Selling During an Economic Boom

A colleague recently asked me, “If demand is so high then why are so many salespeople still struggling to hit quota?”   I explained that during great economic times, most salespeople find themselves extremely busy, getting quotes out and handling smaller “in-bound” opportunities.  The challenge is that while the phones are ringing with lower level stakeholders calling to gather info and pricing, larger scale budgeted projects are few and far between.

During an economic up-swing, people are more risk averse, need more consensus on every decision, and have much less time to spend with salespeople. Unfortunately, most sales organizations are too busy responding to interest to take note of the severe decrease in closing percentages.  Rather than address the many mistakes being made throughout the sales process, they are simply throwing more sales support and technology at the issue, therefore reducing profitability and increasing the cost of every sale.

For most, the vision during strong economic times is to capture larger, more strategic accounts. Many take the first step toward this goal by assigning targets to the sales team. This is good start, but unfortunately just scratches the surface.

The key to real success is for sales management to help their reps develop an understanding of how power and influence work within these target accounts.  Why? Because great salespeople navigate their way through all the stakeholders in a target organization, aligning with the right influencers who can champion a project as well as the right decision makers who can approve itThis is an exhaustive effort that most salespeople will avoid in favor of conveniently throwing pricing and resources at lower level stakeholders. Oddly, it is more difficult for lower level stakeholders to obtain project approvals during good times than in a recession. While this may sound counterintuitive, the reality is people have more time to review projects, collaborate on change efforts, and are more open to improvement during a recession.

So how do sales organizations recalibrate for the present economic cycle?  First, we must reverse-engineer the way our people sell by correcting these top four mistakes they make during a “high tide” economy.

Mistake #1: Sales reps not working the entire decision team in each account.  Most will efficiently focus their sales efforts on the front-line managers.  During good economic times, these people are more than happy to receive a proposal that could streamline process, improve support or make their job easier. Typically, these mid-level managers mistake the nod of approval to evaluate a solution or vendor with the approval to make the change-decision and spend the money. The solutions they present to upper management are highly scrutinized against other priorities as well as any perceived business disruption.   It has never been more critical to gain access and alignment with all the decision makers from the C-level on down.

Mistake #2: The rep utilizes the “checkerboard approach” where they assume every stakeholder has the same concerns and issues.  They have a one-size-fits-all pitch/presentation, regardless of whom they are presenting to.  Salespeople who thrive in a great economy understand the lack of communication taking place internally at their prospect’s organization due to lack of time. They are aware that the mid-level stakeholder is driven by personal issues and concerns during a good economy rather than company initiatives. Instead of this one-size-fits-all approach, reps need to see a prospect organization as a chessboard, where each stakeholder is an individual with their own objectives and desired outcomes.  Reps need to pivot and change up the messaging based on the level of stakeholder they are meeting.

Mistake #3: Giving up too easily.  The rep assumes that if one person tells them there is no budget or need, then this is the case for the entire company.  A salesperson who thrives in a boom economy understands that there are many different doors into a company.  If one stakeholder says no, there are dozens within the organization with need and budget who can still say yes.

Mistake #4 This is the number one sales management mistake. Managers coaching reps efficiently rather than effectively.  When customer demand is up, most managers will efficiently focus their pipeline reviews on “closeable” deals forecasted at 50% or greater.  The challenge at this point in the cycle is that mistakes have already been made by the salespeople and it is too late to fix them.  During an economic high tide, reps need the most guidance on deals that are forecasted between 10-50%.  If coached and managed correctly, these early stage opportunities will stand a much greater chance of closure.

Peter Drucker, celebrated by BusinessWeek magazine as the man who invented management said, “Efficiency is doing things right, while effectiveness is doing the right things.” The focus during a high tide is on doing things right, but the cost of not doing the right things will most certainly become more apparent when the tide recedes.

 

Venator Sales Group is a Sales Consulting, Optimization, & Training firm with a laser-focus on improving every aspect of a client’s sales culture and sales performance. Founded over a decade ago by high-performing, professional sales practitioners, Venator combines a strategic sales management approach with real-world understanding of the factors necessary for success in today’s selling environment. Venator helps companies turn around inconsistent or lackluster sales performance by infusing a sales culture based on accountability, compliance, and critical thinking.

Contact Venator to learn how you can build a more successful, scalable sales team.

Phone – 914-220-5484, Email – Info@venatorsalesgroup.com

Follow us on LinkedIn.

The 4 Best Ways to Drive CRM Adoption

One of the most common complaints we hear from sales leadership, is the challenge with driving consistent usage of the company CRM.  No matter the size of the organization, sales managers from across the globe share the same frustration.

“Our salespeople are treating the company CRM as a glorified rolodex.”

“We have invested in expensive technology and our salespeople still aren’t using it properly!”

Sound familiar? Of course, it does.

At Venator, we have a saying, “you can’t coach what you can’t see, and you can’t manage what you don’t look at.”  If we are going to encourage the sales team to use the CRM, first we must drive management to use it as a coaching tool.  All too often we see companies attempt to make up for their lack of coaching culture by investing in CRM applications.  They spend money on administrators and consultants to customize reports and dashboards.  They spend even more for add-on applications meant to “optimize” the sales team’s use of CRM.  Although intentions are good, these solutions usually only cause confusion, frustration and a minimalist approach to entering data.  At best, salespeople are inconsistent in their use of the technology and at worst they refuse to use it altogether.

Start with Management

Most companies are learning that technology does not fix foundational management issues.  For sales management to show their commitment to the technology, it will require going far beyond reviewing activity dashboards, revenue reports, and exported pipeline spreadsheets.   If sales managers aren’t engaged and reviewing weekly call notes, opportunities at ALL stages of the pipeline, and behavior patterns related to hunting and closing, then the organization would be better tracking opportunities in spreadsheets and paper call logs. A company CRM is should be a tool for improving management coaching, not a band aid for lack of it.

Improve Communication

So where do we begin to make a change?  If we are going to solve the problem, we have to evaluate how we are communicating with our sales team.  For example, consider the typical email a manager sends to their team about their CRM usage.  For most, the focus is on keeping the opportunity pipeline current – asking the team members to update their opportunities by the weekend so the manager can compile their reports.  What message is this sending about the value of the CRM beyond opportunity tracking?

What if instead the email suggested that they update all meeting and call notes, new contacts found, as well as their opportunity pipeline with next steps, in prep for a weekly coaching session?  The key to driving adoption of the CRM is to transform it from being a reporting technology to becoming a tool for coaching and mentoring.

Repurpose the CRM

Instead of limiting the CRM to just a reporting tool, take a two-pronged approach to repurposing the CRM and turning it into a Coaching, Reviewing and Mentoring platform.  Drive all the communication into the company CRM by integrating coaching tools into the system. You can use the ability in most applications to create custom forms, commonly referred to as objects. These include Pre-call Plans, Deal Debriefs, Account Expansion, Weekly Sales Plans and Large Account Targeting tools. These objects drive CRM engagement by adding structure to the communication between managers and their salespeople.

It’s critical that these tools are not viewed as busy work.  They are coaching and mentoring tools meant to help managers work with salespeople during team meetings and coaching sessions.  By rolling up their sleeves and coming alongside their salespeople, management is leading by example to change company culture and effectively pulling the team into the CRM.

Read what they write

The second prong in repurposing the CRM is to use a scorecard when offering feedback and guidance.  We see too many companies trying to drive compliance using a fear-based approach, reducing commission if the deal is not in the CRM. Rarely does this tactic work.  Salespeople will carelessly add information at the last minute, simply to avoid penalty. When a manager is willing to take the time to fully review a salesperson’s account and contact activity, pipeline details, and all call notes from the week, it completely changes their level of engagement with their reps.  Using a scorecard to give feedback on detailed information added to CRM goes beyond glancing at the summary data generated by a report.

A manager can use a scorecard to offer feedback for three categories:

  • Compliance – Did the salesperson do what was expected and asked of them?
  • Accountability – Did the salesperson do what they said they would do?
  • Critical Thinking – Did they use the company sales process and think through each step?

This approach will create a culture shift that significantly changes the function of the company CRM.

If we want our salespeople to stop minimizing what they put into the CRM, we need to maximize what we get out.

 

Venator Sales Group is a Sales Consulting, Optimization, & Training firm with a laser-focus on improving every aspect of a client’s sales culture and sales performance. Founded over a decade ago by high-performing, professional sales practitioners, Venator combines a strategic sales management approach with real-world understanding of the factors necessary for success in today’s selling environment. Venator helps companies turn around inconsistent or lackluster sales performance by infusing a sales culture based on accountability, compliance, and critical thinking.

Contact Venator to learn how you can build a more successful, scalable sales team.

Phone – 914-220-5484, Email – Info@venatorsalesgroup.com

Follow us on LinkedIn.

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