Set the Mustangs Free – Part 4 of Double Your Sales in 2009

by | Feb 17, 2009

How many sales management books have you read? I’m sure each of your sales reps has a couple of sales guru books that they keep on their desk.

Have you invested in sales training for you team?

A lot of time and money have gone into refining the skills of your sales team.

But somehow, you have a feeling in your gut that when they hit the streets and start pressing the flesh, they fall back on instinct more often than not.

In the first 3 installments of our “Double Your Sales in 2009”, we’ve covered setting the “qualification bar” high enough that sales time is focused on the highest value customers and knowing the return on your investment in sales time and expense at each step in your process.  Click here to start with “Qualify Early and Often”, the first installment.

Following the guidelines laid out in the first three installments of “Double Your Sales in 2009” will result in stronger and deeper relationships with genuinely qualified buyers and produce more time left in the day so you can increase your sales pipeline. The problem is that you can talk about it in sales meetings ’til you’re blue in the face but old habits die hard. You’re not going to get seasoned sales reps to practice and refine new and sometimes counterintuitive techniques with nothing but a suggestion.

You have to hold them accountable. A baseball coach doesn’t just describe how to swing at a curve ball in the locker room. He goes out to the field and watches the swings and provides detailed suggestions on the minutest of mechanics. In sales, its not usually possible to spend a lot of time “in the field” with each rep. You need a way to track what happens in the field and digest that information in order to identify trends, both good and bad.

If you know what my day job is, then I know you’re thinking, “Oh boy, here comes the CRM sales pitch”. Well, the truth is you really don’t need to buy a thing to at least begin tracking sales activities and practices so that you can steer your team in a new direction. Whether you have a CRM or Contact Management System or not, the first step is to figure out what needs to be tracked and how you’ll collect the information.

Obviously, you need to have some way to objectively “grade” each prospect. In installment one, “Qualify Early and Often“, we discussed the type of questioning of a prospect that goes into this grade. So that’s where you’ll start. Even if its a hard copy “lead sheet” that each sales person fills out for each lead they talk to, or maybe a simple excel spreadsheet, you need to know the prospect’s answers to each qualifying question. The idea is that we need to move away from listening to every sales rep’s “story” about each prospect which usually ends with the rep saying they “feel” good about this one. Having the prospect’s answers to the questions let’s YOU decide if their qualified, even if you never speak to them yourself.

I know, you’re already saying “My sales reps just won’t fill the lead sheets out. I don’t even want to hear all the complaining I’ll get.” Be patient, we’ve got the secret sauce to over come the push back coming up dead ahead.

First though, let’s refine our lead sheet idea a bit. All we really need to do is add the sales actions or steps that have been takin with every lead. No need to get overly detailed here. The priority is to track the sales actions that cost you and your sales team large amounts of time and money.

Here’s an example I mocked up in excel in 10 minutes. This doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Simple is good!

Now all you have to do is work out some guidelines for which of the sales actions you’re willing to invest your time and money in depending on the answers to the qualification questions. This isn’t going to take too much time for your sales team and you’ll easily see the trends. When the lead sheet shows you that the customer is doing business with your lowest priced competitor and is currently spending only $5,000 per year but, your sales rep has made the two hour drive to their office twice (once for the 1st meeting, then again for the presentation) and invested two hours in preparing a proposal, you know something needs to change. Of course, these guidelines are going to be unique to your business and market. Remember that this is a process of refinement that is on-going. You don’t have to have all the anwers up front. In fact, once you start collecting the information, the most important guidelines will present themselves.

OK, now for the shameless plug – Clearly, an investment in a contact management system can make this easier for the user and add value to the effort. If you’re collecting information like this, it just makes good sense to have it in database that allows you to search against those qualification fields. Just imagine what you could do with a list of all leads you’ve encountered that are working with a certain competitor and spending a large amount of money. You may even be able to leverage email marketing capabilities to “drip market” to the smaller ones instead of investing all your sales resources on them. The point here is to start tracking the information somehow. If paper makes the most sense in your organization, that’s fine. Just get started!

And that’s where most businesses fail in sales management. They just won’t take that first step. And of course, its usually largely due to the push back you get from your sales team. They tell you they feel like you’re micro-managing them. They tell you its too time consuming and keeps them from selling. Then they wait until 15 minutes before the sales meeting and just fly through a weeks worth of lead sheets and basically make it up.

Clearly, you have to sell the concept to your sales team. Read through all 5 installments of Double Your Sales in 2009 and you’re bound to find 4 or 5 direct benefits to the sales team that fit your world. Of course, its a great idea to let the sales team be part of creating the lead sheet in the first place. My favorite suggestion is to get the superstars of your sales team to put it together. This way the rest of the team sees cooperation as a way to learn from the masters!

The most crucial ingredient in your sales pitch to your sales team is resolve. No matter how well you’ve sold it to them, you have to be willing to say its an absolute job requirement. No ifs, ands or buts….

Then you have to follow through and collect, digest and provide feedback on the information regularly. Believe it or not, what I have found to be the most effective way to jump start this process with your sales team is to simply start collating the information and sharing a comparison of all reps with the entire team. You can start that immediately. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to have worked out all the guidelines for when to do a presentation or proposal. As discussed above, sometimes you need to see a bit of data to answer those questions.

So just start putting the #s on the whiteboard during the sales meeting or email them out once a week. Example: For each rep, show the number of leads identified as decision makers with a current budget of $10,000 or more. Again, you questions and the important points to track will be unique to you but, sales people are competitive. As soon as they see themselves being compared to others based on this information, they’ll start collecting it and getting it to you. You may hear some grumbling about certain circumstances creating an unfair comparison but, that’s the beauty of starting out simple like this early in the process. You’re not saying that this information is going to effect their compensation, quota or territory. You’re just looking for trends.

And then after a month or so, you’re seeing trends and the sales team is starting to talk about the guidelines themselves. Information is powerful. Your sales team has been driving around without a dashboard in their car. Their not usually analytical folks. This information will show them how full the tank is, what the oil pressure is and how fast they should go. This is the feedback they need to begin to self adjust. With some guidance from you, in a few short weeks they’ll all be focusing in on the same concepts and practices. Your heard of cats just became a heard of mustangs charging out in front of the competition!

Up next in our “Double Your Sales in 2009” series, our fifth and final installment – “How to super charge your sales engine without increasing expenses”.  This is the big pay off. Think of it like this, the first 4 installments were increasing the capacity of your sales engine. Next, we’re going to add a turbo charger and find out where to get the jet fuel! It’ll be available here on February 23.  Don’t forget to register to receive the entire “Double Your Sales in 2009” series as an e-Book here.