The One Time Trust Means Nothing in Sales

Posted on January 26, 2011. Filed under: Funnel Audits, Pipeline Measurement, Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Goals, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, Sales pipeline, Sales Quota, sales training, Sales Velocity | Tags: , , , |

I learn teaching from teachers. I learn golf from golfers. I learn winning from coaches.

Harvey Penick

If you Google ‘challenging assumptions’ you’ll get a ton of hits related to six sigma and lean production.  You’ll also see a lot on the topic of creative problem solving.

The irony of both of these is that it’s tempting to believe that the creative or ‘applied’ approach to a task like setting a sales strategy takes longer than doing it the way you’ve always done it.  The traditional path is the path of least resistance because it’s familiar – but it’s sometimes just a slow ride on the wrong train taking you to the wrong destination.

Your role as sales manager to help sellers get the most from their funnels is to challenge assumptions for the deals they pursue and for the funnel they’re relying on to achieve quota.  What does challenging assumptions look like?  Let me give you an example.

I was coaching a Funnel Audit with a manager and his salesperson.  The salesperson described a deal as being at Stage 3 so the manager simply asked for ‘tangible evidence’.  This is part of our process and both manager and seller were trained in it.  The seller replied but didn’t give tangible evidence.  The manager asked the question again. The seller didn’t give tangible evidence again.  The manager asked a third time and the seller replied in frustration “you’re killing me!”  He then said “Trust me, it’s at Stage 3.”

I’m a big fan of trust.  But I’m an even bigger fan of verifiable trust.  Asking for tangible evidence is asking for verifiable trust that the sale is at stage 3.  Without it the seller is making assumptions.  You must challenge this every time.

How do you challenge assumptions?  There are multiple ways.  One way is to use a process that’s credible in the eyes of the seller.  It’s even better if the company has adopted this process across the enterprise.

With a process it’s less about you the manager and what you think and more about the process tells you.  The process allows you remain independent and unbiased.   With a process you don’t have to get creative with your response a hundred different times – just stick to the process in how you would reply and you’ll be repeatedly effective, on point.  This makes you more productive.

This approach will never fail to produce the information you and your sellers need to set effective sales strategy.  They might push back.  They will test you.  They’ll strike if they smell blood.  Do them a favor.  Hold your ground.  Challenge their assumptions.  And if they’re driving too fast don’t hesitate to shout slow down!

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What a Teenage Driver Can Teach You about Coaching

Posted on January 24, 2011. Filed under: Funnel Audits, Lead Generation, Pipeline Measurement, Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Goals, Sales Management, Sales pipeline, Sales Quota, sales training, Sales Velocity | Tags: , , , , , |

I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum potential. Bob Nardelli, former CEO Home Depot

So how do sales managers help their salespeople reach their maximum potential?   By channeling your coaching efforts down three different paths:

  • Promoting discovery
  • Challenging assumptions
  • Facilitating execution

Today’s post explores the path of promoting discovery.

I’ll relate this to my world which might be your world too. I have a teenager learning to drive.  In my state the teenager gets her ‘temps’ and has to put in fifty hours behind the wheel with mom and dad.  For each sortie my daughter takes my wife and I flip a coin to see who gets the wingman assignment.

With my daughter driving down the road, I sit in the crow’s nest playing the role of lookout boy.  Things I have been conditioned to process and assess when I’m driving have suddenly been elevated to orange and red threat level – watch out for people crossing the street at this crosswalk! – don’t assume someone won’t blow through that red light! – watch for black ice there it could be slippery!– look through the turn, not at the turn! – get your hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel! – slow down!

I realize she’s probably retaining 8 ½ % of what I say.  At least that’s an improvement over how much she listened before she started driving.

Your salespeople are in a similar, frenetic zone of selling every day.  They’re multitasking like mad,  managing multiple sales and at different stages of the buying process, trying to log everything into CRM, taking care of issues at key accounts, and more.  At this pace they can easily slip from the sales habits they know they should do.

You can help by promoting discovery.  Let’s say you have ten minutes at the end of a call with one of your reps.  Why not pick a sale she’s working on and go through a ten minute drill to make sure she’s on the right track with her strategy?  You could safely begin with the common mistake many salespeople make – selling to too few stakeholders.  Ask her to quickly state all of the stakeholders that she’s aware of.  If she gives you two you’ve probably found a hole right away.  One way to find other stakeholders is to look for bosses and colleagues.  If you sell to a VP of Sales who does that person report to?  It’s possible the VP will need approval.  What’s your plan to sell through the VP in this case?  Is there a VP of national accounts on a similar level?  Why wouldn’t that person participate in the buying process?  Is there a VP of sales in another region that might be looking at the same situation?

Promoting discovery is more effective when you position it as a ‘net’ to catch stuff the busy seller might miss.  Don’t make your conversations penal.

Your seller knows that personal motivations drive decision making big time, but has he thought through what the motivation might be right now for a key stakeholder?   It’s easy to toss out ‘wants a promotion’ or ‘be seen as a leader’ but the real value is not in knowing the information.  It’s in the stakeholder knowing that you know the information.  Does her strategy include a plan for that?

Finally, helping your sellers see the health of the funnel is critical.  The eye opener though is when you break down the tasks that have to be done to achieve even a short term action plan.  Let’s say your seller needs to add $1M of funnel value.  That could take weeks or months if the average sale is $50,000.  In fact, if he added one sale per week at this level it would take 20 weeks to reach $1M.  That’s 4-5 months, which might be too long.

You’re good at promoting discovery I’m sure.  Remind yourself to make time to do it.

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The Seller’s DNA: Goal-Setting Machine

Posted on January 19, 2011. Filed under: Lead Generation, Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Goals, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, Sales pipeline, Sales Quota, Sales Velocity | Tags: , , , , , , |

Last week’s blog was devoted to developing good funnel habits as your new year’s resolution.  Once you have a plan for that then you can set goals.

You know what they say about goals.  If you don’t know where you want to go, you’re sure to get there.

Goal setting is the essence of the sales professional.  Where some people shy away from setting goals, we embrace them.   Where some people would never share their goals with others, we’d put ours on a billboard in Times Square.  We don’t care what others think.  We know what we want to achieve and we go after it.  This doesn’t make us better, it just make us us.

If you’re not tracking with me, let me give you an incentive – nine times more money.

This is what you’d earn in a lifetime simply by writing down your goals, according to Dave Kohl, a professor at Virginia Tech, a  college in the US.

So a million dollar career could become nine million dollars?  I’m just doing the math.

But here’s the astonishing news – Kohl says 80% of people say they don’t have goals.  16% percent say they have goals but don’t write them down.  4% have goals and write them down.

You can take this concept one step further by ‘going public’ with your goals.  Telling others your goals puts an added pressure on you to produce results.  Salespeople like pressure.

Several years ago w(hen I didn’t know better) I ran a marathon.  26.2 miles.  About 42 kilometers.  I told everyone I would beat three hours and 30 minutes.  That’s just about 8 minutes per mile.  I wasn’t bragging.  Rather,  I knew that it was a more likely outcome if I shared it with others.  I finished in three hours and 26 minutes.  When the pain was like a knife stabbing my thighs I kept telling myself, “Sellers, you fool don’t you dare slow down or give up!”

I suggest you break up your annual sales goal, quota, into quarterly goals.  The whole year is so long it’s like a marathon of selling.  Four quarterly marathons might be less overwhelming and easier to track.

I suggest you define some activity goals.  The splits in a marathon tell you if you’re losing ground or keeping pace.  Similarly, activity goals serve as splits to let you know if you’re keeping up the pace of funnel related activity.  One activity goal could be number of sales appointments you make in a week.  Another one could be the number of sales calls you have in a week.  If you hold lunch and learns, or do webinars, or attend lead generating shows, you could set a goal for the number of those events you hold.

As long as you’ve got your strategy defined first, you can set goals and watch with delight as you knock them off one by one.

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Secret Funnel Habit Number 4: Funnel Audits™

Posted on January 14, 2011. Filed under: Funnel Audits, Lead Generation, Pipeline Measurement, Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Management, Sales pipeline, sales training | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I have to admit.  It’s going to be hard for me to avoid writing all day about my favorite topic, Funnel Audits.  I’ll do the best I can.  I believe this is the most powerful funnel habit you can have.

The reason I love Audits so much is that they’re proven to be the glue that holds much of the funnel process together.  It takes a good idea and makes it practical and effective for the sales manager and seller.  Novel concept, right?

First, let’s define the Funnel Audit™.  These are the structured inspections of the funnel that are part of the Funnel Principle system.  They’re simple, yet powerful.  They don’t take much time but have a disproportionately large impact on the seller’s results.   In an Audit you’re inspecting one thing – your funnel’s health.  You end the Audit by defining goals and actions for the next 30 days.

Second, let’s review why you should inspect your funnel regularly.  With your funnel changing all the time throughout the year you’ve got to stay on top of the changes and know where you should be committing your priorities and time allocation for opportunities.  Doing this diagnosis and action planning monthly is suitable for 90% of the selling population.  This has a dramatic impact your mission of achieving quota.

Without a rhythm or diagnosis and action planning you’re committing precious selling time and resources based on assumptions.  It would be like setting out on a weekend long hike deep into the woods using your compass only once, at the outset, and never confirming during the hike that you’re still on the right track headed where you want to go.

Now, let’s review what you actually cover in an Audit.  One of the first items is your TVR, or Total Viable Revenue.  It’s the dollar value of all sales opportunities on your funnel that have reached the Commit Funding stage.  TVR is the true value of your funnel and one of the most important leading indicators to manage to.

Because you don’t have a 100% win rate, you need to chase more opportunities than the number you need to win to achieve quota.  If you have a 25% win rate then you need to have roughly four times as much funnel value in opportunities.  If you have a $1M quota you’d better have $4M of TVR.

The $4M is your Target TVR.  If you find yourself with a funnel of anything less than $4M when you still have $1M left to close you’re at risk of not achieving quota.  While most sales people understand this, many of them don’t actually manage to it.  If you’re one of these salespeople, stop now.  Start managing to a Target TVR.

When you manage to a Target TVR two things happen.  One, you’re constantly aware of the true health of your funnel.  If the real funnel value is more than the Target TVR then your funnel health is adequate.  If the real funnel value is less than the Target TVR then your funnel value is inadequate.  Either way you’re completely aware of funnel value and this knowledge puts you in the driver’s seat.  You can act on this leading information to your advantage.   Second, you’re focused on what you can control – adding value to your funnel.  On the other hand, controlling the customer’s buying process is not realistic.

Another part of the Audit is a section we call what’s changed.  Knowing how your funnel has changed is key to knowing how those changes will affect your mission of achieving quota.  Changes are also a great way to link cause and effect of selling actions – knowing if some selling action is paying off or not is obviously good to know.    Since it’s common to see funnels that need more TVR you’ll want to monitor each month how much new TVR is being added.  This helps you know early on if you’re on track to achieving your Target TVR or not.

Finally, the Audit ends with an action plan.  Without it, the dialogue and diagnosis is like ending a wine tour without taking a sip.  Yeah, that doesn’t work for me either.  The actions hold you accountable and help you measure your progress.  At the beginning of the next Audit you start with the actions from the previous one and proceed from there.

I’m proud of myself.  Only a page and a half dedicated to the most powerful part of the funnel system.

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Secret Funnel Habit Number 2: Monthly Goals and Actions with Bi-Weekly Updates

Posted on January 12, 2011. Filed under: Funnel Audits, Pipeline Measurement, Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Management, Sales pipeline | Tags: , , , , , |

Whoo boy there’s a sexy blog title!  Seriously, this week we are covering the Secrets to Success through good sales funnel habits.  Today’s post is Habit #2: Set Monthly Goals and Actions.  To read about Habit #1, click here.

The good funnel habit you need to get into and get religion about is setting monthly goals and actions and then reviewing your progress toward actions twice a month.  I’m not talking yet about just setting goals, but rather mastering the good funnel habit of setting goals and reviewing progress.

The 12 month year of selling is a grind.  I see it as an ultra -marathon.  I suggest you break it up into 4 smaller marathons – each quarter is like a normal marathon of 26 miles plus.  Develop a rhythm of setting funnel goals and reviewing progress toward funnel actions that remains constant throughout the year.

If you have other business processes that you want to work your funnel process into that’s fine.

Quarterly funnel goals should include Target TVR, sales, and activities.  If you need $500,000 in sales by June 30 you might set a goal of having $1M in TVR by March 31.  Then set goals for key selling activities like number of sales calls, hours per week of face to face and phone to phone selling, number of referrals you ask for and get, and more.

Set monthly goals and then review your progress every two weeks.   If you’re at plan for activities then relax.  Let the process work.  If you’re not at plan then review why not.  This every two week review helps you avoid getting behind too far and not having enough time to catch up.  A flow of events could look something like this:

–          One week before the quarter begins set your quarterly goals.

–          On day 1 of the first month do a funnel inspection (Funnel Audit).

–          On day 15 of the first month review progress toward the funnel actions you set at the beginning of the month.

–          One day 1 of the second month repeat the flow of tasks.

Consider going to your calendar right now and entering meeting notices for these tasks.

This goal setting and reviewing funnel actions regularly is supported by a funnel inspection process we call the Funnel Audit.  I’ll devote another blog entry this week to that.

A rhythm of setting funnel goals and reviewing progress toward actions is a good funnel habit that will never be so sexy as to turn heads but will be the key to having new leads and sales beat a consistent path to your door.

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The Uninspiring Yet Powerful Secret to Achieving Sales Goals

Posted on January 10, 2011. Filed under: Pipeline Measurement, Sales, Sales forecasting, Sales Funnel, Sales Management, Sales pipeline | Tags: , , , |

The Completely Uninspiring Yet Totally Powerful Secret to Achieving Sales Goals (otherwise known as re-committing to good sales funnel habits)

This time of year is the time of new year resolutions.  Whatever the source of inspiration our minds and bodies are open to, or at least are willing to tolerate, the thought of renewed focus and change.

Usually, these inspirational moments end up with us writing down new goals.  We dive head first into goals and plans without determining the process for sticking to them.   The problem is you can’t expect the energy from the inspiration to carry you through the 12 month grind.  You need a process that will carry you through.  It’s like getting a rocket full of astronauts to the moon.  The first thing you do isn’t figuring out how to get the rocket there; rather, you determine how you’re going to get it home.

This week I want to help you achieve your sales goals by first helping you commit to the plan and process for making that happen.  In other words, lets recommit to good sales funnel habits.

I’ll cover four key topics:

–          Managing to Target TVR (Total Viable Revenue)

–          Setting monthly funnel goals and actions and bi-weekly updates

–          Conducting deal reviews regularly

–          Doing monthly Funnel Audits™

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post:  Managing to Target TVR.

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