10 Critical Best Practices for Your Sales Force in This Crisis

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Apr 27, 2020 @ 11:04 AM

superman

We are in week 6 of lockdown, week 8 of voluntary work-from-home, while adapting, guiding and directing companies who still need to sell their products and services to generate revenue.  At this point sales is about so much more than generating revenue for profit or to keep employees working.  For most companies, sales is now about generating revenue to survive, as we stare down a whole new way of doing business.  Forget uncertainty!  Where we are right now is downright scary.  But if the past 6 weeks have taught us anything, it's that with the right tools, strategies, mindset and tactics, we can adapt and even thrive.  For those who may read this after May 1, 2020, the following best practices are based on where we are as I write this on April 27, 2020.  

Everyone Has a Remote Sales Team - It's not just the geographically distributed sales teams anymore; it's everyone, and we need to consider the biggest challenges of leading remote sales teams:

  • Not everyone is tech savvy, especially in some old-school industries like building products, industrial distribution, and historical face-to-face selling environments.  You must set proper expectations about using phone and video, require all meetings to be virtual instead of phone, and provide proper training on using video technology.
  • Not everyone is well-suited for working from home.  I'm not talking about the ability to focus without distraction.  I'm talking about whether your salespeople have the DNA for working from home, independent of their team, and without supervision; whether they are self-starters and have the necessary time and organizational skills to work on their own for an extended period of time.  Working from home is not temporary.  This will continue even after the lockdown is in the rear view mirror because as long as kids are at home (no school, no summer camp), parents will be at home too and customers may not be ready to have outsiders visiting their offices and plants.  Also consider that some salespeople aren't able to handle the emotional disconnect from being isolated from friends, co-workers, families and customers.
  • Daily Huddles - Despite years of yelling from the rooftops that sales leaders must lead a quick daily huddle with their teams, it didn't happen.  It just wasn't convenient - for the leaders!  And despite the proven benefits of such huddles, most resisted while some compromised and ran weekly huddles.  The resistance and compromises must end.  You must huddle with your team twice per day to keep them connected, share success stories and demonstrate that we are in this together.
  • Coverage - salespeople will be able to cover their territories more efficiently than ever before.
  • Cost - Having your salespeople sell remotely is much more cost-effective.

Motivation - Your salespeople are scared.  They are looking to you for reassurance, positivity, motivation, success stories, support, guidance, direction and hope.  They are afraid:

  • Will they be able to make calls without offending people?
  • Will they be able to schedule virtual meetings?
  • Will they be able to sell over video/phone?
  • Will they be able to close anything in the short term?
  • Will they be able to keep their jobs?

Call Reports - I can't think of a single reason why you would waste salespeople's time by having them complete call reports.  Consider:

  • They use same piece of hardware for virtual meetings and emails as they do to access your CRM application.  Gone are the days where they were on the road, on site with a customer, on sales calls, in a hotel or airport or home too late without enough time to update CRM.  No more excuse making.
  • They must update CRM in real time,  as they complete each conversation, virtual meeting and call.  
  • You must make real time updates a condition of continued employment.  In the current environment of 15% unemployment, this requirement has teeth.
  • It's like spaghetti sauce - it's in there.  Everything you could possible ask for in a call report will be in the dashboard and/or reporting section of your CRM application.  Ditch the call reports.

Pipeline The one thing that every salesperson can do right now is build pipeline.  My conversations with CEOs reveal two problems:  Delayed closes and insufficient pipelines to compensate so:

  • Go on offense! Every salesperson - even account managers and farmers, should be all in, all hands on deck pipeline building mode right now.  If they won't do it you don't need them!  25 million people have already filed for unemployment in the US so 2.5 million are probably salespeople.  Unlike just three months ago when your salespeople were in the driver's seat, your salespeople can be replaced!
  • Phones - They're being used as talking devices again!  We haven't witnessed this kind of reconnection with the phone since administrative assistants were replaced by automated voicemail systems.  Executives are taking and returning calls and you should not allow your salespeople to hide behind their monitors using emails to reach out when people are answering their cell phones!
  • Viability - You need a comprehensive viability analysis of your pipeline to determine how much is high quality, how much is properly staged, and how much you will realistically win.  Without the viability analysis your forecast is a complete fabrication.

Coaching - Forget 50% of your time coaching!  It needs to be 75% of your time.  You have the time, even if you are responsible for personal accounts.  Every salesperson, every day, for a minimum of 30-minutes of one-on-one coaching to:

  • Coach them up
  • Coach them through opportunities
  • Debrief completed calls
  • Join them on calls (easier than ever)

KPI's -  It's time to rethink your KPI's:

  • Focus on Pipeline Building KPI's!  Dials, Conversations and Virtual Meetings Scheduled. 
  • Add KPI's for opportunities that advanced to the next stage, opportunities that were pushed back to a prior stage, and opportunities that are no longer valid.  Counting only the good stuff is head-in-the-sand leadership.

Targeting - It's more important than ever! 

  • You may have lost entire Verticals (like travel/tourism), Segments (small specialty retail is a segment of retail) or Audiences (sales enablement and learning and development have been casualties). 
  • Target the verticals, segments and audiences that you can sell to now, that are continuing to do business.
  • Consider selling something different than what you usually sell to existing customers and seeking new customers for what you typically sell.
  • Your competition may not have been affected in the same way that you were, especially if they have other channels, verticals, products and services than what you offer.  Will they be concentrating more or less of their efforts on your target market?
  • Hard to Reach Opportunities are no longer hard to reach for territory salespeople.  They can reach them virtually!

Critical SkillsI can't be more clear about this and you have no option but to do something about this. If your salespeople continue to take a present/demo/quote/proposal-based approach to selling they will fail and the only business you will get will be low-margin business.  Only 15% of all salespeople have all four of the critical skills below as a strength: 

  • A Consultative approach, based on listening and asking questions, is the only way to differentiate your salespeople from your competitors
  • Value-Based selling, where your salespeople are the value, is the only way to maintain margins.  If you attempt to be competitive your only revenue will be low to no margin revenue and you will fail.  This is not talking about value; this is being the value.
  • Thorough qualifying.  You can't afford for your salespeople to be wasting time on opportunities that are no longer viable; but they will if you don't require thorough qualifying and justification for pursuit, and add verification and accountability.
  • Staged, milestone-centric, customer-focused sales process that supports the consultative, value-based, approach.

Right-Sizing - I'm sorry but you can't put this off.  There is no way around this.  You must do this today, unless you got PPP funding, in which case you must do this at 60 days post-funding!  You must be able to generate more revenue with fewer salespeople

  • Consider factors other than revenue and performance. 
  • Also consider overhead (sales expenses other than commissions)
  • Suitability for the role they are in (half of all salespeople are not well-suited for the roles they are in
  • Suitability for working from home (see remote sales team above - 41% of all salespeople are not well-suited for working from home)
  • Pipeline viability (see Pipeline above - 43% of all salespeople lack viable pipelines right now) 
  • Critical skills for selling in this environment - (See critical skills above - 85% of all salespeople are lacking these skills)
  • OMG's SmartSizing tool allows you to run a complete viability analysis on your sales organization to right-size it today.

Hire Salespeople - If you have the cash flow to hire salespeople, do it now.  This is the first time in about five years that good candidates are available and actively looking for their next home.  Just make sure:

  • Don't make any mistakes in your rush to hire
  • Use OMG's trusted, accurate, customizable (for the role) and predictive sales candidate assessment.
  • Rework your sales recruiting process for the current times.  You need to get every aspect right from the ad you post to your onboarding.

Get Help!  Sure you want to be a superhero but Kryptonite brought Superman to his knees and the enemy we are fighting today is our version of Kryptonite. Don't be embarrassed to ask an expert for help.

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, Salesforce, sales pipeline, b2b sales, best practices, remote selling

When Sales Coaching, Best Practices and Books are Ignored

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 06, 2013 @ 06:05 AM

reinventingthewheelAt dinner on Saturday night, our guest, a friend who recently changed careers and now finds himself in the financial services world, mentioned that he isn't selling the way that the other successful brokers are doing it.  (He doesn't have any business either.)  He mentioned that he read my book, Baseline Selling, and said that he didn't find anything useful in there.  You've got to be kidding me!  Anyway, those 3 data points (not following best practices, no business, nothing useful there) would be quite useful to a sales manager who wanted to coach him up or hold him accountable for change.  While reinventing the wheel doesn't work, in his industry, it's simply a case of survival of the fittest.  Proactive coaching and accountability are rare and often mutually exclusive with first year salespeople.  As a matter of fact, one financial services sales management team found nothing of value in an entire two-day sales leadership event last year, while the other 45 attendees (from mixed industries) all provided testimonials saying it was the single best training event that they ever attended.  Like I always say, consider the source...

Without a doubt, the highlight of any Sales Management or Sales Leadership program is always the 6 hours we spend on coaching.  We look at coaching from 3 perspectives:

  1. Creating an environment where coaching can be successful - A terrific sales coach would fail if brought into an environment where:
    • people are resistant, 
    • they don't trust his intentions, 
    • they are disrespectful of her experience and expertise,
    • they haven't yet developed good relationships 
    • and more...
  2. The theory, logic and flow of effective coaching - There is absolutely a right way versus a wrong way; and an effective versus an ineffective approach to coaching salespeople and more importantly, coaching them up, to improve, to change.
  3. Examples, demonstrations, role-plays and discussion of effective coaching - This is the nitty gritty of the coaching time - 3 hours of real, live, recorded coaching with discussion - attendees listen, observe, question, challenge, emulate and master.  Then they have an opportunity to put it into practice prior to presenting their experience and settling in for 1 more hour of work on coaching.  I assembled a collage of coaching calls to give you a sense of what I'm talking about.  Think of this as the movie trailer or the introduction to a sporting event.  You don't get the entire scene or play, just a snippet before moving to another snippet.  Click here for a 3-minute preview.
Coaching is crucial to the success of any sales force; however, coaching without the context of an effective sales process, pipeline, metrics to drive revenue, motivation and accountability aren't enough.  So, our events integrate these additional elements to make for a well-rounded, comprehensive two days.
We have 4 seats remaining for our Sales Leadership Intensive in Boston next week (May 14-15, 2013) and if you or your sales leadership/management team want to make arrangements to attend, send me an email and we'll find a way to make it work on short notice.  Event details are here.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales leadership, Sales Coaching, seminar, workshop, best practices, symposium

Disagreement Over Sales Leadership Best Practices?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:07 AM

disagreementI read this recent article from the Harvard Business Review Blog about CEO's and the need for them to get serious about Sales.  Then there was this question from Focus.com wanting to know how to deal with a negative sales rep.

The article and the question are both quite benign.  My frustration is with the comments, where both the best and worst that social media has to offer grows.  Everyone becomes Rush Limbaugh - an expert in their own opinions - and many of those opinions are flat out wrong.  It's not just with the two examples above, it's with nearly every question that gets asked on LinkedIn.com, Focus.com, Task.fm, and other sites where, in many cases, the subject matter experts are the ones initiating the questions just to call attention to themselves.  And when sales leaders initiate the questions, how do they differentiate best practices from stupid practices?  

The problem is that they can't!  If they knew the best approach, they wouldn't ask the question in the first place.  And because they don't know the best approach, they align themselves with the answer that makes them feel the most comfortable - not necessarily the answer that provides the best results.

Experts don't always agree on best practices for the sales force.  Some don't have best practice success in multiple industries/markets.  Others lack expertise in all discliplines of optimizing a sales force.  Others are one-trick ponies - their expertise is limited to a single discipline. Other experts are laid-off or retired sales & marketing executives.  To whom should you listen?  Whose Blog should you read?  Whom should you believe?  Whom should you hire to help?

There are so many sites to visit for content.  I suggest that you use those sites as a means to identify experts who make you think, consistently provide good, solid, relevant, applicable, advice, and then follow them on their own blogs.  

When it comes to Sales Leadership Best Practices, here are two opportunities which could help:

Sales & Marketing Management

I presented the 5 Sales Management Best Practices for this Sales & Marketing Management Webinar.  Click here to view/listen to the archive.

Sales Leadership TrainingIf you want something a more comprehensive than a one-hour Webinar, join me in October for my renowned Sales Leadership Intensive - two days of comprehensive, interactive, entertaining, applicable, non-stop, unforgettable leadership training.  Click here to learn more and if you would like to attend, email me directly and I'll get you special pricing.

Topics: sales culture, Dave Kurlan, sales management, sales leadership, HBR, best practices

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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