Monday, October 29, 2012

Reform for Sales Success

We don't typically use political jargon when referring to sales. Yet, aren't politicians always selling? They are either selling us, as voters, or they are selling other politicians on their ideas and programs.
As I read Decision Points- The Presidential Memoir of George W. Bush, I couldn't help but recognize some parallels. For instance, in the chapter titled Leading, the President discusses his decision that leads to the "No Child Left Behind" legislation and says the following: "You cannot solve a problem until you diagnose it."
While this isn't a huge "ah-ha" for any of us, he then makes a quantum leap to "Accountability would serve as a catalyst for reform". Again, this isn't big news. Everyone knows that, to exact change, one must implement a system to ensure that necessary behaviors are being performed. Right?
As I think about the dozens of sales organizations we have worked with over the years, in nearly every instance, the chief executive's objective is to achieve some variation of reform. While their companies are not broken, they are working imperfectly, producing less than desirable results. These executives need a different set of outcomes and they realize that change is necessary.
In his book, the former president goes on to discuss the fact that, as a nation, the USA finished 3rd from the bottom, above only Cyprus and South Africa in the subject of mathematics. Sad placement for our country, known as a super power and the most influential country in the world.
But how could this happen? Surely our educational programs include quality math curriculums. It turns out the curriculums are not the problem. Apparently a lack of accountability- no checks and balances- is to blame.
Apparently there were no accountability measures set up to track progress. This tracking would have helped schools and reformers determine how to best duplicate occurring success or failure. As it was, there was no record and therefore no statistics to which one might refer. Given a lack of measurable data, accountability was impossible and success, or lack thereof, became a judgment call.
Translating this analogy to the business of selling, this means that if there is anything in your sales results that you can no longer accept, you must reach beyond treatment of the symptom to find the root cause of a problem. Then set standards. Then track the data. Then compare the data to the previously set standards.
Achieving success is not a one-step process, done when goals have been identified. Achieving success is a continuous and on-going job requiring discipline and process.
In other words, if your sales are falling short, where are the choke-points? Do your salespeople fail in closing? Or do they not prospect consistently? Do they sell on price and neglect the value your product brings to the prospect? Does your sales team even know that you, as chief executive, are looking for volume? Or margin? Or to expand distribution into other vertical channels?
In other words, your company's choke points could span executive, management and sales teams. Minus a deep-dive to uncover all the problems, you might easily address the wrong ones.
However the following issues typically come to light when we perform our diagnostics to help companies discover their choke-points-- the first step to reforming for sales success.
• Crucial Elements of Success are specific strengths or weaknesses that impact an individual's ability to grow and to be coached. These crucial elements include desire, commitment, responsibility and outlook, traits that largely impact an individual's performance in life and in sales.
• Major Performance Factor are deficits that impact execution of ANY sales system. These factors include need-for-approval, money issues, poor record-collection, and non-supportive buy-cycle.
• Strategies and priorities for the business are not aligned between senior management and sales management, thereby creating a disconnect between what should be executed and what is executed.
• Hiring - the population that is supposed to execute the strategies and priorities are incapable of doing so because they are not the right hires-- wrong hiring criteria was used.
• On-boarding - Accountability standards to execute sales activities to drive early success are missing. Additionally, there is often a lack of a consistent process to keep a new hire's pipeline full.
These are some of the major issues we uncover as we help companies reform their sales organizations. While you may be successfully treating some of your company's symptoms, chances are there are deeper issues that will inhibit long term change and growth and, in order to compete in today's hyper competitive environment, these issues will require deep diagnosis and consistently implemented accountability measures.

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