Sales reps lose a lot of time performing unproductive tasks. It isn't always obvious what is actually being done and they are always busy, just ask them. Not being able to identify how reps spend their time has been the constant frustration for businesses, and specifically sales leaders for years. For some, the lack of transparency into sales activity was a major contributor to the adoption of CRM applications with built in reporting tools. Ironically, in many cases this has produced the unintended consequence of increased time spent on administrative tasks, and has pushed them further away from selling.
With the growing sales stack, there seems to be an emerging challenge which is balancing the time lost to research and data entry with efficiency gains. There is also now as always, the human element, which involves the avoidance of doing the more difficult but crucial aspects of prospecting. So as a Founder or Vice President of Sales, how do you reduce the time wasted and generate a more efficient, consistent way to produce the outputs needed to grow your business? Below are four clues captured from companies that are making progress.
There is an ever increasing number of tools designed to help reps automate the mundane processes of everything from sending emails to making phone calls. CRM systems have been around now for decades and while we assume everyone is using them and using them well, I am often amazed at how much this isn't the case. While there is still a number of laggards who have yet to adopt a CRM, there is a greater number of companies who only use them in a limited, less effective capacity. While the presence of tools should help reps focus on the tasks at hand and provide some needed accountability, the challenge is utilizing them to the fullest to yield a greater return on investment.
Companies are always looking for ways to cut costs and often training is either cut from the budget or never considered at all. This is a huge miss in my estimation. In Anthony Ianarino’s book, "The Only Sales Guide You Will Ever Need", he talks about the 3 components of a successful sales rep which are, Mindset, Skillset, and Toolkit. The skillset is often overlooked which takes a great toll on overall rep effectiveness. If done properly the returns are significant and will pay for the training many times over. I've often heard the hypothetical question, what happens if we train reps and they leave?, the rebuttal is of course, what if you don't train them and they stay?
Ineffective First-Line Management
Coaching and training are not the same thing. Think of training as more of the methodology, while coaching focuses on execution. Coaching has become a significant industry over the past few years. There are many claiming to have all the answers to providing, life, career, personal and professional coaching help. The truth is, for sales reps, the best source for coaching is the frontline sales manager. But the sales manager must understand when, why and most importantly, how to coach. Ultimately, it must be something leadership values enough to invest in providing the support needed to help Managers become good coaches. According to a research report as recently as March 2016, 41 percent of surveyed companies had allocated zero budget for sales manager training. Of the 59 percent who did have a budget, half were delivering generic management training, nothing specific to leading a sales team. The stated conclusion was that for what many consider to be a crucial job in hitting revenue targets, seven out of ten frontline sales managers are not receiving the training needed to excel at their job.
No Identifiable Sales Process
If you have spoken to me or read many past articles or blog posts, you know that I am a stickler for having a process. Look at any successful organization be it sports, business, entertainment, you name it and you will find that that they all have a process that they follow. Sometimes they have an informal process but they still manage to identify and follow the steps necessary to win deals. They focus not on outcomes but on inputs and they measure, tweak, refine and perfect. If you don’t have a process that everyone in the organization is bought into, your odds of success are greatly diminished.
As a quick review, a typical sales process consists of the following steps:
1) Qualification - Before you can do anything, you have to qualify the prospect, understanding their pains and how your product or service eliminates that pain is the prerequisite first step.
2) Needs Analysis - Once you have identified some common characteristics, it is then important to fully understand the individual needs - this is a narrowing from broad fit to specific fit.
3) Value Proposition - Next, is probably the most important step which is presenting the value. Here is where many companies fall short and as a result the next step, the proposal becomes the proverbial "race to the bottom" which involves massive price concessions.
4) Proposal - The proposal should make sense based on needs and value that should have both been well established.
5) Negotiation/Close - If all has gone well, this should be minor work on terms and conditions.
6) Delight - This is the second most important step. It is easier to keep customers than win new ones, so making raving fans of your customers should be at the heart of any go to market plan.
I have worked with organizations over the last few years that have all wanted to grow, those that have been the most successful have mastered the aforementioned things. There is a popular saying which is, success leaves clues. If you want to do something, follow the examples of those who have already done it successfully. Your chances of success increase monumentally.
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