Increase Sales: Turn your “Sales Bucket” into a “Marketing and Sales Funnel” That Generates Revenue

Steve Patrrizi new sales funnel

Steve Patrizi new sales funnel

 

In my last post I shared what CEO’s and business owners often share about sales: Why can’t it be more predictable, more systematic? The good news is it can. The unfortunate thing is most companies believe they have a marketing and sales funnel when in reality they have a sales bucket. A “sales bucket” is when all your opportunities, prospects and leads are all floating around together and many dying because you lack a process to help them buy. In a sales bucket opportunities that should become sales make a big splash when they enter your system but fail to leak out the bottom as a sale.  In this post I will share how I have helped companies turn their sales buckets into revenue generating marketing and sales funnel generating revenue on a consistent and predictable basis.

 

When I hear a business leader say: 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.  What I hear them saying is : Why can’t my sales and marketing be more of a science and less of an art form? …it is too random, too unpredictable and it drives me nuts that I can’t count on the sales forecasts I am given.” These made me want to do some more research and answer the question: What is science?

 

At its very foundation science seeks to identify patterns. Through identifying and watching patterns, scientists uncover laws that are ultimately translated into math equations. These patterns follow one of two interwoven features; physical laws and environmental influences. With the common pattern of as high as 96% of leads going unsold…what is the pattern and what can we do to improve?

 

For companies who lack a marketing and sales funnel over the years the current market has only made this problem even worse. It used to be, back in the day, back when sales was the “keeper of the keys of product information” , marketing just had to dump prospects and leads into the top of the funnel and sales was responsible for pulling them through to a sale. The funnel and the function of the funnel changed as Steve Patrizi points out here. Today buyers are more informed and as much as 60%-80% of the buying process is over before they contact you. I read an article recently that shared the most important number in B2B marketing is 60%.

 

What does this figure mean for Marketing?

  • 60% …  This is no man’s land: a gap in the purchasing funnel that neither commercial function currently addresses.
  • The 60% mark is in that part of the mid-funnel that is critical in terms of driving the buyers’ consideration of a supplier for a potential purchase.
  • 60% also means trying to build a dialogue with customers without having the advantage of a Sales rep’s one-on-one commercial interaction.
  • Finally, 60% means moving beyond the “qualified lead” mindset.  In essence, once we have moved past the early stages of the funnel, we need a strategy for persuasion and attention-grabbing mechanisms.

Our job today becomes understanding how buyers buy, what common problems do they have, and turn our sales bucket into a slippery marketing and sales funnel that helps buyers buy.  So how do we do that? What have I seen work? Below is the process I have used to help take the art out of sales and make it a much more predictable, forecast able, outcome.

  1. Establish a common language – what does your team mean by a; Prospect, Inquiry, Opportunity, Lead?
  2. Go into your market, ideally on four legged sales calls and clearly understand how your buyers buy and the criteria they need to make buying decisions.
  3. Identify market truth’s
  4. Map Buying journey
  5. Create a marketing funnel that helps buyers buy
  6. Stop the “sales insanity” and map a repeatable sales process that turns leads to sales
  7. constantly sense and refine, adjust , be agile as your buyers change their processes change with them
  8. Measure, measure, measure…
  9. identify “the canary in your coal mine”, your lead to close %
  10. Nurture your leads, improve your lead to close % by helping them slide through the funnel with what they need when they need it.

make sales funnel slippery

Do you have a sales bucket with opportunities that should become sales (leads you paid good money for already) dying?

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

What do your buyers need today to make buying decisions?

Do your sales people have the right sales tools to make the sales funnel slippery or is buying from you like sliding down a sliding board lined with sand paper and splinters?

 

 

 

 

 

What You should Do If You Report to a “Post Turtle Sales Manager” ?

post turtle manager

 

 

In my last few posts about different types of buyers and how to sell them, I shared advice about how to sell a “Post Turtle Buyer”. I had planned to keep sharing different buyer types I have worked with over the years. What surprised me were the emails and calls I received asking; what should I do if I report to a “post turtle sales manager”? The reason I started blogging was to share advice in hopes it helps and serves others. If you report to a “post turtle sales manager” this post is for you.

 

First we need to make sure we are talking about the right challenging sales manager. A “post turtle sales manager” is one that was placed in this role and does not know what to do there. Someone else put them there and they did not climb up there, earn this position on their own. When I spent some time researching why sales super stars leave, I found one of the leading reasons was their boss; their sales manager. However most of those interviews were about what I referred to some time ago as the “Ass Kicker”. The Ass Kicker is a jerk basically who subscribes to; the beatings will continue until the moral improves weekly. When something goes wrong, sales are not met they quickly look for an ass to kick or a throat to choke. They lack the emotional intelligence to manage themselves let alone a team of people. They often lead with fear and intimidation and if you are struggling with this type of sales manager I have some advice for you here.

 

A Post Turtle Sales Manager is different. They may have been a salesperson promoted. After all since they were so strong at selling they would be an awesome sales manager right?… WRONG. Managing and leading people requires an entirely bigger skill set than how to sell products effectively.

 

I have seen Post Turtle Managers also emerge from the owner’s rolodex of “smart” people and or relatives.

 

Just because you are smart is does not insure your success leading a sales team.

 

Just because you may have the same DNA flowing through your veins as the owner, it does not mean you have the training, experience and gifts to lead a sales team.

 

What should you do if you now have a post turtle sales manager?

 

  1. Make a decision – do you want to work for them? You now understand who and what they are and are you willing to sign up for this deal? If the answer is no, and it often is with sales super stars, start making your plan to exit now.
  2. Assuming you chose to stay, first identify how they will be judged.
  3. Help them achieve their objectives.
  4. Ask them to go on some four legged sales calls.
  5. lead up; you do not have to have a title to have influence
  6. Find them a raving fan account contact they can bounce ideas off of and learn about current market problems common in your business.
  7. Find them a Mentor, someone in your organization or someone in a similar role serving your industry but obviously not a competing company.
  8. Find them an industry association group to join, participate in.
  9. Help them find a local leaders organization like Vistage.
  10. Encourage them to subscribe to content, like my blog here at www.nosmokeandmirrors.com

 

 

Other sales and sales leadership content I would highly recommend includes;

 

 

Selling Power: http://salesleadershipblog.sellingpower.com/

 

Sales Benchmark Index: http://www.salesbenchmarkindex.com/bid/97712/Why-Slow-Sales-Leaders-Won-t-Survive

 

Top Sales World: http://topsalesworld.com/topsalesmanagement/

 

Insight Squared: http://www.insightsquared.com/2013/05/sales-leadership-vs-sales-management/

 

Salesforce Blog: http://blogs.salesforce.com/company/

 

Revenue Journal: http://www.revenuejournal.com/

 

 

 

Content specific to leadership would include;

 

 

Management Excellence: http://artpetty.com/blog/

 

Chris Brogan: http://www.chrisbrogan.com/

 

How to change the world: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/

 

Tom Peters: http://www.tompeters.com/

 

Leadership Wired: http://www.johnmaxwell.com/blog/

 

Brian Tracy’s Blog: http://www.briantracy.com/blog/

 

Leadership Now: http://www.leadershipnow.com/leadingblog/

 

 

Some you tubes they could watch include:

You don’t have to go it alone; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kL03rvRxnys

 

This week in sales: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVpAu4jvvb8

 

Connie Podesta: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLhuFKCiX0A

 

 

A couple of great books;

 

 

Profit from the Core

 

New Rules Marketing and PR

 

Ctrl Alt Delete

 

Coaching Salespeople into Champions

 

First 90 Days

 

Your Brain at Work

 

 

 

If you now report to a Post Turtle Sales Manager you can moan, complain and participate in all those non value adding negative conversations with your peers,…or be a part of the solution. Offer to help your sales manager learn how to become successful and who knows you may find they are the perfect boss…and become a lifelong friend as well.

 

Have you worked for a post turtle sales manager?

 

What Advice would you give to others?

“Lead to Close Percentage”, The Canary in Your Coal Mine for Sales Forecasting

knowing your lead to close percentage is key to improving sales

knowing your lead to close percentage is key to improving sales

If you want to get CEO’s talking, one of the hot topics is what I have referred to earlier is the “Great Disconnect” as it relates to sales execution. Some common burning problems that CEO’s often share with me on their drive home at night are about their frustration with regards to sales performance…

Why is sales an art and not a science in their organization given all the technology available today?

 

How can I get my sales team to operate like my plant?… more manageable, more predictable?

 

 

How can I tell quickly and early enough that my salespeople will or won’t hit their sales goals each month?

 

How can we drive the variability of sales forecasting out of our current sales forecasting process?

 

How can we get a greater return on marketing dollars invested?

 

The question I use that often makes the phone call grow quiet with that all too familiar pregnant pause is: What is your team’s “lead to close percentage”? Your lead to close percentage is the canary in your coal mine of sales and acts as an early predictor of future sales performance. When you ask salespeople how to grow their sales they will say; I need more leads. The reality is you do not need more leads you need to improve your lead to close percentage on all the leads you already have.

 

My grandfather grew up in West Virginia and his father like many men back then was a coal miner in addition to having the family farm. My grandfather used to share with me how miners would bring canaries down into the coal mines as they were a quick early warning sign that there were toxic unhealthy gases seeping into the mine and they needed to leave the mine quickly. Canaries are particularly susceptible to toxic gases like carbon monoxide and methane found in the stale air of mines back then. The life of a canary in a coal mine was often short but meaningful. Your lead to close percentage indicator is the canary in your sales mine.

 

So what is the “canary in your coal mine of sales”?

 

Your “lead to close percentage” is one of the best indicators of future sales performance.

 

57% of companies in a study indicated converting qualified leads into paying customers as their top funnel priority (Marketing Sherpa)

 

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

 

Do you know your “lead to close percentage” for your sales team? …for each salesperson?

 

It is difficult to manage, fine tune, and improve something until you make it a Key Performance Indicator that you track. Once you start tracking your lead to close percentage for your team and each salesperson you will quickly be on a path to taking the frustrating variability out of your sales forecasting process.

 

In my next post I will share specific ways to improve your lead to close % one you have agreed to make it a key performance indicator your sales team will track and report on.

Why Do Star Salespeople Leave? (it is not what you think)…

 

 jump ship

I received a call from a past client a month or so ago, the CEO of a manufacturing company, and I could tell he was very upset. Being the typical busy business owner he jumped right into the reason for the call; “why do star salespeople just leave, no warning, …poof …they are gone , jumped ship, and now what am I going to do?” I asked a few more questions and Tom who had been his top salesperson for years just resigned and announced he will be working for another manufacturer in their industry that has some products that compete with my past client’s company. As we talked, it was clear this was first a big surprise, and CEO’s hate surprises that could interrupt their plan. Second, this experience has caused major unrest throughout the sales and senior management team. Third, he was concerned because Tom had most of their large key customers …What would they think? What has Tom said to them? …Is there a risk in losing their business?  Last the CEO had a hard time describing what he was personally feeling, but what heard was; betrayed, hurt, and concerned. “I just can’t believe it, after all Tom and I have been through he just leaves?”He was very concerned about how this exit would impact what should have been a high sales growth year. I agreed to connect with Tom and find out what made him jump ship so abruptly.

 

In any given year a business will have salespeople come and go. It is the nature of the sales beast. We created a high performance driven culture with a high degree of accountability in the work we did years earlier so it was not unusual to cull the sales herd and this typically resulted in under performing salespeople leaving of their own accord. However, when a sales star, a sales super star, A player  in this case, leaves it can be devastating.

Why do sales super stars leave?

I have seen this situation happen at a number of companies so I decided to spend some time in this blog discussing why sales super stars really leave.In my last blog post I shared the results of a survey I did in my various Linked In sales groups and networking with sales stars I have worked with over the years. I reviewed the most common reasons that sales mangers and business owners believe as to why sales leaders leave organizations; money, promotion, boss is a jerk…. I also asked sales super stars why they left past teams or why they would leave their current team.

What company leaders must realize is the reason most sales super stars leave is not “money”, money is  one  extrinsic measuring stick they use to measure how much your A player intrinsically feels  you value their contribution.

Intrinsic needs include feeling valued , trusting those they serve, and appreciated. They also include feeling challenged and learning new things as well as being proud of the work they do and the contribution they are making.

Extrinsic needs are things like base pay, commission, benefits, vacation time, bonuses, expense reimbursement , company car, vacation time policies and so on.

Sales super stars leave when their intrinsic needs are not being met and this is  validated by extrinsic conditions.

Keep in mind we are discussing” sales super stars”…these guys and gals who charge into a new market and open new business….they “just make it happen“…when a new product is launched they crush their numbers…your customer satisfaction surveys for them all come back A+….they consistently exceed sales quota…..their profit per sale is higher than the team average….their close rate is 20% greater …..and their cost per sale is the lowest. If you have a hard time determining who your star / A players are, you can find a great tool to do so here. These are the people you dream about finding, hiring and keeping so it should be no surprise when they leave it is often a shock. Sales super stars know how to drive results. In this post I plan to share the real reasons why they leave, actions you or members of your team have done ( or not done)  that have asked a sales super star to leave. What I am not discussing are personal life issues that cause a sales super star to leave like needing to care for their children or an elderly parent, or a health concern that makes them have to leave the job.

 

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs work he shared the continuum of needs most people have.

Maslows-Hierarchy-of-Needs

 

The needs start with the basic Physiological needs for things like food, water and so on and graduate to self-actualization needs for things like creativity, spontaneity, and morality to name a few. The ERG theory followed with a simpler model (Existence, Relatedness and Growth).  This model is what market leading business owners intuitively think about as they develop their sales cultures and compensation programs. However the disconnect I argue occurs in sales super stars at non market leading companies because business owners think if they take care of basic extrinsic needs their sales stars will be happy. Sales super stars however know their value and are driven by something much deeper and pay is something they know they can earn and expect anywhere. To put it another way, they are good, they know they are good, and they are not worried about being unemployed for long should something occur in their current job that is unacceptable. The threat of a compensation decrease does not scare them into submission like it does average or below average salespeople who have nowhere else to go. Sales super stars  know how to help buyers buy and they know if not treated well where they are they can confidently and quickly find new employment to meet their basic needs for food, shelter and so on. These sales super stars have a much greater need to feel valued, trusted, and to trust those they serve with their skills. They also see themselves as winners and must feel they are on and supported by a winning team . To make their value even greater a recent article it shared how the gap between good and great sales people seems to be growing wider…and sales super stars know it.

 

A better model can be seen from the work of the famous book: The five dysfunctions of a team as shown below.

fivedysfunctions

 

 

 

The reason why this is much more relevant to sales super stars is it is built on a foundation of trust, an intrinsic need. This model was designed to be used with teams of people to create a strong foundation that ultimately leads to best in class performance. In this case I want you to consider the above in the context of a sales super star. Your sales super star is a star at what they do and will be your star as long as there is a foundation of trust. How much do they trust you? How much do they feel valued by and trusted by you? If there is a break in that foundation; intrinsic trust, they will seek extrinsic factors to validate their belief, and when they find them…poof…they just leave.

 

I hear some of you saying…enough of the Psycho mumbo jumbo…so let me share common scenarios that illustrate why sales super stars actually leave.( and it did not happen in just a “poof “instant)

 

 

Scenario One: they left for more money

What you heard was they left for more money…here’s what really happened.

A lack of trust occurrence– they sold something and it had huge quality issues, they are asked to sell a new product that is not ready to go to market yet, they are given an unrealistic goal since they seem to crush their goal every year anyway. They made a large sale and when they receive their paycheck they are informed the compensation plan changed. They made a large and profitable sale and no one said atta boy…

Feeling they are not appreciated – may have been called out in a meeting in front of peers over something that was not their fault, criticized for misspelled words in their monthly report that highlights once again they blew past their sales goals or some other minor issue while they continue to crush their key sales performance indicators.

Validation of feelings of being unappreciated–  a change in pay, maybe a change in benefits, a new compensation model, a new expense limit program, take away company credit card asked to use personal credit card and expense reimbursement is very slow, change of sales territory, and a new targeted income model with a capped pay plan (nothing demotivates a sales super star like a cap on compensation).

Put out some feelers about job opportunities

Poof they just leave…

 

 

 

 

 

 Scenario two; Left because boss was” a jerk”

What you hear is they left because they thought their boss was “a jerk” a real “ass-kicker”.

 Not trusting new boss/ boss kicks ass and provides no help or assistance to help him hit quota- boss lacks product, market and management training,  in a recent survey of sales people only 34% of salespeople believed their manager and leaders knew what they were doing, boss believes the beatings will continue until the performance improves.  New boss implements micro management tactics and challenges how the sales super star spends their time and who they meet with although they continue to exceed sales performance indicators. Sales star feels he is not trusted, does not trust boss, does not trust where the company seems to be going.

 Concerned about the direction of company if they would hire someone like this – they feel a cultural shift, often not an intentional strategic shift. They refuse to be on a team managed by someone who adds no value to growing sales. “Help me hit my numbers or get out of my way.

 No longer trusting ownership and senior leadership- they have to know this is happening right?

 Feeling new boss does not appreciate nor value their contribution to the team’s overall sales performance, access to upper management cut off my new boss

 Possibly has a run in with boss privately or publicly-  new sales managers with low emotional quotients are often intimidated by sales super stars

 New boss does not back sales super star with customers or upper management when conflict occurs- new sales manager has strong political experience and plays it safe and fails to address real issues

 Sales star loses relationship with owners who in the past have shared how much they valued his contribution – you always had an open door to your team, particularly when you were much smaller , but you have grown and hired people to manage the front line so you can run the business.

 Puts out a few feelers

 Poof …Leaves team

 

 

 

 

 Scenario three: They left for a “better opportunity”

What you heard was they left for a “better opportunity”.

Quality changes for the worse, product, service, communication, lack of new innovative products, no new sales tools, poor marketing, no leads

 Feeling of being disconnected, alone in the market and unable to share all the quality issues that are hurting the achievement of sales results because it is not “politically safe” and they are accused of “just making excuses”

 Not trusting the company, what it says, or the products you are selling will do what they are promised to do in your literature

 Concerned about personal reputation in market

Missed a sales quota and gets less commission or no commission

 Lost a key account to a competitor with new innovative solutions that do not have quality issues

 Unresolved product quality issues from past sales sucking them into conflicts when they should be selling new opportunities 

Relationship with long term key account strained

 Less commission again, had to explain why to their spouse

 Put out feelers

 Poof…Leaves team

 

 

 Scenario four; Sales super star got a great offer they could not refuse

What you heard was the competitor made them an amazing compensation offer.

 Sales star sees favoritism to under performing sales associate(s) – basically poor results are not addressed and under performance is ignored and politically correctness is rewarded.

Sales Star is financially impacted by poor performance of under performing team member – the group’s sales number are down so everyone suffers, maybe the under performing team member is in product development and they keep throwing products over the wall the market does not want…need… or are not finished, or marketing failing to produce qualified leads, or manufacturing.

Sales star disciplined for results out of  their control – your comp plan is weighted to drive new product sales and the new product you launched is poorly designed, late, and has numerous quality issues so the sales star fails to hit compensation levels. The launch is late but the sales goal by month stays the same. Marketing does a “soft launch” and there are no or very little qualified leads and or support.

Under performing team members allowed to go on unchecked- poor performance issues not addressed, situations do not change, but sales star told ; “ you are not paid to tell me why you can’t sell, you are paid to hit your numbers, just make it happen”

Sales star wants to be working with other winners not B and C players- super stars want and need to be on teams of other super stars. They lack an understanding or the patience to accept team members who are not accountable

Put out feelers…

 Poof…they leave

 

Scenario five; offered a much higher position with more responsibility

What you heard was he or she was offered a much bigger job, role , with a competing firm.

No new products for 18-24 months – sales person sees competition launching new products, new marketing support tools and your team has not launched anything new.

Focus on making more profit from current customers and not growing market- the mood, strategy seems to have shifted and salesperson is hitting their numbers but can achieve those results with three-four hours of work per day.

They become bored- they are not having their intrinsic need to feel challenged, learn new things , “take new hills“, met

No Longer proud of what they do

Put out a few feelers…

Poof…they just leave

 

As you can see a sales super star does not just wake up one day and decide to leave. As a matter of fact sales super stars are actively recruited on a frequent basis because they are so good. They stay when they trust you, your company and feel their extra effort is appreciated. They listen to new job inquires when their trust is broken, they feel they are not supported, not valued, asked to sell something of poor quality and or find themselves on teams that lack a commitment and accountability to the goals of the organization.

What my past client was feeling was a lack of loyalty after all these years, and the sales star selfishly chasing bigger bucks for the short term. When I called Tom what I found was the reason he left was rooted in a thought that became a belief many months earlier and only validated by some external, extrinsic needs changed. As the CEO’s business grew he hired a number of new people; CFO, COO, VP of Sales and Marketing. Tom felt distanced from the CEO and his efforts to reconnect were seen as “not following the chain of command” and he was reprimanded by the new VP of Sales and Marketing.  Tom was hitting his numbers out of the park, but now the new team members were changing the compensation program, implementing a number of new rules regarding expenses and limiting what Tom can do out in the market without their approval. Tom felt unappreciated  he lacked faith and trust in the new management team, and felt he would be valued more somewhere else. The competitor has been after him for years and as Tom shared and it took one meeting over coffee to receive an offer. The offer was a little more money upfront, but he would once again be reporting to the CEO, and they had a number of new and exciting products to launch into current and new markets. The variable portion of his compensation was uncapped once again and he saw a huge opportunity and challenge.

The intrinsic fuse was lit when they stopped trusting you….and Poof they are gone when that fuse meets some external validation.

 

Have you lost a sales super star on your team in the last 12 months? Why?

 

What is the value of a sales super star compared to an average sales person in your organization?

 

Do your sales super stars feel appreciated and valued? How do you show them?

 

Or are your sales people treated like sales mercenaries and told to “just make it happen or I will find someone else who can” ( if so I promise they are already looking for new teams to serve)

 

As a leader/owner of your organization do you know how your salespeople are being treated? If so how, what have you put in place to prevent an “ass kicker” from chasing away your best people?

 

The economy is rebounding and our customers and potential customers have cash reserves they want to spend to solve problems they have needed to solve for years. It is the perfect condition for sales super stars to create sales velocity for your team and add real dollars to your bottom line. Will your huge growth year be sucked into a sales force sink hole when one, two or even three of your top salespeople leave? How can you be sure your year is built on a strong foundation for sales growth? In a recent survey 60% of employees said they will change jobs when the economy improves . What would happen in your company if the 60% who leave are all your A players ( and may become competitors)? In my next post I will discuss how to keep sales super stars on your team and how to attract other market leading sales super stars to want to join your team.


As the owner and or leader of your business I can hear some of you saying; “Mark, the above examples are obvious reasons why anyone would leave including a sales super star. However in my company this would never happen.

Are you sure? I have seen each  of the above, and many more occur in companies just like yours.

 

 

 

 

Does Your Sales Compensation Plan Create “ Commission Junkies”?

by Mark Allen Roberts


For as long as I have been in sales and sales leadership I have heard  true sales velocity is about carefully balancing the carrot and the stick to manage your salespeople. If your sales compensation program relies on unrealistic goals and heavily weighted sales compensation plan based on a carrot too far away or too big…you are creating “Commission Junkies”.

Commission Junkies are slapping their cell phones and typing follow up “where’s my order” emails as fast as their fingers can move hoping to find their next fix.

Let me ask you….Who would you prefer to help you buy something? Would you prefer someone who takes the time to truly understand your problem to be solved and understands the costs associated with that problem? Or someone who is obviously all about making his sales number” and “making his commission”? Do you want a professional sales person asking questions to understand your needs, or someone so focused on closing the sale they seem desperate? You might say;

“Mark that’s a dumb question…I want a sales consultant who helps me solve my problem, who understands my problem to be solved as if it were their own”.

(Quick look at your sales compensation program, and ask is that what you are rewarding?) …Really?

There is an old Native American saying: “the wolf we feed is the one that grows.”

What behaviors does your current sales compensation program feed?

OK….then why do so many sales compensation programs create what I call “Commission Junkies” who are desperately chasing that next fix of commission because their total compensation is heavily weighted on objectives that do not match your (published) culture?

Poor sales compensation models create bad behaviors in the field that can result in Brand Damage for your overall product offering.

So how do you know if your sales plan is poorly designed?

  • sales rep goals do not align with corporate overall strategy
  • your reps feel the goals are unobtainable
  • your reps feel the activities to hit their goals are out of their control
  • too many goals
  • a commission plan that requires a CPA to understand it
  • “commission claw backs”
  • commissions are not weighted based on corporate objectives
  • sales goals built from the board room and sent down to sales team to “make it happen
  • it is the same plan you have used for the past 2 years
  • the variable portion of total sales compensation is weighted too high
  • goals that change frequently
  • you have a targeted compensation plan with a commission cap

As I shared in my last post, leading salespeople is not as complicated as we often make it. The very essence of most salespeople is to take the path of least resistance that drives their desired income. Put another way, we have a high Utilitarian characteristic that makes us wired to want the maximum return on our efforts in the shortest amount of time. .Salespeople are competitive and welcome stretch goals that are obtainable.

Sales Goals created with Market Opportunity Profiles drive results and the sales behaviors you want in your market.

The wrong sales compensation plan creates “Commission Junkies” only out to make their next fix… their next commission. They become so about the next commission and who can create the next order the fastest they often fail to execute the sales plan. As I shared in a previous post, nothing drives CEO’s more nuts than finding out the sales plan is not being executed six months into the year.

A few questions for you….

How are your sales to plan Year to date?

Are you at your targeted sales and profit goals?

Is your sales team meeting and achieving their new product sales?

Are you opening the targeted new accounts you forecasted (needed to) open this year?

With has high as 50%- 70% of sales people not meeting plan this year, if you answered “no” to any of the above you are not alone. Last year alone the average sales team had 50-60% of salespeople not meeting plan and their goals this year went up on average 33%. Knowing you are not alone does not solve the problem or make you, your boss, owner, and or investors happy. Far too often a leading reason sale execution fails is due to your sales compensation program creating commission junkies and not consultative sales partners.

Do you want to quickly assess if you have sales consultants creating great experiences with your brand or Commission Junkies causing Brand Damage?

Ask your buyers if they believe your salesperson understands the problem to be solved and is in the process of presenting a total solution.

If you find some of your team are Commission Junkies there is still time to rehabilitate them by creating Market Opportunity Profiles. You can find a good article about creating sales compensation plans here if this is an area you plan to work on.

Stalled Sale? … Put a Price Tag on Doing Nothing

Stalled Sale? … Put a Price Tag on Doing Nothing


When I train sales teams one of the common questions is; “How do I fix the problem of the stalled sale?” Sales stall and buyers go dark for a number of reasons. I have heard numbers as high as 30%-50% of pending sales in pipelines will stall and possibly never happen. One technique that gets the sale back on track to close is assigning a price of doing nothing and reinforcing it with your buyer(s).

If you have been in sales for any length of time you have experienced the stalled sale. You set out on a journey with your buyer.You had a great meeting with the buyer and influencers, you presented your solution to the identified problems, you had all the buying signals, and the buyer indicated you will get his business but then the sale seems to stall. Key buyer deliverables are missed, your follow up voice and emails are not returned and unfortunately you have probably shared your anticipated new sale you thought was in the bag with your manager who is now driving you nuts with “where’s the order?” This buyer journey now seems to have stopped or maybe just stalled. What should we do now?

Buyers always have choices;

  • Buy from you
  • Buy from your competitor
  • Try to make do and fix it themselves
  • Do nothing

How do you fix stalled sales and drive them to a close?

Once you have diagnosed and prioritized buyer pain you must assign a value on the buyer doing nothing.

Assuming you have listened and now clearly understand the problem the buyer is trying to solve, what is the cost of doing nothing? For example, let’s say you are selling industrial equipment that is more efficient and saves energy. Very quickly you can assign a weekly dollar value of not making a decision and not fixing the problem. Once you identify that cost in dollars, energy inefficiency, or other measurements share that information with your buyer(s) and all sale influencers. In this same example you may also identify the cost of lost production if the current equipment fails. When you first determined the requirements for the buyer and his team, you should already have identified these pain points, their assigned threshold and value. For example, if a CEO is involved they are focused on driving revenues, bottom line profits and eliminating any risk that stands in the way of executing their vision. They know what a lost order is worth. The CFO knows what their overall energy consumption is and you can identify how your product can reduce this cost and by how much. CFO’s struggle with manufacturing variances and the real dollars associated with them.

Your follow up communications will take the tone of wanting prevent the pain we identified early and reduce or eliminate that pain’s associated cost as quick as possible as opposed to a acting like a typical commission junkie needing a fix.  Your communication becomes about wanting to serve your client, and they are about your client and not about what you want. (The sale)

What are your buyer’s pains?

What is the cost of your buyer doing nothing?

Are there buyer pains that cannot have a cost of doing nothing associated with them?

Has your team used this technique? If so please share how it worked.

The stalled sale can be very frustrating and the longer the sale lags the higher your chances are of losing the sale. A phrase I share with a number of teams is “time kills sales deals” and I have personally experienced this to be true. Our job as salespeople is to clearly understand the problem, its pain, and assign a cost if the buyer does nothing.

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”?

Are Your Salespeople “Growing a Market”…Or Working a” Bread Route”?

Are Your Salespeople “Growing a Market”…Or Working a” Bread Route”?

A common concern I hear from business owners is their salespeople are not effective at selling net new customers. New customers, if serviced properly become lifetime customers with current and future revenue opportunities and contribute to creating sales velocity. In addition, they make up for account attrition, you know …customers who go out of business or just go away. (another future blog needed as customers do not “just go away”) New customers result in additional commissions for the salesperson right? Since new customers are so key to every businesses current and future sales revenue goals and can add additional commissions then why are sales people not closing new customers?

One of the leading reasons I have personally experienced why salespeople are not growing their markets is ; they are working a bread route.

As I have shared before one of my first jobs was a route salesman with Frito-lay. Fresh out of college I drove an 18 foot step van full of Frito-lay products to my grocery stores, convenience stores, bars, and anyone else I could open. Frito-lay made the sale of new accounts one of my key indicators along with selling additional store placement displays and gaining shelf space. The one route sales guy who would beat me to my grocery store accounts was the bread route delivery person. They would always amaze me at how fast they could get in and out of a grocery store and move on to the next account. They started very early in the morning like me, but were often done with their route by 2:00 pm. The bread route driver was focused on visiting his current accounts, accounts he and his company have relationships with, finding out what they needed and filling the shelves. They had very specific routes and timelines and if the driver executed his or her route effectively they made a good living. The bread route driver made enough income serving his current customers that he did not need to open new customers.

Fast forward to today and I see bread route drivers in all kinds of businesses. These are salespeople who call on a bank of current customers who should need additional products and or services and if they work their route they should meet their personal income goals. Current customers are the easiest to deliver products to because you and your company have a relationship with them. They welcome you in, if you ask for an appointment they make themselves available…heck, they even reply to voice mail and emails!

Selling new customers requires connecting with new people you do not know, new companies you may not be failure with and risk. No salesperson likes rejection and every time you attempt to start a discussion with a potential customer, (someone you could sell but you are not currently selling) you risk rejection. In addition, since you do not have a relationship you often experience frustration through a lack of returned phone calls and emails, trying to get past the gate keeper, trying to determine the buyer’s process and criteria and so on… all the while needing to make your sales objectives (and commissions).

So how do you know if your salespeople are growing their market or working a bread route? I have a few questions…

  1. How many net new clients have they added in the last 6 months, last 12 months?
  2. What % of their monthly commissions is the result of net new customers over the past 6-12 months?
  3. If your salespeople report on sales calls, what % of calls are net new potential customers?
  4. Do your salespeople have “everyone” in a particular market that has ever bought from you? Or do they have a fraction of the total number of accounts?
  5. When you conduct four-legged sales calls with your sales people, do they take you around to current customers and drive by a number of potential new clients, or do they add net new targets along the way?

So what’s your gut telling you right now? Are your salespeople working a bread route or growing your market? How did your team score with the above questions? Below is how I have viewed the responses to the above questions when I have helped clients.

How many net new clients have they added in the last 6 months, last 12 months?

I monitor the number of net new clients. As a general rule and can vary based on the maturity of your industry and the frequency with which your team introduces new products….if a salesperson is not adding at least 5% of their total number of customers every six months, ….they are working a bread route.

What % of their monthly commission is the result of net new customers over the past 6-12 months?

In addition to the number of new accounts I look at the revenue those accounts contributed and also how that revenue grew the salesperson’s commission. Again whether or not you have a history of launching exciting new products designed to solve the markets unresolved problems or new product flops , the maturity of your industry, the experience and training of the salesperson…I look for at least 5-7% (ideally 10 %+) of commissions coming from customers they have opened in the last 12 months…if they have little or no commission from new customers…they are working a bread route.

If your salespeople report on sales calls, what % of calls are net new potential customers?

Winning new customers requires a great deal of activity. I am not however advocationg activity without focus as I have discussed prior as another problem salespeople often encounter.  The rule I have used in multiple industries is 20 unqualified prospects should turn into 10 potentials, and from that 10, 2-3 proposals and 1 new customer. If your salespeople are not trying to connect with at least 20 new accounts per month ( 5 per week) ….they are working a bread route.

Do your salespeople have “everyone” in a particular market that has ever bought from you? Or do they have a fraction of the total number of accounts?

If all your customers are lumped into one group and not segmented based on key accounts, targeted growth accounts and you have not identified targeted net new accounts… they are working a bread route.

When you conduct four-legged sales calls with your sales people, do they take you around to current customers and drive by a number of potential new clients, or do they add net new targets along the way?

I enjoy working with salespeople in the market. I enjoy interacting with salespeople, their customers and potential new customers. If you work with your salespeople and they take you only to happy customers and drive by potential net new clients and have not started or attempted to start discussions with them…they are working a bread route.

So how did your sales team fair? Are they growing a market or working a bread route?

As long as they hit their sales numbers do you care? Should you care?

If your salespeople frustrate you by poor execution in closing new business, it could be because they are working a bread route. In my next post I will discuss how to change that behavior and drive net new customer revenues for your sales team.

“Clean Sales Management” …the Secret to Profitable Sales Growth

 

 

As the leader of your sales team are you able to quickly identify market shifts, buying process changes, and the needs for new products and or services? Or do you, like 90% of the sales leaders out there seem to be playing catch up, always chasing what you should have done? “Clean Sales Management “is a practice, a methodology, which entails gathering market information in the market, belly to belly, if you will, with buyers. When you practice clean sales management you will find your sales team seems always ahead of your competitors in sales, new products, as well as overall customer satisfaction.

Like a number of us I set out in 2011 to become healthier. I drifted from my workout plan and I found myself being less intentional about what I was consuming to fuel over the last three months. I found a number of articles on “eating clean” . The basic premise of eating clean is to consume less processed foods and intentionally set out to eat foods that are closest to their raw natural state. For example, we should consume raw broccoli and carrots instead of popping open a can and quickly microwaving this canned, processed, solution. It’s about staying away from consuming junk food.

As I thought about eating clean it reminded me of how I have found the most success in leading sales and marketing teams when I was out in the market, intentionally consuming feedback from buyers directly with my teams. When I would struggle in my sales and marketing leadership is when I was so focused on forecasting and CRM system stage reports that I failed to have an intimate understanding of what was going on in the lives of my markets and the problems of our buyers. Sure, my sales teams participated in weekly conference calls provided weekly call reports, and one on one calls with my team members, however I see now those communications were processed.

Developing sales plans based on phone conversations with your salespeople is “sales management junk food.”

I heard it once “salespeople are like water and they will take the path of least resistance to a sale” and what I have experienced is they strive for quick fixes and shortcuts, often band aides to cure gapping wounds in the repeatable sales process.

When you practice clean sales management you;

  • Are in the market more than behind your desk
  • observe your salespeople in action, with buyers
  • know why buyers buy from you…and why they don’t
  • compare sales report data to what you observe at the source ( raw and unprocessed)
  • stop looking for a salespersons “Ass to kick” and focus on solving problems
  • identify the injuries to your repeatable sales process as the shifts occur and adjust so they do not become gapping wounds
  • become stronger at conducting business triage
  • find your leadership is stronger due to your direction being driven close to the source
  • meet and exceed your sales goals
  • meet and exceed new product sales goals
  • poor performers are eliminated from your team quicker
  • buyers trust your overall organization more
  • sales are more profitable
  • gather sales representative data points and build sales tools that address trends as apposed to chasing each salesperson’s perceived needs based on the last buyer they spoke with

 

So how about your organizations…are you ready to practice Clean Sales Management?

 

How often are your sales leaders in the market working with their teams in front of buyers?

 

Do you and or your sales leaders feel chained to your desk at corporate analyzing CRM updates and creating forecasts no one ever hits?

 

Do your competitors keep beating you to the sale with new products and or services?

 

Do you believe your sales team provides “raw” feedback or “processed “information based on what they think you want to hear?

One resolution I ask each sales leader to practice is to intentionally set out to work in your markets, belly to belly with buyers to insure you practice clean sales management.

Miracle on 34th Street and The Golden Rule Of Sales


Miracle on 34th Street and Lessons in Serving (not Selling) your Customers

It’s the holiday season and my family and I are watching our favorite movies on television; Home Alone, A Christmas Carol, A Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation, and the classic…Miracle on 34th street. A clip ( the one above) caught my attention as a sales lesson we can all learn from this movie that was released in 1947.

The Golden Rule, applied to managing people, helping buyer’s solve their problems, will never let you down.

Does your sales team set out to passionately solve your customer’s problems or just hit their numbers …selling what’s in their bag?

If it’s the later, you may want to watch A Miracle on 34th Street at your next sales meeting. It’s often not about doing one big thing, but an overall culture of doing many little things , very well.

Golden Rule of Selling :Serve your customers….Don’t Sell Them.

Merry Christmas!