I’m often reminded that the business of selling is less about common sense than it is about process. From the outside looking in, bad process is obvious…but when you are smack dab in the middle of it, it can be hard to even SEE the right thing, let alone make a decision to address it. Unfortunately, the clock ticks and if YOU don’t chip away at the problem…then it’ll be you that gets chipped away.
Good News: It doesn’t have to be hard. Here is a short guide to get you on the path.
Don’t Try to Fix Everything Today
You all know the feeling. You finish a quarter, numbers were abysmal…and that was AFTER you dropped your forecast during the last 2 weeks. Your confidence is shaken and your reputation has taken a beating. Now you are being asked to prepare for your QBR.
Don’t dread this. Approach from another angle…you have an opportunity to find out why things are going badly. Don’t put it off. Do the investigation and make some decisions based on data…not guesses.
The fact is…if you haven’t been doing the work required to be successful, you won’t be able to bluff it for long. The question is: Why aren’t you? Better to realize or admit that you don’t like what you are doing or who you are doing it for, so you can get on with your life. Trust me, if you are unhappy, there is something better out there for you, but it isn’t going to find you…you need to go find it.
Chances are…you ARE working hard, but perhaps focused on the wrong things. Let’s face it…no one gives you a handbook called “Do These Things and You Win”. You have to find out what’s working and what isn’t, so you can pick things off one at a time. Trying to do it all at once is too overwhelming and is not practical. But you cannot wait another day, or it will be too late. So…start with the basics.
I’ll assume you are using a CRM tool (Oracle Sales Cloud, Salesforce, Dynamics)? Pull the reports and look at the data. How old is your pipeline? How much is in there? What is your historical yield? I know everyone thinks they know the data in their business…but I am not sure everyone sees even the obvious trends:
- Close Dates all the same, like the last day of a month, or at the end of the quarter.
- Close Dates not matching Sales Stage
- No Actions to progress to the next step
- No notes, updates…untouched for weeks
- Way too much Pipeline, Way too little Pipeline: Both are bad
No better time to clean the pipe than TODAY. Don’t stick your head in the sand. Find the garbage, get rid of it and establish your baseline. You will also see the pattern of pushes, pipeline stuffing and yield rate (example – winning 10% of your total pipeline).
Keep it simple. Start by looking at close dates – question every date (especially the ones that close at the end of every month, or on weekends). Compare them to the sales stage. When it comes to the solution: Ask what business challenge the solution is solving? If it solves a problem a customer has, you have a compelling reason to buy. If it is simply to satisfy a want, you are at the whim of the customer, and your forecast-ability goes south. Your ENTIRE goal is to build an accurate forecast.
If your pipeline details are Swiss cheese – start fixing THAT. Make it a requirement to manage 100% from CRM…remember, if it isn’t in the tool, it can’t be tracked. By the way…If you aren’t using a CRM tool…you’ve got bigger problems.
Activity Activity Activity
Don’t fool yourself…and don’t be fooled. 90% of sales is the background work it takes to get the 10% – The Meeting…The Golden Moment. And yes, every organization has a formula:
- 6-10 Sales Calls a week
- 40 dials a day
- Standard Number of Emails Per Week
- Events, Sales Plays, Blitzes, etc…
It seems pretty simple…do the work that is required, follow whatever formula that works for you to build the accurate pipeline you need to achieve your target. And above all else…track the activity. You want to expose best practices AND under-performance. Keep in mind, this isn’t a punitive exercise. You are establishing facts and refining your territory coverage model.
- From a Sales Rep perspective: If you aren’t recording activity in CRM – you are unable to defend yourself when external forces impact your success. Show your work, Share your work, Pivot when problems arise. Don’t do it as a task, do it because it makes it easier for you to manage your patch.
- From a Management perspective: If something your team is doing is burning cycles and not progressing deals, eliminate that activity and introduce one that works. Evaluate your leaders and adopt their successful activities.
Conversely, if members of your team are unwilling to follow the established process, you can minimize cost by making personnel decisions before more time and money is wasted. Set the table so that new members to the team can plug into a proven, standards-based system that reduces ramp up time and increases the probability of team success.
Establish The Team – Ensure Accountability
Gone are the days of the lone wolf. If you have a rep that CANNOT share information, or work together with his/her team, you are missing out on opportunity. Work the strengths of the organization and assign roles within the team to cover every account within the territory and every department within those accounts. Include extended members as well: Inside Sales, Sales Engineers, Subject Matter Experts, and Partners where appropriate. Establish a total target for the team. This should be easy: Everyone on the team agrees that they have a target: Why not make it the Quota? It makes no difference whether or not members of the team are compensated through other KPI’s – If they are doing the above activities, chances are they will align nicely with the activities required to achieve the Quota assigned to the Territory/Field Rep.
Incidentally – this requires your territory or field rep to have a Leader style or Manager style. As a leader, they establish the vision for the team, and their belief in that vision will inspire the team to follow. A leader style will assign a team member to manage the execution of that vision, through the accepted process. If your rep has a manager style, then they can rely on YOUR vision and manage the execution of that vision, systematically through process. Either way…you must have a vision!
No team will succeed without holding all members of the team accountable. Again – don’t focus on the Big Hairy Number at the end…focus on things that you can see today, and be accountable to improving those.
Here is a suggestion: Establish a standing weekly call – same Bat Time, same Bat Place…and establish a consistent agenda. Do not deviate. Establish a backup on these calls to carry the agenda in the event the team leader is unable to attend.
- Start and end the calls in the same way, every week – Make sure it happens. I like Mondays.
- Focus on the visible deals – Confirm what is pending and ensure Date and Sales Stage are correct.
- If team cannot confirm the date and stage is on target…then what are the actions to confirm THIS WEEK?
- Update the notes IN THE CRM tool. Every team member takes responsibility – Every deal gets touched, updated or removed.
- End the call with a review on what your pipeline building activities were the previous week.
- Profiling Accounts, Sales Plays to Run, Identify target personas, Which Partners to Engage. Results are new opportunities entered into CRM.
- Divvy up the tasks, Execute, Review on the following call.
- Tuesday – Friday are Execution Days: Customer visits, Sales progression and Overflow activities.
Boom – Now you have a process to START with. Add to it, detract from it…until you see the results you are looking for. You’ve got the vision…now execute. Be personally accountable to stick to the process. Yes, it is repetitive, but it is the only way you will understand what is happening in your business, and more importantly…what ISN’T happening.
Manage the Metrics – Take ambiguity out of the equation.
Managing can be very hard if you are relying point in time reviews and hunches. Take ambiguity and spikes in productivity out of the equation. Trust me, everyone can say they are working hard. Give them a process that teaches them how to prove it.
I work at Oracle. We use Oracle Sales Cloud. I have used Salesforce in the past. It doesn’t matter which tool you use, however, if the reps are not held accountable to enter and rely on the data within it.
Strive for consistent Pipeline Development, Acceptable Yield (Pipeline conversion to Sales) and Forecast Accuracy. Execute on those…you’ll find your path to achieving Quota, and you have enabled leaders on your team.
Shift your view…Establish your vision…Execute.