Making Lofty Goals Realistic

Many organizations set goals that are not realistic and are in the habit of not meeting their objectives. Others achieve some of their goals by accident, and some could achieve a lot more. The first questions is, “Are your goals mandatory, or are they something you set out to try?” If they are mandatory, then I suggest you make sure that you are planning for success instead of failure. Many organizations set their goals without considering the obvious reasons they may not be achievable. By addressing these reasons up front, an organization can dramatically increase the likelihood of success or know that they must adjust them to something more realistic.

Here is a common list of possible circumstances that cause organizations not to achieve their goals:

  • Has consideration been given to the capacity of the target market (growing-shrinking) and what a realistic share of the market can be?
  • If revenue levels were achieved, considering seasonality effects, what is the ability of the organization to deliver the products and services at the optimum level while keeping its brand promises?
  • Can the company finance growth; should it grow faster than its ability to self-fund?
  • What advertising or marketing support will be needed to support the goals, and are there finances in place to support it?
  • How will competition respond to your strategic moves, and are your marketing and sales forces well prepared to properly differentiate the company?
  • What is the performance track record of the people that need to deliver, and will your new goals require a significant increase in performance?
  • Are there enough sales and sales support people based on: the amount of time to make the appropriate amount of sales calls; the number of meetings it will take to close a deal; how many proposals one has to write; the time it takes to process a deal, given the normal sales cycle, based on the average close ratio, the average size of deals closed, and travel time?
  • Will you need to introduce new products, by when, and how much of your sales volume depends on it?

Lofty goals require a regular regimen of adjusting your resources (time, people and money). As an organization answers the above questions, inevitably they should be considering upgrading some people, increasing some resources, moving some around, refocusing time, etc. Significant goals, those that require growth rates and increases in profit margins that are large improvements over prior years, need refinement on a monthly and quarterly basis. As we are trying things, we will make mistakes and/or see more opportunities for growth. The great leaders are the ones that are making these adjustments.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Conflict Avoidance Hurts Teamwork

A great way to tell whether you have a strong team is by the amount of regular, healthy conflicts that occur in meetings when decisions are being made and if decisions are really being made at all. It is often said that if everyone agrees than someone is not needed. This may be true but the real issue may be that the team dynamics in the organization has been broken. This breakage may be causing key people that can be contributing to stop contributing.

There are many leadership missteps that may be killing and destroying teamwork and cause conflict avoidance. Here are a few examples of when a leader can destroy the team.

  • Stopped being curious and really does not listen to people when issues are raised in meetings.
  • Intimidating or threatening so subordinates have fear of reprisal so they do not want to speak up.
  • History of judging people in the room (and voicing those judgments) when opinions differ from theirs or are not strong and thus people do not want to be vulnerable.
  • Appears to only be self interested.
  • Tendency to interrupt other team members before their idea may be completed.
  • Makes personal attacks when they are not getting their way.

According to Pat Lencioni’s book Five Dysfunction of Team, “fear of conflict” is one of the five dysfunctions that are critical to teamwork.  The leader has to make sure that this behavior is not tolerated, and that topics focus on the issues that need to be resolved. If everyone is not weighing in and openly debating and disagreeing on important ideas at your meetings, look for passive-aggressive behavior behind the scenes or back-channel attacks. What organizations find is that healthy conflict saves them a lot of time and leads to better decisions. The role of the leader is to practice restraint and to allow for conflict and resolution to occur naturally.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Optimizing Sales Force – Common Mistakes

There are two common mistakes companies make that cause them not to optimize their sales force. The first is self-diagnosis. Companies hire consultants to be their experts to help them improve their sales force, but have already decided what needs to be done in advance of the assessment. A CEO may have a lot of experience in sales, may be having and had success, know their business, and think they know their people. However, the reason to hire an external company is because they bring proven processes and tools to help perform a unique diagnosis of your organization to help you maximize your growth. Let them use it.

The second common mistake is to focus on traditional training. While people need to learn how to make phone calls, ask questions, close, and use other sales techniques, you need to find out why people are not doing these things to begin with. Typically, the reasons people don’t perform the way we want fall in to two areas: the values and belief systems of the sales management and the salespeople, and the systems and processes of the organizations. If you do not address both, training will not have much or impact on your growth.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

“That’s Interesting” Means What?

Dave Kurlan, my friend and colleague, hit the nail on the head with this latest blog post Top 5 Interesting Sales Tips. He brought up an issue about communication that is often overlooked. The issue relates to whether or not people are really listening during a conversation. This pertains to everyone and can be fatal in sales situations. For example, when your salespeople explain your technology, methods, or other key points of interest to their prospects, and the prospects respond with “That’s interesting!”… are your salespeople really listening?

What your salespeople really need to be considering is what does the other person mean? For example, they might be thinking:

  1. These guys might be on to something.
  2. This is so much better than what I’ve seen elsewhere.
  3. This is interesting – I’d like to learn more to better understand it.
  4. I do not understand, but I’m embarrassed to ask a question.
  5. I hate this, but I don’t want to hurt the salesperson’s feelings.

Many of us have learned that we need to be careful when hearing the two words “that’s interesting.” Too often it means either reason # 4 or #5 above! I’ll bet that I hear “Interesting” at least once per day from someone.

The only way to truly know is to ask, “Can you help me out? You just said this concept was interesting, and I’m not exactly sure what you mean. I know that sometimes when I hear “interesting,” the person really hates it … what do you mean?”

If you want to make sure that your salespeople don’t fall victim to happy ears, make sure that they clarify the use of words that can have multiple meanings, words that are vague and can be easily interpreted the wrong way.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies and people that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Focusing on the Wrong End of the Sale!

I find that many companies I work with are looking at the wrong end of the sale. The first place they look is at the sales line on their income statement. There they conclude that it should have been bigger. Next, they break that down to find out which salesperson is not pulling their weight. They look at closing ratios, number of opportunities, and probability of closing those deals for some sign of a turn-around. They then start concluding that perhaps they need bigger deals or to shorten the length of sales cycle. They throw training at how to handle sales calls, make better pitches, and how to use better closing techniques.

While these are all logical solutions, we have found that many companies are trying to solve the wrong problems. There are three areas that require serious focus in most organizations, and when those are addressed, growth rates will soar.

The first measure to monitor is the percentage of your people in sales that consistently meet quota (yes, you need to have a quota). Until that figure is over 95%, they (bottom line, you) are not doing well enough. When you have reached that milestone, consistently raise your quotas to where you are well above the competition in terms of expectations, but not beyond what is realistically achievable. You must, after all, be able to deliver and properly service what you sell.

There needs to be more focus on becoming best in the world at finding, selecting, ramping up, and keeping top performing salespeople. If you are not good at this, you’d better hire someone into your organization or a consultant that can help you master this skill. Without great people you will continue to lose and miss many of the sales you deserve. Research says that on average, companies are losing up to 70% of their possible revenue because they have the wrong people working for them. Compound this over time and ask yourself if it is worth your time and investment to figure this out.

Second, a company needs to focus on how many new opportunities and leads are generated by its salespeople on a daily and weekly basis. This is the part of the sales cycle that most salespeople enjoy the least and will avoid if they are not held accountable. They can even make it look like they’re doing it if you are not careful. For example, if they can make 50 to 100 calls a day, how many of those calls are to the same people over and over again? How many of those calls are mishandled? How many of those calls are not done with the right energy? How many are not directed to the right level in the organization? How many calls are the salespeople making to new prospects? How many are they making to leads generated by the company? What percentage of those calls are getting caught by the prospect’s “gatekeeper”?  The more opportunities you have coming in the front door, the more deals you will having coming out the other end. It is simple math. Measure the entries to the front door, and you should not have to worry about the back door.

Third, be strategic about marketing. Companies throw away marketing dollars because they do not think about where their clients look to determine who to call. It is not always the Internet first. For example, I was speaking with David Janssen, CEO of Miner Corporation (www.minercorp.com). He hired Bob Flecken as his Director of Service Sales and Marketing. Bob quickly figured out that when a piece of equipment broke down, prospects typically looked on their equipment to see who to call. So they identified all the prospects in their target market and asked permission to put fresh stickers on their equipment. This was presented to the target companies as a free benefit because sticker numbers could fade with light and age. What Bob’s team did when he went into these prospects was to put stickers on all their equipment, including those sold by the competitors. This investment on the front end to get stickers on the equipment has caused a surge in new leads for the company.

What you can see from all three points is that none of these ideas are things that people would find fun to do. They are not easy to do. Who would want to spend most of their time doing these activities? How gratifying will it be to know that you got 100 stickers placed today? However, they are the most important, and those that put the time in will have the best results. Putting more emphasis on getting people to focus on the less sexy, harder-to-do, and less gratifying front-end work will cause your growth rate to soar.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies and people that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

Diagnosing the Sales Force

In today’s market success is all about taking market share. Often organizations do not go deep enough in their diagnosis and do not have the tools to determine why their sales force is not maximizing growth. It is usually best to get outside help to assess your sales force. The best consultants have the tools, data, validation, understanding, and track record to optimize your sales force’s performance. Many times your own bias will cause you to prejudge and not see what is right in front of you, causing you to miss significant opportunity.

Here are examples of the things a good diagnosis will show you:

  • Do you have the right number of salespeople? Can more be done with less, or do you need more to achieve your strategic plan?
  • Do you have an effective sales process, or do you need a more formalized, structured, optimized process?
  • Is your compensation plan effective, and are your people motivated by it?
  • How effective is your sales management at coaching, motivating, recruiting, developing, and driving accountability?
  • Does management need to improve those skills or replace their people?
  • Who will be able to transition from behaving like an account manager to being more proactive at hunting for new opportunities and new business?
  • Who will be able to make the transition from presenting/proposing/quoting to more customer-focused consultative selling?
  • Which of your top salespeople are underperforming because of an unlevel playing field the organization has created and not their own sales skills?
  • Which of the salespeople have significantly greater potential to sell more and what can be done to help them realize that?
  • Which of your people are trainable? Which ones are not, and why?
  • Which of your nonperformers will likely step up to become good and top performers with development, and what will it take to accomplish that? How long will it take?
  • How can you improve your selection criteria to raise your batting average at getting top performers?
  • Is your sales management/management team aligned with your strategy?
  • Is the current sales force capable of executing your changing strategies?
  • What will be your return on investment if you implement changes? Conversely, what will you lose if you don’t implement changes?

The sales force development experts require you to go through a diagnosis so they can help you determine what you need. It is important to take the guesswork out of the equations and provide answers to all of those questions, along with insights recommendations and actions to make the redesign of your sales force as effortless, efficient, and cost-effective as possible. Most training companies do not do this. In order to cater to the client’s comfort level with a cookie-cutter process, they appeal to the masses’ desire to send one person to training and are thus able to have lower-level people conduct the training classes. Be careful what you ask for, because you might get it!

Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

*Register today to attend out upcoming event: Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Workshop on April 27th in Plantation Florida. At this event you’ll learn the key traits of a Superior Sales Force and how to evaluate and boost your sales program for a strong Q3 and 4. 

Are You Fairly Evaluating Your Sales Force?

I just attended a conference with 100 other sales force development experts.  What has become clear to  entire group is that the economic meltdown has made the field of sales much harder and that the change is permanent. Prior to the slide, many salespeople appeared good, but they were really only order-takers. They were able to hide their shortcomings behind good products and services, high-quality leads provided by their company, and good company strategy. Those days are gone.

Many companies are having trouble evaluating why salespeople that used perform decently are no longer making the grade.  A great example is in one of my clients. One of his salespeople had been among the company’s top 3 producers for the 15 years running.  He failed to perform last year and is, at best, in the middle of the group this year. As we have worked with him, we learned that he was always fortunate enough to receive some of the best leads because of his status with the company. From those leads he always closed at least 2 really large deals that would carry him for the year. He was never good at finding his own deals. He was not used to making the 6 to 8 phone calls it now takes to get through to to people that have asked him to call. He was also using a “presenting” sales style rather than consultative sales approach that is more appropriate in today’s environment.

Do you have a mix of the wrong people? Do you have salespeople that can help you achieve your sales goals?  Are there more appropriate salespeople out there? Are you measuring the right things? Are you ready to compete? Objective Management Group provides a free tool to help you grade your sales force. Click here to check it out: Sales Force Grader.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm, please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or shoreh@activategroupinc.com.

10 Questions Every CEO Should Ask Their Sales Team

Your sales team is the lifeblood of your organization’s growth. How effective are your salespeople at delivering on the business strategy and successfully meeting the potential of your market? As a CEO, there are questions you can ask to truly gauge and evaluate the effectiveness of your sales force.

  1. If our people complete the actions in the business plan, will our plan be fully achieved?
  2. How effective is our territory management?
  3. Does our training and coaching program meet the needs of our sales team?
  4. Is our compensation program designed to motivate the sales force?
  5. Is the work environment properly motivating our sales force?
  6. Are we supporting our people to keep them motivated?
  7. How effective are staffing processes in terms of finding, selecting, setting expectations, ramping up, terminating, and holding people accountable?
  8. How effective are reporting systems in terms of content, frequency and automation?
  9. What is the quality of the sales pipeline?
  10. Are measurement systems strong enough so that sales can be predicted with reasonable accuracy for the next 3 months?

Get answers to these questions and you will quickly start to see where your sales team can improve.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please visit his website at activategroupinc.com or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

Effective Sales Management Starts with Hiring

At Activate Group, we have helped hundreds of companies with sales force management and sales candidate screening and hiring. The goal is always to bring the right people into the right positions. Having an effective process is important for all areas of the company, but none more important than the sales team. After all, it’s the sales force that is the engine of your company. If you don’t have the right people on that team, there is no doubt the bottom line won’t be as black as it could be.

We use many tools to help us help our clients identify, assess and hire the right sales candidates but in all honesty, we do have a favorite. The OMG candidate assessment tool has helped us and our clients hire big-time performers, which translated to significant business growth and many happy sales superstars.

Its time-tested collection of assessment tools and techniques (developed by Objective Management Group) has proven to be incredibly accurate and efficient in selecting sales people.

A quick rundown of the assessment tools and the intelligence they provide:

  • Employee Hiring Assessments eliminate 96% of the mistakes in hiring salespeople and sales managers.
  • Existing Employee Assessments identify how individuals can increase their performance and earnings.
  • Sales Organization Assessments offers perspectives that help measure employees’ ability to execute the company’s strategies and meet expectations.
  • Sales Talent Acquisition Routine (S.T.A.R.) assists CEO’s, Presidents, Sales VP’s, HR Directors and Sales Managers with the difficult task of identifying, attracting, interviewing, hiring and retaining top sales talent.

In addition, OMG won the Gold Medal for Top Sales Assessment Tool of 2011. You can see for yourself why OMG is (in our opinion) the No. 1 choice in sales talent assessment by taking advantage of a 72-Hour No-Cost Trial. Just click here for more information.

Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential. To learn more about how our sales force development experts can help you through sales force management consulting, sales training, sales coaching, and better systems and process resulting in better hiring practices and maximizing performance of your existing team, please visit activategroupinc.com or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

Kurlan Provides Shocking Stat on Sales Force Management

I read Dave Kurlan’s “Understanding the Sales Force” blog religiously. I happen to like his to-the-point tips and topics on sales force management. One of his recent posts addressed the troubling stat that only 34% of sales candidates take assessment tests without additional prompts.

Now we all know how important and powerful candidate assessments are to finding the A-players for sales roles, right? So why aren’t we all insisting on them and why aren’t the candidates completing them? You should read his insightful post for the probable answers to those important questions.

I can tell you my thoughts on the end results of all those missing assessments:

  1. Poor sales
  2. Unhappy employees
  3. Missed goals

Does your sales force management process include employee assessments? Which ones are you using?

Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential. To learn more about how our sales force development experts can help you through management consulting, sales training, sales coaching, and better systems and process resulting in better hiring practices and maximizing performance of your existing team, please visit activategroupinc.com or contact Howard Shore at (305) 722-7216 or email him.