Is Sales Going to Hell in a Handbasket?
In the Good ol’ Days, IBM, Xerox, ADP, and Pitney-Bowes, trained the American salesforce. Sales management training was also a staple of these companies’ learning and development programs. As the saying goes, “Forget about the Good ol’ Days, you’re lucky they lasted as long as they did.
Said another way, long, intensive rep onboarding and Front-Line Sales Management (FLSM) development programs are from a bygone era. This doesn’t mean the need has gone away, only the programs. Today’s training and coaching is more about getting up to speed quickly, often with self-pacing online tutorials, microlearning segments, and more recently, with AI-enabled coaching.
Common Reasons You Won’t Make Your Sales Numbers
The fourth quarter is upon us, and most sales professionals know where they currently are— and where they need to be by year-end. According to some studies, 60 percent of sales professionals will miss quota. Learn some of the common reasons for this and what you as a business owner can do to help change the outcome.
Your Funnel and Forecast Are Not Realistic
Your team has been in sales situations where they felt it necessary to “fluff” the numbers in order to please their managers but as they get toward end of third/beginning of fourth quarter, they know they are not going to hit that number. To avoid relying on this doomed practice …
Hiring Salespeople: 3 Keys to Getting It Right
As the world of complex B2B sales becomes more intense, competition for top talent is increasing, and will continue to increase in the coming years. In the United States alone, Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 15.6 percent increase in new wholesale and manufacturing sales positions will be created over a 10-year period, a net increase of more than 223,000 jobs. Industry experts believe that trend will extend worldwide.
With 70 to 80 percent of the total cost of sales tied up in personnel, pressure to hire salespeople who fit and can be trained to excel within your organization must rank high in every talent management strategy. Ramifications of getting it wrong spread beyond lost revenue. Your company’s credibility and your personal reputation are on the line.
Not All Sales Opportunities Are Created Equal
In order to focus on your best opportunities, your salespeople need to prioritize their selling time more effectively to increase close ratios. The following opportunity pursuit checklist provides some questions you should ask your sales team about an opportunity to decide if it’s worth pursuing:
- Is this a good match to our ideal customer profile? Stop and think about your customer list. Which customers do you wish you had a thousand more of? What makes these companies your best customers? Who are the customers you’d like to fire? When you’ve finished making your list of characteristics, you’ll need to prioritize. Which five traits of your best customers would you replicate? Using this formula to pursue new prospects will keep you focused on those companies more likely to do business with you. Better yet, you will stop wasting time pursuing prospects that have a low probability of closing.
Taming the Sales Roller Coaster Beast
The Sales Funnel: Senior Leadership’s Silver Bullet? Business owners live and die by the accuracy of their funnel. Of all the data analysis features available to leadership—top customer billings, product reporting, lead conversion rates, YTD performance to plan—the most useful dashboards for senior leaders are those that bring clarity and visibility to the sales funnel, making the sales funnel the most important reporting tool:
Anatomy Of a Sales Funnel – The typical B2B sales process looks like a funnel. At the bottom are those deals nearest to being closed. In the middle are other prospects in the works, and above the funnel are the numerous promising leads that warrant further investigation. Each of these three areas requires different activities:
The Right Way to Make a Price Concession
Even though we may not like them, price concessions are a natural part of the buying process. Procurement departments around the world are funded based on their ability to wring the most value from every dollar, peso, yen, or pound. Conversely, it is the sales professional’s job to protect the price of the solution to maximize the return for their company
Does this natural conflict mean that sales professionals are destined to be at odds with their customer’s most price-conscious buyers? Or, that discounting is a way of life that we just need to accept if we want to sell to certain accounts. Not necessarily, so long as the sales professional understands how to raise the value of their solution in the eyes of the customer.
Do You Need a Chief Sales Officer?
So, what is a Chief Sales Officer? The Chief Sales Officer or CSO oversees all teams and processes related to Sales generation within an organization. This executive position ensures sales and marketing alignment, identifies opportunities for long-term sales growth and maximizes profitability.
The CSO enables collaboration among the teams listed below towards a unified goal of Sales generation over a sustained period of time:
- Sales, sales enablement, and sales operations
- Customer support and customer experience
- Account management
- Product management
Sales Funnel Management Best Practices: Part 1
Chances are you’re already familiar with the concept of a sales pipeline, or “funnel.” The funnel is a useful tool for organizing specific sales opportunities by their probability of resulting in a sale.
At any given moment, nearly 35 percent of prospects you’re pursuing could be wasting your time. Without putting the right opportunities into the top of your funnel, you can’t possibly hope to achieve Win-Win outcomes at the bottom.
Sales Funnel Management Best Practices: Part 2
Opportunities in your funnel that aren’t going anywhere may keep you from reaching your quota this year. Here are three things you can do today to keep those sales opportunities moving forward.
Get Your Customer to Move the Sale Forward
In the world of complex sales, there are multiple interactions with your prospects for a given opportunity. Good sales meeting management ensures that each contact with potential clients, whether it’s actual face-to-face time, a zoom call, a phone conversation, or email, is managed to move an opportunity forward.
Before you go into a meeting, think through the agenda and prepare to ask your Buying Influence(s) to do something to advance the sale. Decide on the best action you can hope for and the least you’re willing to accept to keep investing your time in this opportunity. Here are a few guidelines to help focus your requests to keep the customer engaged and committed.
Pursuing Prospects That Are Worth Your Time
It’s easy for your sales professionals to get trapped into thinking that the one, or two, highest-dollar opportunities sitting in their funnel right now can get them over their quota. And since as a sales professional, they’re constantly constrained with limited time and resources, it’s possible that their stubborn focus to chase those “pet deals” is distracting them from other opportunities that might prove to be more profitable for them and your company.
Winning Starts at the Top of the Sales Funnel
Research data from CSO Insights indicates B2B win rates are only 47.9% in 2021, lower than the 49.3% odds of winning at craps in Las Vegas. Playing the games, you know you can win at, dramatically increases the odds of winning and increasing win rates is one of the best ways to improve sale performance. Increasing your win rate by 5% would have a significant impact on top line revenue growth. For this reason, it is important to qualify leads and prospects before sales professionals expend their time, energy, and the company’s resources in pursuing an opportunity.
Make Your Prospects Earn Proposals
Do you give out proposals and quotes like one of those people standing on the street handing out flyers? “Here, please take one!”
There is a cost to giving out proposals too soon – your prospect doesn’t value it, or your time and you lose the chance to set up a specific next step that would help them earn the proposal.
Being Customer-Centric in Your Sales Approach
Consultative selling comes down to having a fully customer-centric approach to sales. In my sales system, the customer is at the center of everything we coach on. It means putting your customer’s needs, challenges, and aspirations at the heart of everything you do, be that doing your research, prospecting, setting a meeting, or having a sales call. It also means thinking about how you can add value to your prospect first, rather than thinking about how much you can sell to them.
Busting 7 Myths About Top-Performing Salespeople
Myth # 1: It’s easy.
Myth # 2: It’s natural.
Myth # 3: They want to see everyone else fail.
Myth # 4: They only care about making money.
Myth # 5: They are pushy and intrusive.
Myth # 6: They are self-centered and egotistical.
Myth # 7: They are driven by rewards and recognition.
5 Steps to Achieving Your Year-End Numbers
2020 has been a year of unprecedented turmoil on so many fronts. Faced with uncertainty, businesses have put the brakes on as deals stalled or vanished. Many companies have instituted layoffs, as priorities have shifted to maintaining revenue and/or just surviving. Others have faced incredible manufacturing and supply chain pressures.
The way people are now allowed to interact has fundamentally changed as well. Most direct sales reps have been sidelined from visiting their clients, and video calls have become the norm. For most, offices are now in unique spaces within homes, and the line between work and personal life is blurred. But the one constant that has not changed, is the need to still drive numbers.
Catapulting Revenue Growth in 2021
Traditional sales tactics are falling short, and CEOs and business owners around the globe are starting to realize that their playbook is out-of-date.
Buyers are changing how they buy, faster than sellers are changing the way they sell. Buyers are saying that sellers aren’t making the grade when it comes to their recent experiences, resulting in this interesting data below:
- 62% of buyers say their sellers ‘Meet’ but don’t ‘Exceed’ their expectations
- 77% of buyers don’t see sellers as a resource to solve business problems
- 68% of buyers don’t see much difference in sellers among the sellers they work with
- 70% of buyers seem to engage sellers later in their buying process
So how does your sales organization catch up?
Are You Your Industry's Best Kept Secret?
A compelling value proposition is a vital characteristic that distinguishes world-class sales performers from all others. World-class performers know their company’s capabilities and how their solutions add value to the customers. They can clearly articulate this value. The same way. Every time.
Your solution may deliver the most compelling value in the market, but if you cannot communicate it to your prospects and customers, it does not matter. Your sales team needs to be able to deliver your value proposition consistently when dealing with your customers.
Qualifying Strategic Sales Opportunities Using a Scorecard
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, everything seems different, but sales fundamentals have not changed that much, if at all. Foundational selling and questioning skills are more critical now than in the past. Sales organizations that implement a formal lead qualification strategy will find themselves allocating their time more wisely, so they can get the highest return on their investment of resources. And the cornerstone of a formal lead qualification strategy is the strategic opportunity quality scorecard
Our scorecard for qualifying strategic opportunities has three key uses in sales organizations:
Selling in a Pandemic Economy
Experienced executives all know that markets are cyclical. Downturns are followed by upturns, which then eventually lead to another slowing of business.
During a down economy – typically, when revenues decline by 10 percent over the previous year for two quarters in a row — sales organizations tend to hunker down. Managers implement a hiring freeze and might even lay off staff. Moreover, they cut back resources, for instance, reducing sales training or eliminating it altogether. All this seems natural and sensible. As that old saying goes, you need to tighten your belt when times are lean. It all makes such good sense, right? Wrong!
COVID-19 Crisis: 12-Step Pre-Recovery Checklist for SMB CEOs
When we begin to see a positive turn in the COVID-19 pandemic, the No. 1 responsibility for business leaders will be to prepare a game plan towards full recovery. But who believes the ground rules will remain the same? Or that the marketplaces we’ve served won’t have shifted?
We’re going to need to quickly, but rigorously, assess our current relevance to our customers, understand our competitive exposures, and re-tool our offerings and go-to-market strategies to get back on track, and capture new ground, in a landscape rich with potential new opportunities for our businesses, employees and communities.
Does Your Sales Team Have Performance Issues?
The most important decision we make as salespeople, managers, and leaders is how to connect with our customers. Are we effectively engaging with our clients? How your sales team performs in front of customers is crucial, since they (usually) only get one chance. Successful salespeople know the importance of preparing and strategizing before meeting with customers and prospects. Bypassing the warm-up and instead jumping right into the sales pitch can be a costly mistake for the inexperienced salesperson (e.g., “Here’s what our product can do, and here’s why it’s great. How many should I order?”)
Do You Understand How Your Customers Buy?
People want to buy but not be sold to. Customers are people, and all people tend to go through a similar decision-making process, which means that sales need to be in lockstep with where their customers are in their decision process and keep it top of mind that it’s about the customer’s needs and timing, not theirs.
Below are some questions you might want to pose to you own sales organization:
- How well do you understand how your customers buy?
- Who/what is driving your sales process?
- Is your selling process aligned with your customer’s buying process?
What is a Fractional CSO? The Short and Long Answer
The Short Answer: A Fractional/CSO becomes a trusted advisor and business partner to the Chief Executive Officer of a small to midsize business, providing strategic sales and marketing support for the business on a less than full-time basis.
The Longer Answer: A Fractional/CSO becomes an interim or part-time Chief Sales Officer who is contracted for specific, strategic revenue support. I am highly skilled, seasoned senior executive with a background that spans multiple decades of sales, marketing and operational experience. I become an integrated part of the management team, bringing better sales understanding to everyone on the team in virtually any industry.
B2B Sales Forces are Hiring
I have been intrigued by predictions popping up that the number of B2B salespeople will be decimated over the next few years, replaced by an “ecommerce will rule the world” mentality. Clearly “buying” is changing, but does that really mark the end of B2B selling? On June 2, 1897, American writer Mark Twain, published the above statement in the New York Journal in reaction to newspaper accounts that he had died. Fast-forward to today, and those same words might well be applied to the forecasts regarding the death of B2B salespeople. Here is why.
How to Measure Successful Sales Management
Sales management is probably the most critical role that influences the success of any organization. So, it’s often tempting for sales managers to step in and close the sale themselves. I would submit that this is not the best use of a sales manager’s time. High-performing sales organizations win business by putting processes in place that allow the sales manager to produce results not by doing things themselves, but through their sales team.
Sales Methodology + Technology = A Winning Formula for Closing Deals
In all my years as a senior executive and consultant, I have never heard a sales professional say, “My CRM helped me close that deal.” Why? Because CRMs weren’t built for the seller, they were built for sales managers and senior leadership.
THE SALES TALENT SHORTAGE: THE STRUGGLE IS REAL
Sales organizations worldwide compete to attract and keep top performers in their ranks. Most CEOs and business owners know this truth, despite the swings in any given economy, the sales talent shortage is real and ongoing. They also know that the loss of a top performer can impact their company’s revenue for years.
Implications of a Vacant Sales Territory
Understanding the impact of a vacant sales territory is important. Even in the very best organization, salespeople come and go. By their very nature they are typically hungry for a better deal for themselves.
Should You Recruit Competitor's Sales Superstar?
I am often asked by my clients to recruit a competitor’s super star sales performer. What I have found from past experiences, this can be a very risky proposition.
Don't Fire That New Sales Rep So Fast!
We all know the game. It’s all about growing revenue. Your sales leaders are charged with hiring new sales reps but they soon find out that there is a shortage of really good sales talent out there – the struggle is real
13 Must-Knows About Sales for CEOs & Business Owners
#1 Articulate the Sales Process. In Fact, Make It Crystal Clear. • Define stages in the sales process and map it to customer buying behavior so it’s easy to understand the “why” • Associate activities with each stage—and keep it simple • Crystalize the leading and lagging indicators of success for each stage • Arm sales managers with high impact questions that ensure positive adoption and execution • Clearly recognize the sales manager role as a multiplier for success.