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Another Take on Sales Management -1 September 3, 2015

Posted by David Dirks in Building A Sales Organization.
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David Dirks

David Dirks

What is the biggest ally and also the biggest enemy of the professional sales person?  In my view, it’s time.  Time is that precious commodity which is used up at a constant rate and can never be reversed.  Sales professionals have two choices: Either maximize the time they have every day  or squander the time.  Let’s first look at the ways time is squandered:

  • Natural procrastination.  We all have inside of us some level of procrastination with some people endowed with more if it than others.  As sales managers, we have to realize that some level of procrastination is necessary – it’s a tool we humans often use to give ourselves a break between assignments or stressful events.  Other times it’s just a way for some to give way to their natural level of laziness. Either way, recognize that it exists and cannot be wished away.
  • Focusing on what we like to do.  But not spending much time on those elements of our sales profession that perhaps we like less.  In other words, what comes easier to us is often a joy to do – what doesn’t come easy feels like a drag – even if we know it’s the path to sales success.
  • No ability to prioritize effectively.  Prioritizing by itself isn’t hard – anyone can randomly prioritize.  Are they prioritizing their sales process in the order that gets them closing more deals?
  • No consistent sales process.  Some sales people develop their own sales process that allows them to maximize their time and efforts.  Then again, some don’t and seemingly flit around doing things differently every time.  As sales managers, we have to be able to understand how each of our sales team members sells and why they do it the way they do.  This applies mostly to those who are average or sub par in their sales results.  The peak sales performers have their sales process and work it consistently.
  • Little or no sales coaching or trainingConsistent sales performance is honed over time and requires and investment of time on the part of the sales manager.  Just letting them go off into the distance without regular coaching equals opportunity lost and time squandered.
  • Sales compensation that doesn’t motivate in the optimal ways. You have to ask yourself: Is our sales compensation plan calibrated to get our sales teams focused on the best practices that result in the best sales results?  Great sales organizations are those that understand that they have unique “best practices” – those habits that have proven themselves successful over time.  And they find ways to train and compensate their sales teams to following along and implement what works best.
  • Round peg, square hole. Some people just aren’t suited to sales.  Help them move on and find a satisfying career field somewhere else.  You are squandering their time and yours.

 

Looking for a Business Opportunity? Read these words. December 4, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Entrepreneurship, Strategy.
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David Dirks

David Dirks

Every once in a while, someone drills out a few words that just hit you like a ton a bricks.  They are often a string of words that are simple as they are powerful and true.  For those who are looking for ways to create a business and – more importantly – a strong business model – then take in these words by Box CEO Aaron Levie:

“Take the stodgiest, oldest, slowest moving industry you can find and build amazing software for it”

That’s it.  Ok, so maybe your not into software but the advice still applies to anyone else.  Take a stodgy industry that no one pays much attention too…isn’t the latest hot business platform…and find ways to innovate the heck out of it.  Turn it into something that people will say, “why didn’t we think of that?”.

Today they call it “disruptive innovation”.  Whatever you call it, it’s an age old way to develop a business concept that has the best chance for survival and growth.  That isn’t to say that it’s easy.  Not a chance on easy but Levie’s point at least gives you a way to channel your enterprise desires and try to avoid doing what everyone else is doing.

The Quick and the Dead. September 3, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy.
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David Dirks

David Dirks

When it comes to entreprenuers, in my eyes there are only two kinds:  The Quick and the Dead.  The Quick are those that survive and grow as entreprenuers even though they too can hit dangerous bumps in the road.  The Dead are…just dead.  They are the ones who try, fail and never come back again.

Let’s take a look at the The Quick to understand what The Dead didn’t do.

The Quick are

  • Quick to act when action is needed.
  • Quick to counter competitors when the competition gets tough.
  • Quick to ask questions – and question everything.
  • Quick to make incremental changes to reflect the real world.
  • Quick to listen – and then listen more.
  • Quick to adjust their business models.
  • Quick to cut their losses on losing propositions and move on.
  • Quick to completely change their business models if that’s what it takes.
  • Quick to fix customers problems.
  • Quick to get back up when they get knocked down.
  • Quick to recognize & correct a bad hire.
  • Quick to start over and begin again.
  • Quick to recognize their own weaknesses.
  • Quick to allow others to help identify solutions to key challenges.
  • Quick to learn from competitors.
  • Quick to know when they are too in love with their business.
  • Quick to take things slowly when that makes the most sense.
  • Quick to not think they know it all.
  • Quick to know that being quick is better than being dead.

The Dead are

  • Dead.

Being “The Quick” doesn’t mean they are always fast.  It really means that the best entreprenuers – the ones that stand the test of time – are those that take action when action is called for.

On Building A Sales Organization – 4 August 26, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Compensation, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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Once you figure out the kinds of sales team you need and how to compensation them to higher performance, you’ll need to ensure you arm them with the resources they’ll need to succeed.

First is sales collateral – those print and digital pieces that can help the sales process along.  That said, I’ve never seen or heard of any sales collateral that sells all by itself.  Create sales collateral that support the sales process.  The principle of “less is more” applies here.  And makes sure that your sales collateral looks professional and not like it was put together on the cheap.

Then there’s sales training.  This isn’t the place for determining what kinds of sales training your burgeoning team of one to more sales people.  What I can tell you is that the right balance of sales training and coaching on a regular & consistent basis is worth the investment.  Most small businesses provide little to none sales training except perhaps for some training at the beginning of their employment.

Sales training is like physical exercise.  It should be challenging and slow build sales “muscle” – those skills that become part of their sales behaviors after a period of training and reinforcement.

Sales coaching is another support mechanism that’s necessary for a bare-bones but effective sales organization.  The challenge is that most small business owners don’t often have the sales background that would enable them to provide sales coaching.  What to do?  If you don’t have a sales management background here are three key points to cover in each of your individual sales coaching sessions:

  • How close are they to meeting their current sales goals?  If not close, why and what can be done to improve performance?  If they are on track, what are they doing right?
  • What are prospects & customers saying about our products and services?  This is a good time to take the “pulse” on what the street is doing or saying about the kinds of products and/or services your provide.
  • Set goals for the next session.  Success is incremental and so is the progress needed to get there.

Sales professional need regular & consistent support in the field.  Make sure you are able to provide it before you commit to building a sales force.

On Building A Sales Organization – 3 August 26, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Compensation.
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If all else goes well, compensation is usually the part that falls off the map.  The majority of small business owners that I’ve seen over many years try to find a way to pay the least they can.  They create so-called sales compensation plans that seemingly have a “path to make a lot of money” as one small businessman told me once.  The math is usually some blown up algorithm that has no relationship to the time it takes to really sell the product or service.  It assumes that the “sky is the limit” and that the product or service is so beloved that it will fly off the shelves.  Reality meets fantasy and no one wins.

As I said in the beginning of this series on the subject of sales compensation:

Willing to create a sales compensation plan that truly rewards people for their efforts but doesn’t leave them wondering how they are going to eat while they ramp up & beyond.  Whether you hire experienced or entry-level sale people, be prepared to compensate them within the range of what is at least the standard for you industry.  Going cheap on the compensation plan equals  consistently high turnover.  At best, you’ll be a good place for someone to get some training and experience before they go off and find a real sales organization to make a living off of.

Years of sales compensation planning provides me with several takeaways:

  • A great compensation plan rewards sales behaviors that lead to tangible improvements towards meeting or exceeding specific objectives.
  • A one-size-fits-all sales compensation plan does not exist.  The best plans are customized to your specific industry and needs.
  • Spend some time looking at how compensation plans both are similar and where they vary.  This is time well spent.  What you will learn will save you time and headaches.
  • Stress-test your compensation plan first before finalizing it.  Do the math and run some realistic scenarios through it to ensure it rewards the behaviors that you want to reward.
  • All data that is used for calculating compensation must be verifiable.
  • Make sure your compensation plan cannot be manipulated.  If there is a weakness in your plan that could favor the pockets of your sales force with little benefit to your business – sales people will find it pretty quickly.
  • Base your plan on realistic sales income scenarios.  I love the way most multi-level marketing (MLM) programs can develop multiple scenarios that look and sound like you to can make $5000 a month in extra income by only do X, Y or Z.
  • Sales compensation plans should be reviewed at once per year at a minimum or whenever major changes in your business (changes in product pricing, profitability, competitive changes, etc.) make it necessary to adjust your plans.

Overall:  Avoid the extremes:  paying too little or paying too much for little real results.  When in doubt, hire a sales compensation expert to help you craft a plan that fits your business needs.

On Building A Sales Organization – 2 July 24, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in Building A Sales Organization, Sales Management, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
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DirksProPhotoNote: This is the second in an ongoing series on building an effective sales organization/team for a small business.

So you want to build your sales organization…make it strong…faster…better…at finding and creating new business for you?  No problem – as long as you recognize, acknowledge and are able to execute with the ability meet several criteria.  I’ll deal with the first in this post: targeting, hiring and training the right sales people.

Here’s how I laid it out in the first post on this subject:

Willing to either hire experienced sales talent or willing to invest in the sales training required to help entry-level sales personnel become productive in a reasonably short time period.  Doesn’t much matter how great your sales opportunity is if you aren’t willing to either hire successful, experienced talent or hire the best & brightest entry-level talent – and then be willing to support them with the best-in-class sales and product training you can afford.

Here’s how:

  • Develop a list of job responsibilities – the tasks they would need to implement day-in-day out to accomplish their sales mission.  Then you need to articulate exactly what they are accountable for in the sales job.  Making sure you have thought through exactly what you need this person to do and what they are being held accountable isn’t as obvious as it sounds.

Example of a job responsibility:

Research and target potential prospects that fit our customer profile within the sales territory assigned.

Example of a job accountability:

Meets monthly, quarterly and annual sales targets for specific product categories as assigned.

Job responsibilities lead to the fulfillment of job accountabilities – those measurable end results that count.  They add real value to the business…in sales and revenues.

Now let’s talk about the minimum amount of sales experience you need.  You may only need a college graduate – fresh from the ceremony – for the kind of business and industry you’re in.  Or you may need someone with specific kinds of industry experience.

For example, a John Deere dealer will most definitely need a sales staff that understands agriculture, farming and the machinery that makes it all work.  A company that sells specialty software to banks and other financial institutions will want someone with banking industry experience that relates well to their product line.

Be clear about the minimum amount of bonafide sales and industry experience you need for their success and yours.

  • Well before you think of placing an ad (based on your well thought-out job description), think through what kind of initial and follow-on training will be necessary to give your new sales hire the best chance of a strong start.

Setting anyone…experienced or not…on their own without much attention to the amount of initial product, service and sales training they’ll need to become productive, is not effective.  The first 30 to 60 days of any sales persons life in your business is critical.  So it’s worth the time and effort it takes to prepare and initial your sales hire with the right amount of product and sales training that will boost their initial productivity.

Target the right hire. Train them well. Watch them grow.

On Building A Sales Organization – 1 July 20, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in Building A Sales Organization, Sales Management, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
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David Dirks

David Dirks

Note: This is the first in an ongoing series on building an effective sales organization/team for a small business.

There comes a time that some successful small businesses find themselves in.  It’s the time to consider the need to build more revenue by engineering a sales organization.  What does a vibrant, dynamic and proactive sales force give you?  How about the ability to scale your revenues by adding more boots on the ground?  Now I’m NOT talking about going from 1 or 2 sales people to 20 overnight.  The first step is recognizing that the only way you can scale revenues in a northerly direction is by building a sales organization starting from ground zero.

But let me save you the money, time and resources it takes to build a sales organization and culture in your small business.  It’s simple from my experience.  If you are willing to do ALL of the following, you have the right stuff to really create a viable and revenue contributing sales organization whether with 1 or 20 people:

  • Willing to either hire experienced sales talent or willing to invest in the sales training required to help entry-level sales personnel become productive in a reasonably short time period.  Doesn’t much matter how great your sales opportunity is if you aren’t willing to either hire successful, experienced talent or hire the best & brightest entry-level talent – and then be willing to support them with the best-in-class sales and product training you can afford.
  • Willing to create a sales compensation plan that truly rewards people for their efforts but doesn’t leave them wondering how they are going to eat while they ramp up & beyond.  Whether you hire experienced or entry-level sale people, be prepared to compensate them within the range of what is at least the standard for you industry.  Going cheap on the compensation plan equals  consistently high turnover.  At best, you’ll be a good place for someone to get some training and experience before they go off and find a real sales organization to make a living off of.
  • Willing to support your sales team with the resources they will need to get the job done.  That includes providing them with professionally created sales collateral (brochures, catalogs, product info sheets, etc.) – and not material created by your niece or nephew who calls themselves a “graphic designer”.  Sure, they’ll work on the cheap for you but more often than not, their work is substandard.  Hire professionals with a bonafide track record.

So, if you’re truly committed to hiring quality, providing compensation that motivates and allows someone to earn a better than average living, and support them with the sales tools they’ll need to be successful – you can entertain building a real sales organization.

 

Betterment…Is A Strategy July 12, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, marketing, Marketing Buzz, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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DirksProPhoto Why do people buy your products or services?  Are they forced to buy them out of necessity? Do you have a monopoly? Probably not. But understanding why people buy – and it’s often not on price – is one key to business longevity.

If you sell products or services that can easily be obtained elsewhere, why should they buy from you?  Think about yourself as a consumer for moment.  When you make a purchase – are you making it to contribute to a life of mediocrity?  No.  We buy things because of one basic reason: betterment.  I buy milk as a staple but the place I buy my milk is the place that offers me the best tasting milk at a fair price.  I don’t buy my milk anywhere else because I feel the milk I buy there is better for me and my family.

Betterment.  It’s a word…a noun to be exact.  Websters defines it as “becoming better” and “an improvement that adds value to property…”  Consider yourself “property” as a consumer.

As a business owner, your job is to convince the rest of the world (or at least your wedge of it) that your product or service offers someone a way to better themselves…their lives…their families.  In a world where everything seems like a commodity, your edge is communicating how your company delivers on improving something in the life of your customer and, most importantly, your prospective customers.  The success of your business model depends on it.

That said, if betterment was easy to define, everyone would be doing it but few are – just look around you.  Most business owners are stuck on price or try to differentiate based on product or service features or benefits.

Apple has long been a master at parlaying great technology and wrapping it around betterment.  Apple marketing and sales messaging is almost centrally focused on how Apple products enhance or better a life.  And they are able to deliver on that promise to (if you are a pc head, you don’t get this but we’re ok with that).

If you follow a blog, perhaps this one – you have the expectation that spending time here will better your life or business in some way, shape or form.  Otherwise, you wouldn’t spend you time on any blog that didn’t offer and deliver on that.  The most popular blogs are followed because people get something out of them (entertainment value, economic value, etc.) that they can’t find easily elsewhere.

The first step on the path of a message of betterment is to translate what your product or service does to get a customer there.  The destination is betterment.  For example, a landscaper cuts the grass and makes the property look great each week.  Where’s the betterment? How about the time it frees you from having to do it and spend more time on things you want to do instead – like spending more time with family.  By making your property look like an estate, you feel that your property and the quality of your life are enhanced (as opposed to looking at tall grass and weeds).

In other words, a betterment message is thinking of your product beyond the standard features and benefits it offers.  How does it translate – tangibly or intangibly – into a path to making some aspects of a customers life better?

The second step is making sure all of your marketing and sales messaging is zeroed in on the elements of betterment…clearly…concisely…and consistently.  You have to be able to draw a picture in the mind of the customer so they don’t need an algorithm to figure out why your product is the one they should buy.  They should “get” betterment.

Never easy to do but clearly worth the investment of time and effort to get there.  Betterment – it’s a strategy.

Iteration Is A Strategy July 1, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Dealing with change, Solving Business Problems, Strategy.
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David Dirks

David Dirks

Does the Facebook of today look like the Facebook when it was first launched in 2004?  Did Amazon perfect its business model of today in 1994 when Jeff Bezos founded it?  Is the IBM of today the same as the IBM of say 40 years ago?  Here’s another question for you: How many businesses hit a genuine business model home run where sales and profits start cranking out right from the start?

The answers to the above questions are “n0”, “no” and “once in a blue moon – if ever.”  To iterate is to keep trying – keep pushing your business model forward.  It’s tinkering with the engine until it sounds like all cylinders are working smoothly.  In some cases, it’s challenging the very dream we have hold so dear in our business – the very vision we have might not be the vision that produces the life blood of any business – greater sales, growing profits and cash flow.

Iteration is a process that should be integrated into the culture of most any organization but rarely is.  Here are some thoughts on the process of iteration:

  • Don’t get married to your vision or dream.  What? How can we achieve greatness without a vision we can steadfastly commit to?  It’s not easy – if it was then iteration would be a breeze and everyone would be doing it.  They aren’t – which is just one reason why many organizations fail within five years or less.
  • Business plans are like war plans.  Everything changes when the bullets start to fly.  Yes, I know you spent a ton of time working and toiling over your business plan and it’s a great starting point but…when the reality of the business environment hits it, it’s over.  Competitors don’t play nice or according to the plan.  Customers are more finicky than the business plan sales projections call for.  Things have to change when the bullets fly.
  • Not everything has to change.  Sometimes iteration means tweaking only what needs to be tweaked.  Keep testing, changing, moving forward – throwing out what isn’t working and keeping what does.
  • Challenge yourself to iterate on purpose.  When you realize that iteration is a part of your business life if you want to succeed for the long run.

When you build a business…it’s about the long run isn’t it?

Dave

Dealing with Two Faces June 28, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in Changing behavior, Handling hot buttons, Relationship.
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David Dirks

David Dirks

The oldest challenge in business is dealing with people who have two faces.  You know what I mean.  They show you one face but really have another completely different face they don’t want to show you.  Saying one thing but really meaning another.  Doing one thing but really undermining you behind the scenes.  It’s just one of those things in life that irritate and often can be a drain on time and resources.

Here are my thoughts on this age-old issue:

  • No, you are not paranoid.  Given enough time, people who are two-faced will show themselves to be who they are.  It’s almost impossible for them not to.  You’ll eventually be able to verify for yourself that they wear two-faces.
  • Being two-faced is natural for humans.  People are people and there will always be some who just can’t help themselves – it’s in their behavioral “genes”.
  • You will not cure them.  It’s life and so we move on.
  • No, I will not have a beer with them.  When I find them out, I’ll work with them of course in the spirit of professionalism but we’re not going to be buddy-buddy and have a beer after hours or anytime in between.  It’s bad enough I have to deal with them knowing they are so phony.
  • Never let them know.  The worst thing you can do is to try to expose them (“You’re so two-faced”) – not productive or helpful.  It’s enough that you know what you know.

As irritating as they are to me, two-faced people are a fact of life and we must deal with them the best we can.  In the long run, I think it’s always better to know who they are and keep them at a respectable distance without offending them.  They can’t help themselves.