Think about this a minute or two. You are a sales leader. The size of your organization does not matter. The product or the service you are selling, does not matter. Your competition does not really matter. Price or margins do not matter. This question focuses on sales behaviors, culture and communication.
There is an old expression. “What I don’t know won’t hurt me.” I, personally, hate this expression and look at it as an excuse and not a reason for why things are the way they are. Awareness is the cornerstone for action, results and ultimately, accountability. First, one must have that desire to “know” and accept that maybe, just maybe, he or she does not know everything.
In my years of working with and within sales organizations, I have just about seen the spectrum of what makes a good sales organization and what is missing in those that, let’s say, are not that good. Almost in all cases, I hear excuses and not reasons. And, when all the dialogue ends and the dust settles, it fundamentally comes down to the question, above. How visible is the sales effort that is so crucial for business success? Are your sales performers accountable for their degree of effort and the subsequent results? Can you rely on what you are being shown or told that translates into real and sustainable revenue?
Let’s examine these key 3 critical success components, individually.
- Visibility: Visibility is the knowledge of what is going on in all phases or facets of the sales process. I don’t think that I know of any sales organization where there are not one or two (or more) sales people that hold back just a little on their prospect churn or soon to close clients. The reason? It’s the sales performer’s way of managing the boss’s expectations. They would rather delight than disappoint. That unanticipated win makes him or her heroes! And, should that boss be in bliss over the unexpected windfall? That answer should be categorically NO! That is just one example of visibility. Another example includes the maintaining and communication of a complete pipeline by individual performer. A pipeline report is not just the highest likelihood for close of the top prospects. It should include the good, the bad and the ugly. How else can one manage individual performance? And, it is not so bad an idea that those who are long in effort and short on results be known in larger circles than just with the boss. Visibility such as this leads to the next component…accountability. More on that a little latter. In summary, visibility requires standard processes, standard rules and standard measures/expectations for success. All must be thoroughly communicated and understood by all. No exceptions. And those who break or bend the rules risk adverse monetary actions or formal disciplinary action.
- Accountability: How many times have you, as a sales leader, had an individual whose pipeline was always full to the max, had high probability to close projections and when month-end came around, there was nothing? These individuals are self proclaimed students of the art of sales, attend regular training and always are so busy and harried; you can’t corner them for even 10 minutes. These are people who think success is measured by activity and not necessarily by results. Most sales organizations have a smattering of these individuals and they are often, difficult to deal with. There is always an excuse(s) as to why those close projections did not materialize. But, there is always the next entry in the pipeline that will, for sure, close. As common as this is, there is simple explanation for the non-performance. This type of individual has not taken accountability for what that individual has taken on with the role in the first place. That being the closing of business and the generation of revenue. Period. Underlying reasons can vary from lack of communicated and understood goals, to too high of salaries, to lack of feedback or management complacency. The list can go on. However, attracting and retaining sales performers who know what is expected from him or her and signing up or owning up to that expectation is absolutely critical to sales success. They also know that not living up to that commitment means no job. As sales leaders it is incumbent upon each of us to thoroughly communicate and reinforce what is expected of each sales individual, the upsides, the downsides and the support they can expect in order to be successful. Frankly, a sales organization that is not 100% accountable is a sales organization that is doomed to live in one form or another of mediocrity, at best, and be an inexhaustible expense drain with little to show for it.
- Predictable: How perfect a world this would be if every individual sales projection was 100% perfect 100% of the time! Unfortunately, that scenario just does not happen. However, just getting to a “reasonable” percentage for purposes of forecasting is a mega challenge, particularly in today’s economic times. What is a reasonable percentage of projected to actual close? I’ve seen as little as less than 10% and as high as 66%. The challenge is not so much the figure, but what you can rely upon from your sales organization. Of course, you want that figure to be as high as possible. Sales predictability can arguably be a product of the previous two discussions around visibility and accountability.
Given the instituting of process, structure and discipline combined with honest and ongoing communication, you are on the road to having that sales organization that is visible, accountable and predictable.
Now, here is the kicker. This road travels both directions. As you desire and ultimately expect your sales organization to be more visible, accountable and predictable, you best ask yourself if you are visible, accountable and predictable. Anything short of your not walking your talk spells frustration, mixed signaling and falling short of expectations. But, that is the topic for another discussion.
About Metricsboard: We are an online benchmark company that provides free business performance benchmark assessments. The benchmarks are automated and take less than 10 minutes online to complete. In return, you receive a full results report with comparison data on best practices, a maturity rating against your competitors (peer group) and strategic recommendations. There is a complimentary benchmark you can take for Web 2.0 Marketing, B2B Sales, IT Infrastructure, Human Resources, Procurement and Corporate Communications. Your privacy is protected and you will not receive any sales follow-up calls.
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