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Why do sales people make things so hard for themselves?

heBuying is a great way to learn about selling. Some years ago I worked with an organisation and several of their members became interested in using a particular product. Because I knew about these products they asked me to contact the vendor to arrange a meeting and negotiate a group deal. So I contacted the vendor’s CEO who confirmed that they would be delighted to meet up and arrange a group deal. Their VP Sales was cc’ed on this response and I was told he’d be in touch.

Over a month later I hadn’t heard a thing. Frankly if I’d been buying the product for my own company I would have gone elsewhere. But my client’s members were still interested so I persevered, a meeting was arranged, a deal agreed and business was done. But this was despite their sales guy’s poor follow up on multiple occasions.

The VP Sales was charming and knowledgeable face-to-face and in some ways this might be the root of the problem. Many sales people are charming and knowledgeable and love the face-to-face aspect of their job so much that they lose track of the dull, boring stuff such as following up on actions agreed. But you have to remember that people might buy from you the first time because they like you, but they’ll only buy again if they trust you. And by trust I don’t mean honesty, 99.9% of us are honest, I mean trust in the sense of knowing that what you say, you’ll do.

If you find it difficult to follow up promptly on your meetings, it’s up to you to improve your time management skills and effectiveness.

 

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Sales goals – Q1 review

It should look like that!

You will recall that in late last year we looked at setting goals for the next 12 months. Well it may have escaped your notice but it’s getting to the end of Q1, so how are you doing? With a couple of weeks to go, now is about the right time to start worrying if you’re not there yet. So to help you along the way here are a few short term and longer term ideas to help you achieve your quarterly target.

Tactical

  • Don’t panic. It won’t help and customers, like dogs, can smell fear. If they know you’re desperate and it’s end-of-quarter, expect some “take it or leave it (until Q2)” low-ball offers.
  • If you need to chase someone up to try and get an order placed, now is the time to do it. If you leave it until the last week of the quarter sure as eggs is eggs the one person you need will be on vacation.
  • Take a systematic look at your Q1 numbers, particularly if you are coming up short. What can you sensibly try to pull in from Q2?
  • If it looks like you are going to miss your numbers through something beyond your control (e.g. customer went bust) now is the time to try and negotiate something with your boss on your Q1 quota. When the numbers are in it’s too late.

Strategic

  • Now is the time to start setting your goals for Q2, although you may need to fine-tune them based on Q1 achievements. All too many companies wait until the dust has settled on one quarter before setting goals for the next. If you’re not careful those goals aren’t finalised until you’re midway through the quarter.
  • Take the time to review goals for you and your team for the whole of 2010.
    • Are they unrealistic?
    • Has anything critical changed?
    • Are they too easy?
    • Do I need to re-deploy my resources based on Q1 performance and markets?
    • Do I need to re-prioritise my customer list?
    • Should I reset my goals for the rest of the year?
    • Is there anybody in my team struggling? Do they need extra coaching or help?

Good luck with the end-of-quarter, I hope you hit your goals and have healthy bonuses to spend in Q2!

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What’s in the mind of a sales manager?

I recently came across the Visually website which is a great source of infographics. I found this one on what might be in the mind of a sales manager and what ought to be! Click on it to expand it.

 The Mysterious Mind of a Sales Manager

by Mindflash.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

 

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Seven tips to help you set next year’s sales goals

Achieving next year's sales goals

Achieving next year’s sales goals

 

It’s Q4 (where did the time go?) and whether you’re self-employed, a small business owner or a sales pro now is the time to be setting your sales goals for next year. Most customers are goal and budget setting as well, so it’s is an excellent time to sit down and set targets for the coming year. Here are some goal setting tips for you…

1. Top Down. If you have objectives set by your management they should, of course, be in there. If you have larger personal or life goals they should also feed into your 2010 sales goals.

2. SMART. Make your goals SMART ones…

  • S = Specific. What, why, and how?
  • M = Measurable. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it
  • A = Attainable. You probably won’t really commit to a goal that’s out of reach. Too easy and you won’t get that sense of achievement when you get there.
  • R = Realistic. Is it something that is under your control? If not it’s a hope not a goal.
  • T = Timely. Set a timeframe. Include milestones along the way… don’t just set a year-end goal.

3. Make your goals tangible. What will it feel like to achieve those goals? Imagine what you will buy with the commission, what will you do on your President’s Club trip, how will it feel when you get presented with the Sales Person of the Year award at the next annual sales meeting? Use all of your senses here… imagine what that champagne will taste like!

4. Include professional goals as well as sales targets. What job do you want to be doing this time next year? Do you want to move to another company? Do you want to set up on your own as a rep? What new skills do you want to attain in the next year?

5. Learn from your mistakes. Take the opportunity to look back on the last year. What did you do well, what could you have improved upon and how? What will you do differently this year?

6. Reward yourself along the way. Regardless of what your company’s reward policy might be, give yourself some treats along the way for goals/milestones achieved.

7. Keep the number of goals manageable. Nobody was ever one-sixteenth committed to anything. Better to have two really crunchy, very specific, achievable goals than sixteen flaky goals including how often you should back-up your PC.

Good luck and good selling for the next year.

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The secret to efficient lead generation

Guest Post by Pat Meehan of Leads360.com

Investing in quality leads has long been one of the most important elements of any marketing buy and the key to successful sales. However, the decision on which leads to buy and how much to spend on them can be complicated and difficult. This is why a Lead Management System can be essential to an efficient, effective lead generation process. Not only does a Lead Management System automate your process and improve your closing rates on every lead you but, but a LMS can be used to determine which leads you should purchase more of and why, allowing you to maximize your ROI and hone your marketing spend so that you’re getting the most out of every dollar.

The average sales organization closes just 15% of their leads. As a result, getting the most out of every lead is important. So what can a LMS do for you? How can it improve your system of lead generation? The first method is through lead scoring. Lead Management Systems can allow you to identify those elements of any lead that have translated into success so you can focus on finding leads that fit your specific needs and focus on buying those leads. “All leads are not created equal. The best leads for you are the ones that are actively looking for the products and services you offer. Internet leads are too expensive to waste your money on those that don’t qualify for your offerings, or are simply window shopping.” This same approach also spills over into lead routing and the process of working the leads. Lead routing is essential to effectively working leads, allowing a sales manager to get the right leads in the hand of a salesperson who can work the lead immediately and ensure that every lead gets followed up on as many times as necessary. Good lead routing can ensure that your speed to contact is as low as possible and that no lead is given up until it has been thoroughly worked. Another element of the process is Lead Tracking, where each lead gets followed from cradle to grave to ensure that every stage of the process is working at its best. Any area where you may be falling behind or failing to seize an opportunity can immediately be identified and improved on with a LMS. Finally, one of the most important aspects of a LMS is scorekeeping. Lead Management Systems allow a sales manager to track specific and customizable metrics that will allow them adjust any aspect of their sales process using a data driven and analytical approach. These metrics will help reveal how you’re working leads and how well that approach is working.

So how can you adjust your lead generation approach by using a Lead Management System? Simply put: Lead Management can help you identify the money you’re spending that isn’t working and isn’t helping your staff and focus your marketing buy where it’s most effective. A LMS allows a sales manager or CMO to identify exactly which leads are and aren’t working and why. Through this, sales teams can maximize their ROI by refining their process for working leads and by determining which lead sources are best suited for their company. Lead scoring allows sales teams to find those leads that are the most specifically tailored to their staff and company and focus on purchasing those leads that work best for you and your sales process. Or, as a Leads360 whitepaper puts it: “Using Internet leads reduces the time and effort you spend on marketing. Choosing your leads wisely reduces the time you spend qualifying and selling. Start by identifying the right quality of Internet leads for your business, which will depend on whether you want to spend more money buying leads or more time working them. Both approaches can work.” Shared leads, for instance, require a sales team that can work them hard and work them immediately. If you have a large and dedicated staff with a LMS that will allow them to work leads quickly, they might be a smarter buy for your company. Your lead scoring can also become much more refined by using the metrics and scorekeeping data that comes from your LMS system. You can sharpen your lead scoring approach to include data about leads that you would never have realized was important until your LMS identified it. What’s more, the metrics you keep can help you identify ways that your marketing buy is inefficient. In some cases, companies have discovered, with the help of their LMS, that leads from a less expensive source were generating a higher ROI. By incorporating LMS software, you can get a broad look at every piece of data coming out of your sales process and identify inefficiencies that would be impossible to see with the naked eye. By breaking down every stage of the sales process, a sales manager can also identify areas where sales generation needs to improve, but also areas where his staff’s performance is the culprit and continue purchasing the valuable leads while adjusting his staff’s approach.

Lead generation can be a tricky and harrowing aspect of operating a sales staff and any help in finding the right approach can be invaluable. This is why a Lead Management Systems like Leads360 cannot be underestimated as a tool in the fight to prefect your approach to lead generation. Leads360 can not only ensure that every stage of the sales process is working as efficiently and profitably as possible, but it can also help you identify which leads make the most sense to purchase and why. It provides any sales manager with a simple, transparent approach to their lead generation that can be adjusted to fit the data they’re collecting and ensure that every stage of the sales process is operating at maximum efficiency. By identifying lead sources with the best ROI, you can then reduce your marketing but and get the most of the leads that you’re generating.

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Analysis Paralysis – Part II

Analysis Paralysis

Analysis Paralysis

You’ll remember that in Analysis Paralysis – Part I we talked about what happens when paperwork, reports and forecasts get out of hand. The process can be quite insidious with the request sneaking up on you disguised as “an information request” or a “quick summary”. We also gave some ideas on what sales managers can do to keep this under control.

Here are some more ideas for sales teams and sales managers on how to keep the reporting overhead to a minimum.

  • Try and get into a forecasting/reporting rhythm.
  • This should be “written in stone” so everyone knows what information is needed and when. They can their plan their sales activities around it.
  • If you batch your reporting, you minimise the time taken and the distraction. Otherwise you will have to continually stop and spend time to dig out the information you need, set up the spreadsheets, etc.
  • When a request comes in for a new, regular report or forecast push back a bit.
  • Often new Sales VPs don’t feel certain enough of their position to protect their teams time and will go along with almost any request from finance, marketing, ops…
  • How often will it be needed? Press for monthly rather than weekly, quarterly rather than monthly.
  • DON’T WHINGE. But sell your boss on why it’s not such a good idea, remind her of the opportunity cost and suggest an alternative.
  • Keep your records and those of your team up-to-date on an ongoing basis. If you do so then a lot of the information can be easily or automatically extracted from, for instance, your CRM system.

Finally remember, to run any business you need to know what’s happening, so reporting of some sort is inevitable. When you have to do that forecast don’t procrastinate, get on with it, do a good job, get it over with and get back you your selling.

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Analysis Paralysis – Part I

Analysis Paralysis

Analysis Paralysis

We’ve all been there haven’t we? The boss has to present at the board meeting and needs a special report from his managers so that he’s got something to fill his 10 minute slot. This ususally is requested with the minimum of notice, despite that fact that the board meeting has been scheduled for months. Just to add insult to injury all of the information is in the weekly reports that the team submit but he can’t be arsed to go through them, so he needs it spoon-fed to him, custom sliced & diced.
Here’s another all too common scenario. A new regular report is required. It may be that you provide monthly revenue numbers and now in the economic downturn the management team is nervous so we must have weekly revenue numbers. I’ve never met a sales person worth her salt who enjoyed doing paperwork and so this kind of request is normally met with a barrage of complaint… and what is the response?
“This should only take a few minutes…”
“You can do it at the end of the day/at the weekend/waiting at the airport  [insert your own here].”
“A good sales person should have this info at her fingertips.”
Now this is all well and good, but there is an unavoidable fact… we all only have 168 hours per week… that’s you, me and even Warren Buffett. We can’t change that, so when we have to add a new activity to our schedule there is what we call an “opportunity cost” involved, that is the value of the activity that we have to fore go to do the new one. So for instance a new monthly report that takes a couple of hours to compile will cost a sales person 1.25% of her time. Make that a weekly report and that’s 5% of her selling time eaten into. And in sales, more so than any other profession, time is money.
Times may be hard, but if we’re not careful we may end up in a “death spiral”. Management are nervous so ask for more reports, in more detail on what’s happening out there. Sales people spend more time doing this and hence less time selling. Business gets worse, this has to be analysed in even more detail… you get the picture.
So, if you’re a sales manager, what can you do about this? Here are some questions to ask yourself before spamming out that new forecast or report to your team:
Do I really need this information, or is this simply a brain-fart?
Do I have the information already? Maybe an admin can take existing data and rework it for the report I need.
What is the opportunity cost of requesting this report?
If I do need it, what can I do to make it as quick and easy as possible for the sales team to complete?
Do I need this report/forecast forever? You should review the reporting procedures for the sales team regularly to make sure they aren’t spiralling out of control.
[to be continued]

We’ve all been there haven’t we? The boss has to present at the board meeting and needs a special report from his managers so that he’s got something to fill his 10 minute slot. This usually is requested with the minimum of notice, despite that fact that the board meeting has been scheduled for months. Just to add insult to injury all of the information is in the weekly reports that the team diligently submit but he can’t be arsed to go through them, thus he needs it spoon-fed to him, custom sliced & diced.

Here’s another all too common scenario. A new regular report is required. It may be that you provide monthly revenue numbers and now in the economic downturn the management team is nervous, so we must have weekly revenue numbers. I’ve never met a sales person worth her salt who enjoyed doing paperwork and so this kind of request is normally met with a barrage of complaint… and what is the response?

  • “This should only take a few minutes…”
  • “You can do it at the end of the day/at the weekend/waiting at the airport  [insert your own here].”
  • “But, a good sales person should have this information at her fingertips.”

Now this is all well and good, but there is an unavoidable fact… we all only have 168 hours per week… that’s you, me and even Warren Buffett. We can’t change that, so when we have to add a new activity to our schedule there is what we call an “opportunity cost” involved, that is the value of the activity that we have to fore go to do the new one. So for instance a new monthly report that takes a couple of hours to compile will cost a sales person 1.25% of her time. Make that a weekly report and that’s 5% of her selling time eaten into. And in sales, more so than any other profession, time is money.

Times may be hard, but if we’re not careful we may end up in a “death spiral”. Management are nervous so ask for more reports, in more detail on what’s happening out there. Sales people spend more time doing this and hence less time selling. Business gets worse, this has to be analysed in even more detail… you get the picture.

So, if you’re a sales manager, what can you do about this? Here are some questions to ask yourself before spamming out that new forecast or report to your team:

  • Do I really need this information, or is this simply a brain-fart?
  • Do I have the information already? Maybe an admin can take existing data and rework it for the report I need.
  • What is the opportunity cost of requesting this report?
  • If I do need it, what can I do to make it as quick and easy as possible for the sales team to respond?
  • Do I need this report/forecast forever? You should review the reporting procedures for the sales team regularly to make sure they aren’t spiralling out of control.

[to be continued]

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