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Strategy. Execution. Achievement.
|Sales Leadership - Sales Leadership|
|Written by Warren Cederberg|
Every sales manager has goals. They are usually imposed on us from external sources like the manufacturer, our dealer principal, or general manager. These goals are highly visible, the data is readily available, and we are held responsible if we either hit them or not. Examples of these goals might be monthly sales volume or departmental gross profit.
What's the problem with these goals? Well aside from the obvious challenge that every sales manager has - achieving results through other people; the problem with goals like those are that they are historical. Are they important? Of course they are - even critical. Those result goals are what pay the employees and keeps us in business... but we can't directly control them because they measure an end result. It is history... in the past! If that is our only focus then it’s like driving by looking in the rear view mirror.
We can only manage the effort and activities that lead to the result. Think of the goal as the final score in a game. There are a finite number of plays or activities that will contribute to hitting that goal. As a manager, this is where our attention needs to be.
Strategy is our sales process - how we want our salespeople to interact with people. What are our processes to help them move from prospect to customer? You might call them the steps to the sale. How well we execute each of those steps over a number of opportunities determines ultimately whether we hit our sales or profit objectives. Where a step is weak, our coaching intervention on that activity improves our odds of more prospects advancing through the process of becoming a customer. These weaknesses are where we "leak" closing ratio or profitability.
Execution is the link between Strategy and Achievement. What gets in the way of successful execution? Since 1987, we have been training and coaching sales teams and one thing never changes when it comes to execution. In our experience, the biggest issue usually isn't a lack of knowledge. If you ask any group of salespeople what the steps are to sell a car, they will come up with some reasonable semblance of the steps to the sale - knowledge by itself isn't usually the problem. This is why many sales training initiatives fail – they only focus on increasing knowledge!
Well what do we need for Execution? When you look at your team ask yourself about 3 things:
Knowledge: Do they know what to do? Your way! Not 10 different processes for your 10 salespeople.
Skill Proficiency: Can they actually do it well in the real world? When they are with a prospect are they on your process or do they revert to old habits or “wing-it”.
Activity: Do they actually do it or how much do they do it? This is especially important around their prospecting and follow-up activities.
As a sales manager, how do you get Execution? You need to do three things:
1. Convert the "Result" goals into the contributing "Activity" measures that you can track / coach / and manage.
2. Measure the activities. Skills/frequency/ ratios. They should be few in number and totally predictive - that is if we do well here the end goal takes care of itself. Some of these might be outgoing phone contacts to appointments or ratio of presentations or demonstrations to opportunities. The data for these Activity measures is not as readily available. You must have systems to collect it but it is the only way to get your arms around execution. Otherwise you are flying without radar and you can’t tell what to coach or if your coaching is having an effect.
3. Create accountability. Communicate expectations. Measure activity. Coach to correct. Require action. Follow-up. Repeat. When you Coach one-on-one: what was the progress on last action items, activities review, coach to improve, commitment to new action
It sounds easy… but in our fast paced world it is not easy… and the piece that is the hardest is Execution.
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