sales training

Between the Ears

Posted on September 22, 2011. Filed under: Funnel Audits, Lead Generation, Pipeline Measurement, Sales, Sales Funnel, Sales Goals, Sales Management, Sales pipeline, Sales Quota, sales training, Sales Velocity | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

If you’re a VP of sales and you’re thinking about making an investment in sales process or methodology right now it’s probably a stressful decision.  For one it takes a lot of time to think through the possibilities of what could be valuable.  You want to select something that’s going to squarely hit the mark.  It takes a bit of political capital if you’re needing to get financial approval from your boss.  It’s stressful because you’re not 100% sure your team will embrace it or reject it.  Your credibility as a leader could take a hit.

There’s one question that you should ask yourself to help with the decision:   How will it improve how your sales people think, dialogue, plan, and execute around selling?

Take the funnel for instance.  It is still popular to assign percentages on funnel stages.   Early stage sales opportunities might get a 5% or 10% assigned number.  Opportunities that reach a proposal stage might get 50% and one that is in negotiation might get as much as 80% or 90%.  But when asked how these percentages help a salesperson sell the answers are usually weak.  They don’t promote dialogue.  They don’t foster coaching.  They don’t help set strategy.

Another example with the funnel is funnel value.  We call it TVR, Total Viable Revenue.  TVR is the sum of the dollar or euro values of each opportunity that has reached the Commit Funding stage of the customer’s buying process.

With TVR the seller and manager have a powerful piece of information to help the seller plan, organize and prioritize to maximize his or her productivity.  TVR is used with the Funnel Audit to determine a 30 day plan every 30 days for working the funnel.  But even some of my clients fall back into the habit of  cramming the night before the test, completing their Funnel Audit Worksheets the night before.  They’ve missed out on the power of the Audit as a planning and prioritizing process.  When used properly the Audit helps the seller think with structure about his situation, weigh alternatives, assess the best option, and define the plan.

Finally, another example of using information to help you think and strategize better is when a sales process reveals something important about the sale that you had not considered.  Let’s say you had made a few calls on a current customer and thought you had a pretty good idea of the stakeholders involved and their roles in the buying process.  But you assumed that someone in purchasing had the financial authority to commit funding based on past experience with the account.  In a strategy session with your sales manager she convinces you that your purchasing agent doesn’t have this power and you don’t know which stakeholder does.  Now what do you do?

You could do nothing different and proceed as planned.  Or you could meet with the purchasing agent and explore this topic of funding.  By raising the topic you would learn something at least, such as what else is being considered or timing.  But at best you might learn exactly who has that funding authority and even get advice on how to get a meeting with that person.

I haven’t made your decision easy but I hope you put all of your options through the test of how will they help me and my sales team think better, improve dialogue, and ultimately perform the job of selling more effectively.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Stage Questions For Better Sales Strategies

Posted on March 4, 2011. Filed under: Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Management, sales training, Sales Velocity, Uncategorized | Tags: |

Lots of books have been written on asking questions and doing discovery on sales calls. Some are excellent. Many of them have given us new approaches to our craft.

I’d like to suggest you think of the BuyCycle Funnel™ as a way to ask better sales call questions and do discovery. Do this by asking stage questions.

A stage question is a question that is most relevant to where the customer is in the buying process for a given sales opportunity. If the deal is at stage 1 you want to ask stage 1 questions. If it’s at stage 2 you ask stage 2 questions. And so on for each stage of the BuyCycle Funnel™.

Questions relevant to where the deal is in the buying process make a lot of sense for several reasons:

  1. They help you prepare a good sales call plan.
  2. They give you credibility with the stakeholders.
  3. The stakeholders are more likely to respond to questions that are aimed at where they are in the buying process. You get better information.
  4. They put you in a position to get commitment more often and more consistently.
  5. They give you the information that is most important right now. This helps you determine the best sales strategy moving forward.
  6. You’re better at disqualifying the opportunity.
  7. They help you learn about other stakeholders involved in the sale.
  8. You can develop advocates.

A stage 1 question is aimed at going deeper and wider with your understanding of the problems or opportunities. Think of asking questions in the vein of who, what, why, when and how.

Stage 2 questions focus on the economics of the problems. Without a sufficient economic justification for changing it’s harder to change.

Stage 4 questions are mostly about how the company is approaching the process of finalizing requirements and specifications and the way the various stakeholders will collectively evaluate and decide on a solution.

Thinking of your questions this way lets you move more efficiently from one conversation to another with a large number of stakeholders. Each one might be at a different point in the buying process. Meet them on their terms.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

The Pain of Change

Posted on February 22, 2011. Filed under: Sales, Sales Goals, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, sales training, Uncategorized |

Measured Road

Image by * Cati Kaoe * via Flickr

I was in Montreal recently with a client and topped off the rental car gas before returning to the airport.  A buck twenty for a liter of petrol.  I quickly did the math to convert to gallons.  Whoa!  I was paying nearly $5 per gallon!

About the only metric measures I readily know conversions for are liters to gallons (it takes 3.7), centimeters to inches (it takes 2.54) and kilometers to miles (it takes 1.6 km to equal one mile).  This comes in handy at least three times a year, or 4.8 times if I’m visiting Canada.

Why is the US one of only three countries in the world still not officially using the metric system?  Because change is a pain in the arse.

So is changing the way you sell.  I think it’s especially hard for us sellers because we’re an independent bunch of souls who are burdened and blessed with the gene of stubbornness.  You’ve got to be damn stubborn to make a successful career in sales.  It’s a grind.  People can bullhorn about teamwork and they should but we’re pretty much left to our own resolve to survive and thrive.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.

That stubbornness has another side to the blade though that’s just as sharp.  We don’t easily change the way we do things.  That’s too bad because as Dylan crooned “the times they are a changin.”

Remember that recession way back in…barely two years ago!?!?  Though we had nothing to do with it and our sales approach didn’t create or contribute to it we’re stuck with having to deal with it.  There’s no way we can continue to sell today the way we sold before the recession because the way people buy from you has changed.  The buying process has changed.   It will continue to change.  From the lessons of the recession how have you changed the way you sell?

There’s still time.  We’re still in that phase that starts at the beginning of every new year.  No, I hope you’re not still in the hungover phase, but rather in the new year’s resolutions phase, when you looked deep into the mirror on January 1 and thought about the kind of sales year you just completed, and thought about the new year of new quotas and budgets soon to be planted like flags at the top of the mountain.   Will you keep doing what you did and keep getting what you got?  Or will you inject new life and energy into your selling style and substance?

Change is good for us.  Think about changing something in the way you sell.  Evaluate your sales call approach, your opening statements, your style of questions, or your closing techniques.  Ask yourself if your negotiation techniques could use a fine tuning.  Think about gently weaning yourself from the base of business you have and going after some new accounts.  Be honest about your close rate and consider a new number that changes how big your sales funnel needs to be.  Consider building a new habit of funnel inspections or Audits on a regular basis.

Got to go for now.  Another 15.2 centimeters of snow has fallen on my driveway which is 41.14 meters long.  This is going to take at least an hour and a half to shovel.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Are your sales reps chopping enough wood to survive the winter?

Posted on February 3, 2011. Filed under: Funnel Audits, Lead Generation, Pipeline Measurement, Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Goals, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, Sales pipeline, Sales Quota, sales training, Sales Velocity | Tags: , , |

(animated stereo) A 19th Century Sod House in ...

Image by Thiophene_Guy via Flickr

Would your reps survive a life on the range in the 1800s?

Several years ago Public Television sponsored a competition called Frontier House.  Several families traded in their comfortable homes and modern day lifestyles for a life in 1880s Montana.  From late spring to fall they lived the frontier experience, Montana style. No modern nothin.

In the competition they had to prove they could survive the winter.  This meant stockpiling food and wood and equipping the home to withstand the snow and cold and elements.  One husband built a complex root cellar, an inventive chicken coop, and a labor-saving water system for irrigation.  Another one built the home from scratch.  They worked night and day with one goal in mind – surviving winter’s fury.

It was critical that the families correctly calculated their needs to get through the winter.  Then they worked back from that to know how to spend their time every day preparing.  If they calculated wrong, or worse just got lazy in their execution their lives would be in jeopardy.

A panel of historical experts judged them on how well they prepared.  Only one family won, but the judges said even they would have barely survived.

So here we are in February and I’m wondering:  What are your salespeople doing today to survive the coming winter?

The coming winter I refer to is this year’s selling season, 2011 for those of you on a calendar fiscal year.   There are several reasons why your salespeople must commit selling time now to building a healthy funnel:

1)     Delayed decisions make for longer sales cycles.  Let’s say your average cycle went from 6 months to 8.  That means your reps have 2 fewer months in the funnel year to find, qualify and win net new sales.  Anything they find after April will now be less likely to close by year’s end, instead of anything they find after June.  The two month loss in sales could be a staggering 16.667% of annual sales.  A territory that does $1.2M a year could lose $200,000 in annual sales for any rep who waits too long to prospect.

2)     Funnels took a beating in the recent economic slowdown. Getting funnels back to a pre- slowdown state can take more effort.  It’s like an athlete coming back from an injury and taking longer for her to regain her pre-injury level of performance, let alone achieve higher performance.

3)     Less low hanging fruit to make up quota deficits. Every salesperson gets his or her share of deals that seem to come from no where.  Maybe it’s a small percentage of the overall sales, but it seems to be even smaller.  No rep admits he relies on that ‘gift’ business but his funnel might tell a different story.

4)     A bunker mentality by customers shrinks the overall size of the opportunity pool. Some companies froze spending to survive, and some haven’t transitioned out of that mode.  Your reps may have to dig deeper and wider to find the same number of opportunities to chase.

So what’s a sales manager to do?

1)     Manage with facts. Don’t simply scream ‘prospect more!’  Help your reps see clearly how big their funnels will have to be to hit this year’s quota.  For example, if close rate is 25%, multiply by 4.  A $2M quota needs an $8M funnel of Viable opportunities.

2)     Help them be more selective in the opportunities they pursue. As they bring opportunities onto the funnel reward the volume of activity but use a filter to spend quality selling time on opportunities that meet high standards for fit.  Nothing improves funnel efficiency like purging the crappy, unreal deals.

3)     Help them target, set, and execute account plans for the best accounts. Now is a great time to invest in the long term account development necessary to penetrate new accounts.  Target a handful of accounts that are a good fit to everything about your company.  Develop a plan for introduction, penetration, and pursuing sales opportunities.

4)     Get into a Funnel Audit routine. There’s no better muscle memory to build than to get on a schedule of diagnosing the funnel and setting action plans.  Try it monthly at first.  Spotty diagnosis is a sure way for execution to suffer.  Don’t let that happen.

5)     Every time a rep closes a sale, remind him to evaluate his funnel condition. A sale is what we want, but it also takes Viable Revenue off the rep’s funnel.  That revenue likely needs to be replenished.  And there’s no better time to do that than after they’ve closed a sale.  They’re feeling good, they can take the rejections, they’ve got energy.  Help them channel that to produce future sales.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Sales Velocity and the Funnel

Posted on February 2, 2011. Filed under: Funnel Audits, Lead Generation, Pipeline Measurement, Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Goals, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, Sales pipeline, Sales Quota, sales training, Sales Velocity | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

One of my clients, a director of sales, gave me solicited input in a meeting I was preparing to facilitate for him and his colleagues and the VP of Sales last year.  This was an existing Funnel Principle client looking for ways to leverage the system they installed a few years earlier.  “Let’s make sure we talk about sales velocity”, he said.

“Absolutely”, I replied.  Then I asked, “If you had better or more information about sales velocity for your region funnel how would you use that information to manage better?”

He replied almost before I finished the question.  “I don’t know.  But it seems like I should know more about it.”

Metrics like sales velocity are valuable for many reasons.  Whether your company has a sophisticated system of metrics, or keeps metrics to a bare minimum, or has no metrics at all you all share a common need to make the information you gather meaningful to your troops.   Ultimately, their greatest value is the role they play in changing or reinforcing selling behavior.

Funnel value (we call it TVR, Total Viable Revenue) is probably the most common metric that I hear VPs of Sales say they want to have and provide for their salesforce.  I agree it’s a valuable metric but only if it’s acted upon.  I continue to see a gap in having that information and in driving change.  I see two reasons for this.  One is because the users don’t trust the data on their funnels.  Therefore, the funnel value has little credibility.  Two, there’s a lack of connection between funnel value and actions to run a territory.

TVR is a key leading indicator to the true health of a funnel.  It’s all the sales on the funnel that have reached a critical stage of the customer’s buying process called Commit Funding.  At this stage the customer has committed funding and possibly significant resources to making a change one way or another.

The best way to connect TVR to actions is to inspect the funnel regularly and use the information to plan, organize and execute.  Think ‘lean’ for a second.  If a rep’s TVR is in the red, the action plan has to include ways to get it to green.  These ways are tied to working specific accounts and opportunities at specific sections of the funnel, namely the non TVR sections.  These are the early stage opportunities.  You go there first to find more TVR.

An action plan to find more TVR if that’s what the diagnosis suggests is not a loose, airy, feel-good next step kind of thing.  It’s specific and therefore accountable.

It’s the sales manager’s job to help the seller define this plan and keep her accountable to it.

Ain’t rocket science.  But man it is powerful.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

The Sales Funnel – Much More than the Latest Technology

Posted on January 31, 2011. Filed under: Funnel Audits, Lead Generation, Pipeline Measurement, Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Goals, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, Sales pipeline, Sales Quota, sales training, Sales Velocity | Tags: , |

Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin

Image via Wikipedia

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.  ~Mark Twain

As I get older (just had another birthday) I am reminded that the son becomes more like the father each year.  Dad, this is meant to be a compliment.  Really.

For sons and daughters alike, this is the curse of every generation that it doesn’t like to admit.

Nowhere is this more public than with technology.  Every generation looks upon the next one with a degree of confusion and disdain regarding technology.  For my generation two examples are texting and music.   My daughters are model residents in the 24/7 texting community.   Landline phones are for old people. As for music, the hits, hooks and downloads have replaced the album.   Take Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same.  The marketability of committing an entire album side to one song, 27 minutes of Dazed and Confused, doesn’t stand a chance in a world of SSAS – Super Short Attention Span.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t see technology as an either or choice.   I embrace it.   On my terms.

I also embrace technology with the sales funnel.  The technology I refer to is mainly CRM because CRM is often perceived by sales leaders as the equivalent to ‘the funnel’.

When I’m prospecting I’ll ask a VP of sales to tell me about her funnel or funnel process and the reply often begins with “we use XYZ CRM.”  If this sounds like you, this perspective could be costing you a lot of money.  Let me suggest a Funnel Principle perspective.

CRM Technology has supported funnel management process mainly in two ways:  visibility and reporting.

With visibility salespeople and managers and VPs of sales can see any funnel at the click or two of a mouse.   Reports can be run on everything like the value of the funnel (TVR), or opportunities by stages or size or geography or key accounts, and more.  It’s powerful information.

As long as it’s real.

The fact is many funnels have ‘bad data’.  Reps routinely place opportunities at the wrong stages of the funnel.  I’m not indicting sellers; rather, they deserve the benefit of the doubt.  They’re often doing the best they can.  But without the right funnel process the placement task is hard and open to too many interpretations.  It’s a problem with minimal downside when it’s one funnel that’s off. But when most of the funnels are not real it’s a nightmare on Elm Street for the VP of sales.

Bad funnel data is not an indictment of technology either.   Don’t shoot the messenger.  It’s garbage in, garbage out.  It’s about selling behaviors.  Therefore the fix for bad funnel data needs to help sellers execute the right behaviors.  They need the right funnel process.

An example of this is funnel stages in the CRM.  Simply changing the stages, even to reflect a customer buying process like our BuyCycle Funnel™ will not by itself change selling behaviors.  Sending a memo to the salesforce telling it to start selling this way would be about as effective.

Sellers need context, training, coaching and reinforcement to sell to the customer’s buying process.  It’s a project because you’re undoing old habits.  Many of these old habits are older than, well me.

Another example is having automated reminders and coaching tips embedded in the CRM.  This is an awesome idea that has been rendered ineffective by the lack of context, training, coaching, and reinforcement.  Both have value but one must precede the other.

Wisdom says we’ve got to strike the right balance between new technology and how we did stuff before the technology.  It’s more than about balance though.  It’s putting technology in its place.  It’s not asking technology to replace proven means for driving selling behavior.

This technology stuff has a lot of mojo.  If we’re not careful we’ll miss the real value it can provide.

Maybe Robert Plant was thinking about the sales funnel when he crooned in The Song Remains the Same, “I had a dream.  Crazy dream.  Ohh…hear my song, yeah…people won’t you listen now.  Sing along yeah.   You don’t know what you’re missing now. ..”

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )

The VP of Sales as Funnel Coach

Posted on January 27, 2011. Filed under: Funnel Audits, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Goals, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, Sales Quota, sales training, Sales Velocity | Tags: , , , , |

It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.  Paul Bryant

If you’re VP of sales with sales managers reporting to you how do you coach the funnel for your team?

First, it all starts with you.  If you think that better funnel process across your enterprise will make an important difference you’ve got to do more than write the check to the vendor.  I suggest you think of your mission here as creating a ‘funnel culture’, a term I introduced in my book The Funnel Principle.   At your level of the organization funnel coaching goes beyond your immediate circle of influence – your salesforce.  It crosses naturally into other functions that don’t directly report to you, like marketing, customer service, even manufacturing.  I’ve had three conversations this week alone with people asking how the funnel can help the plant know how much to build.

Creating and driving the culture includes things like this:

Lead by example with Funnel Audits.  If you expect your sales managers to conduct Audits (funnel inspection) every 30 days, you should be Auditing the sales managers with some frequency too.  Even if it’s every other month or even quarterly, this sends the right message to everyone about the importance of this part of the process.  I have a client that is still doing Audits 8 years after the initial roll out.

Offer training and more to the nonsales functions.  Karen,  a VP of North American Sales for a $1B healthcare company had me make a one hour presentation early in the implementation to people that worked in the plant and in other very non-sales type functions.  If there’s even one positive outcome from that short presentation it could easily have a financial benefit to her company.

Introduce the system to national or global accounts.  One of my clients had me design a funnel process to more efficiently coordinate national accounts efforts with the field salesforce.  We published the results of that effort in SAMA’s Velocity magazine.

Get IT to find ways to use technology, like CRM, to help the sellers be more efficient.  Mike Fox, the president and owner of a small HVAC company saw the value of this and had his IT department completely modify the company’s CRM system after we had defined the funnel process.  It’s one of the most efficient CRM funnel tools I’ve seen.

Integrate the funnel into existing business processes.  Mitch, a Worldwide VP of Sales and Applications for a high tech company devoted for one entire year 50% of his bi-weekly worldwide sales call to reinforcing the funnel process we rolled out to his global organization.  It was a tremendous display of leadership of sales process at the highest level.

Much of your role as funnel coach for the VP of Sales is about giving your team the tools it needs and finding ways to reinforce and drive the funnel as a business process.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Taco Tuesdays for Better Sales Funnel Coaching

Posted on January 27, 2011. Filed under: Funnel Audits, Lead Generation, Pipeline Measurement, Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Goals, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, Sales Quota, sales training, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Our chief want in life is someone who will make us do what we can.   Emerson

Do you dread the question ‘What’s for dinner tonight?’

I’ve got a house full of people who are constantly coming and going.  Me for one (often gone), my wife with her own career, two teenage daughters active in school and athletics, and a son in third grade.  Eating together as a family is hard, but figuring out what to eat is often harder.

Except for Taco Tuesdays.

Someone at my house came up with this brilliant idea to simplify dinner at least one night of the week.  The kids look forward to it.  We plan for it by making sure we don’t run out of ingredients like cheese and hamburger and lettuce.  In a way we’re executing on two important values in our family, eating together and simplifying the process.

Facilitating execution is the third of three key themes for you to get the most from your salespeople.  Depending on who you talk to you’ll likely hear that the lack of sales execution is a major gap in sales effectiveness.  You can relate to this.  Your people often know what to do regarding sales strategies and managing their funnels but they sometimes don’t do what they know they should do.

It’s kind of like that intuition argument.  The salesperson says selling is intuitive to natural born sellers.  Maybe so but I say ‘knowing’ doesn’t guarantee doing, and knowing doesn’t guarantee doing well.

One of the best ways to facilitate sales execution is to have a framework for selling.  Frameworks save you tons of time interpreting what she means and what he means.  Jim Collins devoted an entire book to frameworks for running businesses and you have probably read it (Good To Great).  Frameworks for selling allow you to reinforce a repeatable way of setting strategies and using the funnel.  This has huge value.  You can more easily spot variances in performance.  You can coach more effectively.  For example, if your selling method says you’ve got to discover early the person who has the authority to fund a project and one of your sellers consistently falls short in doing this you know what to focus on with this seller.

Another way to facilitate execution is to have your own version of Taco Tuesdays.  Having a fixed time and date and rhythm of review of deals or inspection of funnels ensures that a regular time for practicing and applying the frameworks for selling will be done.  Funnel inspections (Funnel Audits™) done every month like clockwork facilitates execution throughout the year.  In some ways it’s like going to the golf driving range and practicing.  Show me an accomplished golfer who doesn’t do that.

Facilitating execution is the structure your salespeople need that they’ll never ask for.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

« Previous Entries Next Entries »

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...