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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.

 

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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.

 

The Greatest Lie in Sales January 11, 2012

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Management.
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The biggest lie in sales?  It’s the answer from a sales person to this question:

Did you close business from this (print ad, direct mail piece, radio ad, TV ad, etc.) we ran?  

Now, the savvy salesperson who’s been around awhile will probably (not in all cases but most) say a resounding “YES” to that question…even though it’s probably not true.  Yup.  Happens more often than you think.

Case in point.  Many years ago when I arrived at JPMorgan Chase, I took inventory of the kinds of marketing efforts that were underway when I arrived.  The print ad spend was very high and sales managers went out of their way to tell me how highly effective the print campaign was.  The results were so good that they needed more of it.

My first question of course was centered on how they were tracking the results from the ads.  Tracking?  What tracking?  We know the ads are working because our guys say so, would be the common response.  The phone numbers in the ads were the sales branch phone numbers.  There was no way to electronically track the ads.  And asking the branch office to track the calls manually from the ads was in my experience giving the fox the keys to the hen house.  Manual tracking never works.

I’m always willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt the first time out.  However, I recall my favorite Ronald Reagan line during his presidency: Trust But Verify.

I wanted to believe that the current advertising campaign was working too.  All I did was create tracking so that we could see just how many times the phone would ring at any branch office due to an ad.

Guess what?  The phone was not ringing much at all.  In fact, the ad campaign I was evaluating was bust.  The senior sales managers were surprised.  “How could this be?  Such a wide variance between what our sales guys were telling us?”

How does this happen?  It’s simple really.  There are more than a few sales professionals who have learned never turned down marketing support – even when it isn’t effective.  There’s a fear that if they told the truth, the valuable marketing investment on them would go away.

So next time you hear a sales person tell you that the marketing campaign is “working” or “we’re closing business with it”, trust but verify.

Building a Frontline Profit Machine: Podcast November 12, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Uncategorized.
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Note:  This is a podcast of a recent Dirks On Strategy show that aired on November 11, 2009 on WTBQ in New York.

The economy is in shambles. Competition for the same consumer buck is global and fierce. But one sales management consultant takes a unique approach to addressing the sole area that requires minimal improvement but can yield tremendous profit growth. Ziad Khoury, with nearly two decades of helping major companies reap profit windfalls, has authored a new book that centers on the frontline – entry level sales positions, call center agents, customer service staff– and shows how the most substantial new revenue opportunities involve those not traditionally associated with sales rainmakers.

“Indirect sales opportunities are ones that tend to be the most overlooked in many organizations,” says Ziad, author of FRONTLINE PROFIT MACHINE:  The Blueprint For Exploding Profits with your existing Sales and Service Team. “The positions that offer them are often viewed as entry-level, with little thought to the profit influence they have:” Executives of great companies like Nordstrom’s and Enterprise Rent a Car understand the impact of the Frontline and know what an incredible competitive edge that can be in your business.

Ziad helps turn order-takers into sales professionals and poses the question every company must ask itself, “Will we invest in creating a thriving, nearly matchless service-based sales culture that will give us a leg up on our competitors?”

Landing Big Sales with Tom Searcy: Podcast November 5, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Dirks On Strategy: Episodes, Sales Metrics, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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Listen to this podcast of a previous show on the Dirks On Strategy Radio show.

Tom Searcy, author or “RFPs Suck!” and co-author of “Whale Hunting,” is a national speaker, trusted authority on large account sales and founder of Hunt Big Sales, a fast growth sales consultancy and thought leadership organization. Searcy’s primary expertise is working directly with companies and sales teams throughout their big sales “hunts,” helping them to compete and win disproportionately large sales in highly competitive markets. His philosophy and process have resulted in over $3 billion in new sales for his company and its clients.

Before entering the national stage, Searcy headed four corporations, each of which he was able to take from annual revenues of less than $15 million to over $100 million–all before the age of 40. Since then, Searcy has helped more than 100 companies grow exponentially with his proven process for fast growth and company-wide transformation.

In his newest book RFPs Suck!, Searcy shares his rich understanding of the RFP process with companies across the board to help them conquer the RFP system once and for all to win corporate and government contracts.

Searcy’s first book with co-author Barbara Weaver Smith, “Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Deals and Transform Your Company,” was published by Wiley in 2008.

Contact him at: http://www.huntbigsales.com

Recession Sales Strategy -1 October 16, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Recession: How to Beat It!, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
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This posting might be titled ‘Recession Sales Strategy’ in order to get your attention but it’s really about the fundamentals of sales strategy.  Regardless of the economy, the fundamentals never change.  The Big Dogz who make it through years, if not decades of up and down markets are always focusing on the fundamentals.  It’s when they take their eye off of ball that they get into trouble.

Let’s start this posting series with some fundamental questions that you should be asking yourself right now (and on a consistent basis thereafter!).  We’ll explore & discuss each of these fundamental questions in future postings.  Please feel free to add your own comments as well!!

  • What is our sales strategy?  What did it start as?  Where is it now? A good economy can mask many mistakes.  When the profits are good, it’s very easy to miss or overlook a sales strategy that has flaws.  When the economy goes south, along with sales, all the warts start to show.  Or, maybe our sales strategy doesn’t really exist at all?  It’s possible.  You’d be surprised at how many businesses have only a tactical perspective of their sales process.  They can hire people, show them the ropes, create an incentive plan, and shove them out the door.  Then they wonder why their sales are in the tank or heading quickly into the tank!  A sales strategy should clearly speak to 1) what the directional themes are for achieving both market and sales goals; 2) the values that are embedded into the overall sales process; 3) the key  measurements that will always be used to determine performance.
  • Are our sales tactics in line with our sales strategy? Tactics are those pieces of execution that are conducted on a daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly basis in order to further the sales strategy.  If you want to meet your established sales and revenue goals, both sales strategy and tactics have to be aligned.  Where there is no alignment you find a dead end.
  • Do we have the right people? Another potential danger area is hiring people who cannot further your sales strategy.  If you have a clear sales strategy and a well-defined sales tactical plan, it’s much easier to determine the skills and experiences that your optimal sales hires will need to perform at the standards you need.
  • Are we measuring the right sales data? Measuring performance is not as easy as it looks.  The question really is: what metrics are the ones that are key to focusing and motivating our sales force, keep us on strategy, and making our sales and revenue goals?  Measuring sales performance is more than creating monthly unit & revenue goals.  The metrics used to measure a relationship-based sales process will be different than one that is transactionally-based.  Sales performance measurement goes beyond just sales compensation.  To do this right, you need to peel back every layer of the sales process and determine if there are opportunities to create metrics that help sales teams understand what they really have to do to be successful.
  • Is our sales compensation plan aligned and integrated into the entire sales structure? Is there a way for sales teams to ‘game’ the incentive plan you now have?  Much has been written (yawn) about designing sales compensation plans.  To be entirely integrated into your sales, revenue, and profitability goals, sales compensation plans need to provide a strong incentive for higher performance against the key metrics that drive sales, revenues, and profits.
  • Are we managing our sales talent for optimal impact?  What are we doing to insure we have the best trained and prepared sales force in the field EVERY DAY? Sales management consists of insuring that we hire the people that best match our sales strategy and process.  It means insuring we provide our sales talent with all the tools that are specifically designed to support key performance metrics.

So much to do and so little time to do it in.  The process of beating back a recession starts with asking these key questions.  There are more questions, but these are the ones that count the most right now.  More on this in upcoming posts.  Stay tuned.