ACTG Sales Management Blog

Sales & Sales Management Expertise Blog  

Do You Have Sales Growth Problems? 

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Aug 23, 2019

Of course you have sales problems. If it’s not a production problem, it’s a productivity problem. If it’s not a productivity problem, it’s a servicing problem.

If It’s not a service problem, it’s a sales/sales support turnover problem.  But, how do you help ease the pain and start to fix things? 

board-game-businessman-challenge-1040157 (1)

In the words of Rosanne Rosannadana, “It’s  Always Something”

Most companies, if not all companies, have some method for keeping and tracking sales pipeline activity and progress. We use Hubspot’s CRM because it ties in very well with our inbound lead efforts, the pricing is extraordinary, the reporting is as good as anything on the market and getting up to speed is fast and easy. But, putting data in the CRM and keeping an eye on it, is not enough.

You have to gain business intelligence and then act on what you know.

Conduct an Emergency Pipeline Anaylsis (EPA) for a simple but effective way to determine what stays in the pipeline and what goes to the pipedream (delete folder). EPA originator, Dave Kurlan, wrote a blog that goes into detail about the 16,000+ proposals presented to unqualified buyers by B2B salespeople every day. This data comes from the 1,000s of Sale Evaluations and Improvement Analysis (SEIA) done yearly by our firm and others around the world.

In the SEIA, we analyze the state of the current pipeline. Figure 1 identifies the quality of the pipeline assessed for a large sales organization. When assessing for closable opportunities, the green area at the bottom should be much larger than the blue area at the top, if the opportunities are truly qualified. If your closable opportunities are not really qualified, you end up with a similar pipeline configuration to the one you see in the chart.

inverted pipelien.jpgFigure 1

The process to get this information is simple, but effective: Create a number of qualifying questions that are based on the steps in your qualification checklist. Those questions may include but are not limited to:

  • Is there severe mental anguish to make a purchase/change and is it personal?
  • Did I attach value or monetize the problem or failure to leverage the opportunity?
  • Did I eliminate the incumbent?
  • Did I ask, “Is this a have to fix or want to fix problem”, and did the prospect say "have to fix"?
  • Did they agree to invest the appropriate amount of time, money and resources?
  • Due I have a date of execution, purchase, contract?
  • I have met with the decision makers (not I will be meeting with decision makers at time of presentation) and they have agreed to make a decision when I finish my presentation.
  • I rehearsed the prospect on what they will do when the incumbent returns to beg for the business, fix the problems and match our fees, structure, contract.

Answering/scoring these questions simply requires a 1 or a 0. You add up the scores vertically for the opportunities in your pipeline and then make a decision to either;

  1. Call your prospect and deal with the open items.
  2. Reconcile that you have asked these questions and didn’t get the right answers and therefore make the ‘go, no-go’ decision to present.

There is a world of difference between managing the pipeline and looking at the pipeline and reporting the results. Managing is an active process.  As a manager you must constantly and consistently evaluate the opportunities in the pipeline for:

  • Quality – are they true opportunities?
  • Quantity – the number and value volume must match each individuals success formula
  • Movement – based on your buyers’ buying cycle you should be able to predict movement from one step in the process to the next
  • Measure the conversion ratios from one step to the next to evaluate effectiveness of the sales person’s execution of the process
  • Evaluate for credibility and validity
    • Credibility – did the projected close volume actually close?
    • Validity – did the accounts in the pipeline actually close and account for the volume forecast and actual sales?

This will take time but it’s important for you and your salespeople to do because it will ultimately result in closing more business, more quickly at higher margins.

Topics: Pipeline management, increase pipeline, sales growth problems, close the deal

Stop Accepting "Think It Over (TIO)"

Posted by Walt Gerano on Wed, Jan 30, 2019

stop in the name of love

Facing stalls and objections throughout the sales process is a common occurrence for many salespeople. What we find is that, often, it is due to ineffective qualifying and not asking for the prospects commitment to take action prior to presenting a solution.

In this blog, we will cover the 10 common symptoms that suggest you may accept put-offs from prospects and how that is affecting the strength and quality of your sales pipeline.

While we are hoping to hear yes after our presentation, sometimes we hear a no. But how many times are you hearing “think it over”?

Think about the last 10 sales opportunities you had in your pipeline where you didn’t get a yes.  How many of them are still in the pipeline because you are “hoping” for a yes while they “think it over” and get back to you?  Now ask yourself what percentage of the time when you allow “TIO” do you get the business? My guess is that if you are like the rest of us, the number is pretty small. So let’s stop kidding ourselves about the strength of our pipeline and quit accepting “think it over” as an answer.

Since we agree that “TIO” is not the most effective strategy for closing more business, let’s look at some of the symptoms.  You may not identify with all of these but it only takes one to derail your sales effectiveness.

  1. Do you keep going on appointments with prospects that don’t fit your ideal profile?
  2. Are you answering more questions than you are asking?
  3. Are you completing a pre-call plan for every sales call with questions you will ask and curve balls you expect?
  4. Do you rely on cold calls instead of introductions and referrals?
  5. Do you think “running faster” is a strategy?
  6. Are you too trusting of prospects and what they say?
  7. Are doing most of the talking on your sales calls?
  8. Are you talking too much about products and not enough about problems?
  9. Do you go on any appointment because you don’t have enough in your pipeline?
  10. Are you asking for the prospect’s commitment to a “Yes” or “No” answer before you come back, present your solution and answer all of their questions?

Eliminating “TIO” is easier that you think.  First let’s agree that it’s OUR fault.  If you have a sales process that allows for “think it over” you are going to get “think it over.”  If you don’t have an effective sales process, well then get one and follow it every time!

Stop fooling around with prospects that want to “think it over” and go sell something!

Topics: qualifying prospects, increase pipeline, Qualifying skills, Closing skills, salespeople

Pipeline Management – Why Monitor If You’re Not Going To Fix It? 5 Steps to fixing instead of just monitoring.

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Nov 17, 2017

My wife Linda and I were recently in Columbia Maryland visiting family. While having a mid-afternoon lunch at Clyde’s I happen to see a “LifeLock” commercial on the bar TV. All I caught was the following caption:

“Why Monitor If You're Not Going to Fix It”?

Forbes contribution editor, Will Burns, writes about the absurdity the Lifelock ads point out. He even does us the favor of including the Dentist, Robbery and Pest Control ads in his article.

Many companies, probably including yours, have for many years monitored pipeline opportunities. The idea is to have information about the opportunities being created by the sales team. Companies want to know: 

  • What stage in the sales process is the opportunity
  • What the next steps are to move the opportunity through the pipeline
  • The likelihood of winning the business based on a probability % either calculated or assumed based on the sales stages
  • The future sales revenue of all the opportunities in the pipeline.

There are normally at least three problems with the use of CRMs and pipeline management:

  1. Validity - The true accuracy (validity) of the predictive nature of the CRM is dependent upon making sure that a milestone centric sales process has been mapped and made to be part of the CRM being used.
  2. Credibility – Even if you have the right sales process mapped and documented there is still the element of GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. If your sales team is entering opportunities into the pipeline to keep management off of their back and assuming that the opportunities have met the criteria for each step in the sales process then you still have a predictive problem with your pipeline.
  3. Lack of helpful business intelligence – It’s one thing to enter data and get raw numbers of what has happened and what we think will happen. It’s another thing to build your CRM so that you get reporting that tells you how sales people are performing against the sales success formula developed for each individual. Without comparative data then truly all a company or manager is doing is monitoring activity without identifying if in fact there are any problems.

What a company should be looking for, so that it’s in a position to ‘fix it’, are critical numbers and ratios so that a sales manager can clearly and more accurately identify choke points in the sales process for each individual.  Additionally the data can and should tell the manager and the organization if training and coaching is required or if the current training and coaching is having the intended impact: Improving the effectiveness and results of the sales team. 

Let’s assume the following sales effort and effectiveness performance model: 

Action Plan.png

  •  The sales person that is failing to hit sales targets is supposed to:
    • Create 10 new leads a month
    • Convert 50% of those into opportunities
    • Convert 50% of those into presentations
    • And get 50% of those presentations to turn into sold business
    • Additionally the average size sales is supposed to be $10,000.00 
  • Lets assume the following actual sales effort and effectiveness:
    • 9 new leads are being created but we don’t know why 9 instead of 10?
    • 50% of leads are being converted to opportunities
    • 50% of those opportunities are leading to presentations (but keep in mind over time there will only be 90% of the planned for opportunities because of failure to hit the lead goal)
    • 45% of the presentations turn into sold business instead of 50%
    • And, the average size sale is $9,000.00 instead of $10,000.00

If this is monitored and NOT ADDRESSED/FIXED then this sales person will be short of their goal in access of 25%. This will be a gradual event because unless the CRM is built to provide this information pro-actively no one will notice. No one will notice because the numbers are either: Not being monitored. Not being addressed because they are ‘close enough’ (9 instead of 10. Management sees this as being 1 off of target rather than 10% off target). Or, the coaching to fix the problem falls into the category of ‘do more’ instead of let’s coach you on how to do ‘better’.

Does any of this look or sound familiar? It may not especially if you have enough of the right people (about 33% of your sales group) doing enough of the right things. With 33% of the team carrying the load you will still end up with about 90% of your goal and all you need is a few of the remaining 67% of the team to contribute something to the production number. You will be close enough.

“Fixing” it has to be part of the investment when investing in sales enablement tools, systems and technology. Fixing the problem requires the following 5 steps:

  1. Building a milestone centric sales process that is part of the CRM
  2. Creating sales success formulas for each sales person based on their historical actual performance and agreed to sales goals
  3. Timely monitoring and updating of sales effort and sales execution data so that you can ‘catch them early’ in real time when their performance is a negative variance from the plan
  4. Using the data to develop intentional coaching strategies to help your sales people deal with the specific challenges they are having in either effort or execution. No more ‘run faster’ coaching
  5. Use metrics to determine your success:
    • % of sales people hitting effort target increases to 100%
    • % of people hitting conversion ratios improves
    • Production from each of the sales team segments (1/5s) improves year over year
    • The 80/20 rule starts to shift to a 70/30 > 60/40 rule
    • Validity and credibility in your pipeline prediction improves
    • Adaption of your CRM is at 100%

Call To Action: 

Request a 30 minute live Emergency Pipeline Analysis Session to evaluate current opportunities in your pipeline. What you will get/learn.

  • Complete instruction on how to more effectively evaluate the validity and credibility of your pipeline opportunities
  • How to more effectively identify choke points in the sales process
  • A method of intentional coaching to improve the probability of closing current opportunities.

Email:  tony@anthonycoletraining.com

Subject Line: EPAS Demo

 

Topics: Pipeline management, setting sales goals, increase pipeline

Become a Pipeline Hound!

Posted by Alex Cole on Fri, Jul 07, 2017

How important is it for your salespeople to have a pipeline of prospects? Probably pretty important. How crucial is it that your salespeople continue to feed into that pipeline? Just as crucial! We all know that, in order for your organization to succeed, it is vital that your salespeople build, grow and maintain a solid pipeline. But what happens if one of those great salespeople leaves? Do you have someone on the sidelines ready to take that spot?

The first thing that we teach our Hire Better Salespeople (HBSP) clients is that it is just as imperative for you to have a pipeline of potential candidates as it is for your salespeople to have a pipeline of prospects. Most companies find themselves reacting to the loss of an employee as opposed to being proactive about it. When companies don’t proactively recruit new sales talent, they typically find themselves with a vacancy for a much longer time. For example, last year, HBSP partnered with a financial institution out of Cheyenne, WY and it took over 8 months to find a qualified individual partly due to the absence of a sales candidate pipeline. When this happens, you now have the daunting task, and added pressure, of finding a replacement... and quickly! But what happens when we rush things? Usually a mistake is made, right? Your hiring decisions and processes are not something to be rushed or else large, costly mistakes will occur. It doesn’t matter if things are going great or going terribly- a candidate pipeline has to exist.

Yoshi Window-1.jpg

So, what is the best way to build a sales candidate pipeline? Be a candidate watch dog! Start with the people you know. Typically, great people know other great people and are happy to refer them. Ask your family, friends and employees if they know of anyone who may be a fit for your organization. Networking events are also a great place to receive names and meet potential sales candidates. Once you gain a few leads, reach out and see if they would be interested in getting together. In no way are these conversations interviews- they shouldn’t be! Interviews are for applicants who are actively looking when you have an active opening. At this point, you are just trying to gauge interest and add potential sales candidates to your network.

Creating a candidate pipeline won’t solve all your recruiting troubles, but it’s the first place to start. If you are interested in learning more about how to Hire Better Salespeople, sign up for our free webinar—Ruff Realities About Recruiting. During this webinar, you will learn how to hire your next “top dog” using our proven process for searching, evaluating skills using a sales assessment, interviewing, hiring and onboarding new hires.

Webinar Details:

Thursday, July 27th at 12 PM EST

REGISTER HERE for "Ruff" Realities Recruiting Webinar

Topics: increase pipeline, sales candidates, hire better salespeople, recruiting sales talent

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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.

     

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