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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.

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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.

 

Potential Sale Undone January 26, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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It never ceases to amaze me how awful you’ll often find the sales service you can find from different businesses.  Just recently I was contacting a very well known radio station that serves the NY metropolitan area.  All I wanted to do is get some basic demographic composition of the stations listener.  I called the number of the salesperson who I had in my files and left a detailed message of what I wanted and how.  I made it as easy as possible for him to follow-up with me either by email or phone.

Do you know what?  It took him more than a week to even acknowledge my call…and he wasn’t on vacation or out of the office for some other reason.  He explained to me that he was very busy dealing with other sales prospects.  He never apologized for taking more than a week to get back to me.  He just thought I would buy the excuse.

I nevertheless let him banter on and it was then I realized that he didn’t bother to listen to what I wanted in my first message.  So, I had to take the time to go over the specific items I needed.  He rambled some more about needing some time to get to this request.

“I have some car dealers that I’ve lined up as prospects to finish.  Can I get back to you with this information the following week?” he said.  By now, I know this sales person simply stinks at the sales profession.

That told me that he didn’t really care about my business and only wanted to show me just how busy and successful he was.  How could he get back to me when he had all those pressing car dealers to sell radio time to?  Unbelievable right?

Here’s what that sales interaction told me:

1.  His firm had not provided or did a very shoddy job of training him or he simply ignored what he learned.

2.  It also told me that his manager had no clue just how awful he was.  Perhaps he was already on written warning for being such a poor and clueless performer.  That was possible buy not likely.

3.  This sales person likely lost & cost his company tens of thousands of hard-to-earn revenue dollars every day, week, and month they employed him.  It’s likely that his sales approach with me was the same ‘winning’ formula he applied across his selling opportunities.

By the way, he never sent me the data (which he only had to forward to me) the week he promised it.  It was the week after that when I received his email with the data I requested.  Three full weeks of valuable time (mine) lost because this person couldn’t sell his way out of a paper bag.

When I work with a client, we focus a serious amount of time on setting up a sales process and developing a sales culture that is responsive and attentive to prospect needs.  Sales training built around best practices within the firm and industry is job #1.  It’s an ongoing process that includes a regular dose of sales coaching that helps to shape and mold their sales performance.

Long-term sale success also includes building a process around performance management that helps us understand what’s really going when we turn them loose on their sales prospects.

I see too many companies short-change the sales selection, training, coaching, and performance management process.  In this case, radio sales are not easy sales by any stretch of imagination.  Radio ad sales are traditionally thought of as a place were a new sales person can ‘cut their teeth’ in the sales profession.

All the more reason to invest a little more time and resources in making sure they understand how you want your future (and current) customers to be treated.

Shifting Your Business Strategy – 5 September 11, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy.
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David DirksShifting a business strategy doesn’t always mean that it will be successful.  However, business is about risk and making investments in strategy options that seemed to show the most promise.  Often times the need to shift business strategy is driven by events outside the span of control that a company normally exercises.  Then again, prior business strategy decisions that didn’t pan out with the necessary results will require you to re-adjust.

IBM has long been known for its huge investment and consistent commitment to research & development, the incubator for innovative products and services the feed revenues and profitability.  In the September 7 issue of BusinessWeek, there was a story on how IBM is making some significant changes in how it manages its R & D process.  One change that is particularly eye-opening is how IBM is shifting how it shares and partners with others in R & D efforts.

Traditionally, IBM research was in locked-down mode; a closely guarded and very secretive organization.  Now, IBM is cutting deals with corporations and research universities across the globe to collaborate on research.  Intellectual property issues aside (and that is no small issue by the way), this shift in business strategy gives IBM several key advantages:

1.  By sharing the cost of R & D with key partners, IBM gets more bang for its research budget than ever before.

2.  The collaborative process allows IBM to get viewpoints and insights to research that it normally wouldn’t get access to and thereby exposes its researchers to potentially more ideas.

3.  Globalization of IBM research by collaborating with foreign governments and major research universities gives IBM a leg-up on competitors when it comes time to start selling products and services.  If you have a critical relationship with someone like IBM that is working, why wouldn’t you consider buying their products and services?  This strategy allows IBM to develop key customer relationships in places that it had not considered before in the context of sharing research.

Will this R & D strategy shift work?  The jury is still out on that and it will take some time to see the full measure and benefit of the new open collaboration on research.  IBM is willing to make a real investment in this strategy primarily because it has so many positive outcomes for the company if it executes it effectively.

Shifting Your Business Strategy – 3 August 24, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Solving Business Problems.
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David DirksWaiting for things to ‘get better’ is not a strategy.  Or least, it’s not a winning strategy.  Waiting for things to ‘get back to normal’ is just an opportunity for someone else to eat your lunch.  I hear too often from business owners who echo those sentiments.  Whatever the outcome of any economic cycle, the high performing Big Dogz who grow through them are the ones who win longevity.

It’s quite natural for a business owner to want to hunker down, close the hatches, and wait the economic storm out.  Some businesses will survive and others will not.  Let me ask you: who wants to be just a ‘survivor’ when you can do better?

How many do you know that own a business that are using the ‘wait and see’ approach as an excuse to hide in the bunker until the shelling stops?  Probably more than you and I know of.

The good news is that you can take advantage of this or any other times of great uncertainty by looking for opportunities that you can leverage to grow your business.  I’m just scratching the surface here but some things to consider:

  • Work harder to find ways to free up cash that can be deployed to expand your business.  The common response in tougher times is to free up cash and then hoard it until the good times come again.  Obviously not entirely out of order to keep some cash in reserve but many businesses just hoard it.  By the time anyone realizes the good times are back again, it’s too late for you to find opportunities to invest some of that hoard.

What to invest in during tough business climates?

  • Upgrade to more efficient and powerful equipment.   The right investments could reduce your costs on a product or service line is one possibility if it makes your business provide services faster, better, and cheaper.
  • You could take advantage of a weak competitor in a nearby geography that you currently don’t serve and hire additional sales firepower to build business there.
  • Buying a competitor when it makes sense and the price is right.
  • Develop & expand your product and services lines.  We’re often quick to prune the losers (or at least we should be) and much too slow to replace with products/services that could keep revenues moving forward.
  • Upgrading customer services.  Too often this is left in place or cut back.  High performing companies make sure that any customer touchpoints are responsive and best-in-class.
  • Establish a strategic partnership(s) with other businesses that are complimentary and have high potential to drive revenue growth.  Hunkering down can blind us to opportunities that are staring us right in the face if you only took the time to look.

None of this is easy to do.  That said, what it does take to do this well is 1) constant and deep scanning of our business environment to find and connect with opportunities and 2) the internal ability to move on those opportunities that won’t be there if you wait for the ‘good times’ to come back again.

Growing Your Sales Capacity July 29, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics, Solving Business Problems.
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David DirksGrow your sales efforts in tough economic times, don’t shrink them like everybody else does.  On the surface, it seems to make sense that when business slows down, we let some of our sales staff go.  Now maybe you let the bottom feeders of your team go, which is a good thing.  I might point out that showing the bottom feeders (in terms of sales performance) the door is something that should be done on a regular basis, not just when ‘hard times’ fall on a business.

When it gets down to letting good or better than average sales performers go, that’s when we shoot ourselves right in the foot.  Short term gain for long term pain.  When most of your competition (except the smart ones) is shrinking their capacity to generate revenue by cutting sales expenses down to the people, we should go on the offense.   Reducing your capacity to generate sales revenues is a vicious cycle.  Once you do that, then you really have reduced your ability to generate revenue.  Sure, you cut short term expenses at the cost of long term growth.

Instead, look to hire the best available sales talent you can, give them the resources they need to produce and turn them loose.

Now, there are some who will say that what I’m saying is too simplistic.  That’s a cop out.  It takes vision, leadership, and some hard work to expand your sales capacity when every bone in your body is telling you to shrink it in order to ‘save the business’.

Sometimes you just have to go the other way and avoid the herd mentality.

Beating a Recession: Don’t Play on Price Alone! January 4, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in A New Webinar!, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Small Business Advertising.
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David DirksI recently saw an ad in my local paper from a tire dealer.  It was a good sized ad and it had one focus: price.  Price as in ‘here’s the old price (crossed-out) and now here’s the new low price’.  No doubt, this is a retailer whose sales have  gone down to some degree as this economy grinds to a near halt.  Competing on price is a typical knee-jerk reaction to slowing sales.  It’s also a good way to spend precious money on advertising that will NOT move the sales needle much at all, if any. Trust me, it won’t.  Advertising is a good thing and should be done in the face of a recession, despite the urge to cut those costs.  However, advertising spending that focuses only on price will only frustrate and cause a business owner to make the mistake of cutting out advertising at the point when they need it the most.

Competing on price, in any economy, is the kiss of death in my book.  Here’s why.  In a commodity business like the tire business, for example, you can get your tires from many places these days.  Cut your prices and I’ll find someone else who either can match it or come pretty dang close.  I firmly believe based on experience that the only way to win is to find ways to DIFFERENTIATE yourself from your competition.  Is price all you’ve got?  Is that it?  Yikes.  You’re in trouble because everybody can play that game.

Instead of competing on price alone, compete on services or create value added items that your competition doesn’t.  For this tire dealer, I’d recommend figuring ways to bundle additional services along with pricing to show the customer the value-added services that  come with that pricing.  What kind of ‘additional’ services?  How about:

  • Free tire check ups and rotation
  • Free car wash (make a deal with a local car wash and you’ll help both businesses)
  • Take an extra X% off your next tire purchase on top of advertised sales prices for returning customers only
  • Special customer discounts for automotive parts purchases at a local car part dealer (work a deal out with a local parts retailer and create special coupons just for your customers who purchase tires with you).
  • Free gas card for $xx dollars for each purchase?

You get the idea.  Bundle as many direct and indirect services as you possibly can and keep coming up with new ones and new combinations all the time (because some of your competitors will get the drift of this too and copy you).  Bundle. Bundle. Bundle.  Show them that they get more out of their purchase from you than just the idea of saving a couple of bucks.  Anybody can cut their prices and most do.  Do more.  Think outside the  knee-jerk reaction of depending on price cutting to solve your sales revenue problems.

Big Dogz Webinar Now Available!!  Want to learn more about how to beat a recession and keep your business moving forward on the sales and profitability fronts?  Check out the “Beat the Recession” page on this blog.  Sign up before January 23rd and save $50!  You can register at: http://www.regonline.com/CBP1250

Don’t miss out on this webinar…it’ll be the best low-cost investment you can make in your business!


Outsourcing Product Innovation February 28, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Innovation: Not Just for the Big Dogz, Solving Business Problems.
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dirksphoto.jpgProcter & Gamble is clearly in the Big Dogz league and always has been. Recently, I was reading the March issue of Fast Company (www.fastcompany.com) and found an interesting article on P&G. It seems that P&G couldn’t create new products fast enough, so it decides to jump-start its product innovation process. What it ended up doing is launching its ‘Connect + Develop’ program. This program allows outside product developers to get their product innovations and designs into their pipeline. They have created a process for externally outsourcing some of their some product innovation and development.

With P&G sharing development costs and profits with outside innovators, it has gained a huge market advantage in being able to bring more products into the market than ever before.

Hmmm. How about you? Have you thought about inviting outside vendors/innovators to be part of your outsourced product/service development pipeline? How can you apply what P&G has done to reduce product development cycle times, reducing development costs, and increasing revenues and profits?

Anything is possible.