6 Steps to Streamline Your Sales Funnel Process

planning

The Issue with Funnel Bloat

Many of the sales managers that I have worked with at over 100 technology companies had the belief that if they had more deals in the sales funnel, the more likely it would be that they were going to hit their sales goals. While they looked at the size of the sales funnel (revenue potential), they forgot to look at when the deals were put on the sales funnel. They also forgot to ask the hard questions to determine if the deals were really viable.

The rule of thumb says that sales funnels should be about 3X-6X the revenue objective to ensure that revenue targets are met. With most of my clients, I was shown sales funnels that exceeded this range. At first glance I thought that the Sales Managers were doing a good job managing sales funnel growth but as I browsed further, I discovered that 80-90% of the deals were over 2 years old and not viable. Week after week, these Sales Managers would review the deals, and week after week their Reps convinced them that the older deals would close at some point in the future.

The next issue that I uncovered with my clients’ sales funnels was the viability of the newer deals being added to the funnel. After the initial call, Sales Reps should be validating the quality of the lead. Questions to determine that can vary, including: Has a decision maker been contacted? Is there real need and pain established? Is the prospect looking at solutions to solve these problems within a reasonable time period? Did the prospect indicate some interest but didn’t have a real need?

One of my clients believed that every prospecting onsite meeting was a true indicator that the prospect was interested in the solution. The Sales Manager required that a quote/contract be left with the prospect after every meeting. When I worked with my client, I found that the Sales Reps did a good job of “showing” the solution. However, they lacked at qualifying for need, interest, decision process, and timeframe. This client’s prospects were in the State and Local Government space, where prospects are more willing to meet and see presentations. My client had hundreds of deals on the sales funnel, however, he never hit is sales targets.

Finally, the last issue that I uncovered was movement of deals from the top of the funnel to the “closed” or “closed-lost” stage.  Many deals were stalled in the various stages of the funnel prior to “closed” or “closed-lost” and for many months or even years.

These funnel symptoms created a false impression that the client’s sales funnels were healthy and viable. These issues arise when a Sales Manager doesn’t have a good sales methodology or has not made sure that their Reps understand the methodology. In any case, all three symptoms kept my clients from hitting their targets.

6 Steps to Cure the Sales Funnel Bloat

Even though Funnel Bloat can be deadly to a sales team’s ability to hit targets, it can, fortunately, be cured. Follow these 6 steps to continue finding leads and ensure you don’t fall victim to Funnel Bloat:

STEP 1: Develop a sales methodology that works for your company.

Determine the following:

  • Who are your targets?
  • What pain does your solution solve?
  • What is an average time frame in which most deals should close?

STEP 2: Once you know these elements, figure out the number of stages most of your deals go through. Is the number of stages 5 or more? During each stage, decide what triggers must happen before the deals move to the next stage.

STEP 3: Re-train your team on the new sales methodology and make sure that they understand it.

STEP 4: Take a fine-toothed comb to your current funnel. Any deal that is older than your required time frame, whether that is 3-months, 9-months or 18-months on average, should be removed and re-qualified or put into a nurture program.

STEP 5: Build Sales Engagement tools that support the movement of each deal through the sales funnel.  For example, build an ROI calculator which is easy to use and shows cost savings or build a “standard” demo that can be used by your team in a middle stage to keep prospects interested.

In the final stage, before close, send your prospect a Memorandum of Understanding. The MOU should outline an overview of the prospect’s needs/pains, how your solution can solve their problem, the outlined ROI, and the agreed price. The MOU should also include a date for when the prospect will finalize and legally sign documents and procure the product.

STEP 6: Be ruthless with any deal that is added to the funnel. Your Reps should have to justify why a deal should be added based upon your company’s sales methodology. One of my Sales VP’s used to say, “Get the bad news early.” If there really isn’t pain or necessity, then you really don’t have a deal.

After the cure has been applied, though painful, you will have a viable sales funnel. Once you have a viable sales funnel, you will probably need to ramp up your marketing efforts to get the sales funnel to a level of 3x-6x your revenue objective. Funnel bloat is deadly, so apply the cure and hit your revenue targets.

 

Keeping Your Team Motivated

A few weeks after school started this year, my daughter informed me that she was done with school.  She is a straight-A student and a sophomore at a private Catholic high school, and just 3 years shy of completing high school. She has a lot of time remaining before she graduates.   I was very worried and concerned.  After many conversations, I found out that she wanted to have more fun and more respect from her elders.  I took this information to heart and we made a plan.  She is now happier and her motivation has returned.

I believe that motivation has to come from within. What should Corporations do to ensure that their employees remain motivated, day-after-day/week/month and year?  Here are 3 steps your company can take to keep your team motivated and focused:

  1. Survey your employees to get a sense of what gives them satisfaction and a feeling of self-worth.  These surveys should be anonymous.  In the survey ask your employees what they need from the company to feel like they are making a contribution to the company, their families and their communities.  In addition, the survey should ask the following:
    1. Find out if they feel respected and appreciated by the company and the management team.  Ask them to explain the “what’s and how’s and ways” they feel respected and appreciated.  Perhaps they would like more responsibility or a greater say in how they perform their duties.  Maybe the team feels disrespected, which may point to a Manager who may need to take classes in managing people.
    2. Ask your employees if they believe they are working too many hours or feel compelled to work during evening and weekends to get caught up on their work.
    3. Ask if your company has too many or too few meetings.  Either of these choices can lead to a lack of productivity and interest.
    4. Once you have compiled the survey results, review the issues and determine how to address them in the short and long run.  Create a “task-force” to brainstorm on the issues and to make recommendations to improve the situation.  Be prepared to implement the recommendations in a timely manner.  Create a timeline for the roll-out of these recommendations.
    5. Share the survey results, task-force recommendations and roll-out plan with your employees.

The answers may be as simple as providing:

  • Employee training on subjects such as how to get organized, tools they use or time management.
  • Team off-sites, a few times a year.  These should be fun and engaging for your employees.
  • Opportunities for team members to earn bonuses or additional PTO days.
  • Lunch time activities such as yoga, meditation and stress management.
  • Some financial support for those who want to go to University or graduate school.

Companies who stay in touch with the needs of their team members are more likely to have loyal and productive employees.  These are the things that success is made of.

I would love to hear how your company addresses the issue of motivation.  Please email me your ideas at alicia@somametrics.com.  I will compile these and to share in a future post.

The Best Coaching Session

The best coaching session that my team had was when I was the Director of Inside Sales at an educational software company.  One day, out of the blue, the CEO called me to ask if he could “coach” 4 of my Inside Sales team members.  He wanted me to select two top producers and two under-performing team members.  His plan was to spend 1 hour with each Rep.

He did 3 things that made for a great learning experience for my team and a lasting impression for me, as a manager.

  1. Lead by example.  The CEO started each of the sessions by making phone calls.  He wanted each team member to see how he approached a first call with decision makers.  He didn’t let any of the prospects know that he was the CEO.  He made several calls, while the Inside Rep took notes.  After the first few calls, the Inside Rep was given the opportunity to make calls.  Back and forth this process went, for the entire hour.
  2. Have a goal for your session.  The goal for each team member and the CEO was to generate a meeting/ further conversation with the prospect to uncover need and interest.  The CEO threw down the gauntlet.  Who would get the most meetings, during the hour coaching session?  The CEO beat only 1 team member.
  3. Make it “win-win”.  The purpose of the coaching session was to give the CEO a better understanding of the challenges that the Inside team faced, every day.  He also provided team members with insights on how they might improve their messaging and responses to questions. At the end of the coaching period, the CEO came to my office and told me that he learned a lot:
    1. He didn’t realize how difficult it was to get to decision makers on the phone and the number of dials it took to do so.
    2. The team was far more advanced and knowledgeable than he had imagined.
    3. The energy and spirit of the team was very positive and supportive.
    4. He thoroughly enjoyed the session and if time permitted, he would come back.

I asked the team members how they felt about the session.  Hands down – everyone loved it.  While, initially they were nervous, by the end they felt like they had learned from the top sales guy at the company.  They also felt appreciated and understood.

Coaching sessions should be about improving performance and upping the game.  They should motivate and thrill team members.  Establish the goal of the coaching session, lead the team by example and plan to be amazed by your team.  This will be a “win-win” process for everyone involved.

The Perfect Compensation Plan

predictable revenue growth

Driving Sales Funnel growth, meeting revenue objectives, and getting sales teams to meet or exceed sales metrics are among the many challenges faced by our clients. Quite often, these problems are self-inflicted. Large salaries and commissions provide little incentive for sales teams to achieve the metrics that drive Sales Funnel and revenue growth.

In order to meet your targets, you need to introduce a compensation plan that encourages the appropriate behavior and provides the right incentives for your team to work towards their goal. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the activities that drive Sales Funnel and revenue growth.  KPIs that fail to be established or met, will result in a loss for your target revenue. Example KPIs for Inside Sales might include:

  • Key conversations with prospects that establish pain & fit. Without frequent conversations with prospects, there will not be enough activity to grow the sales funnel.
  • A Sales funnel that is in excess of 3X the revenue objective.  We suggest that clients analyze the sales funnel activity from the past 3-6 months to determine their closing ratios.  Some of our clients have only required a sales funnel of 1.5X their revenue objective, while others have needed a funnel of 5X, to ensure that their targets were met.
  • A pre-established number of demos.  We suggest that our clients determine the ratio of demo presentations to closed deals, to establish this metric.  One of our clients found that 75% of demo presentations generated closed deals.  For this specific client, demos were very important and became a top metric for their Inside Sales team.

What is the best way to ensure that team members meet or exceed their KPIs? Fifteen years of experience and association with over 100 companies, has led us to this answer. The answer: Build a compensation plan with three distinct components: Base Pay, Performance Bonus, and Commission.

Three Components of a Perfect Compensation Plan

  1. Base Pay: Companies with a high base salary often have poor performance within their sales teams. Base salary should accommodate a decent quality of life within said region. Base Salary should not be able to provide “luxury” items, keeping incentive for the team to meet their established KPIs.
  1. Performance Bonus: Compensation plans must provide a pay-for-performance component to encourage appropriate team behavior.

For example: if the monthly KPIs include a specific number of Key Conversations, Sales Funnel growth, and Demos, the representatives should receive a monthly performance bonus for meeting or exceeding these established KPIs. Performance bonuses work very well to ensure that KPIs are met.

  1. Commission: Commission should reflect the achievement of KPIs.

For example: suppose that 5% is the highest commission rate given at 100% of quota.  If a team member has met 100% of quota and 100% of their KPIs, they should receive the highest commission rate.  If not, the commission rate should reflect their achievement of quota and established KPIs.

Appropriate “Selling” behaviors develop when compensation plans are structured around KPIs and Sales Funnel growth.

Elevate the Morale of Your Sr. Executives and Recapture Hope and Success to improve Corporate Culture

Many of the companies that we have been asked to “turn-around” had executive teams that were without hope.  Despair and lack of faith were the emotions of the day, reulting in a missing sense of community and a negative corporate culture.  These executives couldn’t see a way out and had no vision for the future.

Recently, I was asked to do a GAPaudit (Growth, Accountability and Performance) for one of our clients.  The CEO was at his wits end with the numerous challenges that he had to address.  Some of his challenges included:

  • A “me-too” product that was launched very late in the game and without key features that would make it a compelling solution
  • An ineffective Sr. Management team whose focus was on what the other guy wasn’t doing leading to an eroding corporate culture
  • A sales funnel that wasn’t nearly large enough to support the company’s revenue objectives
  • A non-existent strategy for developing the sales funnel
  • The perception of an “in-crowd”. Every senior manager felt like the CEO was favoring the “other guys”

The atmosphere at the company was so bad it was palpable.  The senior management team was without hope and no one on the team could share with me their thoughts for improving the situation.  Team members were in a state of panic. Corporate Culture was basically non-existent.

When there is no hope, it is difficult to get out of a bad situation.  When communication breaks down, there is no way to have meaningful discussions.  When team members view each other as the enemy, alignment of thought is almost impossible.

Here are 8 things that you can do to massively improve morale and turn your company into a successful, high-performance, high-energy culture of respect and success:

  1. Admit that there is a problem.  Burying your head in the sand while this negative activity continues will not help you to get out of your mess.  If you have a lot of finger-pointing and bad vibes amongst your team, you need to nip it in the bud and now.
  2. Find a conference room that you can spare for 6-8 weeks.  This room will become your success room; much like the cabinet war rooms that Churchill and his team operated during World War II.  I refer to this space as your success room, because this is the place that your team will use to map out a turn-around strategy.  The success room is the place where your senior managers will meet, twice a day, to hash out the issues and map out a recovery plan.  This room should be available only for this team and for the period of time outlined.
  3. On the first day, have your Success Team map out all of their complaints, grumblings, upsets and write these on the white board.  I highly recommend that you use an outside facilitator to help coach your team through this difficult process, as this allows objectivity and avoids accusations of ‘favoring’.
  4. Once all of your key issues have been identified and listed on the board, use brainstorming sessions to outline possible solutions to each of the problems.  Everyone on the team needs to be part of these sessions throughout the time allotted.
  5. Once you have identified your Goals, Objectives and Strategies, assign team members tasks that will move your company out of the problem(s) and into a viable solution(s).  There will be many tasks, as you uncover the issues.  Make sure that the tasks are broken into do-able daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly chunks.  Highlight the tasks, as they are completed.  Everyone will need to assume responsibility for achieving their tasks on time.  If a task is going to slip, the person responsible should let everyone know, ASAP.  The team should ask why the task(s) can’t be completed on time.  Perhaps they need additional resources (brainstorm on how to get these) or more information (brainstorm on where to gather this information).   Whatever the case, there will be no hiding out.  Get the information to the team and resolve the issue with the team.
  6. Have each team member write down what they appreciate about each of their team members.  You can do this on the board or distribute “thank-you” cards for each team member, so they know that they are valued by their colleagues.  While this may sound like a silly exercise, it does work.  When people feel appreciated, even a bit, it frees their energy so that they can focus.
  7. Hold 2 success room sessions each day, for the period allotted (I recommend a period of 4-8+ weeks).  In the morning, meet to ensure that everyone is in alignment with the plan and discuss items that need to change or be moved out to a later date, as above. During the afternoon session, ask team members to list any challenges or issues that may keep them from being successful.  Some of your strategies may need to be re-worked.  That’s ok.  Be willing to keep going until you get it right.  The more your team effectively communicates with each other, the better the communication will become.
  8. Make everyone in the room responsible for sales.  Revenue can’t happen if the product isn’t right or if there isn’t enough demand generation to build a viable sales funnel.  Revenues will be lost if customers move away from your company to your competitors.  Everyone needs to have an idea of how you will hit or exceed your quotas.  Everyone must contribute to supporting the Head of Sales to ensure that the company meets its growth goals.

This process will be tough going at first.  Over the weeks and months (hopefully no more that 2 or 3 months) your team will learn to trust each other, communicate more effectively and take responsibility for making a positive contribution to your company.  The uplift in atmosphere will improve your corporate culture, thus elevating moral and productivity. Where there is hope and energy, there is fire.  That fire will transform your company.

Sales Management: Sales Performance Incentive Funds (SPIFs) That Work

Sales Performance Inventive Funds (SPIFs) are a great way for Sales Management to motivate their teams. A SPIF is a bonus, paid to Teleprospecting and Sales teams for their achievement of specific goals. SPIFs are paid separately from the commission plan, and can be used to drive specific behavior or achieve specific goals.

In my experience, I was given a specific SPIF budget ($900-$1,200) per quarter and asked to determine the areas that required improvement. Having identified the issues, I would assign a SPIF day and week(s), and gather the team to focus on the issue that requires attention.

Done correctly, SPIFs are a great way to re-energize teams and shift their focus from daily, tedious work. Teleprospectors carry out 50-100 dials per day. Many times they are received with rejection. Team success and confidence can degrade over time. SPIFs create a competitive atmosphere, as spot bonuses are distributed when each objective is reached.

SPIFs are also effective training methods, with team members competing against each other, while collaborating skills and experience.

My most effective SPIFs have aimed to improve the following Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

  • C-Level /Key Decision Maker Conversations:  These are the conversations that a Teleprospector has with a C-Level Executive or a person who is a key decision maker.  Conversations with these prospects tend to improve the quality of leads.  These are the people who understand the issues and can provide the best insights into their needs and pain.  These leads are most valued by Sales Reps.
  • Teleprospecting Funnel: Effective Teleprospecting teams are assigned a monthly lead quota.  In order to achieve this quota, they will need a list of “potential leads”.  These potential leads may have some of the qualification criteria.  They, however, are not quite ready to turn over to sales.  For example, if the lead quota is 8 per Teleprospector, per month, the list of Potential Leads should be around 3X that number of 24, to ensure that 8 will be turned over to Sales by month end.
  • Key Conversations:  A Key Conversation is a conversation with a person who can provide insights and answer the basic qualification questions that are required to make a lead qualified.  The more Key Conversations a Teleprospector has, the more likely they will meet their monthly lead quota.

While dials are important – Teleprospecting is a telephone job – they are not directly responsible for Sales Funnel and revenue growth.  KPIs such as C-Level conversations, Teleprospecting Funnel size and Key Conversations have a more direct impact on lead quality and sales funnel growth.  I have, however, used a “Dial-Ramp” SPIF when team dials have dropped by 25-30%. Power-dial days show the team how making more dials can dramatically impact their KPIs.

Make a big deal out of your SPIF days.  Create a flyer to announce the SPIF goals and objectives, the rules and hours of “play”.  If your budget allows, bring in lunch and take a team lunch break to enable them to share their experiences and early results. I recommend that small bonus amounts, for specific objectives, be paid out hourly.  For example, every hour set a Key Conversation goal.  The first person to meet that hourly goal would receive a $50 bonus.  Then at day’s end, have a big celebration, to celebrate the winners of the hourly bonuses and announce the over-all winner for the day.

The rhythm of your SPIFs will depend on team morale and performance issues.  SPIFs shouldn’t be the norm.  Rather, they should be used to re-energize the team and improve specific areas of performance.

Sales Management: How to Refocus Complainers at work to be Positive

complainers at work

As I sat at my desk browsing LinkedIn, I came across a Slideshare that was funny and clever and made me laugh out loud. It was about people who complain at work but let me tell you, for Managers, complainers are not fun. Complainers at work can suck the positive energy out of a team and bring morale down in a flash. This is where it is essential for good Sales Management to step in. Here are 6 strategies that I have personally used to refocus complainers at work to get them back on track:

  1. Let them vent. Set up a meeting with your complainers and let them tell you their perspectives about everything that’s wrong with the job. Let them vent about their frustrations and write their complaints down on your whiteboard. Review their complaints and ask the complainers to prioritize the most important issues. Let them know that you believe that there is a solution to every problem (which there is) and you will work with them to resolve the issues to the best of your ability.
  1. Select the top 2-3 issues and create task forces to address these issues. Each task force should be comprised of a group of 3-5 team members. Give the complainers at work a leadership role on some or all of the task forces. The goal of the task force is to brainstorm to find a solution. After the brainstorm session, weed out the ideas that aren’t viable and build a plan around the viable solutions. Present the solutions to the senior executives who, ultimately, will need to approve the plan.
  1. Tell your team to bring their complaints and solutions to you. Once your team sees that you are open to finding solutions to their issues (perhaps you’ll need to run several task forces to build trust), let your team know that you will listen to their complaints and work with the team to find workable solutions.
  1. Create a solutions board. Set up a whiteboard in the team area. This board is a place for team members to outline issues and possible solutions. Once a week, meet your team at the board and review issues and solutions. Prioritize the issues and create a plan (and maybe a task force) to resolve the issues.
  1. Personal complaints need HR support. If your team member is spreading rumors, gossiping about others, or is randomly ranting about unspecified “things,” I recommend that you work with HR to come up with some team building exercises to rebuild morale. When people meet outside of the office, they may gain a new perspective about the people or person that they think they dislike. Set an example of respect and make sure that you respect every team member and show it. Make it clear that every team member is to be treated with respect and dignity.
  1. Hold a team appreciation day. Set aside one day where everyone on the team is appreciated. During the appreciation day, get a big thank you card for each team member. Pass the cards around so that everyone can write statements of appreciation for each team member. If you have 5 team members, you’ll need 5 cards, for example. At the end of the day, each person gets their card. Each person has to think of a positive aspect to write about each team member so once team members receive their cards, they will understand that they are appreciated. This is a very powerful exercise and I have seen amazing results while applying this process.

If the complainers at work are under-performers, take time to provide additional training and support. It is the Manager’s job to help team members meet performance objectives, so ask them to outline where they feel like they need support to grow and provide them with constructive feedback. Good Sales Management means realizing that sometimes complainers need more attention. The additional training and support will help them to be more effective. With this approach, their complaints may decrease as their performance improves. If you work with your team and give them opportunities to find solutions, your complainers will feel valued and see fewer reasons to complain. We are all just people and you need these people (your team) to meet your objectives. In short, “you are all in this together.” Value your team and they will value you and the job!

 

More Sales Management Insights:

Sales Management: Bad Management – Performance Improvement Plans

There are two sides to everything: Ying and Yang, Good and Evil, Black and White, Summer and Winter. Similarly, Sales Management has fun, and not so fun parts. It can be rewarding but also includes making tough decisions. The fun part of Sales Management is working with your team and watching them excel. However, when it comes to dealing with constant lack of performance, you as the manager need to implement change. What are you supposed to do if a team member does not live up to the required standards? Should you fire them? Should you ignore under-performers? I think the answer to this question is pretty straight forward: support your team, in good times and in bad times. In good times and bad, do what is best for THEM.

 

Performance Improvement Plans – Why I Hate Them

In my 20 plus years managing Inside Sales and Teleprospecting teams, I have had to put a handful of people on what is known in the industry as a PIP, a Performance Improvement Plan. In my opinion, PIPs don’t live up to their name, as they are not about improving an employee’s performance.  Rather, a PIP is a process document used to prove that the Manager has tried to help the employee, over a period of 30-90 days.  The documentation is a paper trail that is used to protect the company from legal action.

I have read many blogs that call PIPs evil.  I agree because they suck the humanity out of the Sales Manager (who really isn’t trying to help an employee improve) and the employee who is being humiliated throughout the process.  They also impact the rest of the team, bringing morale down and taking everyone’s focus away from what is important. I, personally, have never seen a PIP work.  The reason is that PIPs are not about helping a struggling employee improve performance.  Instead, they are a clear indication that they are about to be terminated.

I understand that PIPs are necessary to protect companies from future legal actions.  I know that some employees are not going to work out, no matter how great the interview process or background checks.  Still, I disapprove of PIPs and for several reasons:

  1. They are humiliating.  No matter how hard one tries to keep the PIP process confidential, most people on the team know when someone is on a PIP.
  2. PIPs lower morale.  Team members who are not on a PIP have their own opinions about the individual on a PIP.  If they like the individual, Management is the bad guy.   Even if they dislike the person they may sympathize with them because they have to go through the PIP process.  Again, Management is the bad guy. Low trust and respect between Sales management and employees is directly proportional to a lack of motivation and success.
  3. PIPs require Managers to spend time focused on the documentation/paper trail process, giving them less time focusing on managing the team to success.  While the PIP event is in play, the “good” team members are, typically, left to fend for themselves, because the manager is heads down focused on the poor performer for the next 30-90-days.

 

How to Avoid PIPs

I have used two distinct methods for avoiding PIPs.  The first one is a GOSPA Plan.  The second one is a recruiter.

GOSPA Planning

When employees are given the opportunity to develop their own success plans (see my blog on GOSPA Planning: Goals, Objectives, Strategies, Plans, and Activities) and understand the metrics and consequences for not meeting the metrics, PIPs can be avoided.

For example, say a Teleprospector has the following metrics to meet each month:

–          Make a minimum of 800 dials/month

–          Have 20 Key Conversations with decision makers

–          Build a Teleprospecting lead pipeline of a  minimum of 24 potential leads

–          Generate 8 qualified leads to pass to Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)

–          Receive sales approval on at least 6 of these SQLs for addition to their Sales Funnel

The Teleprospector is required to build a quarterly GOSPA Plan, which outlines how they will achieve the above metrics.  The manager’s job is to review the GOSPA plan, ensure that it is a viable plan, and to review with the employee what will happen if the metrics are not met each week/month/quarter.  Working with the Rep, the manager should discuss the consequences for low performance.  Assume that the Rep under-performs on his metrics by 20% for a period of 4 weeks.  It should be understood that the manager will take specific action to help the employee improve, such as sitting in on calls or providing coaching on the specific issues.  If improvement doesn’t happen within a 90-day period, termination may be the next step.  The manager manages all employees to this standard.  Everyone is aware of the actions and consequences for not meeting the Goals that the employee outlined in his GOSPA.  The required “HR/termination” documentation is an offshoot of this process.  No PIP is required.

If sales management holds weekly individual meetings to review performance and achievement-to-date against plan, everyone will know where they are, each and every week.  This information is documented as a standard course of managing the team members.  The manager’s goal is to quickly identify issues and to really work to help an employee improve, if they are falling behind their stated metrics.  When a GOSPA  Plan is in place, the employee should be going to their manager if they are having problems, because they developed the plan and know what they are accomplishing or not.  In essence, it is their plan and they are responsible for working to the plan as they outlined in their plan.

Recruiter to the Rescue

Many years ago, I was asked to turn-around a call center that was under-performing.  The team of eight was struggling to meet the demands of the job.  I quickly implemented my Best Practices and was able to get the team moving in the right direction.  This took about 6 weeks.  Once the team understood what they needed to do and had additional training, they began to generate quality SQLs for the sales team.

Unfortunately, one of the team members was having a difficult time picking up the phone to make calls.  The bad news for him was that Teleprospecting is a phone job.  While he was very confident about the technology and solution offering, he hated making phone calls.  He was the most technical person on the team.  I could see that he would make a great customer service rep for some company.  I didn’t know how he got hired, but he was a good person and I wasn’t going to humiliate him by putting him on a PIP.

I asked his manager if he knew of any recruiters who might have customer service positions available.  The manager got back to me within a few days with a few recruiter names.  We called them and asked them to anonymously recruit our team member out of our company.

Within two weeks, our lack-luster team member was in my office.  He handed me his letter of resignation, stating: “This is a much better job for me.  I like talking to customers; I just don’t like initiating phone calls”.

By utilizing a recruiter to “remove” this person out of this “wrong-for-him” job, I saved our company time, money and kept morale from sinking.  It was the most compassionate way to manage this situation.  The team member will never know how his manager and I helped to get him the job that was a better fit for him.  We did it without humiliating him or impacting team morale.

PIPs are never about performance improvement.  If you must put someone on a PIP, do so as a last resort.  My best advice is to manage performance, every week based on a plan like GOSPA, that your team is responsible for building.  Or use recruiters to move people out of mismatched positions into more suitable positions at a different company.  Use compassion when helping people.  Your compassion will help you and your team in the long run.

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Sales Management: Setting up Task Force Teams to Get Team Buy-In for Great Results

task force teams

Overview: Learn an effective method for managing your sales team through the development and implementation of task force teams. 

Managing people has been, and always will be, a widely discussed topic. Managing Sales Teams is no exception. Should management be a top-down approach, where the manager implements their Best Practices no matter what? Or should management take a bottom-up approach, where employees participate in the decision-making process and are allowed to influence goal-setting and change workflows to the best of their knowledge? What is the best way to improve performance and productivity?

Setting Up Task Force Teams for Sales

Over the past 15 years, I have been asked to turn-around over 50 Inside Sales and Teleprospecting organizations.  The method that I used to win over the hearts and minds of each team was Task Force Teams.

After the first week or so in the role, I created task force teams regarding specific issues and concerns that I uncovered during interviews with each team member. I created task force teams on topics such as Key Performance Indicators (the metrics used to manage the team), Commission Rates, Quotas, CRM, Contracts, and other issues deemed important. I asked that team members join one or more of the task forces to resolve the outstanding issues. I also informed them that some of the issues, like commissions and quotas, will need Executive-level sign off and that some issues may not be resolved exactly as we would like. My teams knew that once our recommendations were approved, we would be held accountable for achieving our numbers for the plans we outlined.

I limited participation to 5-7 team members for each of the task force teams. I managed the task forces as follows:

  • I started with a brainstorm session or two which helped us get all ideas on the board for later review
  • The ideas review is the next step. During this phase, the task force reviews and eliminates any ideas that are not viable or are less likely to be approved by Senior Management
  • Task force recommendations are captured in a power-point deck and reviewed by the team prior to the presentation to the manager
  • Each Task Force Leader presents the approved recommendations to the entire team. It is understood that the approved task force recommendations are to be adhered to by the entire team. In most cases, there have been a 95% or more agreement rate about the recommendations as outlined by the various task force teams

Task Force Teams – Case Study

One of the organizations that I turned-around was the Inside Sales team for a company that had lost half of its clients and had not seen any new customer sales since the recession. The Inside Sales team had not hit their revenue targets in many years.

During the assessment of the organization, I found that the sales team had no metrics that they were measured against and held to. For example, Sales Reps didn’t have quotas. The sales funnel was full of opportunities; however, 80% of these were no longer feasible because there was no sales methodology in place to effectively manage deals through the sales funnel. To complex the issues, team members made fewer than 10 dials per day each. I knew we had to get that number up because this was a phone job and the only opportunity to get more prospects was by calling them. I realized that my Sales Management experience was needed to get this team to achieve their goals and increase revenue.

Working with the task force teams, we decided on a sales methodology and a set of metrics that the team agreed would help them achieve their newly assigned quotas. Everyone agreed to the minimum metrics and worked towards them as a team. At the end of the first year, revenue had increased by 57% and revenue from new prospects had increased by 80%.

However, I don’t always agree with task force recommendations. If their recommendations are way off the mark (from my experience), I work with the team to get their ideas to align with what I know will work. No matter what, the caveat is that if we don’t see improvement within 90-days, we will need to regroup and come up with a better process or set of metrics. This becomes a continuous improvement process in which experimentation is essential. Similarly, Sales Management is not a stagnant process. As the manager of a team you need to be flexible and listen to the suggestions of your employees. Sales Management is about working with your employees and it’s really good when task force members can work together to analyze how their recommendations are working or not. I recommend that these teams review their recommendations and results at the end of each quarter.

Increase Productivity

Many studies have been undertaken on the subject of Sales Management and employee involvement in the decision making process. Most research agrees that participation has positive effects on performance and thus productivity. For example, C. A. L. Pearson conducted an experiment involving two groups of workers: a group where employees were included in goal setting and a control group that executed traditional work procedures. The results indicated not only that those “who were engaged in participative goal setting reported […] greater job satisfaction”, but that “goal setting and performance were positively related.”[1] Similarly, another paper found that “empowered employees largely improve performance by finding innovative ways of correcting errors in service delivery and redesigning work processes.”[2] These findings are in line with my own experience, and show that if you get the buy-ins from your employees, you will see an increase in performance, productivity, and eventually revenues.

Rather than telling the team what to do, I give my teams the ability to determine their destiny. When teams are given the opportunity to provide their input on specific aspects of the job, the manager has their “buy-in,” and team members are more likely to work toward the “team” assigned goals. Why wouldn’t they? It’s their plans and their ideas and therefore their responsibility to make them work. This process has worked for me and has helped my teams greatly improve their performance.

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[1] C. L. A. Pearson, “Participative Goal Setting as a Strategy for Improving Performance and Job Satisfaction” (1987), Human Relations Journal, Volume 40 (8), pp 473-488 <http://hum.sagepub.com/content/40/8/473.abstract>

[2] S. Fernandez and T. Moldogaziev, “Using Employee Empowerment to Encourage Innovative Behavior in the Public Sector” (2013), Journal of Administration Research and Theory, Volume 23 (1), pp 155-187 <http://jpart.oxfordjournals.org/content/23/1/155.abstract>

Sales Management: Love Thy Employee

I believe that all people should be treated with respect.  People who believe they are respected, appreciated and valued tend to be happy people.  From my experience, employees who believe that they are respected, appreciated and valued are productive and motivated.  I believe that it is the job of every manager to respect, appreciate and value their employees. This is what good Sales Management is all about.

When I was the Director of Inside Sales for a large educational software company, I managed a team of 18 Inside Sales Reps and 2 Telemarketers.  Many of my team members were at their desks by 5:30 AM Pacific, because they had Eastern territories.  I made it a point to walk around their area at 5:45 AM and then again at 7:30 AM, when the rest of the team was at their desks.  I did this ritual every day to offer encouragement, answer questions and to let everyone know that I appreciate them.  Sometimes I would bring in bagels or donuts and offer these to the team.  After a few weeks in my new position, the team began to expect my daily walk-throughs.  They were ready with their feedback or progress updates.  If someone was down, I would offer encouragement or provide insights on how they might solve a particular problem.

Every quarter, the CEO of this company made it a point to come to our offices and do “call-challenges” with the team.  He would sit with each Rep and make calls to their prospects using his opening statement.  Then the team member would do the same, using their opening statement or script.  He would provide feedback and encouragement throughout the process of making these calls.  The goal was to see who was able to move the prospect to the next level.  (The CEO never mentioned to prospects that he was the CEO, which would have given him an unfair advantage).  The team welcomed his visits and the CEO got a kick out of seeing how each team member handled their prospects.  He admitted to me, after these events, that he learned some new tricks.  He let the team know that he was impressed by their focus and effort.

The VP of Sales, at the same company, would often ask me what the team needed from him to boost morale and to make them feel appreciated.  He would drop by the office as well, providing feedback and congratulating the team when we met our monthly and quarterly objectives.

I saw how important it was to the team to have the Executives visit, and provide their insights and feedback.  I decided to ask other Executives from Marketing/ Finance/Legal /Product Management to visit us to discuss campaigns or to address issues on contracts or commissions and to hear about new product functionality.  The team loved having the opportunity to meet with the Executives.  These meetings gave them the sense that they were valued and respected.

This team was named region of the year for achieving 114% of quota.  Our success was due to many factors.  However, I believe one important factor was that this team felt the “love” from the company’s Senior Executive team.

My opinion is not only supported by my own experiences, but by many human resource studies. After my research, I can conclude that an overwhelming percentage of literature confirms that respect at the workplace generates not only a more productive working environment, but helps the organization meet its goals. For example, Daniel J. Koys concludes from his literature review that “organizational commitment is positively related to the perception that HRM activities are motivated by (a) management’s desire to show respect for the individual and (b) management’s desire to attract/retain employees”. [1] Similarly, a study of Total Quality Management argues that “Empowerment and teamwork significantly enhance job involvement, job satisfaction, career satisfaction, and organizational commitment.”[2] Commitment and a feeling of belonging create a positive working environment, and if an employee feels like his/her work is appreciated and valued, he/she is more willing to go the extra mile for the company’s well-being.

Create a culture of appreciation.  Ask senior executives and mid-level managers to take part in this process.  Morale will be high and your teams will, by feeling the “love”, be more productive and engaged at work.

 


[1] D. J. Koys, “Human resource management and a culture of Respect: Effects on employees’ organizational commitment” (1988), Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, Volume 1 (1), pp 57-68. < http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01385453>

[2] N. Karia and M. Asaari, “The effects of total quality management practices on employees’ work-related attitudes” (2006), The TQM Magazine, Volume 18 (1), pp. 30-43
< http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=1537485&show=abstract>