Updated: Mar 23, 2020
4 Powerful Steps you need to take now:
Does the pandemic have you stressed about the impact it will have on your business?
If so you're not alone. Many other business owners and leaders have the same concerns and have reacted this week with various tactics to remain operational during this initial quarantine phase.
I've shared quite a few conversations with CEO's and business leaders this week and their tactfulness & optimism in the face of this unexpected challenge has been inspiring to me.
Here are a few quotes from those conversations:
"....get access to cash if you don't have it." How much? "As much as you can get, the more the better. Even if you don't need it for cash flow there will be opportunities to invest in and you'll be glad you have it."
"...start thinking of new ways to do business and win new customers. forget about the world as you knew it - things are different now. We closed our first customer over video conference this week and are looking to repeat that success"
"......we need to look at the glass as still being half full, our share of the market was 5% before this COVID 19 hit us, So-what if the market decreases 20-30%??.... there is still a lot of opportunity and prospects we have never touched. The real challenge is how can we transform the sales team from "order-takers" to "order makers"?
Now that we have had some time to process our thoughts and concerns this will have on the economy, the question we should be asking is: what new strategies and processes can you implement to recession-proof your business? What can you do to transform your sales team for "order takers to order makers"?
If you're open to new ideas here are 4 powerful steps you can take with your sales department that will help save your business from a potentially dramatic decline.
Step I: Develop a Strategic Sales Plan
A strategic sales plan should contain more than the results you wish to achieve. Most of you probably have a top line and bottom line goal and some have a detailed list of prospects you want to do business with. However few will achieve their 2020 goals as big companies will slash spending, projects will be put on hold, and new business will become more competitive than ever to win.
A well crafted plan takes your goals and analyzes what it's going to take to grow like you have probably never done before. If you're like most, your growth plan started by applying a percentage increase to last year's numbers. While that's fine here is what best practice suggests you do to achieve that goal:
Our 1 page sales plan takes your goal and factors that against your current backlog or bookings and how much of your prior years business can be expected to recur in the year forward. Next you take how much your existing customers can be counted on for growth (increase share of wallet) as well as considering the necessary "churn" or attrition factors due to the pandemic and other ordinary factors. (note: A well developed and managed pipeline makes these steps more accurate.)
When all those numbers are considered, you will have a “new business” number needed that will tell you the # of new customers or deals you need to win to achieve your goal or target.
That was the easy part.
The challenging part of your plan involves:
•defining your ideal target market (probably resembles your most profitable customer)
￼•the audience that you need to speak with (decision makers, not gate keepers)
•problems or gains your company can solve.
Once these are clarified to your team, the final step is authoring effective messages your team needs to deliver this audience to make the emotional connections necessary to get appointments. These meetings should pave the way for meaningful conversations and ultimately lead to new business won.
Step II: Sales Process
Perhaps the most powerful step to take and the one that has the most proven impact when implemented successfully is a milestone-centric Sales Process.
Harvard & Objective Management Group studies have shown companies that successfully implement a sales process have experienced a 17-19% increase in sales the subsequent year. For those of you that are asking how a sales process is such a powerful driver I provide you my opinion why:
Accountability which most companies struggle with relies on a leading activity KPIs born from a sales process. Could you imagine a ball coach keeping their team accountable and focused if there was no playbook, structure & order to their practices and games?
Everywhere you look managers in various functions and organizations struggle to hold their teams accountable. When issues such as this are so pervasive we know that we do not have a "people" issue, rather the problems are systemic.
As stated above, accountability to perform the key activities and keeping score of those produces the results you want like clock-work. The choice to perform the key activities will remain up to the individual however should be clearly communicated as a minimum condition for employment. If this sounds harsh, you wouldn't keep your bookkeeper around if they failed to perform their essential duties each week, would you?
The data on this is clear: 90% of all companies have no formal sales process that has been clearly defined, communicated, and implemented. It's no mystery to me why so many struggle with accountability.
Step III: People
Without the right people in the right roles successfully executing even the best planned strategies and processes are nearly impossible. It takes people to produce the key activity and interactions with prospects that lead to successful outcomes. Without a healthy balance of mindset and skills the “wrong” person will never succeed.
Accepting the importance of having the right people in the right role and doing something about it don't need to mutually exclusive. Evaluating your team's capabilities and more importantly taking steps to get them there is not simple. If it was, more companies would have mastered this step and not be so frustrated with their team's lack of motivation & performance.
Getting the right people in the right role is not something you can do with simply a subjective or observational approach. You can't just use results either because we know not everyone has the same starting point each year and you'll risk giving up on people you should have kept and developed. These methods are far too prone for error & you don't want to use the same approach developing your team as you did when you acquired them because we know how that works.
Using objective assessment tools is the most powerful, efficient, and cost-effective method to achieving this. These assessments are completed on-line and reports can be produced within a week or two. Objective Management Group's sales evaluations have been 3rd party validated to reliably and accurately provide you 3 essential findings.
Do your people have:
1) the "Will to Sell"?
2) the right Sales DNA or mindset?
3) Skills required to perform their role?
Answering "no" to questions 1 or 2 is a quick "tell" that you probably have the wrong person in the wrong role because 80% of sales effectiveness is tied to "Will & Mindset" components. A low "Will to Sell" or a "Sales DNA" score have been proven to take 12-24 months to correct. If you're not that patient you may want to consider finding that person a new role.
Skills are important to evaluate but not a dis-qualifier because they can be taught and learned in reasonable time frames needed to get that individual productive. Identifying these also takes the guesswork out of what your team's development needs are to improve their overall effectiveness.
Step IV: Performance Coaching
Now that you've taken three huge steps of developing your strategy, processes, and evaluating your people you're in position to "coach" your team to the behaviors required to produce predictable results.
Implementing regular coaching insures the behavior changes needed will stick and provides the needed checkpoint for the accountability measures created in your sales process. How often do you need to coach? Moses had it right with Commandment #4, keep a weekly schedule.
Your progress with these 4 steps will become evident in a dramatically improved pipeline. You will quickly see new activity with previously stalled opportunities, more reliable forecasting for future orders, and a steady flow of new opportunities entering your funnel each week.
Science shows us that 90% of what we learn is from active coaching and real world application. Equipping your managers with proven coaching techniques such as "G_R_O_W" and "Win-Learn-Change" will empower them to have productive conversations and remove the anxiety that prevents tough conversations. How your managers engage their coaching conversations is just as critical as the having the conversations.
The final step is to write down your 90 day priorities on your sales plan and list the owner and the completion date.
If you're ready to make these 4 steps part of your new strategic plan & would like to see if you're a candidate for our 90 day Executive Coaching program please reach out.
Register for a free 15 minute strategy session here & we will help you identify the resources and options available to get started
"A What without a When is a Never"
Frank Niekamp, Principal