Why Do 78% Of Sales Strategies Fail? … Culture Must Come Before Strategy

Why do 78% of Sales Strategies Fail? … Culture Must Come before Strategy

You have completed your off-site meetings and developed your objectives and strategies…but why will  you find out six months in the future your sales strategies are not being executed and you are missing your sales and profit goals? Nothing drives business owners,  CEO’s and senior leadership team’s crazy like taking the time to develop a strategic sales plan that no one is executing. Why? What causes this Great Disconnect in Sales Execution? The common cause I have seen over many companies in a variety of industries is a lack of focus on establishing a strong Sales Culture first.

SBI just posted a blog titled why are 78% of Sales Strategies hopeless? It was an interesting article that discussed common execution failures like;

Your strategy is a follow the competitor strategy

Your Strategy is not aligned with the needs of buyers in your market

You have tactics masquerading as strategies

You have no sales strategy

Your sales strategy is not aligned with your product strategy

Your sales strategy is not aligned with your corporate strategy

This post goes on to explain each of the above and if you have not read the post I highly recommend it.

The more I thought about this post the more I felt something was missing, something much bigger, much deeper  than all the above combined…what is it?

I was taught years ago: “Culture Comes Before Strategy”

The best way to illustrate what is meant by this is a story I heard in an Alpha class. The speaker describes how he took his son to his soccer match and the referee was not there. The young boys were growing restless so the speaker thought; how hard could this be? (like a lot of CEO’s when planning sales strategies since very few CEO’s, less than 10%, ever carried a sales bag or goal, so how hard could it be?) So he jumped in as referee and the boys started playing. The ball went out of bounds …whose ball is it they asked him, don’t worry about it… play on. One young man tripped the opposing player and everyone was waiting for him to make a ruling but instead he said… play on. (or “just make it happen” in the sales world) The trouble was the boys now lacked the fundamental rules for how to play the game, the boundaries  and what is acceptable to do to win. No one was having fun, no one knew the score and a number of players were getting hurt. When the referee finally arrived he ran into the center of the field, blew his whistle and established boundaries and reinforced the rules of play. He called violations to the rules of the game quickly and penalties stopped. The story goes on but the outcome was interesting…the boys had more fun and scored more goals once they understood the rules and boundaries and no one was getting hurt so they played with abandon , striving to win.

So let me ask you…do your sales teams play with abandon because they understand your culture, the boundaries, and the rules in your company?

I hear some past CEO’s and business owners I have served saying; YES! We have a mission statement, a vision statement, they all know our culture! You could say that but you would be wrong in most cases. Just as in my short video about the great disconnect; sales execution your job as a leader is to create a bridge between the sales strategy and what it specifically means to each sales team member. We need to translate what our mission and value statement means and the boundaries it establishes in “how” we achieve our sales goals. If you work with a corporate coach and or consultants they will tell you: Culture is very hard work, it takes a great deal of time and you will not realize a quick benefit. I agree its hard work but disagree adamantly that it will not have a quick benefit.

Your Sales Culture is the foundation for all your strategies, including your sales strategy.

If you fail to build a sales culture you will realize poor sales execution and as high as 78% of your strategies will be hopeless.

If this is something new to you or like many of the owners I have served over the years, you want to argue with me, let me share some fundamental sales culture statements that have served my teams over the years. These rules of the sales game, the boundaries my teams have played in have resulted in measurable wins like;

$ 38 million mechanical security Company grew sales to $79 million in 14 months

$2 million dollar company, needed a turnaround, could not make payroll, within 6 months not only cash positive but investing in new equipment and technology, sold 3 years later for $7 million

$ 4 million dollar plastics company consistently surpassed sales and profit objectives over 13 years and was sold for $ 300 million

We spent six months understanding buyers and developed buyer personas in the durable medical products market, within six years sales grew from $14 million to just shy of $90 million

Another $20 million  company realized 40% sales increase in 12 months

A $3 billion company showed a 48% increase in 18 months

One last one for you…another company had sales decline from $150 k per month to $20-$40 k per month when the 2008 recession hit, within 8 months sales grew to over $500 k per month…during the worst part of the recession.

HOW?

Do I have your interest yet? I hope so … This works if you have the courage to implement it.

It starts with establishing the sales culture foundation then developing market focused strategies based on how your buyers buy and the criteria they use to buy, today.

I encourage your team to develop sales culture statements before you develop specific strategies and tactics.

The common sales culture statements that have served many teams over the past 30 years are;

Error in the form of action serving the customer

We will be Agile, and we will learn and get better every day

We focus on results not actions (actions are tactics that lead to results and we will track them as indicators but we are judged by results)

We “serve” our customers, we help them buy, and we do not “sell” them

We work smart not hard

We do not put all our eggs in one basket

We set goals with the end in mind

We embrace “sharpening the saw

We set goals from the market up, not the boardroom down

We get the right people on the bus, and we make sure they are in the right seats where their gifts can add the most value to the team, focusing on strengths and providing training for weaknesses

We play like champions

We “manage” processes, we “lead” people

Four legged sales calls result in explosive sales growth so they will be a part of our sales culture

None of us are as smart as all of us

We believe the Golden Rule is profitable

We create written sales strategies by region, by salesperson that exceed the objective because we know a goal not written is a dream and we will not succeed at every tactic we develop but we own the goal, the results

We embrace  Heretics who challenge : “how we do things around here”as we recognize markets change and companies need to change or get left behind

It’s about “we” so we must tear down silos

We will listen to our markets, buyers, and understand their criteria and buying process

We create sales tools to help buyers buy

My job is to is to  help and equip you( sales and marketing)  to meet and exceed your objectives, and know when to get out of the way

We win and lose as a team; we are all in this together

Would the above Sales Culture boundaries work in your organization? Why or why not?

Do any of the above statements make you feel uncomfortable? ( if so you need to spend some time investigating why)

If you want and or need to create sales velocity you must establish a strong cultural foundation first. It helps your team know the rules of engagement, what your company holds dear and where the boundaries are. If you fail to establish a strong sales culture before strategy you too will realize 78% of your sales strategies will be hopeless.

 

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

 

 

marketing post turtle

 

 

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

 

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

 

What is marketing?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The market we serve today is dynamic and changing.

 

How do I define “Marketing”?

 

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

 

What do we know?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

There are a number of very good marketing automation companies;

 

Hubspot

 

Marketo

 

Infusionsoft

 

Eloqua

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What about your company?

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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.

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?

“Protecting the Fort” and the Failure to Achieve Sales Goals

by Mark Allen Roberts

When asked to help under performing sales teams, I always start by understanding the problem to be solved then working with their sales people in the market. One common role misunderstanding  among salespeople limits their ability to achieve their sales goals; “Protecting the Fort”. Some salespeople, often those who have been with you for a number of years believe part of their job is “Protecting the Fort” and not selling.They envision the sales and buying process more as a battle and they have to ward off buyer advances. What I am referring to can be simply explained as;

Protecting the Fort; a sales behavior exhibited by salespeople that is inward focused, not market serving, that believes part of their job is to teach buyers how to buy according to their companies’ internal rules, needs, and wants or quickly disqualify them and move on to the next sale.

Salespeople who protect the fort miss sales goals.

I was asked to help an under performing sales team some time ago. I spent time with each salesperson and I was surprised how much business two of their salespeople were not closing. They both had strong pipelines, a defined sales process, and a great lead nurturing plan and yet they were not meeting their sales objectives. I decided to spend some time doing four legged sales calls and after a few calls with each salesperson I quickly understood the problem hurting their sales performance. I found both sales people followed a sales process, followed up with their accounts timely, but consistently failed to close because they spent more time trying to get buyers to comply with how their company did things. The buyers were trying to buy this companies’ product but were met with …”we can’t do that..” “that’s not how we do things…” and both were saying “ I could never get that approved” . The salespeople would quickly use their understanding of internal unbreakable rules and policies to disqualify customers and not close the sale.  However when I asked the CEO if the salespeople had shared buyers needs and requests the answer was a quick..No. He even went on to say that some of what the buyers requested he would have gladly approved based on the customer and the size of the order.

Markets change and buyers buying processes and criteria change. Market leading companies are constantly sensing for market shifts and adapt…they must be more agile.

Teams that practice an Agile sales methodology meet and exceed growth goals.

Sales teams forced to sell based on …”the way we do things around here” fail.

So how about your sales team?

When was the last time you went on a four-legged sales call?

What internal rules do your salespeople think are acceptable to be deal breakers?

When was the last time one of your salespeople challenged one of your policies?

When you analyze lost sales , is their a common “internal rule” that is interrupting the sales process?

Are your internal rules for sales engagement market focused to help buyers buy…or designed to protect the fort?

I can hear the voice of past company owners I have served saying “ Ya but..” so let me address their concerns. I am not saying all the parameters you have given your salespeople should be allowed to be challenged. For example a lost sale is not the worst sale. The worst sale is one you work, nurture, close, deliver, and the customer never pays. So I am not advocating changing policies that insure buyers have the ability to pay. I am not advocating salespeople be permitted to sell products or services at a profit loss.

What I am saying is your sales team must understand their fundamental role; helping buyers buy not protecting the fort.

Are Your “Salespeople Hunting Elephants With a BB Gun?” Answer 10 questions…

Are Your “Salespeople Hunting Elephants With a BB Gun?” Answer 10 questions…


As I have shared in prior posts, salespeople are like water; they find and take the path of least resistance. Having carried a sales bag for years I get it; it takes a tremendous amount of work to sell a large number of new accounts when I can sell one big account and make the same amount of money, and possibly more. The problem is most salespeople are ill equipped to land big accounts so they are hunting elephants with a BB gun. When your team hunts elephants with a BB gun they not only fail to hit sales objectives, and fail to increase the number of prospects in their funnel….there’s a high probability they are irritating the elephants.

Some of my fondest sales memories were landing some big elephants in the markets I served like; Wal-Mart, Block Buster, Musicland Stores, Nintendo, Dell, Blackberry, and others….and I have to admit it was a rush. I had a big advantage though and that was training and sales tools to land big accounts (elephants). When you sell big accounts you must understand how they buy, who is involved in the buying decision, and aggressively pursue the economic buyer. ( the one who has the power to write you a check) Just as if you were hunting elephants on the plains in Africa, you would equip yourself with a different set of equipment (tools) to bag your trophy, than if you were hunting rabbits or squirrels in Ohio. The environment is different, your weapons are different, and the net number of targets and shots you can take is very different.

One common problem I am observing in the market today is salespeople are hunting elephants with a BB gun and getting frustrated and surprised when they fail to bag their trophy.

How do you know if your salespeople are hunting elephants with a BB gun?

  1. Have your salespeople focused on and failed to close elephants in the past 6-8 months?
  2. When you ask why they failed to close the sale, all they say is price?
  3. Do you keep hearing “good meeting” but fail to see an order or a clear understanding of what was achieved at the last meeting and what the next step of the buying process is for the prospect?
  4. Do you notice the entire sales territory is underperforming to plan?
  5. When you ask about the territory performance, does your salesperson always add the elephant to the discussion?
  6. Are other team members complaining they are being pulled into this “big” opportunity and they are not seeing the sale moving to a close?
  7. Has your salesperson said something like; the account just went dark?
  8. Have you seen new leads not being followed up on in a timely manner?
  9. If you did bag an elephant in the last 6-8 months, was it significantly under your profit targets?
  10. ..I saved the hardest question for last …What does your gut say, should your salesperson be presenting large key accounts in your market? Are they trained and have they demonstrated the ability to listen and present solutions to problems? Would you want your salesperson calling on you?

So how did your team score? If you answered “yes” to four or more of the above, your salesperson is hunting elephants with a BB gun. How did you answer question #10? If you said “no” stop irritating the elephants in your market today.

There are a number of problems with your salespeople hunting elephants when they are not equipped to win;

they fail to bring home all the rabbits and squirrels in their market

they only irritate and make the elephants angry and that anger is attached to your companies’ brand

they compromise margins and they are  operating in the domain of losses

they pull resources from other areas of the organization that fail to meet their objectives

Market leading sales organizations understand the buying process for large key accounts is different than the smaller accounts they serve, and they provide the tools and training to clear the jungle and bag those market elephants.

How is your team’s sales history bagging elephants?

What is the main reason your salespeople say as to why they failed to win their trophy?

How many other opportunities are not followed up on that they could close with a BB gun?

Do you agree or disagree elephant hunting requires different training, tools and experience?

If your team wants to bag some elephants, are you equipping them with the right tools and training? Or are you counting on them to “just make it happen”?

Improve Sales With A “Sales Requirements Summary”

Improve Sales With A “Sales Requirements Summary”


In today’s market buyers have the power to find solutions to their problems. Sales people and their sales processes must adapt based on what we know about buyers today. Market leading sales organizations are adding the power of the “sales requirements summary” into their solutions presentations to win more sales, and increase sales velocity.

When we ask salespeople why a buyer chose an alternative product we often hear it was price, followed by a unique feature or benefit, and then relationship. However when we ask buyers why they did not buy, “price” was not on the list of reasons. So if price is not on the list, why is it buyers do not buy? The consistent and overwhelming answer was;

I do not believe the salesperson clearly understands my problem, and therefore I do not trust the solutions he is presenting will adequately and completely solve my problem.”

To overcome this buyer concern and ultimately improve sales close percentages and increase sales velocity I coach salespeople to add a “requirements summary” in their proposal. So what is a requirements summary? If your industry demands long presentations there are a number of templates for requirement summaries. However I believe in the KISS principle so I have found a good requirements summary includes the following;

  • restate the problem to be solved as you understand it
  • restate buyer and all project influencers
  • provide details from your meeting notes about the specifics of the problem, corresponding products and or services your solution must work with
  • how to measure the success of your proposed solution
  • restate timing the buyer expressed for the solution to his problem to be delivered
  • state your delivery commitment with a call to action…if you need the product delivered by ______ we will require an order by ________.
  • speak to all buyer and influencer pain points discovered in the sales qualification process
  • state how your solution uniquely solves the requirement and pain
  • specific part number(s)
  • total cost summary
  • timeframe for quote, ideally 30 days

The requirements summary helps overcome the reason why buyers do not buy; Trust. In addition to showing you clearly understand the buyer’s requirements and pain, the summary also provides the opportunity for the buyer to share if requirements have changed.

Most salespeople are so focused on selling they are not truly listening. Knowing you must produce a requirements summary in your sales proposal insures your salespeople are asking questions to intimately understand the nature of the problem to be solved and how the buyer and his or her team will measure the results.

Does your sales team provide a requirements summary in each proposal?

Do you see any negatives in providing a requirements summary in your sales process?

A requirements summary is a simple and effective way to build trust with your buyer by illustrating you understand his problem and how you plan to fix it. Most competitors will be leading with price because they feel that is what wins orders. Be one of the top 10% of sales professionals by taking copious notes concerning the problem to be solved, all those who have input in the solution, and everyone’s pain points and you will win more sales faster regardless of how “cautiously optimistic” your buyers may be.

“Product Training” is not “Sales Training“

 

 

It’s that time of year again…

Salespeople are scrabbling to achieve their year end objectives while their accounts have slipped into a post thanksgiving day comma. Next year territory goals are distributed and some organizations recognize this time of year as ideal for training their sales teams. But most sales training seems to miss it’s mark…why?

Here’s the problem:

“Product Training is not Sales training”

I just received a call from a friend who asked if I had the time to sit in on their sales training and give them some feedback. (What they wanted was actually praise) They were very excited about 2012 and the number of new products and product improvements they were launching. So they asked their field sales team to attend training.

Sales training is a challenge as research shows as high as 90% of sales training adds no value within 120 days, and yet corporations will spend over $5 billion per year in Sales Training. Before I share what I have experienced I thought I would share some links that I thought were very interesting…

7 Reasons Sales Training Fails

5 Reasons why Sales Training Fails

Why Does Sales Training Fail?

Report: Why Sales Training Fails

Top Reasons Why Most Corporate Sales Training Fails

Why Training us Useless

All of the above and many more posts have great content and if your team is looking at making the investment in sales training I recommend you review the above.

Now back to my friend’s company…

So I attended the meeting and in terms of time allocation it went something like this;

Words from senior management – 10%

 

VP of Sales sharing his vision – 20%

 

Engineering sharing technical specifications -30%

 

Marketing sharing tools they developed (sell sheets and new web pages) – 20%

 

Other: goals, questions and answers (and kind of a bitch session)-20%

The shame was this training could have helped prepare the team to sell new products and change behaviors in the field based on a clear understanding of the market, its buyers, their buying process and criteria. Instead, it prepared the sales team to continue to play “feature and benefit bingo” with their accounts just hoping some of them can translate the list of benefits into solutions to problems they may be experiencing.

So I’m going to say it again; “Product Training is not Sales Training.”

 

Product Training is obviously necessary, however the most value you can provide your sales team and ultimately your bottom line is answering the following questions….

What problem does this product solve?

 

Who has this problem?

 

What do buyers who have that problem buy now? Why?

 

How do buyers search for solutions to this problem?

 

How do buyers state the problem in their own words?

 

What process do buyers use to solve their problems today?

 

What criteria do buyers use when evaluating products that solve their problems?

 

What is the sales process for this solution?

 

Based on how buyers are buying, what new tools do we have and when should I use them?

 

What are the various Buyer Personas and how do we approach each?

 

Are their “influencers” in the buying process? If so who and what do they require?

 

What is my market’s opportunity?

 

What is our value proposition and distinctive  advantage?

 

How do these new products fit in our overall mix of solutions?

 

Do some salespeople have unique needs, areas that need improved?

 

My friend’s training, like a number of sales training I have attended over the years did not answer any of the above but did clearly share each salesperson’s goals in the next year. What I shared was how he is relying his sales team to “make it happen” and figure it out in the field. His need to feel sales was more of a science and less of an art will not be met. So he will continue to be frustrated by sales forecasts because they are actually educated guesses. What I observed, that sounded like a bitch session was actually the sales team sharing how they needed to get in shape for the market they faced today.

So how about your company?

 

How much will your organization spend in sales training this year?

 

Can your team afford not to have a return on that investment?

 

Does your sales training answer the above questions?

 

Or are you counting on your sales people to “just make it happen?”

 

Based on what I described, if you were one of this team’s salespeople, would you feel your future goals were based on market opportunity or corporate necessity?

Sales training is more than product training alone. In addition to equipping your team to win, it can also demonstrate you do have an understanding of the market and help your team see the training as something to help them make more money and not something they have to “go through” each year.

The Toughest Sale an Entrepreneur Can Make….Investment Capital to Grow

 

I enjoy sales, I really do. I see sales as the ultimate example of serving others. You connect with people in your market that may have problems your product or service can solve, and you help them solve their problems. For me it’s the ultimate rush helping clients solve problems they have struggled with and felt they must learn to live with. However there is another sale entrepreneurs have to make that is not nearly as fun and can be emotionally and physically taxing if you do not know what you are doing…raising investment capital.

Typically the companies I serve have the capital and or are self funding and I am asked to create a repeatable sales process, based on how their buyers want to buy. Then I train their team how and when to use the sales tools we create for each step of the new sales process. In one instance however, a company I was asked to turn around lacked adequate access to capital to truly scale the business. So I approached raising investment capital as I would any market with various buyer personas , but in this case what I was selling was the viability of the business and future potential. I found there are basically five ways to fund your growth and each has its own characteristics, requirements, needs and challenges. Over a three month period while out making sales calls with customers, I met with as many “potential buyers” for funding as I could to understand  shape and I even named my buyers, my ways to raise funds.( I had way to much car time, so stick with me)

Self Fund through sales revenue – “Willy Lowman”

 

State and Government Grants – “Annette to detail”

 

Friends and Family- “Have-I” , as in have -I got a deal for you

 

Angel Investors- “Michael”, like the archangel

 

Venture Capital –”Barbra”, from the show shark tank

 

The first I called “Willy Lowman” from Death of a Salesman. You are out chasing revenue, cold calling, following up on every potential lead, and networking like crazy. You bootstrap your way, working 12-14 hours a day meeting with clients who could provide that next big order. At night you stuff envelopes with letters and brochures, and scour the internet using social media tools searching for the right contact to speak with at your future targeted accounts.

Characteristics– You often find yourself bunking on friends couches and driving great distances simply because the meetings need to occur but you lack the capital to afford air flights and hotel rooms. You have a passionate connection to your product and you have the ability to sell convincing presentations that drive early orders. You may hire independent sales representatives to sell your product on straight commission, but quickly find they too require time, your most precious asset at this point.

Requirements – You have to be skilled at taking inventory of what you have to work with and leveraging it to the best of your ability while always being cognizant of the businesses cash requirements, cash flow. You personally will do without.  You need tenacity, good old fashioned (excuse the expression)… “piss and vinegar”. You will have many doors slammed in your face and you will need the ability to press on in the face of adversity. You know the “right” way to get orders, but you lack the capital today, so you do what you need to do. I have 50 other ugly truths in my eBook you can download off my blog. You have to possess the ability to create learning’s through each transaction and adapt quickly.

Need – samples, sell sheets and a clear understanding of the problem you solve, and who potentially has that problem. With some of the software out there today and help from friends in your network you can create some professional presentations and sell sheets. You must have a web site.

 

Caution – it’s not unusual to start a business this way trying to sell your way to success, however know that it is not for the faint of heart, and if you do it for too long you too run the risk of going nuts like our buddy Willy. If whatever you are launching cannot gain traction and begin to result in predictable sales revenues within 12-18 months, cut bait! Chances are you are pushing mud uphill and you have not answered one of the four questions with a yes.

So how about you…have you launched a business on shear tenacity? How did it turn out?

 

As you look back, how long were you in the bootstrap mode? (Or are you still in it?)

 

What did you find the hardest part of this phase?

 

What advice would you give someone who has desperately tried to scale their business, their dream for 18 months with no success?

The key to funding I have learned over time is to truly understand where your company is on the business growth continuum. Is your business pre-cash, do you have a few customers, some revenue… but needing capital to scale, ….?

Once you clearly understand where your business is, you can connect to the right kind of funding. As you move from self funding / friends and family to Government Grants to Angel investors to Venture Capital, you must clearly understand where you are at and what your buyer (investor) requires.

What I have experienced is friends and families are investing more in you and your abilities than the business. They are looking at your past success and your personal abilities. They have a personal relationship with you.

Government Grants/ other Grants are focused on answering a specific issue. You must be skilled at writing grant applications and clearly answering how your product falls into their grant offering.

Angels fund from small $20k investments up to $2 million from larger angel funds. Angel funds are groups of angel investors who pool their monies and invest in companies. Sometimes members of the fund may also wish to make “side car” investments in addition to the fund investment. Angels focus on;

  • proprietary product and or technology
  • leaders ability to lead organization, monetize opportunity
  • the market and your product solution’s potential
  • your team and its ability to execute
  • your exit plan, who would be potential buyers, or do you plan to go public

Venture Capital traditionally invests in opportunities over $2 million. They are industry specific and the cost of their funds in terms of equity in your business is often much greater. They are focused on return on their investment. They have specific business valuation models and your engagement with them will feel more like a business transaction than a relationship. VC’s will receive 1,000’s of pitches each year and only work with a select few companies that match their criteria. I recommend you watch the show Shark Tank and pay attention to the discussions, the interaction as it will prepare you for possible discussions you may be having should you pursue VC funding.

If you are an entrepreneur and feel the next step to truly scale your company is funding, make sure you understand where your company is at, and what type of funding source best matches your needs. If you are like me, you will find it the most challenging sales process you have ever experienced!