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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 – 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.


Seth Godin Gets It September 27, 2012

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Strategy.
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As I write this post, I’m sitting in a classroom here at the Googleplex in NYC. Just heard Seth Godin (sethgodin.com) and as he was speaking, I wrote down several things (in paraphrase) that stuck with me. This is all in the context of how we become more successful in our business to help other businesses succeed:

What story are you telling?

Are you trusted?

The more you specialize, the more likely you are to solve problems.

What is your brand promise?

Shun non-believers

Are you selling scarcity or abundance?


Get it? Think about it.

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.

Congratulations. You’ve been promoted. December 20, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in marketing, Strategy.
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The title of my post today is not mine really.  It’s from an ad that really caught my attention.  As I go through my daily reading routine, I am intent on finding information that suits my interests, needs, or wants at the time.  Of course, I scan the ads and am rarely stopped by them.  However, this ad drew me in.  Here’s the rest of the copy of this ad:

You’re now the boss of your own life.  That’s right, today you officially become your own Chief Life Officer.  At Lincoln Financial, we’re here to help all Chief Life Officers take charge no matter where you are in life.  So here’s to long weekends and longer retirements, 14-year-olds and 401(k)s, and to passing on wisdom and opportunities.  Of course, this job doesn’t require you to punch any clock, or fill out any time sheets, because life isn’t just about what you make, but what you make of it.  And while your boardroom is more likely filled with family photos than mahogany, we’d be honored to join your inner circle to help you make important decisions with confidence.  After all, the future success of any organization comes down to the one making decisions today.  Let Lincoln Financial help you take charge.

Calling all Chief Life Officers.

I don’t know about you but that call to “all Chief Life Officers” really appealed to me.  Born at the tail end of the baby boom generation, I can appreciate the appeal to my deeply rooted “need to achieve”.

I’m sure if I was in the room at the time this ad campaign was conceived, I’m sure they were aiming for baby boomers just like me.   Chief Life Officer…yup…that’s me   (and many of my fellow baby boomers too).

Great strategy.  Great ad.

Digital Self-Publishing Still Requires… December 15, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in Self-Publishing in the Digital Age.
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Going through Mashable on my iPad a few minutes ago revealed an interesting story.  Comedian Louis Szekely aka Louis C.K. made a $200,000 profit in four days after selling his latest online video.  What makes this interesting?  He hired a professional crew to film his latest act and then proceeded to produce, publish and distribute the video himself on his own website.

Szekely did what digital publishing promises: cutting out the middleman, in this case a studio and sold his product directly to his customers.  And he sold the video for five bucks!

As he noted in the Mashable piece (by Lauren Indvik), “This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want…I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you).  You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again.”

But here’s the real deal noting that he’d “continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, and keep as few people between me and you as possible in the transaction.”

That’s the promise of the constantly innovating digital publishing world for anyone who has a hankering to publish their work (whatever that is).  It’s the ability to publish your book or collection of essays or your video and have it listed on Amazon or in iTunes the very next day.

Flash forward now to a great literary publishing story named Vook.  What is Vook?  I’ll let Vook tell you:

A vook is a new innovation in reading that blends a well-written book, high-quality video and the power of the Internet into a single, complete story. You can read your book, watch videos that enhance the story and connect with authors and your friends through social media all on one screen, without switching between platforms.

I could go on and on with examples of where access to publishing to market is getting more direct to consumer than ever.  People selling novels for 99 cents and selling thousands and thousands of ebooks…introducing themselves to their new customers…who they can sell more novels to.

You know Amanda Hocking?  She’s an author that in January of this year sold 450,000 copies of her nine ebook titles that were priced from .99 cents to 3.99.  She went from ‘zero to sixty’ in publishing…something you couldn’t imagine not too many years ago.

Would be authors and video producers need not get too excited just yet.  No matter what the publishing model, it still takes that one thing to make a successful endeavor:


Shifting Your Business Strategy – 1 August 3, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Increasing Your Profitability, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics, Solving Business Problems.
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David DirksIBM’s movement from great to nearly dead to great again has been nothing less than one the greatest stories of business transformation yet told.  I’m not going to recite all the IBM history but suffice to say that it has gone from great hardware/systems builder to now to the premier provider of consulting services.  IBM is truly a big dog when it comes to high performance in shifting business strategy.

The shift from from hardware only focus began in earnest around 2002 when current CEO Sam Palmisano made the decision to buy PricewaterhouseCooper Consulting.  While IBM still sells a lot of hardware, it’s shift into new lines of business via its consulting platform is growing faster and becoming its fuel for greater profitability.

The profit margins in consulting for IBM are far greater than those generated by hardware and even its software units.  IBM has also defty sought out acquisition opportunities that can add to its shift to selling more consulting services.  Not only that, but oftentimes selling consulting services leads to selling more hardware and software.  What a harmonized business model if I ever saw one.

What does the IBM story mean to you?  The question is really in your court:  Can find opportunities in your business model that will allow you to shift and expand it to other related areas?  Too many business owners are fast to recogize either the limitations of the revenue growth or the lack of (in this economy for sure) but slow to see other opportunities to expand revenue growth.

Does the IBM strategy shift apply to small businesses?  Yes and any all other businesses as well.  For example, let’s use the landscaping business, which typically is a small business model.  Most landscapers just focus on selling physical services like cutting your grass or planting new trees, shrubs, etc.  That’s the typical operating box for a landscaping business.  However, what if that landscaping business offered a ‘consulting services only’ platform?  That kind of business platform would just provide consulting expertise to those who wanted only that and not the physical labor component.

I’m a good example of that kind of customer.  Personnally, I find landscaping, from cutting my own grass to planting trees to clearing areas for new grass, very enjoyable both physically and mentally. I don’t want anyone to do those things; I’ll do them myself.  However, I’m not an expert on horticulture either.  I could use some expertise on some landscraping projects I take on myself from time to time.

But in the local survey I did recently, most landscapers either don’t offer or don’t market their consulting services.  It’s all about the physical services.  Are there more people like myself who only want the expertise but not the manual labor?  Perhaps.  This example is just to show you that shifting your business strategy to related areas within your business model is possible no matter what business you are in.

I’m not saying that marketing & selling consulting services is the only shift you can make either.  IBM is just a handy and well-known example of a successful and profitable shift in business strategy that most people can identify with.

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.

Free-Analysis Marketing April 28, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Increasing Your Profitability, Recession: How to Beat It!, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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David DirksThe Big Dogz always know how to keep applying what works in almost any market or economy.  They’ll take advantage of marketing opportunities that  other businesses either miss entirely or just sit on the sidelines wishing they had.

Take Scotts LawnService, which is a well-branded and nationally known entity established by the Scotts Company (yes, those same people who make the fertilizer and weed killers you use on your lawns each year).  The local Scotts LawnService in my area sent out a mailer with one simple offer: A FREE lawn analysis.  I believe I get one every year from them.

Their deal is simple.  They come to your home and conduct soil samples that allow them to test for the ph levels of your soil and for other key ingredients that should be a part of a healthy lawn.  That’s the part they do for free.  The analysis is detailed and tells you what you need to do (with Scotts or without them) to improve the health of your lawn.

But there is another key part.  They also include a price quote to provide the service necessary on your lawn to bring it up to snuff (if it needs it).  That doesn’t cost you anything either.  I’m not obligated to do anything with them and they know it.

Here’s the deal:  they know that they’ll be enough people who also take advantage of their price quote to more than make up for those who don’t (and the expense of mailing them).  The old true & tried ‘free analysis’ works time and again…as long as the analysis has some depth to it and isn’t shoddy.

Scotts has many competitors in this field of lawn care.  Anyone with a truck, lawnmower, rake, weed whacker, leaf blower, and some ambition can get into this business.  Whether they are good at it or not is another story.

I’m going to take a wild guess that many of the lawn care & service operators are having a tough time of it right now.  How many of them do you think are coming up with ways like this to improve their chances of survival?

Oh, one more thing.  Scotts also offers a ‘satisfaction guaranteed’ policy.  “…we guarantee you’ll be thrilled.  And if not, we’ll do what it takes to make it right.”

That’s another way to insure you survive.  Guarantee your work.  Between that and the free analysis, it’s no wonder Scotts LawnService remains in business year after year. The Big Dogz always know how to apply the right pressure and do it assured that their competitors won’t.