Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Fixing a Broken Sales Environment with 3 Essential Sales Tools

Tags: developing sales talent, hire better salespeople, predictable sales growth, consistent sales results

The 3 Es

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THE 3 ESSENTIAL SALES TOOLS

  1. Speed to failure
  2. Conversation is still king (the person with the best conversation wins)
  3. Technology that supports SELLING – NOT finance

Before I get to the 3 essential sales tools, consider for a moment all the systems and processes you have in your organization:

  • IT
  • Communication
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Physical plant
  • Hiring
  • Technical training
  • Underwriting
  • Risk management
  • Sales
  • Customer service

(Also watch this video – it is worth every minute of your invested time).   

ARE YOU OK WITH ONLY A PARTIAL SOLUTION?

I know the list above isn’t a complete list, but let’s pretend for a minute that you just invested $500,000 in new technology.  It could be a website enhancement, new finance applications to improve billing and financial projections, improved communication equipment or a sales CRM.

Let’s pretend that the investment was for finance.  Your expectations are to “tighten up” the reporting on payables, receivables, compensation reports, taxes and forecasting.  The company you bought the service from told you that it would probably take about 90 days to work any bugs out, but certainly, by year end, your expectations would be met.  You meet with your CFO and ask, “How’s it going?”  She responds, “Pretty good!”  You then inquire, “Pretty good means?”  She replies:

  • Our payable reports are about 66% correct, but trending the right direction.
  • Our overdue receivables still average 45 days, but we’re making progress.
  • Our compensation expenses are off by about 5% and we’re not sure why, but we’re working on it.
  • Taxes? Well, my best guess is that we are going to owe between 10% and 20% more than last year.
  • As far as forecasting revenue, well…our pipeline shows $5,000,000 to be closed in the next 6 months, but we’re not confident that the number is accurate.

How do you feel about your investment?  What is your reaction to a complete lack of success at meeting expectations?  Whose head is on the block as a result of this?  How long would you tolerate the continuance of this failure?  I’m not sure you’d fire your CFO, CTO, President, HR or your consultant, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t say, “Okay, let’s give it another 30 days.”

WHAT NOBODY TALKS ABOUT

I know I created a bit of a stretch scenario, but the point I want to make is that you probably get a report like this about your sales team; you just don’t know it.  What isn’t revealed in a sales meeting or in your monthly meeting with your sales manager is the detail behind the big numbers you talk about.  You talk about year over year results, you talk about sales YTD against plan, you might even talk about how you are doing against other sales divisions or peers in your industry.  What you don’t talk about is this:

  • Over 90% of your results are probably coming from 36% of your sales team. (LinkedIn article on the 80/20 of the 80/20).
  • What doesn’t get reported that would make you jump out a window is that the bottom 36% of your sales team is probably responsible for less than 4% of your total sales.
  • What the sales manager doesn't tell you is that - of the last 4 hires - only 1 of them is doing better than the people that were replaced with the new hires.
  • What you won’t talk about - but need to talk about - is the cost of putting the other 3 in the market for 12 months and then the cost of replacing them with 3 more that won’t make it either. (By the way, over a 5-year period, that is a 2 comma problem).
  • What is also probably not part of the discussion is that, if you really wanted to drive profit, you could probably eliminate the bottom 36% and increase profitability significantly.
  • You probably won’t have a discussion about how some of your more senior people are not performing nearly as well as some of your new people.

 WHAT MATTERS MOST

The challenge to organizations (and what matters most) is the answer to the question:  Are we hitting our numbers?  As long as that answer is yes, you’re okay.  BUT, if you are unwilling to accept 90% correct in your tax estimate or compensation projections… or 90% of the calls getting through or 75% of the customers being happy… or your website being operational 66% of the time, why are you settling for anything less than 100% execution from your entire sales team?

What I know and what I’ve stated before:

  • You don’t intentionally hire sales people to fail; so, if they do…
  • You either hired them that way or…
  • You made them that way

HOW TO FIX A BROKEN SALES ENVIRONMENT

What does this have to do with the 3 Essential Sales Tools?  Maybe not everything, but these 3 tools have a lot to do with fixing a broken sales environment.

  • Speed to failure – With your new hires, do your best to find out quickly if both of you made the right decision. Make sure that, as you are making the offer, you let them know all the crap they are going to have to go through, what they will be managed to and what is exactly expected in the first 90 days and the following 6 months.  Let them know that the hire is going to be probationary and that you have a 3 Strike Rule.  (Call me at 513.226.3913 about the 3 Strike Rule).
  • Conversation is KING – Despite all the technology that is available to help your salespeople create opportunities, nothing yet has replaced the value of quality conversations. This means you need to have a very high standard for training, practice and preparation before you put people out into the market.
  • The technology that you buy to support sales has to support sales not finance. Finance should find its way to use the appropriate sales tool to get the information they need not the other way around.  Your sales technology should make it easy for salespeople to communicate to suspects, prospects and clients.  It should be easy to use and provide extremely useful information for the sales manager as well as salespeople.  It should make it easy for your people to consistently follow your sales process.  Finally, it should help you predict with a high level of validity what is actually going to get sold over any given time frame.

Implementing these three sales tools will go a long way to helping you improve your sales environment and improve the productivity of the entire team.  In my next blog – What do you know (really know) about your sales manager’s and your team’s WILL TO SUCCEED in sales management and sales?

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Call 513.791.3458 now to get a copy of a recent case study on Will to Succeed and the productivity of the sales organization –Ask to speak to Jeni.

Find out about the WILL of your sales team as defined by The World’s #1 Sales Skills and Sales Manager Skills Assessment

Assessing Why Performers Perform and Non-Performers Fail – The Impact on Revenue, Profit and the Ability to Grow

Tags: pareto principle, close more sales, assessing sales talent, 80/20 Principle, effective sales management, consistent sales results

IT STARTS WITH UNDERSTANDING PERFORMANCE

Let’s start with the problem that you have seen me write about again, again and again. 

Perry Marshall’s book – The 80/20 of Sales and Marketing created a major shift in how I think and go about talking to prospects about their sales team and its ability or inability to demonstrate consistent and predictable sales growth.  Everything, and I MEAN EVERYTHING, starts with an understanding of how your sales team is performing. 

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IS THERE A PROBLEM?

This exercise identifies if there is a problem or not.  It really IS that simple.  All you have to do is a little simple math and then answer the question – Is this a problem?

I recently reviewed the productivity of a group we are in discussions with.  Nothing is final yet as the company is in that early step of the process – trying to determine if there is a problem.  To help them in the process, we sign the NDA and ask for their production numbers.  I get the numbers, stack rank them and start applying the 80/20 rule.  I don’t follow the exact procedure; instead, I just take the number of people on the list and break the group into fifths.  If I have 100 salespeople, I end up with 5 groups of 20.  Then, I just do the math.

  • What percentage of the total is being produced by the top quintile?
  • What percentage of the total is being produced by the middle quintile?
  • How much is being produced by the 5th quintile?

 

ACTUAL NUMBERS MAY BE DISTURBING

The findings were not startling in and of themselves because the top two fifths closely resembled what you would expect from the 80/20 rule.  What was interesting (and what would interest you) was the discussion about the bottom two fifths.  When we discovered that the bottom two fifths generated less than 5% of the total revenue, we then got into the compensation/revenue discussion. 

  • How much is 5% of the total revenue?
  • How much in compensation alone is it costing to generate that 5% of revenue?

 

TIME FOR THE “LET’S PRETEND” EXERCISE

I won’t go into all the details, but when we played “let’s pretend”, then everyone in the room got real serious.

  • “Let’s pretend that we fired all of those people in the bottom two fifths, how much would that save in compensation alone?”
  • Subtract the revenue
  • What’s the profit?

I assure that in most, if not all, companies (I suggest you stop reading and do this right now) the profit is significant.  So much so that it starts a really good debate that starts with the question:

Why in the heck are those people still with us?

 

GET RESULTS WITH AN ESTABLISHED PROCESS

The discussion was robust, honest, helpful and productive. And, yes, they all agreed that they have a “have to fix” problem. But my post today isn’t just about getting to a point where you can determine a problem and the severity of the problem, but more about the cost of the approaching the solution the right way.

Understand we don’t get to close all the opportunities we engage in.  We don’t get them all because, at the risk of sounding arrogant, not everyone qualifies (We just failed to make the cut on a recent opportunity because of our commitment to the process).  Our process, just as yours should be, follows a fairly strict set of guidelines. We follow these guidelines because we know we can guarantee results when they are followed. We have experiences from early on in our business when we didn’t follow the guidelines – we didn’t get results and we didn’t keep the relationship.

 

INVALUABLE DATA FROM THE RIGHT ASSESSMENT TOOL

The primary step in our approach is the use of an assessment tool.  Specifically, we use the Objective Management Sales Effectiveness and Impact Analysis (SEIA).  It gives our new clients and us everything we need to impact revenue, profit and growth.  Let me explain by using one of the tools we get from the SEIA.  (see chart below)

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This chart represents those people in a sales organization that are succeeding and failing the most.   Assuming for a minute that you don't understand the meaning of the headings, just look at the colors:  Green is good, red is bad, high numbers good, low numbers bad.  The first column identifies if the people are performing to goal or not.  The only anomaly in the group is the third person from the top.  I inquired about this and there are two pieces of information that are good to know. 

  • The data we collected on performance was based on the previous years sales.
  • The manager answering the question “Is this person performing as expected” answered the question for the current year.

So, what we have is someone that performed exceedingly well in one year and is now failing.  What the graph helps the manager do is have a very significant discussion on “why” there is a change.  I won’t go into all the details as to what that discussion should sound like, but now the manager has some interesting data to look at and digest in order to help frame the narrative of the required intentional coaching session to be scheduled. 

 

TIME TO GET REAL - THE BOTTOM LINE

What I believe is most important is to get arms around the total picture provided by hard data and assessment data.  What we know is the following:

  • Coaching the top group will be effective because they are coachable and have the will to sell
  • Investing in the bottom group will bring little or no return:
    • They lack desire
    • They lack commitment
    • They have a poor outlook
    • They won’t take responsibility
    • And they are not motivated to succeed in selling
  • You can assume (because I did further analysis) that at least one of the other fifths in the organization looks like the top group and one looks like the bottom group.
  • The one fifth that looks like the top group may not hit the top ranking because they lack tenure in the company or in the business.
  • There is at least one other group that looks like the bottom quintile. They may or may not be new.  In this case, the bottom quintile we are illustrating is NOT at the bottom of the ranking because they are new. They are at the bottom because they suck at what they do!
  • The question(s) you have to ask about the entire team is:
    • Did I hire them this way?
    • Did I make them this way?
  • This applies to every quintile that you look at.

 

So, getting back to the title – The Impact on Revenue, Profit and Growth - consider the following:

  • What is it costing you to carry those that are failing to perform – in real dollars and lost opportunity? You MUST calculate the cost as if you were reporting this to the board!
  • What would the impact be to the bottom line if you fired them all today? Certainly, sales would not suffer.  Also, you have to consider that if they are this bad at selling, what else are they bad at and what is that costing you?
  • What is the financial impact of those that looked like your worse performers but have exited over the last 12 to 24 months? Those that you fired or exited? What did that cost you in time, training, recruiting dollars, on boarding, compensation AND lost opportunities?
  • How many training dollars will you pour down the rat hole attempting to fix people that are un-trainable or un-coachable? What impact could you have if those resources were redirected to sales management improvement, more focus on developing new hires with skills and true potential, recruiting talent that mimics your current top performers?
  • What is the impact of keeping non- and low performers on the team? How do those in the middle react to the stack ranking knowing that those on the bottom are not at risk of losing their jobs? Why should they worry?

 

Okay, so maybe I’ve beat this drum enough – you got the point.  What’s the solution, what am I getting to, how do you (as the person responsible for revenue and growth) make sure you are making wise decisions when it comes to hiring, managing and developing talent?

 

DON’T GO IN BLIND

Think “doctor”.  I just completed an abdominal biopsy.  Prior to the procedure last Friday, I had a CAT scan, a Pet Scan, Ultrasound and another CAT scan plus results from the same test taken a year ago. 

I’m glad Dr. Max didn’t go in blind.  It was tough enough even with all the data he had.  Without it, there would have been virtually no chance to get it right.  That’s the point. Don’t go in blind.  Assess your talent, assess your new candidates, know what makes your current successful people successful and know why those that are failing are failing – DON’T REPEAT.

 

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