing. When salespeople do not understand the problem being solved and just quote what the buyer asked for they run the risk of playing Marko Polo and having experienced buyers just leave the pool.

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?

Want More Sales? Learn to Pull the Trigger


Let’s face it, the market’s completive and everyone is out to make more sales and trying to hit their sales plan. We have heard for years: a sale is about being at the right place at the right time with the perfect solution. Most salespeople work their market like a bread route hoping to fall upon, or fall into an urgent problem someone is willing to pay to solve. How do market leading teams create repeatable sales velocity each year? Why do market losers keep kicking their sales team’s in the butt and getting no where when market leaders hit plan year after year? It’s because market leading sales teams have learned how to “Pull the Trigger”.

One of the industries I served was handicapped accessible vehicles. It was a really rewarding job helping those with physical challenges drive again with a lowered floor mini van they could drive from their wheelchair or a stowage lift fitted to their current vehicle. I was tasked with growing our sales in the face of a huge dominant market 800lb gorilla that seemed to have a media and advertising budget that was limitless. Our team was forced to sell smarter since we would never have the marketing budget of our competitor who seemed to spread a blanket over all trade publications, the web, trade shows and even local TV advertising. The first thing we did was start interviewing our past customers and current customers to understand their buying process. We needed to know what made them buy, why they bought, why they chose us and so on. In doing so we identified events that cause (trigger) this market’s buyers to seek a new handicapped accessible vehicle. We found trigger events like;

  • a recent injury
  • a medical condition
  • completing rehabilitation and needing new transportation
  • caring for a parent or other loved one in a wheelchair
  • military veterans returning home with physical challenges
  • past customers who have experienced a change in their physical condition
  • tax returns, customers receiving tax returns and they waited for their tax return to be a down payment on a handicapped accessible vehicle
  • aggressive OEM automotive rebate programs
  • their current vehicle needing an expensive repair
  • their current vehicle breaking down and leaving them stranded or missing work or important medical appointment
  • their current accessible vehicle moving out of the manufacturers warrantee

There are ways to reach each of the above consumers who are experiencing what I call a trigger event however we were forced to eliminate those that required large marketing budgets. So we reviewed our interview notes and found one of the most common trigger events was buying a new vehicle just before the manufacturers warrantee expired. We also saw a high correlation of sales when the OEM manufacturer offered new car incentives like rebates or aggressive financing programs. We created a very simple letter that said we see your vehicle (based on our sales database  and service records) was about to go out of the manufacturers warrantee and shared any OEM automotive rebates or finance programs currently available. The results?… After about 90 days our quote volume tripled and after six months our averaged monthly sales revenues doubled.

Trigger based marketing and sales increases quote volume and closed sales revenues.

Triggers are nothing more than occurrences that define conditions that warrant action. Good trigger-based marketing strategies leverage these occurrences to present solutions at the right place and time. The two key factors to trigger based marketing and sales is timing and relevancy.

What are the triggers that make your buyers want to take action?

Below are some other industry examples I have experienced to help get your trigger list started.

Training Seminars – new employees joining the team, employees being promoted, large companies publicaly missing a revenue objective, merger or acquisition, competitor launching innovative product or service they should have launched

Snack foods – Super bowl, Fourth of July, back to school

Loss prevention industry – new product with high value with small shelf footprint launching, packaging change like videos moving from cassette to DVD, Compact Discs in 12” cardboard packages moving to just the CD jewel case, new store opening in high crime area, local crime reports

Consulting services – new executive, merger or acquisition, dip in quarterly earnings, high sales turnover, high executive turnover

Pension and 401k industry– sale of a business, employee buy out, April- right after business owners had to pay taxes that could have been avoids with a properly designed defined benefit and or defined contribution strategy

Mechanical equipment – plant expansion, new plant manager, new plant, and state grant awarded for job creation, landing large high profile customer, change in technology, and change in government regulations, current equipment failure, incentives for energy savings equipment

Physical fitness – consumers turning 50 years of age , mothers who just had babies

Tanning Salons – weddings and prom’s

Window cleaning – sale of a home, graduation parties, wedding announcements

Understanding your market and specifically your buyers and their buying process is key to trigger based marketing and sales. While market losers keep cold calling, hoping to fall into an opportunity your team will be targeting known buyers with a high probability of having a problem you can solve and they are urgently seeking to solve it. With technology today you can establish alerts through Google Alerts that will send you a message when a trigger event occurs.

What events trigger buyers to take action in your industry?

Is their an industry that trigger based marketing and sales would not work? Why?

Trigger based marketing and sales is not expensive and will produce measurable sales increases once you identify the leading buying triggers and refine you message and sales tools to solve those buyers problems.

Stop Making Your Salespeople “Assume The Position” …

the buyer pat down without a positioning statement

By Mark Allen Roberts

In my last few posts have been about how buyers become “Brand Damaged” and this preventable disease will quickly eat away at any chances your team thought they had of achieving their sales goals. It is very difficult to heal damaged brands. Another marketing disease that frequents particularly large companies occurs when sales has to : Assume the Position of your product or service when presenting buyers. If your salespeople do not clearly understand your product positioning they are left to be pat down by buyers . Sales then assumes what it must represent to make this uncomfortable experience end,and the result is very dangerous. It is dangerous because you fail to close sales you probability could have won  and your sales team is promising things you can not execute.

I can hear some of you now, “ok, you have discussed branding and positioning in the last two posts, enough already!” My answer is no, I have shared branding and how your brand can become a damaged brand in the minds of your buyers. In this post I will discuss how far too many companies force their salespeople to ; Assume the Position their product or service has in the minds of their buyers and this results in lost sales that could have been yours.

Let’s go over a couple quick definitions;

Brand– Unique designsignsymbolwords, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors. Over time, this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality, and satisfaction in the consumer’s mind (see positioning). Thus brands help harried consumers in crowded and complex marketplace, by standing for certain benefitsand valueLegal name for a brand is trademark and, when it identifies or represents a firm, it is called a brand name. See also corporate identity.

Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/brand.html#ixzz26NttsbS1

Position, Positioning, Positioning Statement –  Written description of the objectives of a positioning strategy. It states (1) how the firm defines its business or how a brand distinguishes itself, (2) how the customers will benefit from its features, and (3) how these benefits or aspects will be communicated to the intended audience.A positioning statement is a subset of a value proposition that optimizes it for marketing communications purposes. It identifies the target audience, the product and its category, a specific benefit, and is differentiable from the nearest competitive alternative. It is an internal, non-emotional statement that becomes the messaging cornerstone of an integrated marketing campaign.

Read More : http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/positioning.html

You can control your “positioning” by creating a unique selling proposition and using it in all your marketing communication. Over time, as people become aware of your products and services, you start building your brand in your prospects’ and customers’ minds. Positioning is something you can do now when you state the problems you solve and how you uniquely solve them. Branding happens over time. Branding refers to what your customers think or feel when they hear a specific word. Positioning refers to your position “relative to” or “in comparison to” your competitors. Positioning is sharing your distinctive competence with your market. Branding is your product’s identity established over consistently executing what you promised.

With that said…

Are your salespeople trained and aware of your product positioning? …are you sure?

When your salespeople meet with new prospects do they know your product’s distinctive competence?

Is your brand and position  true in the minds of your buyers?

Are some of your products; “positioning dated”?

Are your salespeople “assuming” they know what your product position statement is or sharing a dated position that worked five years ago?

Is it time to re-position your product(s) based on the market conditions and problems your buyers face today?

Salespeople are focused on closing new business and if you do not provide your product positioning that resonates with buyers, sales will assume and make their own tools to drive the sale to a close. The trouble is, from a buyer’s perspective, it feels very uncomfortable as they have to pat down salespeople to find products that may solve their problems. For a buyer it feels like the salesperson is playing feature and benefit BINGO. They keep tossing features and benefits expecting  the buyer to yell; “BINGO …I get it now, I know what problem you can solve for me.” The more this salesperson is left to find your product’s position the less credible they becomes in the mind of your buyer. The more salespeople you have on your team creating your positioning, trying to sell dated positioning, your market will lose trust in your company.

Don’t make your salespeople Assume the position when meeting with buyers.

Train your salespeople to seek unresolved market problems and understand your product’s position to solve those problems. The goal of positioning is when your target market associates a benefit with your company. When you fail to establish a strong foundation from a position that resonates with your buyers, you fail to create brands that create raving fans.

So hopefully you can see now that when salespeople are forced to Assume the Position of your product or service it creates an unstable foundation for a trust based relationship and is it any wonder buyers become brand damaged? A strong position in the mind of the buyer, reinforced over time connects to the buyers’ emotion and they begin to trust. It is at that point your positioning becomes a brand.

When salespeople are forced to assume the position of your product ;they make an ass out of you and your company.

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.

A “Market Opportunity Profile” Insures Your Sales Team Hits Quota

A “Market Opportunity Profile” Insures Your Sales Team Hits Quota


By Mark Allen Roberts

How prepared are your salespeople to “hit their sales numbers“ this year?  Studies indicate as high as 70% of salespeople will fail to make sales quota this year. One leading reason is they do not adequately understand, identify, and prioritize potential sales and new opportunity accounts in their territory. One “old school” tool I provide my salespeople is a Market Opportunity Profile that takes the guess work out of sales achievement.

A Market Opportunity Profile is a living sales road map that insures your team meets and exceeds sales quota and creates sales velocity in the future.

Market leading sales organizations provide sales territory plans that include Market Opportunity Profiles.

What does a good Market Opportunity Profile include?

  • sales by current customers, ideally over the past three years segmented by product groups
  • current customer list segmented by A, B and C customers with sales history
  • identify elephants, rabbits and squirrels in each territory
  • targeted A accounts positioned for growth, with growth strategy and tactics
  • list of potential new customers in territory
  • new potentials ranked by dollar opportunity and probability of having problems your product or service solves
  • list of known market influencers (influencers your clients turn to)
  • list of new products that will be introduced , and when
  • new product sales targets by current customer
  • new product sales targets by net new customers
  • current and targeted new clients by physical location
  • sales goal by current customers
  • sales goal for net new clients
  • sales goal new products or services
  • activity profile based on known product sales cycles
  • activity profile based on new product launch(s)
  • salesperson input in each category

This sounds like a lot of work, however once you create this tool it will create a profile of the market your salesperson serves, and will build a living document to create meaningful discussions with your salespeople. Your sales by current customers /current products, current customer/ new products, new customers/current products, and new customers / new products must exceed your territory goals. You can create Market Opportunity Profiles with the help of your salespeople to make sales less of an art and more of a science.

Or…

You can take the goal given to you, divided by the number of salespeople you manage, possibly weighted by sales history, and throw it at your sales team and tell them to “make it happen” like most companies did last year and had 70% of their salespeople fail to achieve sales goals.

What does your team provide salespeople to create a roadmap to insure sales goals are met and exceeded?

Does your team provide a Market Opportunity Profile? What does it include?

What % of your sales team achieved or surpassed sales goals last year?

What % of your sales team is at 50% ( or greater) of their sales objectives mid year?

They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Market Opportunity Profiles create a snap shot of how to achieve and surpass sales goals based on your market knowledge when created. As your team executes their plans, you will create additional learning’s by salesperson, account and territory. Who knows, after a few years of blowing your goals away corporate may just ask what you have been doing, and once you are promoted, you can use this process to create market driven sales goals instead of boardroom extrapolated goals pushed down.

Are your Salespeople Focused on Landing Elephants While Rabbits and Squirrels Run to Buy?

Are your Salespeople Focused on Landing Elephants While Rabbits and Squirrels Run to Buy?

By Mark Allen Roberts

hunting smaller accounts

In my previous post I discussed a problem: “One common problem I am observing in the market today is salespeople are “hunting elephants with BB guns” and getting frustrated when they fail to bag their trophy. The market is tough and salespeople are hired to make it happen, make the sales number. Far too many salespeople focus on selling elephants to help bring their sales to quota back in line and this tactic backfires.I shared how ill equipped and poorly trained most  salespeople are calling on large key accounts ( elephants) , and they are not only destined to fail, but there is a high probability they are also damaging your brand in the mind of key account buyers. Another,  problem  that compounds the focusing in on elephants is the opportunity cost lost  rabbits and squirrels running to buy.

Do your salespeople clearly understand the market they serve and the opportunities that exist?

What I have personally experienced helping sales teams is everyone knows who the elephants are. This is a problem as all your competitors are just as likely focusing their scopes right now to bag what you thought was your elephant.

In the background of your market, there are smaller accounts, (rabbits and squirrels) running to buy.

I like selling smaller accounts as well as elephants.

Why do I like selling smaller accounts?

  • sales cycle is much shorter
  • the equipment and training is less expensive
  • you are dealing with the economic buyer ( the owner) in most cases
  • they are busy, and value your consultative approach as an expert in the solutions you provide
  • they are more profitable as a % of sale than elephants
  • they appreciate your solutions to their problems more
  • the buyer is in the market you are hunting in and not “corporate” some where
  • higher close percentage, higher probability to win the sale
  • they rarely use RFP’s
  • they are less likely to source complimentary products, accessories and parts
  • the salesperson does not require a great deal of training and experience
  • they often grow into bigger accounts

Market leading sales organizations balance their focus on elephants, rabbits and squirrels.

How about your sales team? Do your salespeople have a balance of elephants, rabbits and squirrels?

Does your sales team focus only on landing elephants or do they also fill their commissions on rabbits and squirrels?

Have you segmented accounts by lifetime sales opportunity?

Do you have an inside sales model that helps identify where the rabbits and squirrels are hiding?

As the sales leader, are you equipping your salespeople with a complete market opportunity profile, or is your lack of market knowledge showing?

Insure your salespeople hit their numbers by providing a market opportunity profile that includes elephants, rabbits, squirrels and any other varmints you can land in your market.

Failure to do so and you are setting your salespeople up to be road kill in their year end performance review.