The first half of 2014 is officially in our rear-view mirror, and the end of Q3 is fast approaching. Sales leaders can be found pulling in last minute deals to make their numbers all over the globe. When asked if he was going to make his number for the end of Q3, a sales VP at a large technology firm said, “I just need to work with ‘Mike’ to pull in two big deals. He’s the guy to get things over the finish line.”
What if we thought differently about how we achieve our sales numbers? By definition, sales is a one-to-one experience. Focusing on the deal at hand, we pull out all the stops to get the deal done. This often results in huge efforts to get individual opportunities closed, only to have them fall away at the beginning of the quarter, when we start the process all over again.
Shouldn’t there be a better way? What if we could attain quota without the heroic effort at the end of the month or quarter? What if we increased predictability before the quarter ended? Sales VPs would sleep a heck of a lot better or (heaven forbid!) be able go on holiday at the end of the quarter.
We must think differently about how we achieve results. Stop the heroism and start being systematic. Its a mindshift many sales VPs are not comfortable with – besides, many of them carried a bag before becoming leaders. They are used to the end of month/quarter crunch and frankly thrive on it.
There are four things to consider as you adjust activities to ensure alignment with strategy for the second half of the year:
Raise productivity with the team you have
Often when short of goals, hiring new reps is the plan of action. But that’s like taking an aspirin for a brain tumor. It’s just a distraction from the pain – not a solution. Instead, take a look at the middle – that 60 percent of reps that fall in the middle of the bell curve. What if you could improve their production by just 5 percent? Would that be the difference in meeting or falling short of goals? For many organizations this is more than what’s needed to exceed quota repeatedly. A large technology company recently improved the productivity of their middle reps by instilling cross-sell and upsell practices to improve their productivity by that 5 percent – resulting in $25M in top-line revenues that catapulted them over quota.
Know what’s working for your reps — and what’s not
Your CRM is up and running. But just how good is your sales process and technology if it doesn’t provide you with actionable insight? As leaders, we dream big and aim high – which is great, but not always optimal when it comes to setting realistic expectations for your reps. Forecasting sales can be like forecasting the weather – it’s often unpredictable. At the same time, it’s possible to lessen the unpredictability by staying in the know of which territories or reps are overstating or understating their pipeline. Have confidence in your sales forecasts and know that pipelines are more accurate when based on actual sales behavior – not predictions.
Onboard new reps more effectively
Similar to getting more productivity out of current reps, if you can decrease the time it takes for new reps to become productive, that’s money in the bank. A large business services company recently reduced their onboarding time from 9-12 months down to 3-6 months. That’s 4X the revenue they are now receiving from new reps compared to previous years. Consider integrating traditional training and sales onboarding activities with things like process automation, best practice sharing, and coaching – and you’ll see a dramatic decrease in time to revenue for new reps.
Shift to just-in-time training
Instead of investing hours or days at a time for sales training of both new and existing reps, consider a just-in-time approach where training is integrated with daily activities and processes. For example, leverage technology to serve up appropriate training modules when an opportunity is created for a specific vertical. Or provide updated product training or collateral before that product is presented to a prospect. Doing this not only reduces time out of the office and not selling, but provides context for reps to apply what they learn in real situations so they internalize it.
Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you’re not making the number, if you’re sales processes are disjointed – stop trying to solve the problem with more of the same tools and approaches. Make today the day to start doing something different. While this shift doesn’t eliminate the need for heroic efforts at the end of the month/quarter, it does allow for more predictability and for sales leaders to select how to apply those heroic efforts more strategically.
It’s time to revolutionize selling. Are you in?
Read More: Why You’re Nobody’s Hero. Yet.