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Introduction

Arecent study by a major consulting firm showed that a large percentage of CEOs think that their sales forces are underperforming. I think that they are right. Product superiority wins less than half the time. The difference is a sales force that can consistently leverage your advantages through the right people and the right issues in the right accounts.

This book gives you a way to assess yourself and your organization to see how you compare with your true potential and how you compare with the best practices of the rest of the sales world. What you get out of this book depends on what your particular pain is and how much change you want in your sales organization.

Doing the same things year after year and expecting different results has been used as one definition of insanity. And a system cannot change itself from within. It needs input and feedback from outside to adapt to change. Sales techniques and technologies obviously will continue to evolve as they have for the last 30 years. The firms we mention are the ones we are aware of, and I am sure we have missed some worthy others. And some of the companies that we mention in this book could well be out of business by the time it reaches print. But the practices that they enable will be continued by other firms or inside sales organizations because they provide improvement and advantage.

However, a common pain of many sales executives is adoption—how to make any training or technology stick. Awareness alone of best practices will not yield competitive advantage—only consistent discipline and execution will. This book will share with you the ways that other firms have made competitive advantage happen.

SECTION I: BIGGEST PROBLEMS, BEST PRACTICES

CHAPTER 1. MANAGERS, TELL ME WHERE IT HURTS

How does a sales organization measure its true potential anyway? Making quota is an arbitrary measure; it just keeps your job in most places. But how much of the pie could you have gotten if you had performed to your full potential? What if each rep had made goal? What if all the reps had won every deal they pursued? Why don’t they? What if discounts had been one percent less? What if new people got up to speed faster? What if they knew when to qualify out of bad deals? What if new products had been launched better? What if you had retained all your best reps? What is the gap between what you did do and what you could do?

And if there is a gap between what you know to do and how your organization is actually performing, then what is causing this weakness in execution, and how can you get better?

My first book, Hope Is Not A Strategy, generated more than 150 speeches and gave me the opportunity to evaluate hundreds of sales organizations worldwide. In meeting with these sales executives, three recurring themes surfaced:

(1) common knowledge is not always common practice,

(2) some sales executives are satisfied with merely catching up to the state of the art 15 years ago because it’s what they are comfortable with, and

(3) very few sales organizations are closed-loop continuously improving systems—instead, they improve in fits and starts.

There often seems to be a gap between what companies know to do and how they consistently perform. Although there are processes in place, many have fallen into disuse. Moreover, what sales managers really want to know is, how do we compare? What are the differences between what we’re doing and the best practices of great sales organizations? How do we make anything stick? Finally, what innovations do we need to get ahead? And then how do we stay ahead?

This was all so natural when I was a sales rep. But now, I’m a manager and the challenges are all different. How do I get it out of my head and into their heads?

I just accepted a job managing a 100 person sales force that has consistently missed their forecast and quota quarter after quarter.

Though some of our people have good individual selling skills, they lack strategy. I’m not always sure they are in the right accounts or selling to the right people. There is no consistent process.

There’s a CRM (client relationship management) tool in place, but no consistency of usage. Most salespeople use one tool for overall strategy, another for pain and linkage, and still another for account analysis — all from different vendors. Some don’t use anything.

None of them are integrated and most of the time, forecasting is done on spreadsheets.

As a whole, our salespeople are short-term, opportunistic, revenue-focused, beginning every quarter thinking about the quarter at hand, rarely planning ahead. Most deals are ignored by the managers until they’re in their last 90 days, sometimes less. Consequently, we lose and don’t really know why.

We are a public company, so the ability to realistically forecast revenue is important. More than once, sloppy forecasting has forced managers to throw hugely discounted deals at customers before they’re ready to buy. Last quarter, our CEO was embarrassed by a bad quarter caused by deal slippage and the stock dropped 20 percent. We can’t let that happen again.

Some people do the right thing sometimes, but there is no consistency or discipline. There’s no process or best practices in place for our most talented people to repeat their performance on a regular basis.

How do we make winning a habit around here?

How Good Do We Need to Be? How Good Is Good?

Sales managers are unique among managers because they are almost always evaluated by four levels of performance:

1. Are you executing well enough what you already know how to do?

2. Are you at least executing the best practices of others in your industry?

3. What “next practices” and innovations can you do right now to get ahead of your competitors?

4. What feedback and continuous improvement processes will make these initiatives self-correcting organizational habits that drive perpetual advantage?

So what are the universal tools that executives apply to sales managers? That’s easy — more pressure, flog the forecast, cheerlead, and maybe a little more money.

This is what most do, but not what the best do. They do it differently. To discover how they do it, you will need to take a little journey with me through this book. We will look at your practices, the practices many of our clients have used successfully, and the practices that are executed well by the very best in the business. And as we do it, we will explore a transformational map that can institutionalize those practices that you most need right now.

So let’s get started. To begin, see if you can find yourself anywhere in the dozen most common problem areas that sales managers face.

The Deadly Dozen: The 12 Biggest Pains Sales Managers Feel Today

When we talk to sales executives and managers at organizations and ask where they are weak, their responses generally fall into 12 categories.

1. Unclear Sales Process, No Common Language

“It takes forever to discuss an account around here. It takes almost an hour just to tell the ‘story’ and then I’m not sure if we’ve covered everything or have a clear strategy. We don’t know what we don’t know. There’s got to be a more efficient and effective way to strategize deals on a global basis.”

2. Missed Forecasts—Happy Ears, Surprises

“We understand that a positive mental attitude is good, but it can interfere with sound judgment. Some of our salespeople and managers are habitually overoptimistic about their chances of winning. How do we make sure that deals are being coached and evaluated by our more experienced managers?”

3. Qualification, Chasing Bad Deals

“We agree that there’s a fine line between qualifying out and quitting. Everyone in sales knows that you don’t get into a deal you don’t think you can win. But who decides what is winnable? We don’t have agreed-upon criteria that constitute an unworthy deal.”

4. Selling Too Low—We Can’t Sell to Executives

     

 

2011 - 2018