Sales Management Challenges: 2 of 6 - Building the Right Team

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review reports on current research into teamwork. It seems that the fault may lie more with managers who do not know how to get the best out of their teams rather than the team members themselves.

I'd like to share the benefits of my 30-year experience in sales and marketing with you. This series of blogs tackles 6 of the top sales management challenges with sound advice and a practical 'do today' tip.

Sales Challenge #2: Considerations for building the right team

Whatever you are selling requires the right team to maximize its sales.

Are you ...

  • selling a commodity or a solution?

  • selling to accounts where you are upselling and cross selling?

  • selling new business into new name, "new logo" accounts?

  • selling a product that takes hours to sell or months?

  • selling locally or nationally or internationally?

Not every salesperson is suited to every type of sale.  

Given the choice, I would do new business rather than manage accounts. It suits my temperament (and I really don't mind cold calling!) but this does not suit everyone.  

Consider: How long is your sales cycle?  
Many sales people need the constant motivation of getting orders every day. Others don't mind a longer sales cycle, and in fact, prefer getting one big order every so often--usually it's less paperwork to contend with!  

Some sales folks enjoy the technical challenge of selling solutions and writing detailed proposals and RFP responses and all that entails whilst some people are happy just quoting and selling commodities.

As Lord Alan Sugar once said, "Pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap." (For my non UK audience, he is the businessman that did the UK version of The Apprentice).

Consider your customers: who are you selling to, at what level do you need your salesperson to operate, and what does the customer expect?  
We worked on a project a couple of years ago to develop a global account process for a client selling in the credit card sector. For the position of 'Global Account Director' (aka salesperson) for one account, we hired an ex-divisional GM - that was the level of experience it took to manage the account to the level the customer wanted.

Here is the point I am getting at: when it comes to sales people, one size does not fit all and while that seems like a blinding glimpse of the obvious, you would be surprised at just how often sales managers hire a mismatched sales person for the job.

No point whatsoever (well, rarely) hiring an account manager to do new business or a new business hunter to manage accounts.  Biggest mistake we see is a sales guy used to getting lots of orders at a [comparatively] low value being given a job selling a few orders at a high value.

Do-today Tip #2: Create a person profile to go with the job description when you are hiring. Use some tools to ensure the person is matched to your specific sales role and the temperament the role needs, not just the skills.  Brief your recruiter or HR professional about the 'type' of salesperson you need--a hunter, a farmer, a solution seller, a commodity seller, a collaborative seller.

Next time, we'll take a look at how to choose the right spot on the
'sales management continuum' to get your sales management style right to match the team.

Read more: see my last blog 


Is Building the Right Sales Team a challenge for your orgainzation? What have you been doing about it? How has that been working out for you? Like an answer to a question? Our readers would love to hear your thoughts and help with your queries.  Comment below to start a dialog.

Posted in Articles, Best Damn Sales Blogs, Sales Management. Tagged as building a team, hiring, recruiting, sales leadership, sales management, sales team.

Sales Management Challenges: 1 of 6 - How to Create Clearly Defined Sales Processes and Sales Objectives

Read Forbes, Fortune, or any other top sales and business publication. What will you find? Articles about the top sales challenges commonly faced, no matter which product or service you are marketing.
I'd like to share the benefits of my 30-year experience in sales and marketing with you. This series of blogs tackles 6 of the top sales challenges with sound advice and a practical 'do today' tip.
Sales Challenge #1: How to create clearly defined sales processes and sales objectives
If you don't know where you are going, you are almost certainly not going to get there.
Sales organizations need a road map--the sales process; you need to know what you need to do at each stage of the process, what KPIs to expect at each stage, and how to get sales opportunities through the process from lead to closure.
Then, your sales organization needs to follow that process (preferably mapped in CRM) so you can measure and report on each stage of the sale.
Likewise, for each deal, there is a need for a clearly defined sales objective--what are you selling, for how much, and when.
Do-today Tip #1: Build yourself a dashboard so you can track who has got what in the pipeline, what stage it is at and that the KPIs are being met.
Next time, we'll take a look at how to build the right team.
How has your organization been dealing with this challenge? Have a great story or hot tip to share? Any questions? Our online community looks forward to reading your comment or answering your question below.

Posted in Articles, Best Damn Sales Blogs.

Get out of your comfort zone

Just when you are expecting the order the competition side swipe you by being politically aligned with the decision makers, unfortunately you were speaking to the wrong people - has this ever happened to you?

Time and time again we see sales and business development people doing a great job at presenting their products, services and solutions but sadly they are doing a great job with the wrong people.  They are in their comfort zone - talking with IT and technical people, administrators, HR folks - everyone except the "line of business managers"  who own the business problem that their solution addresses.

Understand the Power Base (the people in the organization making and / or influencing decisions about purchasing what you are selling) and get people other than technical and operations people voting for you.

So get out of your comfort zone - identify the people in the business that own the business problem and contact them too.  Not about technology but about what you can do for them from a business and personal perspective. 

Posted in Articles. Tagged as complex selling, political alignment, Political plan, Power Base Selling, relationship selling, selling in your comfort zone, solution selling.

Business Planning - you'll never take a business plan seriously again, once you have read this!

Business Plan Speak Plain English True Meaning
Acquisition strategy The current products have no market
Broadly on plan 20% below plan
Complex architecture Unworkable design
Core business Only activity
Currently revising the budget Financial plan is in total chaos
Cyclical industry Made a huge loss last year
Entrepreneurial MD Slightly mad, totally uncontrollable and definitely irresponsible
Extrapolation Sheer guesswork
Illustrative projections Don't blink
Investing heavily in R&D Trying desperately to catch the opposition
Leading edge technology Doesn't work
Life sciences application You won't live to see it work
Limited downside It can't get much worse
Long lead time We haven't made one that works yet
Major opportunity Last chance
Marketing-driven One salesman: with a Ford Mondeo
Niche strategy A small time player
People business The only assets have two legs, one interest and no loyalty
Performance ratchet Heads we win; tails they lose
Pro-active stance Quick to latch on to other people's ideas
Proven technology It nearly worked once before
Repositioning the business We're lost
Revised budget Downgrade to actual
Salaries are not competitive CEO wants a rise
Shorter project life cycles We've just finished copying market leader when he brought out a new model
Strategic alliance Know their phone number
Synergistic acquisition Two minuses make a plus
Temporary cash flow problem About to go bust
Under-capitalised Negative net assets
Unique No more than ten direct competitors
Uniquely positioned No-one else mad enough to be in this position
Upside potential It's stopped breathing.  An investment could be the kiss of life
Vertically integrated Series of rotten business piled one on top of the other
Volume sensitive Massive fixed overheads
Window of opportunity Without more money, the company is dead

Posted in Articles. Tagged as Business Plan, Business plan speak, Humour, Plain english.

Social Media – are you forgetting you still need to sell?

In my long, and some would say illustrious, sales career I have seen two paradigm shifts in the sales business.  One was the in the early 1990's - the adoption of en masse telesales in the B2B market, the second is Social Media Networking.
Telephone selling is, by and large, great.  Over the past two decades my company has developed for and with our clients many skills and techniques for B2B solution selling by telephone it can be productive, increases profits and lets you win incremental business by increasing your reach often globally with dramatically lower operating costs.
Social Media (Social Media Networking - SMN) on the other hand worries me, let me tell you why.
It used to be that the seller proactively generated the sales lead and controlled the sales process whilst the buyer controlled the purchase (with the sales person admittedly running interference!).  Now with SMN the prospect or customer controls YOUR lead generation, YOUR sales process and THEIR buying process.  Sometimes you don't even get to pitch and your superior product loses out to an inferior product that was marketed and sold "differently".
I am not against SMN but I think particularly for B2B selling - we all need to get it into perspective and not be quite so quick to abandon some of the tried and tested prospect lead generation and sales techniques ask how many people are using targeted snail mailers again, ask why if SMN is the instant panacea General Motors and others have pulled multi million dollar campaigns.
Remember, in the gold rush the people making the money were the people selling the picks and shovels not the people digging for gold.  Sometimes we are so busy social media networking that we mistake activity for results and whilst all the popular SMNs and inbound marketing organizations are generating huge revenues, are we so busy being busy we are forgetting we still need to generate leads and sell.

Posted in Articles. Tagged as Confusing activity for results, SMN, Social Media.

Marginal [sales] performance improvement

Dave Brailsford, the visionary UK Cycling team coach, believes that by breaking down and identifying every tiny aspect of an athlete's performance and then making just a 1% improvement in each area the athlete's overall performance can be significantly enhanced.
He is right - look at the results UK cycling continues to achieve.
Now think about selling, I have recently worked with VERY experienced sales team, initially I thought what I am going to teach these guys.
Then I realized my job was not to teach them but to "performance coach" them.  Get them thinking about all the things they do and then look for marginal improvement in many areas.
Look at the [typical] sales cycle and the number of calls you make to secure an order.  If you could make a marginal improvement on your sales performance at every stage, with every skill, on every visit, then how much more successful could you be?
Read more

Posted in Articles.

13 questions you should ask about your business development activity

I recently gave a key note speech about business development - "The Anatomy of an Enterprise Sale".  I wrapped up the speech with 13 (unlucky for some) key questions you should ask yourself about your business development activity, lots of people liked these - they are great reminders!

  1. Are you planning to fail or failing to plan
  2. Are you consciously using all your skills or running on autopilot?
  3. Are you confusing activity with results?
  4. Are you becoming too dependent too few prospects, solutions, markets and customers?
  5. Are you giving your prospects a good reason to meet you?
  6. Are you qualifying your opportunities objectively or are you kidding yourself?
  7. Are you offering a solution that is a nicety or a necessity?
  8. Are you talking to all the right people - decision influencers and decision makers?
  9. Are you mapping the political landscape?
  10. Are you winning support from the right people?
  11. Are you differentiating your offer only on price?
  12. Are you submitting a proposal or is it really a quote?
  13. Are you really asking for the order? 
Read more

Posted in Articles. Tagged as business development, Enterprise sales, solution selling.

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