What does it take to help your salespeople meet their goals? Luck? Planning? Training? Coaching? All?
We all have come across articles about how to best help salespeople meet their goals, the usual suspects come to mind:
- Achievable and realistic goals
- Visible sales targets
- Lead generation plan
- Gamify the process
- Technical training
And the list goes on. What I have found in my many years working with sales leaders is that those are all valid, but without a clear sales strategy that is communicated and implemented those will usually fail. Why? Because most salespeople need to understand that buying decisions are being made with a purpose in mind and connected to a bigger picture.
Not only buyers have a bigger picture. Today salespeople also like to know what they are contributing to – does what I sell have a purpose in the bigger scope of things? Is it sustainable? Does it contribute to a better society? Less pollutants in the environment? How does what I sell add value? Do I believe in it? Do I understand what the path to being successful looks like? Can I advance my career in this position?
Too often sales strategies start at the executive level with an arbitrary growth number based on investors’ demands, new product development, operational capacity, or some other factors that are not directly related with sales. Growth expectations then get trickled down to the sales leaders to be delivered by year end. The secret to achieving sustainable growth is to create a powerful sales strategy that will support the demand.
A well-thought out sales strategy that is understood by your salespeople provides guidance to them. It helps them understand where their focus should be, what actions are expected of them in order to help achieve the strategy and asks them the question of what they need in order to achieve the strategy. It helps salespeople feel included in the bigger picture, it helps them see how they will impact the business, and what their contributions will do. It also provides sales leaders with a path to success that is clear and achievable.
One might ask what is a well thought out sales strategy? A well thought out sales strategy is one that:
1. Evaluates the past
Before you can begin to plan for the future, it is always good to first evaluate the past. Look at your past year and ask questions that will help you determine what is realistic and can be achieved by your salespeople.
- How much did your team sell?
- To whom did they sell?
- Which regions perform well? Why?
- Who sold it? Who are your high performers? Who might need to improve?
- How much was from repeat business versus new business?
- Which clients purchased the least, but were most profitable? Why?
- Which clients had the shortest sales cycles? Why?
- Has anything changed?
- Where did our growth come from? Why? What changed?
- Did we have enough support in place? Can we support additional sales?
A lot of companies skip this process, and the only way to begin to determine where you should go and what can be accomplished is by evaluating where you have been.
2. Looks into the future
For most companies, the 80/20 rule applies: 80% of the revenue comes from 20% of your clients. By evaluating the past, you can determine where most of the revenue came from and be able to make decisions for the future that support where your revenue will come from.
Once you understand where your revenue is coming from you are well-positioned to determine your ideal client profile. By helping your salespeople determine what kind of client is ideal to call on, you help them narrow their focus. By focusing on the ideal client, they will not waste time chasing after clients that will not provide the kind of revenue they will need to meet their goals. It is surprising to me how many sales organizations do not have an ideal client profile in place. Without one, salespeople are relying on gut feeling with a sprinkle of luck to help them achieve their revenues.
3. Has clear priorities that everyone understands
Now that we have looked into the past and created an ideal client profile, it is time to make sure that everyone understands where the priorities lay. How well a company is positioned to grow is highly dependent on how well they understand where their priorities are. The best way to prioritize is to have a clear understanding of your organization's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This is called a SWOT analysis.
This is an exercise that should be taken seriously and rooted in reality. Going into this exercise will help you understand how to leverage your organization's strengths in order to capitalize on opportunities. It will also provide you with a good understanding of your internal and external weaknesses and threats that might hinder your ability to achieve your growth goals.
Look closely for the reasons why you may not be selling more to existing clients, what is getting in the way. Know which products are selling well and which are not. Look deep into missed opportunities. Answers to these will provide you with a clear picture of what your priorities should be.
4. Have a clear Go-to Market Strategy
Information about the past is reviewed, priorities are crystal clear and your ideal client profile is in place. Here is where you have to be clear with your salespeople on whom they should focus their attention. As an organization, you need to provide a clear go-to market strategy in order to help your salespeople understand the guidelines for growing revenue. This is the action plan that helps your salespeople understand what actions are necessary to reach target clients and achieve a competitive advantage.
We all know that the fastest, most inexpensive growth will come from existing clients, through referrals and interested leads. Very seldom does growth comes from cold prospecting.
Consider the following questions:
- How much can we grow existing accounts?
- How much can we leverage existing accounts to get referrals?
- What other territories/regions can we target?
- How much revenue increase can we generate outside existing territories with new products?
- How much revenue increase can we generate outside our existing territories with our existing products?
- How much revenue increase can we generate in our territories with both existing and new products?
Start this process with your top 10 clients and work down the list.
5. Outline clear, realistic revenue goals that everyone can work toward
There is nothing worse for a salesperson than to feel defeated before they even get started. Outlining clear goals that are achievable and based on reality is critical to ensure the success of your salespeople.
6. Get the input of your salespeople when putting a sales strategy together
If you did your homework outlined above, you should be able to determine what is realistic to accomplish in a given year. Work with your salespeople to ensure you are on target with your plan. Have a conversation to understand what they see that you might be missing, after all, they are the ones in the field on a daily basis.
7. Determine how you will measure success
Now that your plan is in place, determine how you will measure success. What are the metrics you will use to determine if your salespeople are on track for success? Management’s involvement is key in helping your salespeople succeed. Help your sales managers establish a covenant between themselves and their salespeople. The covenant is a formal agreement between the sales manager and their salespeople on what they agree they will do or not do as they implement the sales strategy. This is important because it makes it clear to everyone what is expected, and it helps sales managers to coach to expectations. Here is where you engage your salespeople in regular conversations about their daily activities and client meetings. Gamify the process if that will help your group, provide technical training in order to equip salespeople with knowledge of products and services, provide soft skills training to ensure high levels of sales performance. In short, create a path for performance that will help achieve the goals established on your plan.
All of these are pieces of the sales enablement puzzle that will help your salespeople achieve greater results.
Set a sales strategy and see your salespeople thrive and perform to your expectations. If you don't create a clear path, you will leave the future of your organization to chance. Which one do you think will ensure your future?