10 Sales Enablement Resources To Improve Sales Results

10 Sales Enablement Resources to Improve Sales Results

 

 

 

In my last post I shared how teams want to fix common sales problems they need to break free from the prison of out dated sales processes.  We shared how to determine if your sales process is out dated and  how voice of the customer work helps understand your buyers, how they buy and what they need to buy today. Sales enablement is about strategically giving your buyers the right content at the right time in the right format to help sales close faster and at higher gross margins.

 

I received emails and calls from past clients wanting to learn more about the topic of Sales Enablement since it has such a large impact on increasing sales revenue and having a greater ROI on the marketing assets you create.

 

Below are 10 resources I found particularly useful on the topic of Sales Enablement.

 

1.Sales Enablement Infographic 

 

2.The definitive guide to sales enablement

 

3.Sales Enablement Best Practices

 

4.Sales readiness technology buyers guide 

 

5.The Value Shift eBook: Designing and Implementing A Mobile Sales Enablement Strategy 

 

6.8 keys for a successful Sales Enablement Program

 

7.What is Sales Enablement?

 

8.Sales Enablement buyers checklist

 

9.Use Buying Process Exit Criteria to IncreaseYour Sales Effectiveness

 

10.GARTNER’S MARKET GUIDE FOR DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGEMENT FOR SALES

 

 

Sales Enablement is about providing the right information, in the right format at the right time in the buyers buying journey.

 

When your team does your voice of the customer work to understand the buying process and criteria your buyers must have, and implement a sales enablement business development strategy your team will experience:

 

Sales revenue increases

 

Gross profit per sale increases

 

Increase in sales close %

 

Higher customer satisfaction

 

Sales will close faster

 

Increase in engagement in your sales team

 

Improved retention of sales top performers

 

Sales will hit forecasts

 

Increase in Brand value

 

New product launches that meet or exceeds ROI targets

 

Open new profitable markets

 

 

If you have found other useful articles and or EBooks and web sites that share useful Sales Enablement information please share the links in the comments below.

 

Has your team implemented a sales enablement strategy?

 

What impact has it had for your business?

Increase Sales And Profits (Faster) With Ideal Customer Profiles

Increase Sales and Profits (Faster) with Ideal Customer Profiles

How do you increase sales and profits quickly? Are there any secrets our team should consider in our new business development objectives? Yes! …teach your salespeople to disqualify potential poor fitting customers sooner with ideal customer profiles.

I can hear some old sales dogs saying; “what are you talking about Mark? Every sale is a good sale…” but I can assure you this is not true. I have learned the hard way that not every prospective account is an account you should sell.

My client had a major shift in one of their markets and this caused a sales decline of over 40% within 18 months so they brought me in to help fix their sales problem. This company had been serving their various markets for over 40 years and wanted to avoid possible layoffs at any cost. So like many companies they were focused on selling their way out of this problem. Quickly we reviewed our current customers, the industries they served and conducted win loss calls to better understand why they buy and why they do not buy. In addition we mapped the buying process and made a list of all the potential customers in this market. (Typically the customers you serve today only represent 25%-30% of the actual potential market.) The main qualifying filters sales and marketing used included;

  • Does this possible customer have a problem we can solve?
  • Is the problem painful enough they want to solve it?
  • Are they willing to spend money to solve it?

(…and that’s where I blew it, I should have required our salespeople to ask one more question…but that will follow soon)

Lists by sales region were created. A multi touch marketing campaign was launched; funded and new sales tools were created from what we learned in the win loss calls and customer interviews. Very quickly accounts were being qualified and salespeople were buying airplane tickets and having many potential new customer meetings. New accounts were being added to our mix. These are great results right? That’s what every company leader wants and needs right… new customers? Not so much… We engaged and sold some companies we wish we would have never sold. Some had cultures that were in direct competition with how we served our customers and more importantly how we treated our own employees. These new customers resulted in painful (and costly) experiences in service, payment, and became an overall a drain on our recourses that started to negatively impact the accounts we valued most. In a recent post I shared how “fit” is one of the three criteria we should use when evaluating salespeople. I can now say with 100% conviction sales must also qualify possible new customer partners based on fit. The additional question we should have asked was;

  • Does this account match the type of customers we value and have proven our capacity to provide exceptional service and profitable relationships with?

As the leader you must answer the above question. How do you know if this “whale” of an account will launch your needed sales velocity…or be an anchor that negatively impacts your teams’ sales and profits?

There are many resources on the internet on how to qualify customers you can search if you wish. However providing your salespeople your ideal customers is critical to winning new business you want and will value.

Some questions to consider as you create your ideal customer characteristics:

Who are your top sales accounts today?

What markets provide over 40% of your sales today?

Why do they buy from you?

What gross profit % do you realize?

What products do they buy?

What is the location of your most valued customers? North America…International…East Coast US…?

What is their service expectation?

What is their quality expectation?

How do they pay their bills? (net 30? net 60? Net 90?)

What is our value proposition for these customers?

How will your partnership be defined? …An informal discussion of expectations or a binding contract?

What is their preferred method for placing orders? Fax, call in, email, EDI, vendor portal?

What buyer persona’s value your brands promise most?

What sales cycle is your team familiar with? short…three to six months…over one year?  

Who is your ideal influencer that drives the purchase order? Buyer… Engineer…Owner…CFO… Operations… a team of department leaders?

What is their preferred form of shipment? Delivered or FOB your plant?

Is there a cultural fit in how their employees engage with each other and your team?

Can you serve the new customer today or will the new customer require new investment?

The above is not a complete list and I would encourage you to develop qualifying questions and identify the type of new customers that are ideal for your organization today. Once you create a list of the ideal traits and attributes of a customer for your organization you must map the areas that are non negotiable. For example I have served a number of startups and turn arounds and terms greater than net 60 days were a deal breaker. As our salespeople met with prospective customers the terms question was addressed very early in the relationship. Next create boundaries for other areas. For example; we will invest in the capabilities to receive orders via EDI for sales that exceed $xxxxxx.  The more detailed you can be in your ideal customer the faster your new business growth objectives will be achieved and they will have profits that meet your owner’s and investors expectations.

So how about your team…

Does your team need to sell its way out of a sales and profits short fall?

Have you identified potential customers you could sell?

Did you take the extra step to identify the traits and characteristics of customers you want?

Are you convinced the difficult customers make your organization stronger? Or do you agree they can negatively impact your service to all your customers?

 

The secret to turning around sales with profitable new customers is helping your salespeople understand what your ideal customer looks and feels like. The above questions may feel like extra work and may slow down your sales, but in reality they will improve your sales close rate, create more quick wins, and help your sales team win more profitable customers.

 

 

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.

Are Your Salespeople Calling on “Power” or “Parrots”?

parrot buyer

 

There are many “gate keepers” we must often pass through to close a sale. With technology today we have buyers who hide behind voice mail and email and send out RFP’s and we have little or no discussion with them. If we try to make a cold call we may be greeted by a “no solicitation sign” or guard house that will not let us pass without an appointment. If we make it to the lobby we may have a receptionist gate keeper trained not to let us pass, and not to share decision makers names. However one of the gate keepers sales must identify quickly is the buyer who has no purchasing power and is a Parrot.

 

So your salesperson has made it through the gauntlet of obstacles we now face in sales and finally met with the buyer. The buyer shared what they are looking for, what their research has told them they need and your salesperson has presented. When we ask your salesperson for an update, they say ; “we had a good meeting”. OK, great to know, but why don’t we have the purchase order? What is preventing the buyer from giving you the order? Why is this sale taking so long? I thought you said you thought you won the order two months ago…where is it?

 

If you find yourself asking your salespeople these questions and more, chances are your salesperson actually presented your solution to a parrot and not power. Parrots are tasked with finding the best product, service and price for a particular problem to be solved and they echo their findings to someone else or others with the power to make the decision to purchase. Rarely are buyers the users of your solution but they are the person who actually inputs the purchase order into their system and assigns the PO.

 

What should your salespeople do if a sale they thought they won goes dark?

 

What should salespeople do if they discover they are calling on a parrot?

 

How do we shorten the sales cycle when we never get to meet with power?

 

If you find yourself asking these questions there are ways to insure you win the sale. One of the leading ways is to equip and empower your buyer with tools to help them present your solution.

 

Good salespeople will always ask in their qualifying process: “who is also involved in making the buying decision?” Some buyers have already been assigned a budget and can cut the purchase order. However as the cost of the purchase climbs I have found others…often time many others will be involved in making the final decision. The key to winning these orders is clearly understanding the buying process, the criteria being used to evaluate solutions, and the buyer personas of those making or influencing the buying decision. I hear some of you saying; “Well Mark that is a lot of work to do on a PO that four other companies are also trying to win.” Yes it can be if you have not done the market work ahead of time. However if you know the buyers in your market, how they buy, who they need to get sign off from, and what is important to those influencers you can include it in your presentation.

 

I was asked to help a company some time ago and they had seen steady profitable growth for years and then as the economy changed their phones seemed to stop ringing. Sales dropped monthly to 1/10th of what they once were and their senior leaders were concerned. They heard through a friend what I do and hired me to solve this problem.

 

The first thing I always do is seek current market truths. After a series of win loss calls we discovered that our customers were also feeling the pinch of the economy tightening and their companies have tightened their restrictions on purchasing. Specifically purchases the size of the products our company was selling once were able to be approved of by the buyer now needed many other signatures. We now have CEO’s, CFO’s, various VP’s all needing to agree before a purchase order would be issued.

 

The trouble in this new reality was our buyers are great at buying and terrible at presenting, it’s not that they are bad people it is just not their gift. We asked if we could meet with and present our solutions to the key influencers and we were met with; “no, they are too busy and this is what I am paid to do”. So as we reviewed sales we lost we found one common “spin cycle” as I call them where the purchase seems to spin round and round and go no where was when a key user or decision maker challenged the buyer with a question or series of questions they needed answers to and the buyers were not prepared to answer. Once we understood this was occurring we created a presentation slide deck that specifically spoke to the common influencer buyer persona’s who needed to approve the purchase. In addition we added a new step early on in our sales process that involved a webinar with the buyer and the various power influencers to share our solution and ask questions to better understand what the influencers needed to make the buying decision at a time that worked for their crazy, short staffed schedules. Within three months sales were tracking back to historical levels and within eight months sales were up over 30% to their prior average monthly sales… in the worst economy this company had ever experienced.

 

 

 

How about your business…..

 

Are you calling on Parrots? Do you know?

 

Who do the Parrots repeat your presentation to?

 

What do those buyer personas need, require to approve the proposal?

 

What can you provide proactively based on your understanding of your customers’ process?

 

How can you adjust your repeatable sales process to adapt to how your buyers are buying today?

 

Yes, this market work takes some time, and you will definitely learn some things that will make you feel uneasy or even upset however the value you receive by adapting to these current market truths will far outweigh the time and pain.

 

(As a side note…while we adjusted our process and had record sales, one of our competitors doubled their advertising and eventually went out of business. Another downsized their operation and waited out the economic storm with plans to re-staff when business got back to normal. They are still in business, but have never re-staffed and have not brought their sales back to pre- economic challenge levels.)

 

 

How do I Improve My Sales Team’s “Lead to Close Percentage”? 10 steps …

leads nurtured grow into profitable customers

leads nurtured grow into profitable customers

 

 

In my previous post I shared how your lead to close percentage is a canary in your coal mine, an early warning  for your future sales performance. Market leaders track and constantly fine tune their lead to close process to drive sales performance increases. In this post I will share 10 steps  I have used to improve your lead to close percentage.

 

Improving your lead to close percentage increases the return on your team’s market dollars invested while adding predictability to the sales forecasting process.

 

When you ask sales people what they need to grow their sales and hit their sales numbers they often say: more leads. I have found in 95% of the cases this is not true. You do not need more leads you need to improve your sales teams close rate on the leads you already have.

 

Here’s some stat’s for you to chew on….

 

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

 

57% of B2B companies identify converting qualified leads into paying customers as a top funnel priority (Marketing Sherpa)

 

65% of Marketers have not established lead nurturing (Marketing Sherpa)

 

79% of markets have not established lead scoring (Marketing Sherpa)

 

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

 

Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads ( The Annvitas Group)

 

Companies that have lead nurturing have 9% more sales reps make quota ( Gartner Research)

 

Trigger based marketing, event based marketing is 2 to 12 times more effective than old school direct marketing ( Genroe)  

 

 

 

How do we serve our customers and help them to buy what they want when they are ready to buy?

 

  1. Know why customers buy from you and why they don’t
  2. Tear down internal Silo’s between sales and marketing
  3. listening, truly understanding your buyers problems, criteria and buying process
  4. Teach, develop content , drive demand
  5. Create lead nurturing processes
  6. Make it easy to buy from you and stop protecting the fort in your sales process
  7. Create  buyer persona’s , speak to their pain
  8. Use trigger based marketing, event based marketing
  9. Make sales a part of the lead nurture process and make sure you understand it is different than the lead generation process
  10. your job is not to “sell” your customers but “serve” them and help them buy

 

 

If you do not have a lead nurturing process in place start one today. Keep in mind the best lead nurturing programs touch prospects with relevant insightful content perfectly timed based on their intimate understanding of how buyers buy and the criteria they use. You are building a relationship. You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date, so why would you expect to close the sale immediately?

 

The landscape of sales today has changed dramatically compared to how it used to be. Market leading sales and marketing teams work together with cross functional goals. Salespeople spend time on the internet researching their customers and prospects leveraging technology to identify problems they can solve instead of hours of windshield time and logging air miles. Market leading sales and marketing teams have adapted and leverage technology to improve their lead to close percentages. They increase sales and return on sales dollars invested.

 

Want to Improve your Sales and Profits? “Reboot Your Business”… (and yourself)

crtl book

 

If you have been in business for a while like I have one thing we can always count on is “change”. Markets change, the way buyers buy changes, and how customers find you have drastically changed over the past 10 years. Like it or not, there has been a huge shift in power from the company and salesperson to the buyer who can now find more information about your company and products (and you) with a few simple mouse clicks. Has your business been agile and identified these changes and adapted? Or are you waiting for business to get back to normal as I hear so many say? Well, I hate to be the one to tell you, this is the new normal! If you are one of those business leaders that recognize changes have occurred but are having a hard time getting your head around what to do about it, there is a brilliant book by thought leader Mitch Joel titled; Ctrl Alt Delete, Reboot your business. Reboot your life. Your future depends on it.

 

 

My wife and I had a plan over the July 4th holiday. We invited all my wife’s relatives and my daughter’s college friends over for an old fashioned July 4th cookout. We planned a simple menu per my daughters request with hamburgers and hot dogs, baked beans, my wife’s aunt Shannon’s famous potato salad and my daughter planned to make another one of her creative desserts. I bought charcoal and decided to grill old school instead of over gas. We bought the supplies, invited everyone, and planned an afternoon out side that included some bocce ball, Frisbee, and watching the fireworks from the deck. We had a plan.

 

Ohio weather decided to change our plans with rain on and off all day. I hoped it would stop long enough to grill the food but around 4:00 pm I needed a plan B. So I moved the grill under the shelter of the front porch and although “no one grills on their front porch” we adapted, the food was great and everyone had a great time together.

 

porch gill

 

This experience reminded me of the book I just finished this week; Ctrl Alt Delete. It reminded me of how environments and business landscapes change and will be changing again and we must and need to adapt or we risk going hungry. I wonder why it is so easy, second nature for us to adapt in our everyday lives but in business we struggle to change, we fight the tendency to be nimble and agile. Why? Is it hubris, laziness, and or even fear? Or is it something deeper, something that was blended into my generation’s’ DNA? I was born in the early 1960’s and my father started out his career as a meter reader with the local natural gas company. His company sent him to college at night and after 25 years of moving up the corporate ladder  held a senior level financial position when he retired. This is the way we were taught how it works, how it was supposed to be… right?

 

So imagine how I feel, and how my dad must scratch his head with the crazy life I have led. I have served many companies over the past 30 years as you can see from my Linked In profile. My titles have included Account Rep to VP of Sales and Marketing, from COO for one assignment to Managing Director for another company. I have been a sales coach, entrepreneur,  marketing strategy consultant, author, and public speaker. I led a few start ups and turnarounds as President and CEO. However admittedly if I am being totally transparent with you (and myself) a part of me has felt there is something wrong with me. Why have not I not been able to do what my dad did and work for one company for 30 + years retire with a pension, benefits and winter in Florida like everyone else from Ohio? In the second part of Mitch Joel’s book he discusses how we as individuals must also adapt and change. He calls it embracing the squiggle. The squiggle is what I have done….a number of different roles based on the problems to be solved, many different industries and if you were to graphically plot it it would not look like my fathers straight line career trajectory, but would be a squiggly line with little if any ability to plot or predict the next data point.

 

Another area where I feel I do not fit in and quietly has made me feel anxious and sometimes guilty is… I like to work. I enjoy bumping into problems to be solved. I have developed over the years the ability to see around corners as I share with my children. I use this gift of pattern recognition and shape strategies that work. What I do for companies does not feel like “work” but more like my sport, play, my art. In the early 2000’s I even branded it “the art of thoughts” trying to explain the service I provided but quickly stopped using that description as my customers and market were not quite ready for it yet. This book shares how today and the future will challenge all those leave it to beaver work  life models we have had woven into our DNA and how there now is a blend of work and non work life. Technology enables us, affords and empowers us the ability to work anywhere, anytime, and because of this make more time for our families if we use it correctly. The future strategies that will drive explosive sales growth will not be developed in boardrooms but in coffee shops deep in the markets you serve.

 

Not since David Meerman Scott’s book: The New Rules of Marketing and PR has a book grabbed me like Ctrl Alt Delete and I wanted to share it with you. I highly recommend if you have been waiting for your  business to get back to normal, searching for a crystal ball that will give you some hint of what the future has in store you, or like me have seen and felt a blending of your work and non work life, …you  buy and study this book.

 

How about you…Have you too seen and experienced major changes in your business?

 

Have you adapted and embraced social marketing?…or do you still think it’s a fad?

 

Has your business raised the surrender flag and admitted you no longer have the power, or have you dug in like Colonel Custer who also had a plan?

 

 

The reality of today is buyers can now find more information about your company, product, salesperson, and the leaders of your organization with a few simple mouse clicks. How buyers buy, how consumers shop, and how employers search for and hire new team members has forever changed and will continue to evolve and change. Will you adapt and survive or dig your heals and do it the way we have always done it around here? ( and how’s that working for you?)  It truly is your choice; I hope and pray you chose wisely.

 

 

 

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

sales sink hole

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Why do sales superstars leave?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Inadequate training

Consolidating markets

Brand damaged product

Trust broken with management

No defined sales process

Don’t believe in what they are selling anymore

Stress

Ethics

No sales on boarding process

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

Bad Boss

More money

Lack of freedom

Asked to learn on the fly

Poor compensation model

Capped commissions

Change in commissions

Change in compensation model

Change in benefits

Poor product quality

Lack of support

No training

No clear future growth opportunity

Not feeling motivated

No marketing support

Operations driven organization

Engineering driven organization

Accounting driven organization

Job was not what I was told it would be

Understaffed support

Too hard to sell what we have

Micro management

New CRM

Change in Strategy

New company leadership disconnected with what really happens in market today

Lack of sales tools

Dated sales tools

Asked to do non sales activities

New Culture does not match salesperson anymore

No new products

New products that do not work

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

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

New product launched with quality issues

Asked to sell something I know is not what we promise

Unrealistic goals

Cut in my expense budget but bigger goals

Work harder to make the same (often less)

Account conflict

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

Change in customer service

Raised prices above market price with no perceived benefit to buyers

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

New products that fail

No clear target or goal

Changing goals and priorities

Something in their personal life changed

Desire to grow skills and responsibility

Growing quotas with shrinking commissions

No leads

Not feeling senior management values the role we play

Not feeling valued by my boss

Internally focused and not market focused

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

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

No recognition

No praise for job well done

Told “just make it happen” without proper tools

Do not feel appreciated

Not paid what was promised

Not paid expenses timely

Capped commissions

Poor leads

Poor job Satisfaction overall

Change in territory

Asked to chase payment

Change in products I can sell

Unstable company

Company just sold

Company for sale

No common agreement on what is a “sales lead”

Company up for sale

No empowerment to make decisions in market

Slow response to needed answers to close a sale

Channel conflict

Rude, ego driven new leader

Asked to be a farmer when I am a hunter

Disconnect between Management Expectations and Market Reality

Wrong strategy

Market shift

Market I built reassigned and asked to build new territory

Bad strategy

Treated like sales is a necessary evil

No strategy

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

Dated strategy

Told we make too much money

Failure to innovate

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

Burn out

Hostile work environment

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

Lack of freedom

Lack of respect from company leaders and immediate boss

Not paid based on size of sales I produce

Mature Market

Bored

Treated like we are disposable

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Is your company at risk?

 

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

 

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

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

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?

Invisible Products; Death of your New Sales Goal

It’s that time of the year again with sales plans being launched and new commission plans being distributed. Meetings have occurred, financial modes built and presentations to the board done and the year’s sales plan was approved. Unfortunately, a number of teams will fail to achieve sales goals (often again) because their products and services are invisible to potential buyers.

I met with an entrepreneur who called and asked if I could help in fixing his sales problem. We met and after I asked him a number of questions I quickly understood what he described as “needing to fix sales his sales problem”.

Symptoms of the problem were described as;

  • failure to achieve new product sales goals on the last three new product launches
  • failure to grow new accounts, “it’s like my team is running a bread route
  • 0nly 40% of sales team achieved their sales goal last year
  • We lost one of our top accounts we have sold for 12 years
  • We lost two of our top salespeople in the last 3 years
  • I failed to hit the numbers I promised our board

Well I can understand why we were meeting…however what happened next was even more disturbing,… he went on to share how he felt I needed to fix the sales problem:

  • Sales Training – my guys need sales training, they need to sell through buyer objections
  • Time Management – they need to spend more time calling on new accounts
  • Compensationwe need to change our comp plan to there is more of an incentive to sell new products
  • PeopleI have been trying to put this off but I probably should hire a VP of Sales to herd these cats.
  • Product Trainingwe need to do a better job of training our sales people on products features and benefits
  • ProcessI want a defined repeatable sales process , sales forecasts have been a joke , I need to know production can count on the sales forecast we give them

This is always interesting ….a hard driving entrepreneur calls and asks to meet with me, and they share their problems then proceed to tell me how to fix them. (I would love to just once have the courage to say; “If you know the problems and how to solve them…why did you call me? “ ) Now I know how my doctor must feel when my right knee is acts up. As opposed to just sharing my symptoms and where it hurts, I proceed to share how other doctors have fixed my right knee since tearing my ACL years ago and explain how he probably should go inside my knee and clean up the cartilage, drain some fluid and probably give me a prescription for pain and an anti-inflammatory… (Sorry doc).

I agreed to help with one condition; I would meet with buyers in his market, his salespeople, and we would regroup to make sure we have an accurate understanding of the “why’s” the above symptoms are occurring (clearly understand the real problem) and then develop a corrective action plan, a roadmap to achieving his teams sales plan.

What we found were a number of what the entrepreneur believed to be true were areas we could improve, however the leading reason why his sales team was not achieving plan, particularly new product sales was his products were invisible to his market’s buyers in the process buyers were using to search for solutions to problems they were having. This team’s web site was basically a virtual brochure that talked more about who they were and not the problems they solved for their marketplace. With 70%-80% of they buying process being done prior to potential buyers calling one of his salespeople, competitors had much more influence on buyers early on, helping them shape how they believed they needed to solve the problems they were experiencing. His salespeople were being invited to quote much later in the sales process as “one of three competitive quotes required to keep their preferred vendor honest.”

When I shared this market information his first response was…”this may be true with consumer B2C products but not B2C customers.” However when I shared specific account interview notes with buyers he was much more open to discussing his web strategy. I shared that your products need to be found when buyers are doing their homework. Once a potential buyer finds your site you have a minute to win it as I discussed in a previous post. I connected him with a web SEO expert I have used in the past and helped him interview web site developers to address this root invisible problem in the heart of his marketing.

How about your products? Are they invisible to potential buyers?

If you conduct a Google search, right now, are your products found? (go ahead minimize this blog right now and search. I can wait…type in an inquiry in the form of you looking for a solution to a problem; do not use your product brand name)

Are your products found on the first page?

Was there more than one entry found for your products?

As you look at the page, if you were a buyer who would you think is the market leader in solving the problem you were searching?

Are there any case studies or customer feedback? Any for your product?

Companies spend millions designing and developing new products but often fail to invest in marketing. In the above example this entrepreneur spends on average $280,000 in new product design and molds, another $27,000 in new brochures and a few trade ads, $9,000 for a booth and attending his industries’ trade show, and he had a friend of the family who did web sites on the side do his web marketing?

This entrepreneur had a sales team committed to achieving sales goals. Could they use some product and sales training? ….yes. Should we modify the current compensation plan to reward new product and new customer sales? …agreed. Should we work on designing a repeatable sales process based on how buyers were buying…absolutely! However if we take the time to do what I call “the market work”, his real problem was a marketing problem and not a sales problem. His biggest problem to solve that would produce the quickest sales return on investment was his web marketing. His web site had not been optimized, to the best of his knowledge…ever.

Products listed on web sites in the form of virtual brochures are invisible to buyers desperately search to solve urgent problems they have and must be solved and are basically the death of your sales plan . Yes you can have your salesperson’s cold call until the dogs come home, but why not invest in your digital salesperson and start conversations with buyers much sooner in the sales process.

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.