Attention CEO’s and CFO’s; Do you have a “Sales and Marketing Funnel” or Bucket? …the answer may surprise you, take a short quiz and know for sure

 

 

do you have a marketing and sales funnel or a leaking sales bucket?

do you have a marketing and sales funnel or a leaking sales bucket?

 

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could have our sales and marketing run like our plant? We could have key indicators, a proven methodology, and process with predictable results…”I hear business owners and leaders say this to me often once they relax and truly share their thoughts and concerns. Far too often CEO’s and CFO’s think/hope their marketing and sales teams have a defined process that is efficient and effective to drive predictable results. Unfortunately, if you really understand and look at leading indicators what they think is a marketing and sales funnel is actually a sales bucket. In this post I will share how to determine if your team has a marketing and sales funnel or a sales bucket that leaks an occasional sale or two.

 

I was asked by the chairman of the board of a company to have lunch. He heard through his venture capital and private equity network what I do, and he was warned early on my approach is a bit different. I enjoy meeting new people and business problems are drawn to me. I enjoy learning new things, facing new challenges and each meeting like this one always teaches me something. Once we made it through the pleasantries it was not too long for me to hear his concerns;

 

Why can’t sales and marketing be like my manufacturing plant? Predictable, scalable, and provide me sales forecasts I can count on?

 

It drives me nuts to know we are spending so much money on marketing and I do not see an immediate and often long term return on that investment, but I am afraid to stop making it in case it would hurt the performance we are seeing.

 

What we need is a repeatable sales process. We need the sales guys to be more efficient at closing business and bringing in the revenue.

 

Based on our moderate to poor sales results over the last few years, do I have the right salespeople or should I be looking for new ones?

 

I feel like the CEO / President is asking for more money each year for marketing, but I am not seeing a corresponding increase in sales…why?

 

We seem to have high turnover in sales, we lost some good sales people and this has to be expensive and hurting our results.

 

About the time we finished eating he said; “what do you think? Is this something you can help with, can you fix sales problems like this?”

 

I have and often do “fix sales problems.” However more often than not what CEO’s and business owners want to hear on how to fix sales problems is not the way they anticipate. In most cases they think they have a repeatable sales process, but they don’t.

 

They think they have a marketing funnel that is dumping primed and ready leads to their salespeople and their sales people have a proven way to close them quickly. They think they need more sales training. They think they need to better motivate their sales people to perform.  No, no, no and in most cases no again.

 

What I have observed in most cases is leaders, particularly those not from marketing and sales believe they have a marketing and sales funnel, but in reality they have a bucket, with an every so small hole in the bottom that occasionally leaks a sale or two. Left unchecked this marketing and sales bucket becomes a Chinese water torture to your senior leadership team as they try to explain and predict future revenues and ROI with owners and investors. As one thought leader just shared, what they think is a funnel of live and vibrant leads and opportunities is actually pipeline stench. The pipelines may look full and make you feel good in senior management meetings Monday mornings…but are actually full of dead and rotting opportunities polluting your entire marketing and sales process.

 

Do you have a Marketing and Sales Funnel or Bucket?

 

  1. What is your lead to close %? Do you know it?
  2. Do you have defined stages in the marketing and sales pipeline? What are they?
  3. Can you share the # in each phase?
  4. If I met with your latest new salesperson, could they share your repeatable sales process with me?
  5. Does sales and marketing have an understood definition of the terms; opportunity, prospect, lead?
  6. Can you tell me the average time a new person you engage with spends in your process until they buy or die?
  7. Can you share the qualifying questions you use?
  8. Do you have the top three buyer personas  identified and have you mapped out their buying journey?
  9. Have you added new sales tools in the last 6-12 months?
  10. Does your web site speak in the tone of the problems you solve?

 

If the answers I receive to the above have three or more “no’s” you have Marketing and Sales Bucket not a funnel.

 

How about your company?

 

Do you have a “Marketing Funnel”, “Sales Funnel” a “Repeatable Sales process”?….are you sure? (you need to be)

 

What other questions could we ask to determine if you have a funnel of vibrant buyers anxious to buy and solve their problems, or a bunch of rotting dead leads just polluting your management process?

 

In the market of today there is no excuse to not have marketing and sales funnel that is a systematic process driven tool to maximize your team’s effectiveness and do so in the most efficient way.

 

So did this post make you nervous, anxious, and maybe a bit angry? As your team for the answers to the above that I use to diagnose teams I serve, and you will quickly understand your internal truths. Once you do, you are well on your way to driving a process that gets results. In my next post I will share some techniques I have used to turn marketing and sales buckets into funnels.

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

sales sink hole

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Why do sales superstars leave?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Inadequate training

Consolidating markets

Brand damaged product

Trust broken with management

No defined sales process

Don’t believe in what they are selling anymore

Stress

Ethics

No sales on boarding process

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

Bad Boss

More money

Lack of freedom

Asked to learn on the fly

Poor compensation model

Capped commissions

Change in commissions

Change in compensation model

Change in benefits

Poor product quality

Lack of support

No training

No clear future growth opportunity

Not feeling motivated

No marketing support

Operations driven organization

Engineering driven organization

Accounting driven organization

Job was not what I was told it would be

Understaffed support

Too hard to sell what we have

Micro management

New CRM

Change in Strategy

New company leadership disconnected with what really happens in market today

Lack of sales tools

Dated sales tools

Asked to do non sales activities

New Culture does not match salesperson anymore

No new products

New products that do not work

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

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

New product launched with quality issues

Asked to sell something I know is not what we promise

Unrealistic goals

Cut in my expense budget but bigger goals

Work harder to make the same (often less)

Account conflict

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

Change in customer service

Raised prices above market price with no perceived benefit to buyers

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

New products that fail

No clear target or goal

Changing goals and priorities

Something in their personal life changed

Desire to grow skills and responsibility

Growing quotas with shrinking commissions

No leads

Not feeling senior management values the role we play

Not feeling valued by my boss

Internally focused and not market focused

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

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

No recognition

No praise for job well done

Told “just make it happen” without proper tools

Do not feel appreciated

Not paid what was promised

Not paid expenses timely

Capped commissions

Poor leads

Poor job Satisfaction overall

Change in territory

Asked to chase payment

Change in products I can sell

Unstable company

Company just sold

Company for sale

No common agreement on what is a “sales lead”

Company up for sale

No empowerment to make decisions in market

Slow response to needed answers to close a sale

Channel conflict

Rude, ego driven new leader

Asked to be a farmer when I am a hunter

Disconnect between Management Expectations and Market Reality

Wrong strategy

Market shift

Market I built reassigned and asked to build new territory

Bad strategy

Treated like sales is a necessary evil

No strategy

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

Dated strategy

Told we make too much money

Failure to innovate

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

Burn out

Hostile work environment

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

Lack of freedom

Lack of respect from company leaders and immediate boss

Not paid based on size of sales I produce

Mature Market

Bored

Treated like we are disposable

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Is your company at risk?

 

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

 

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

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

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

0002-growth-graph

 

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

 

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

 

You cannot Manage your way to improved sales alone.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Clean Sales Management

 

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

 

You need to answer;

 

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

 

What is their buyer journey today?

 

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

 

What are common buyer personas your team is presenting?

 

What criteria are important to your buyers today?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Your CEO and President want answers to specific questions

 

Hitting your new sales goals

 

Hitting your profit objectives

 

Controlling expenses

 

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

 

A/R wants help collecting from difficult customers

 

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

 

Forecasting

 

Cost of Quality meetings

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Meetings with Product Engineering discussing problems with their last new design

 

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

 

Social Media group wanting stories from the field

 

More meetings you did not even know were on the list

 

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

 

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

Improve Sales; Practice “Clean Sales Management”

By Mark Allen Roberts

Relying on old dated and often false market beliefs will result in sick sales performance. Growing your business profitably is not about continuing to consume the beliefs that got you here in hope they will help you to grow in the future. The only way sales leaders can insure their sales teams do not experience poor sales performance is to practice “clean sales management” daily.

In my last post I shared how sick sales performance is much like catching the flu, and far too often sales leaders believe a number of myths about what caused the poor performance and how to cure sick sales. Another myth about how to improve sales is to do more of what you have always done. This like believing if you normally take a handful of vitamins each day, taking two will cure the flu… it’s simply not true. Some believe they just need to better manage (micro manage) their way to healthy sales and this is simply not true. The flu is something you catch by coming in contact with it. You touched a door knob, a car door, shook someone’s hand and you picked up the flu virus. At some point that virus then entered your system and you got sick. The best method of avoiding catching the flu is to wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer so the virus is killed before it enters your body.

Practicing clean sales management involves being in your market with your salespeople on four legged sales calls. You wash those old beliefs that may have got you to this point clean each day and humbly approaching your market and listening and observing  how buyers want to buy, the process they are using today, and the criteria that they require to purchase from you.

Understanding how your buyers are buying today and what their buyer’s journey looks like , is like taking a daily shower in hand sanitizer ; it immunizes your sales team from poor sales performance.

Doing more of what you have always done is not the way to fix poor sales performance today. You must get out in your market and clearly understand the problems your buyers have and how they seek to solve them.

How are your sales performing to date?

Are you trying to manage fruit ripe? Or are you strategically, humbly, seeking to understand your market?

Is someone in your senior leadership team starting conversations with; “When I carried a sales bag we….”?

Is anyone in your senior leadership Monday KPI meetings starting their point with “I think we should…..” instead of sharing current market data?

Practicing clean sales management is the only way to immunize your sales team from poor sales performance. If you find your team is experiencing sick sales it’s often because you allowed an old belief of how and why your buyers buy to infect your sales process. The quickest cure is to get out in your market and determine how your buyers are buying today.

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


The first quarter of each new year often starts out as a struggle for sales teams to achieve their new goals. Your sales team has received a new and bigger goal, (there’s a high probability they missed last year’s goal) and now your team’s sales performance is poor or put another way; it is sick. When you ask your salespeople why you will often hear them rationalize  since “the economy” is bad  their sales performance is also suffering. Assuming your team’s poor sales performance to goal is solely based on a “poor economy” is like believing if you go to bed with a wet head you will wake up with the flu…it’s simply not true.

As I shared in a previous post it is not just a sales training problem, or a sales management problem it is often so much more. Before we can clearly diagnose why your sales team is experiencing poor sales performance we need to identify a squash myths your team may believe.

I was in the line at Walgreens to receive my annual flu shot and I could not help but listen as people in line shared myths that they believed to be true about the flu and the flu shot it’s self. This reminded me of the myths I have heard over the years about poor sales performance and I wanted to dispel some of the reasons people use to rationalize poor sales performance.

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

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

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

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

How is your team performing to goal?

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

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

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

Are you practicing “clean sales management”?

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

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


It’s that time of year again…sales teams have received their new sales goals and often the results are sick and not close to plan. This time of year in particular, sick sales is an epidemic. Everything was going along well and then all of the sudden it hits you like the flu and your sales become sick. Sales are not hitting plan and worst of all not producing the planned return on investments made to support your new sales goals. How do you improve sick sales before they become terminal? That is what I plan to discuss in my next series of posts. But before we can improve your sales, we need to quash some myths that many leaders believe to be true about improving sick sales.

I went to Walgreens recently to get my annual flu shot. I interact  so many people in meetings, airplane flights and trainings I am pretty much guaranteed to bump into someone with the flu each year so I always get the flu shot. As I waited in line I heard others asking each other questions about the flu and it gave me pause. So when it was my turn to be a pin cushion I asked the pharmacist some questions about the myths I just heard in line. I thought I would be much better off getting advice from an expert than listening to the people in line sharing the myths they have heard, believe to be true, and are now sharing with others. It was no surprise to learn everything that was shared in line was not true and this reminded me of how companies also can experience the flu , particularly early each year when the new sales goals are distributed, and like those people in line they too may believe some myths they have heard over the years.

The biggest misperception about the flu is that it can be treated with antibiotics. The fundamental mistake most people make is self diagnosing symptoms as a cold and not the flu. They believe they can pop a quick pill or a series of pills and cure the symptoms. The flu is a virus and antibiotics do not cure the flu. They believe having a national sales meetings and my favorite; “sales training” to cure their sick sales results will make their poor performance go away. Fixing and improving sales not a “how–to “problem. In the Rain Group report they found 90% of sales training initiatives have no lasting impact after 120 days. In addition companies believe they are providing “sales training” but what they are actually doing is “product training”. Product training is not sales training.

What are some symptoms your sales has the flu?

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

If your sales have the flu or you wish to prevent your sales from catching the flu, the first place to start is to clearly understand your market, buyers, and their buying process. Like the flu shot this process that often entails win-loss interviews with customers, past customers, and potential customers takes some time to work. This is the best way to immunize your sales team from experiencing sick sales. If you fail to understand your market, your buyers and more importantly how your product is positioned to solve buyer problems you are forcing your sales people to assume the position with buyers and this leads to sick sales performance.

Is your team experiencing sick sales performance this year?

Have you decided to have a national meeting?

Does your team experience a sales flu early each year?

Are you planning “sales training” to improve sales performance?

Trying to mprove sales performance without clearly understanding your market is like taking an antibiotic to make the flu go away… it does not work. You may mentally and emotionally  feel you are taking the appropriate action but the sick sales symptoms will linger and often make your entire team miserable much longer than they need to.