Taking the leisurely cruise up the Danube River gave me time to reflect, consider and think long and carefully about the role of senior management in developing a highly productive sales force.
I concluded that there are two roles that must be assumed, and they are very different from each other. This commentary will address them.
To a very great extent, whether we win or lose is largely within our own control
Excellent management requires effective and regular communication and it requires that a clear set of expectations, reporting and metrics that are aligned with the business plan are developed and implemented.
Clearly defining the path/vision
It is an unfortunate statistic that more than 70% of the time, organizational leadership is a major cause of their employees’ unproductive behavior.
Management involves effective communication of the vision, direction, organizational standards, core values and expectations often. A “vision” statement that nobody can quote isn’t sufficient. And as management, it’s critically important to know what your salespeople are saying about you, the firm and its products. If management doesn’t explain these cultural doctrines often thereby assuring each person “owns” the message, then they will develop one on their own, and it may or may not reflect the firm, its products, management and direction correctly and/or adequately. Its managements responsibility to see that’s they both know and can deliver their message in way that is in alignment with the firms culture.
Too often companies focus nearly exclusively on the features and benefits of their products in their training meetings, overlooking this additional critical aspect.
Defining Expectations and Responsibilities
It’s equally as important to devote significant organizational and personal time with direct reports to ensure employees understand what their roles and responsibilities are; exactly how they will be measured and compensated and what latitudes/freedom of individual expression they will be allowed/expected to demonstrate in making decisions.
Finally, they need to understand what communication will be expected from them, at what frequency and for what reasons.
Accountability and Performance Metrics:
People do what is inspected, not necessarily what is expected
Its management’s responsibility to develop metrics that align with the business plan, the corresponding compensation plans and performance expectations that assures them the right things are being done at the right time, for the right reason and in the right order. These metrics should include recognition that responsiveness is the most important metric in today’s marketplace.
They should also recognize two other critically important aspects of business today:
- It’s a reputation economy …and
- It’s a referral marketplace
A firm’s reputation is published for all to see every day in several social media sites. Management needs to know that its reputation is accurate, watched and adverse reports are dealt with quickly.
It is said that the average sale requires 5 personal calls, but those with a reference buy in only 3 calls. Management’s metrics need to recognize that fact and measure for “referenceable” accounts. If they do they can instantly improve sales productivity by 40%!
The will to win means little without the will to prepare
A significant asset is a company’s customers and management must become slavishly devoted to them and the processes that drive new ones- customer’s need to be at the center of the decision process and far too often they are not.
This is true for the sales meeting as well. The customer/prospect needs to be the primary focus. A meeting looking for ways to close sales sooner rather than in accordance with the buyers natural process violates the “trust bond” principle and results in a lose/lose situation. The customer loses because he has been asked to violate his normal purchase process to accept the new deal offered as an incentive to buy sooner; the company loses because more often than not the “new deal” involves an economic incentive which means the company loses some of its margin, the salesperson loses commission and the worst of all, the customer has learned a lesson regrading when and how to buy, which he’ll use going forward to his best advantage.
Sales meetings need to be about the discipline of sales! Does the salesperson’s plan for the prospect prove:
- He knows the prospects business model and likely competition
- He knows who he needs to reach in the company
- He has a plan for reaching him which may include a reference
- He knows how he can make the prospect want to see him
After the introductory meeting can he show:
- He learned from the prospect, he heard him describe his problems, his dreams, his fears and/or his opportunities
- He has an offering that provides a solution to the prospects most immediate need
And leadership’s role is to determine where the sales process may bog down and offer ways to work with and alongside the salesperson to eliminate the barrier and help move the sale forward. Always reminding the salesperson that the prospect will invoke the 3 F’s when he selects a vender.
- Does this feel like a vendor they can trust and want to do business with?
- Will the solution offered meet or exceed their requirements?
- Is the price a fair one and within their ability to purchase it?
Only through effective collaboration and communication can a workforce move forward with commitment and passion.