CEOs – Rank Your Sales Organization

Sales consistently ranks at or near the top of priorities for most CEOs. However, it is one area where CEO’s have the least confidence in how it operates, how effective the team is, and whether the team carries the right message. Surprisingly, many CEO’s do little to nothing to change this approach. They keep the same team and follow the same approach each year but hope for better results.Take five minutes to rate your sales organization so you can decide if it’s time to switch things up. Answer these eight questions and keep score as you go. Pick the answer the most closely describes your situation.1. Does the sales team have a strategy for how they manage their business? This would be evidenced by a clearly defined target market, geography, mix of growth from current accounts as well as sales from new accounts, and a well-defined plan for executing this strategy.Yes – everybody knows the strategy and has a plan for how to execute – 5 points
Kind of – everybody knows our strategy, but they don’t have a solid plan for doing it – 3 points
Maybe – I know the strategy, but I am not sure the team knows it or is executing it – 1 point
No – the sales team chases anything that moves whether it fits our strategy or not – or, we have not clearly defined the strategy – 0 points2. Do you have the right sales team in place?Yes – All or most sales people are performing well. I continue to upgrade when necessary and I retain my top performers. – 5 points
Kind of – I have some really good, consistent performers but I also have some underperformers that I have carried too long – 3 points
Maybe – we have a few good performers but have a hard time finding and/or retaining top sales people after that – 1 point
No – other than one or two sales people, the team is generally underperforming – 0 points3. Do you have a good process for recruiting and retaining top performers?Yes – we have clearly defined the profile of a successful rep for our company and have a defined process for determining whether candidates fit that profile. We have a good track record of recruiting, hiring and retaining top performers – 5 points
Kind of – we have done pretty well recruiting and keeping top talent, but we don’t have a defined or formal process for doing so – 3 points
Maybe – we have been hit and miss with getting top performers into the organization and we have not been able to identify why – 1 point
No – we have a poor track record of finding and keeping top talent – 0 points4. Do you continue to develop the skills of your sales team? This question relates to ‘sales skills’ and not just ‘product training.’Yes – we invest in training and/or coaching consistently to develop the skills of the team – 5 points
Kind of – we have done some development work within the last two years and the sales leader spends a significant portion of their time training and coaching the team – 3 points
Maybe – we haven’t invested in formal development programs, but I believe the sales leader does a decent job – 1 point
No – I expect that the sales team is qualified and knows how to sell when I hire them – 0 points5. Do you have a defined sales process?Yes – it is defined, documented, we train to it and track progress by each stage of the process – 5 points
Kind of – we have a process, but it is not documented. Most sales reps generally follow the same process – 3 points
Maybe – we have a general process but I don’t know how well the sale team follow it – 1 point
No – each rep has his/her own way of selling and we let them do what works for them – 0 points6. Do you have leading indicator metrics that can be used to manage the sales group?Yes – we have metrics around the activities that lead to sales (tied to the sales process). We have goals set up for those metrics and they are reviewed with the reps on a frequent basis – 5 points
Kind of – we track the size of the pipeline to make sure it is big enough to support our goals, and have some activity metrics that we review, but we are not consistent about reviewing them with the reps on a regular basis – 3 points
Maybe – we look at the pipeline, but don’t really have goals or targets for activities that the reps should achieve – 1 point
No – we only look at sales as the measure (a lagging indicator) – 0 points7. Do you have a good system for rewarding and recognizing performance?Yes – we make sure we reward good performance frequently through recognition programs (public and/or personal) and do positive things to motivate the team outside of their commission/incentive compensation plan – 5 points
Kind of – we recognize reps verbally when it seems right, but have no formal recognition programs in place – or, we do recognize reps, but probably not often enough – 3 points
Maybe – we recognize rep performance once in a while, but only if it is for something really special like a large deal – 1 point
No – getting sales is their job. They should be motivated by that and their comp plan – 0 points8. Does your sales leader have a defined, proactive system for managing the sales group?Yes – they have a proacitve routine for meeting as a team, holding 1 on 1 meetings with each sales person, and they spend dedicated time in the field coaching their reps – 5 points
Kind of – they spend significant time with the sales people and meet with them when they can, but often get pulled in different directions and aren’t consistent – 3 points
Maybe – they don’t have formal meetings or 1 on 1s with the reps, but they talk to them every day to insure the sales people are getting what they need – 1 point
No – the sales leader is very reactive jumping from deal to deal or fire to fire trying to get things done – 0 pointsNow add up your score. How did you do? Here is a breakdown of how you rate:34 – 40: You have a sales organization you can be proud of. You are doing many of the right things to keep your sales organization moving in the right direction although you may have a few tweaks to make. Research will show you that less than 15% of organization fall into this category.27 – 33: You are doing fairly well, but definitely have some areas where you can make improvements which will lead to increased revenue. Review the areas where you rated yourself less than a 5 and determine what changes you could make.20 – 26: You have several opportunities to make improvements and when you make them you will see results from those changes. Most likely you will need to focus on getting more intentional with your sales approach by standardizing on some systems and processes.Below 20: It’s more than likely that your sales are not where they need to be. The good news is that there are several opportunities to make improvements which will lead directly to increased sales. However, changes need to start at the top.Obviously, this is not a comprehensive assessment of your sales organization. Each question addresses one small aspect of how top performing sales organizations differ from typical sales organizations. Every question could be broken down in much more detail to uncover more strengths or weaknesses. This assessment should give you some fundamental areas to evaluate within your own sales organization. It’s been said that every sales organization is designed perfectly to get… the results they are getting. Most CEOs believe that their results are not what they want or need. So, logic would dictate that you need to change that design in some aspect if you want better results.We have worked with hundreds of organizations and consistently see the areas addressed in this assessment as the areas that need the most work. Owners and CEOs think that they are crystal clear with their strategy and target audience. But when we talk to the sales team, it’s obvious they are not on the same page and they chase business that the company doesn’t want and can’t support. We see companies try to upgrade their sales talent by firing the bottom performers and hiring in new reps. However, they use the same recruiting, selection and on-boarding processes that produced the last set of non-performers. One of the most common mistakes that companies make it to only look at sales results as the measure of their sales team. That is the same thing as looking at the scoreboard at the end of each quarter or game. It’s too late to diagnose problems or makes changes at that point. CEOs and Owners try to improve things with people or off-the-shelf sales training or some other band-aid, but they don’t make any improvements to the fundamental systems and processes that are in place. It’s the equivalent to putting a new coat of paint on a house with crumbling foundation. It might look better for a while, but you didn’t fix the problem.There is a solution to all these issues! The biggest lever that can, if positioned properly, have a positive impact in all of these areas is the sales leader. They communicate and reinforce strategy. They can train and coach to a process. They can drive performance by looking at leading indicators and holding reps accountable through regular review. And, they can build the right team through development and/or through recruiting. If you want to start making changes to improve how your organization sells, start with your leader. Give them the direction and tools to facilitate the needed changes. And, don’t assume that they already know how to do this. Most sales managers have NEVER received any formal training on how to do any of these things. Here’s another question for you – when was the last time you invested in your leader? Have you given them the direction, tools or knowledge necessary to implement needed change?OK, you’ve done your initial analysis. Now what are you going to change?

Sales Without Selling

The IssueThe standard American sales model is used by most businesses without thought. Variations of the model arise periodically and are promoted through webinars, workshops, sales courses, and books about sales from self-proclaimed sales experts. The standard model is replete with “opening” and “closing” techniques, and concepts such as the “sales funnel” and the notion of “best practices,” from a variation of the model. The vernacular of the model has provided salespeople, business owners, and sales managers with a common language for discussing the occupation of selling, though there are now vastly superior, albeit less commonplace, sales models available. This comfortable familiarity with the standard sales model is perpetuating a cycle that now costs business owners and salespeople the sales it once helped secure.In recent years, especially since the recent downturn in the U.S. economy, business owners have an increased interest in creating and promoting competitive divergence. Competitive divergence is intended to increase a company’s desirability by establishing greater dissociation between the company and its competition. Competitive divergence has come to be synonymous with competitive advantage. As business owners demanded more creative solutions for further differentiating themselves and enhancing their competitive advantage in the marketplace, a transformation in sales practices began to occur.A New ModelModern sales methods now regard cold-calling, opening, and closing techniques as archaic, and its constructs (such as the sales funnel) as inferior to the considerably more sophisticated and accurate constructs that newer sales methods use for understanding and explaining sales developments. As much as the old standard was rooted in sales techniques, the new standard is founded on avoiding overt and traditional sales practices. Though still emerging, the concept of “sales without selling” has attained a precedent that no variation of the American standard can claim: the American sales model has not been merely revised, but rather replaced with non-sales-oriented, system-based models. The replacement of the American standard model with more accommodating, more effective sales methodologies is proving favorable to all-business owners, salespeople, and their buyers.Selling in Today’s WorldIn this new sales paradigm, it is necessary to redefine the roles of the seller and his or her perception of buyers. More than ever before, the salesperson’s biggest hindrance in growing sales is the fact that he is a salesperson. Buyers suspect salespeople of being motivated by self-serving interests. Ameliorating this dynamic is doubly challenging since salespeople often suspect buyers of using them in order to price check another vendor. Of course, we cannot force change onto a buyer. You can, however, change your attitude about buyers. Seeing buyers as cold, unapproachable obstacles between you and sales is not helpful to your objective as a salesperson. Rather, sympathize with buyers. Understand buyers as having become calloused by encountering many self-serving salespeople over the years. Your challenge now is to show yourself as one who has inspiring ideas and knowledge that buyers will find valuable. A non-sales approach enables a new dynamic to develop between the buyer and seller-a dynamic that is based on mutual respect.Once salespeople stop trying to sell, they face the question of who they are to a buyer. The answer resides in a paradox, and perhaps greater competitive divergence. Salespeople must present or represent something of value to the buyer beyond the products and service they wish to sell. This offering is not a bribe and must be submitted without concern for reciprocation. As a salesperson, you will sell more once you or the buyers discover how to be a resource superior to your competition. Sales will be the natural result of your buyer maintaining you as a resource. I develop several ways for my clients to be perceived as valuable assets to their prospective clients, and teach salespeople how to be seen as something other than a salesperson. If you can achieve this, you’ll be on your way to gaining sales without selling.There are several alternatives to not selling that effectively sell, and they include educating, servicing, and sharing. Taking a non-sales approach with my prospective clients has produced my greatest sales successes, and can significantly help improve the sales of salespeople who’ve been using the former standard. Effectively using non-sales approaches requires developing new skills and a cognitive shift in thinking, which include:• Sales techniques do not produce sales, assets produce sales
• “Benefit selling” is less effective than the related-story effect for the purpose of inspiring buyers
• “Closing” sales is not a matter of technique, but rather a matter of creating value through associative learning1, which sells your products and services
• Your disinterestedness (not un-interestedness) in selling can inspire your potential buyersIn the final analysis, the former standard sales model is a less effective model for selling in today’s world. The former model of opening and closing techniques, cold-calling, and sales funnels contributes to the damage done to buyer/seller relationships. As long as buyers are leery of salespeople, the salesperson is his/her own toughest obstacle. A new sales model is gaining prominence and helping companies compete more effectively, especially when vying for new business. Selling successfully and consistently requires salespeople to be recognized by buyers as being something other than a salesperson, which requires salespeople to learn how to achieve sales without selling.1 Associative learning is characterized by, causes, or results from the process of bringing ideas or events together in one’s mind.Copyright © 2012 ESM4, Inc. All rights reserved