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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.

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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.