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How to Eliminate the Rollercoaster and Anemic Pipeline Syndrome – 5 Sales Management Best Practices

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Sep 27, 2017

Why are rollercoasters and anemic pipeline syndromes important?  They aren’t important if:

  • You have validity and complete confidence in the credibility of your pipeline report.
  • Your CFO never asks you about solid sales forecasts.
  • You are ok with the unpredictable ups and downs in your team’s production.
  • Your top performers don’t mind carrying the load for the other 66% of the team--who typically generate 10% or less of new business sales. (Get more out of your non-performers)

The rollercoaster/anemic pipeline discussion is important if you need to know the answers to these important business questions:

  • How many new leads are we really generating?
  • How many of those new leads are converting to new opportunities AND what is that conversion rate?
  • What is our real average size account?
  • What is our closing ratio from new opportunities to closed /won accounts?
  • What is the dollar volume or number of new opportunities on a rolling 90 day time frame throughout the year?

Knowing the answers to these questions helps you have better predictability from your pipeline. The answers also helps you develop a more intentional coaching strategy; one that allows you the intelligence to coach your sales people on their specific choke points.

Instead of telling them they need to “See more people”, “Do a better job of closing” or “Increase your average size sale”,  you will have the ability to show the data so that they understand where they are lacking and must increase efforts and/or learn skills. 

Sign up for 1-Hour Sales Management Coaching Session

Here are 5 Sales Management BEST PRACTICES to eradicate the rollercoaster anemic pipeline problem, ALTHOUGH you must have a CRM system that does more than just allow your sales people to enter data about leads.

Your CRM tool must have a milestone centric sales process format that collects information about leads every time they go to your site, read an email, or look at your LinkedIn profile.  Your CRM must produce and display a dashboard with all the pertinent information that answers the questions asked above.  And your CRM must have a library of content you can use to help coach your people.  (Ask about about CRM – email mark@anthonycoletraining.com)

BEST PRACTICES:

  1. You have established for each sales person on your team a “Success Formula”. You can go to this link to download a template.  The individual Success Formulas puts you and your sales people on the same page which outlines effort and effectiveness required to meet and exceed extraordinary goals.
  2. You have a Huddle Process to collect real time information on effort. The entire sales process hinges on one step – effort to generate leads.  It is nothing more than effort.  While skill is required, true effort in the form of necessary behavior is critical .  S.  If you don’t have true “hunters”, recruit and replace.
  3. Read and understand what the data for business intelligence. Sales people know when they are not performing well. What they need help with is the “Why?”  The business intelligence you gain from your CRM will point you in the direction of the answer to the question “What should I be doing differently to improve sales?”
  4. Establish coaching plans for those failing (even just 5% off of target requires coaching).

**Side note:  Failing is failing.  Don’t lull yourself into a false sense of security with comments like, “He is close. He is trending in the right direction. He is one deal away from hitting goal.”

  1. Each coaching session must end with an action step: eg. “Mike, what I want you to do now is to call ABC Company and talk to your contact.  Have the discussion we just role–played and report back to me by the end of business tomorrow.”  Without action steps your sales people will leave these 1-on-1 coaching sessions and promptly forget the discussions. Unfortunately by next week you will be wondering what they did differently, if anything at all.

These 5 Best Practices are not meant to be the all-inclusive list of steps required by sales managers to drive sales productivity.  You must still have steps and strategies to motivate your people, recruit more of the right talent, have great sales meetings, develop teams that work together etc.  But focusing on these 5 Best Practices will help you develop a more credible, valid and consistent pipeline.  This is important to you, your people and the company.

Sign up for 1-Hour Sales Management Coaching Session

Additional resources:

CRM best practices-An article by Izzy Witts at Bablequest.com

9 Keys to Coaching Sales Success  Are you a great coach?

Topics: Pipeline management, Effective Coaching, sales management, Sales Coaching

Why Sales Coaching is to Growing Like Low & Slow is to Tasty BBQ

Posted by Tony Cole on Wed, Feb 15, 2017

It’s this simple:  If you want great barbeque ribs, brisket or chicken, the key is low temperature and slow cooking. Having said that, if you want maximum flavor and tenderness, make sure you sear or char the meat first, then go low and slow.  This is an undeniable truth.  Just read the Science of Cooking and discover all the neat things you can do to improve the outcome of any meal.

EXPERIENCE DOESN'T GUARANTEE FUTURE SUCCESS

20 years in sales does not guarantee future success.  Just ask anyone that has lost a sale at any time in their career.  Something always happens just a little bit differently.  If there isn’t an adjustment, a lesson or some learning as a result, then the salesperson is prone to repeating the sames mistakes or errors over and over again.

When you effectively coach your people, they will get better.  When they get better, you will close more business, more quickly at higher margins.  This is undeniable as well.  Just look at the information provided by The Sales Management Association.  **FYI - it’s also undeniable that a lack of coaching has a negative impact on sales success and talent development!

(Bob Rotella – coach to PGA Tour Players – Author – How Champions Think)

golf-coach.jpg

THERE IS ALWAYS TIME TO COACH

In our Sales Management Certification Program, we discuss 5 Keys to Coaching for Success in our coaching module. These 5 keys cover what to do and how to do it when you are face-to-face with your salespeople. Many managers, before going through our certification, complain/tell me/make excuses that there isn’t enough time to effectively coach their people.  I don’t buy it. There are several opportunities for coaching without adding to an already busy schedule:

  1. Sales meetings
    1. Segment on sales training
    2. Role-playing phone calls to get appointments
    3. Role-playing conversations to get appointments with internal partners
    4. Role-play how to position financial planning
    5. Overcoming objections
    6. Appropriately dealing with questions, and stalls.
  2. Pre–call strategy sessions
  3. Post-call debriefing sessions
  4. 1-on-1 intentional coaching sessions
  5. Ad-hoc moments when they ask you if you have a minute
  6. Every time they give you an excuse for lack of effort or execution

IN-THE-MOMENT COACHING VS. COACHING FOR SUCCESS

Coaching does take place today, but most of it is in the moment. Kind of like when a coach calls a time out in a game. The team is gathered around the coach and a strategy is developed to take advantage of the “in the moment” opportunity. Normally, that’s the type of coaching that takes place in sales – in the moment.  That type of coaching helps close a sale, get an appointment, and/or move an opportunity through the pipeline, but it does nothing to change behavior or improve skills!

Do you find yourself or your sales managers constantly covering the same ground to close deals, improve effort or refine execution?  Are opportunities getting stuck in the pipeline in the same spot for the same reasons over and over?  When you look at the performance (effectiveness and productivity, not just the results), do you see actual improvement in sales ratios like average size sale, conversion ratios from opportunities to closes and average production for each quintile in the team?

Those are the types of metrics that determine if your coaching is effective!  Failure to collect that data leads to failure of the effectiveness of your sales manager and your sales team.  Collecting the data and then doing nothing about it leads to lackluster enthusiasm for entering data, thus limiting the integrity of your forecasting.

THE 5 KEYS FOR COACHING SUCCESS

So, let’s assume for a second that 1) you are collecting data and  2) you are creating opportunities to coach people.  We can now discuss The 5 Keys for Coaching for Success.

  1. Gain insight from data points: Your data points have to include data (numbers representing leading and lagging indicators), observational opportunities via joint calls, and observations made during role plays in meetings.

    The data points you have should not be a secret to your people. Share with them what you know and what you’ve observed.  Prior to meeting with them, call them to set up the coaching meeting. Tell them that the data you have indicates there might be some problems with them hitting their established extraordinary goal.  (Remember the extraordinary goal discussion?) Then tell them that you want to meet with them during your established coaching hours. Set the appointment.
  1. Provide feedback: Now that you both have the date, you don’t have to ask the worse possible question in your meeting, “So, Joe, what’s going on?”  Instead, you acknowledge that you’ve looked at the numbers and they’ve looked at the numbers and then you ask a question about the problem that you see.

    Let’s pretend that you see a choke point where his conversion of conversations isn’t leading to the assumed number of appointments. All the other assumptions look good, but - because the conversion is off - the number of appointments isn’t meeting the goal.  Without this information, the only coaching you can do is to tell Joe that he needs to see more people. But, with all the data, you see that the effort is there – the dials and discussions – but that effort isn’t leading to appointments.

    Instead of pointing that out, you ask Joe what he sees when he looks at the conversation ratio compared to the model in the success formula.  Assuming Joe sees the same thing as you, you are now in a position to ask further questions.  The key here is that both parties must agree as to what the problem is.

  2. Demonstrate what you expect to be done: In this case, you would listen to Joe’s approach to converting conversations to appointments.  You would identify areas where he might need to change or improve his approach and you demonstrate what that would look/sound like.

  3. Role–play: Now that you’ve demonstrated what you expect, you role-play various situations with Joe giving him several different responses.

  1. Action step: It is critical that every coaching session ends with an action step.  An example of that would be to agree to a number of calls that Joe is going to make over a short period of time (i.e. by the end of the day or week) and then instruct him to report back to you (on a specific day and time) the outcome of his effort.

(Click here for 9 critical coaching skills)

STOP WASTING YOUR MONEY ON SALES TRAINING

Understand that this might be an ongoing process for Joe, and you may have to take a more disciplined approach to his coaching and execution of the skills he is struggling with.  At the end of the day, the key is to recognize that improvement is vital for sales growth.  You cannot expect to grow sales without improving effort and/or execution. If you want to improve sales, invest your money in developing your sales managers and stop wasting money on sales training until your managers can and will coach.

Additional Resources:

Demo online Sales Learning Module

Sales Managed Environment® Certification Module – Free Document

Topics: Sales Tracking, Sales Coaching, sales performance coaching, sales productivity

Is Your Sales Growth Stuck in The Chimney?

Posted by Tony Cole on Thu, Feb 02, 2017

So, this morning, Linda and I were watching Morning Joe while talking business.  We were discussing our brand promise of, “When you lie awake at night worrying about sales growth, we lie awake at night.”  We compiled a list of questions that often haunt managers throughout the day and into the night when they should be preparing for a good night’s sleep:

chimney-stuck.png

As we’re talking, we see a news banner at the bottom of the screen about a man who was arrested for breaking and entering a home.  He was apprehended after the police entered the home and saw his feet dangling from the chimney.  As usual, I automatically started thinking about how that related to sales, sales management, performance management, coaching, pipeline, pre-call strategies, etc.

My first question is this – “Do you have sales opportunities that are important/critical for hitting your goals and growing sales that are stuck?”

My second, but maybe the most important question, is this – “Is this particular opportunity a repeat offender?” 

 

QUESTIONS FOR EVALUATING OPPORTUNITIES

Now, there are 2 things to consider when attempting answering that 2nd question.

  1. Is that opportunity familiar to you and the salesperson who has entered the opportunity into your pipeline management system? (This isn’t the same as your CRM). If we’ve worked on this opportunity before and they – the opportunity – “got away on a technicality”, then this would be defined as a “repeat offender”:
    1. Not the decision maker
    2. Wasn’t able to undo the current relationship
    3. Decided to not make a change
    4. Couldn’t arrive at the price point
    5. Really didn’t have a solution that fit the features and benefits they were looking for
    6. The timing wasn’t right
  2. Are other opportunities stuck in the pipeline/chimney for the very same reasons as this one – the salesperson failed to execute the qualifying steps in your sales process:
    1. No compelling reason to make a change identified
    2. Competition unknown
    3. Incumbent still part of the equation
    4. Budget for investing time, money resources is a mystery
    5. Decision making process has not been uncovered
    6. Timing or urgency of making a decision not clearly understood
    7. Agreement on next steps unclear
    8. Did not ask the question – Is this a “want to fix” or “have to fix” problem?

 

CMBMQHM AND WHAT YOU NEED FOR SALES GROWTH

Sales growth is dependent upon this – CMBMQHM.  My staff hates it when I make up acronyms like this.  When I put these in our learning decks, the people in my office  want to know what the acronyms mean.  I generally tell them that they don’t really need to know; they just need to make sure the rest of the deck is done correctly. I know what it means and I will explain it to the sales team we are working during our training session.  But, they insist on knowing, so here it is:

Close More Business, More Quickly, at Higher Margins

It’s almost as good as WITALAIITU. (If you want to know that one,  click HERE.)

So, what does it take to accomplish CMBMQHM?

  • You have to have a milestone-centric sales system – something that can be quantified, measured and evaluated for progress towards the objective of “getting a decision”. (This is not the same as “getting the sale”.)
  • You have to have a process for building a success formula for each salesperson based on that sales system.
  • You have to have complete buy-in to the use of your pipeline management process. Here are the guidelines to get that buy-in. It needs to…
    • Be easy to use
    • Be effective
    • Be beneficial to the user
    • Provide you with business intelligence
    • Automatically generate and send reports to you so you don’t have to go find the information
  • You have to have a system of pre-call strategy sessions for EVERY opportunity that meets or exceeds the benchmark of your top 33%.
  • You have to have a post-call debriefing session for every opportunity you discuss in the pre-call session.
  • You have to conduct a CSI – “Crime Scene Investigation” – for every deal you don’t get.
  • Finally, you have to conduct 1-on-1 coaching sessions that are intentional.
    • They are based on the findings from your pre- and post-call meetings
    • They are based on what your data is telling you about the choke point(s) a particular salesperson is having or the most common choke point(s) for the group
    • The coaching needs to accomplish 1, if not 2, things:
      1. Change behavior
      2. Improve skill

In the next post, I’ll talk about the 5 Keys to Effective Coaching.  (Pam, don’t let me forget that is the next blog topic!).  In the meantime, here are the 9 skills needed!

Additional Resources:

Download the Success Formula Worksheet

Try out the Effective Selling System online learning demo

Sales Management Effectiveness Certification Program

Topics: Sales Coaching, closing sales techniques, sales closing mistakes, how to close a sales deal

Is it an Expense or an Investment?

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Apr 01, 2016

thoughtful.gif

I just returned from the 2016 Bank Insurance and Securities Association annual convention. As always, it is a great event where competitors come together to discuss processes and strategies to deal with the challenges of growing financial institution-owned investment (broker) programs.

I believe this is actually my 7th conference: the first one being 2009.  As you can imagine, that year was quite a conference as banks and investment firms/companies were in the throws of a financially disastrous economic downturn.  This year, there is a new challenge on the horizon - the impending DOL (Department of Labor) legislation regulating fiduciary responsibility of advisors when discussing, presenting and offering solutions to retirement funds.  Although there was way too much information to get it all a single post, the topic did leave me with much I would like to share with my readers.

So, this is my thought for today - investing in success.

This is going to sound self-serving.  However, I assure you, it is not.  As a company, we have probably invested $40,000.00 in real dollars to learn about the industry the BISA represents as well as learn more about the problems and challenges facing those that are responsible for leading and managing sales teams to meet the investment program goals.  This year alone, and I just finished tallying just my expenses for the trip, we will have invested very close to $20,000.00 so that we can better understand AND service our target market. 

Understand that when I say "our company" I really mean my wife, Linda, and me.  It is our company.  It is our money.  So, every dollar we spend in and for our company that is a dollar that we don’t invest in our own family and future.  It really is our money. The point is that we look at it as an investment and not just an expense.  It's an investment that will return future dollars to the company.

As I was flying back yesterday, I was thinking about that and thinking about those that attended and those individual salespeople (thousands of them) represented by the firms/companies in attendance and I realized a couple of things:

  *  There are people there just like me that are taking money out of their pocket and investing in a future.

  * There are people there that are using company dollars BUT they are using personal time away from their family and investing that time to invest in their future.

  * The investment, either way, is substantial.

  * The investment of time alone is close to three 14-hour days.

My point and suggestion today is this - in order to become all that you can be, you need to personally invest time, money and effort to learn.  It’s more than an investment of the 40 to 50 hours a week working in the business.  It is an additional investment of time working on your business necessary for future success.

Topics: sales management, Sales Coaching, increase sales, building successful sales teams

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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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