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What Sales Process Behavior Charts Can Tell You

Dear Readers,

Thank you for the excellent remarks about what process behavior charts can tell you from last week's blog post. For convenience, I have reproduced the image here (with interpretation below).

Figure 1 - Sales Process Behavior Charts

Figure 1 - Sales Process Behavior Charts

Mark Allen said:

Looks like while they are closing, they are not also prospecting…and unfortunately I see B2Bs do this frequently. This is by far one of the single biggest headaches that drives CEOs crazy as it adds a degree of variability that hits home where it hurts…in cash flow.

Bingo!

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What Can You Tell From These Sales Process Behavior Charts?

Pictures are worth a thousand words, especially when it comes to measuring sales and marketing production.

Measuring Sales Production Correctly

Figure 1 below contains two process behavior charts showing production measurements from a B2B company’s sales process. The first shows the quantity of qualified opportunities generated per month. The second shows quantity of closed orders per month. Each is for the same group of salespeople over the same twelve month time period.

Most companies measure orders (output) only, so they have no way of knowing what is really going on in the business. In this case we can tell a lot more about what is going on because we have a measure of the input (qualified opportunities) as well as the output.

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What is The Problem Behind Your Sales Problem?

There is an interesting saying among psychotherapists that goes:

“Don’t try to solve anyone’s problems until you find out why they like having them.”

Think about that. Therapists know they can’t solve any patient’s problem until they understand the story hidden behind the problem.

Now, please don’t think I’m saying sales organizations need therapy, or that sales executives like having problems!

What I want you to get is the idea that when someone is not doing what you want them to, there is a problem behind the problem. If the sales training doesn’t stick, if salespeople are not following the process, that is not the real problem.

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The Hidden Obstacle to Improving Sales Performance: Systems Thinking

Last week’s blog post, “Why Is It So Hard to Create Improvements in the Sales Department?” listed six examples of companies who tried and failed to improve sales results. All shared the same root cause.

Did you identify the common element, the root cause?

The root cause in each case was "Systems Thinking."

If you know this simple idea already, you'll find it interesting to see how it applies in each example. If it is new to you, I'll provide a simple analogy to explain it.

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Why Is It So Hard to Create Improvements in the Sales Department?

Some people didn’t like the word “Easy” in last week’s blog post: “Six Easy Ways to Boost Your Company’s Sales Results.” For example, reader Tony Cole said:

“If it were easy then everyone would be doing it. …

“Let’s address the issues of why companies, sales leaders, and salespeople fail to implement and execute basic fundamental sales processes or techniques, let alone the sophisticated process improvements you talk about here.”

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Six Easy Ways to Boost Your Company’s Sales Results

Recently, a reader asked: “What is the 20% of sales process improvement that generates 80% of the results?”

It’s a great question, because it is the right way to think about business in general, and the sales process in particular. Here is our list of the six most important components of a healthy functioning sales process.

Get these down, and you’ll get an 80% improvement … or better!

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Are You Improving Your Selling System? (Or Repeating the Same Old Grind?)

Some people have a choice in the way they approach sales and marketing: They can work IN the production system, or ON it.

Salespeople are inherently IN the system. Their job is to do the best they can to get prospects to a successful conclusion as effectively as possible.

Sales and marketing managers often view their jobs in a similar way. When they think of improving performance, they think of ways to get more (of the same things) done.

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Quick Sales Productivity Boosts

If you are a salesperson and you need a productivity boost, there are lots of possibilities, such as better meeting preparation, more practice presenting, maintaining your relationships, and working to become more organized.

However, what if your entire organization needs a sales productivity boost? What can an organization do?

Contests and sales training are obvious things that come to mind. However, if these have any effect at all, they are typically short lived.

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How to Make Salespeople 25% More Productive in 90 Days or Less

You probably have salespeople working overtime right now on deals that will be:

  • bad business if you win them (too much trouble, not worth the revenue)
  • lost to a competitor
  • lost to no decision

If you’ve been around professional sales organizations for a long time, you already know that poor salespeople ignore qualification criteria; good salespeople, and their managers, obsess about it.

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Got a Technical Team? Here’s a Great Way to Help Them Sell

Recently I spoke with Burke, the VP of Business Development for an engineering firm in the material handling industry.

Unlike many people in this industry, Burke has a marketing background rather than a technical one. Since he joined the firm, their business is booming, seemingly unaffected by the recession. I asked him about that.

What he told me was really useful from a sales and marketing point of view:

“When I first got here in June of 2007,” he said, “everyone told me ‘The problem we’re having, Burke, is that we’re struggling for budget dollars.’ That is what it looked like to them.

“However, I discovered that was not the problem at all.

“Our prospects are warehouse managers who have to put together proposals for projects and get them approved. Some justification is involved for both business (cost) justification, and justification for technical architectures and other decisions.

“What I learned was that we were not helping prospects assemble their information in a way that was sellable up the chain of command.

“So, I put in place a process for doing that:

  • “We take a consultative approach,
  • “We gather the information,
  • “We put the argument together,
  • “We build the PowerPoint® slides
  • “Literally, all the warehouse manager has to do is present it up the food chain and we’ve been winning a lot more often than we used to
“There are only a few people in our company who I would really call ‘salespeople.’ Most of the rest could be called sales engineers, at best. And there are lots of people who are only involved in some small aspect of ‘the sales process’ at any given time.

“So, setting up a structure to follow for handling the customer’s information enabled them to become more productive, because it helps them partner better with the customer. They now know they should be looking for business as well as technical information, and they know what to do with that information before they give it back in the form of various documents, including proposal documents. The questions, the steps, and the documents we provide help the warehouse manager ’sell’ to others within their own company more effectively.

“You need business ROI, we got that. You need rationale for the controls architecture, we got that. You need a throughput analysis, we got that. You need a time-phased projection of the project cost, we got that too. Whoever they need to talk with inside their company, we help them do it.

"We’re easier to deal with than the other guys, and we’re winning more deals as a result."

I thought that was a great example of how sales is supposed to work. It is supposed to be simple.

Of course getting to that simplicity within your organization is not always so easy!

That’s where we can help you, hopefully a lot:

I’m proud to announce that www.salesperformance.com now is the home of the Sales Performance Improvement Forum – a website intended to help you get the insights you need to design and improve your own company’s sales process.

There are lots of new free materials, including articles, videos, recordings, and some new membership levels:

You can visit the site and surf anonymously, as you always have been able to. Then, there is the opt-in Free SPIF! Sign up, where we’ve added some videos, an “Ask You’re Question!” section and access to some of the best articles from the original website (including “Customer Value Mapping,” which Burke applied heavily).

Then, we’ve added a Professional Members area, where (for a fee about equivalent to that of a professional association) you get access to the in-depth Sales Kaizen webinars every month, archives of past webinars and conference presentations, the Print SPIF! Newsletter, private bulletin boards, and other helpful goodies for executives and consultants.

One of the coolest things is the ability for you to comment, compliment, criticize, or what ever you want on virtually every page. Check it out!

And don’t forget to check out Thursday’s Sales Kaizen Webinar:

How to Generate and Sustain a 25% Increase
in Sales Opportunities in 90 Days or Less

Sales Kaizen Webinar with Brian Carroll
Author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale
February 5, 2009, 3:00pm Eastern Time

I look forward to hearing from you!

Michael Webb
February 2, 2009