Now Is The Time...
Top 11 Sales Management Actions You Must Take
By Ken Thoreson

Sound investment portfolio-management advice ranges from “hold firm with your existing stocks” to “take advantage of a great opportunity to buy at today’s basement prices”. Holding firm assumes that your existing portfolio contains quality securities, is properly diversified and has been managed with an appropriate, long-term perspective.

For our sales management world, let’s make the same positive assumptions – our sales team consists of quality people with good attitudes and successful track records, and has been properly managed. However, there’s one big difference. Sales leaders must continually keep their sales teams focused on goals and activities that make their teams and companies successful. Therefore, their perspective must be short-term revenue generation.

Today’s tenuous political and economic situation is very distracting and may be having a negative impact on your team’s morale and drive. Lousy economic headlines and layoffs may have left staff suffering from survivor’s guilt, lamenting about the loss of comrades and security.

Now is the time to rally your troops. The nation’s leaders are encouraging spending and investing to boost our economy. This also is an opportunity to build a better sales team that will increase your market share as competitors lag. The following tactical program features 11 key sales and marketing management actions that will help your sales management approach take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime during the lifetime of this opportunity:

1.
Mobilize by motivating - Keep your team focused on activity, and decrease distraction by tuning into the attitude and motivation of your sales team. Build belief in your company, and boost your team’s confidence in its products/services with visits to your satisfied customers, reference letters, or customer visits and presentations to your entire organization about their satisfaction. Make your sales meetings fun. Create sales contests/games that are focused on achieving activity levels that will increase your sales pipeline and sales opportunities. Find out what is important to your sales team, and create rewards that will reinforce these.
2.
Review your product/service packaging and pricing tactics to ensure that you are capitalizing on your strengths and meeting competition - This is a perfect time to review your existing profit margins and sales-cycle length by product line, and make short-term adjustments to determine the elasticity of your product that will increase revenues and margins. Create or amend the features or offerings in your various packages or even create new packaged offerings. Confuse your competition with new offerings and you may even find new added-value options that have been overlooked. Find ways to be different.
3.
Analyze and profile the sales team and distribution channels that you need to penetrate your markets - First list the attributes necessary to maximize sales of your product, and then determine if this is best accomplished through a company sales organization or channels/partners or both. Second, create a customer focus group and ask them how to best serve them and what they are looking for in a relationship. What levels of support do they require? Third, make a decision on the five most essential attributes or profiles for your sales employees and channel partners. 

Analyze your existing strategy and each channel partner as to how they match up to your profile. You may find new partners/alliances that will open up new accounts and even new markets. If your #1 choices for partners aren’t interested, pursue #2 choices with the argument that you can help make them #1. You also may find it advantageous to discontinue some relationships. 

Your channel partner strategy should complement the efforts of your team, not cannibalize them. Look to your partner’s business model to determine how to capture “share of mind”, and reward them for their achievements. Quantify the results of each partner, and keep senior channel management updated.
4.
Muscle up your sales team - With so many very good salespeople available and looking for the right opportunity, it’s the perfect time to increase your recruiting and potential hiring. It is far better to hire the best person for the job, and not the best available person. Create the ideal five attributes of successful salespeople, and establish a “tight” interview process that ensures you increase the quality of your team. Guideline: spend 25% of your time interviewing.
5.
Analyze and strategize each sales opportunity -- If your industry is facing fewer opportunities and increased competition, each opportunity is even more precious. Schedule time with salespersons individually or in a team setting to think through each near-term sales opportunity. Provide your team with effective tools that analyze the status of each opportunity and develop the various tactics to increase your probabilities. Specifically:
  • Pinpoint and develop ways to counter objections
  • Determine buyer decision criteria
  • Establish client decision makers and influencers
  • Initiate multi-level contact with multi-level influencers in the prospect’s company
6.
Seek supporters who will recommend your product/service - Analyze the type of organizations or people that impact your client’s decision process. These “influencers” may be consultants that work in the same market or leverage the same prospect base, accounting firms, bankers, industry analysts. Consider other sales organizations that would benefit directly or indirectly from the sale of your product or service. Develop a plan to establish who the decision makers at these organizations are. Enlist your sales and management teams in a campaign to present these influencers with advantages of your firm, and secure a commitment from them to work with you. This on-going action can lead to the equivalent of a normal salesperson’s quota value of sales!
7.
Create new sales leads with an active target-marketing campaign - Create a smart, targeted campaign, not a blast or mass-appeal plan. First, establish profiles of current clients, and determine the five reasons they use your products/service. Second, hit your market with a strong, clear message – ROI and productivity gains – through case studies in publications that your market reads and a customer reference list. Third, establish a plan of action for the next six months and make sure you have included a sales follow up contact – execute your management review.
8.
Review your current compensation plan to ensure that it supports company goals - Clearly document your current plan and tabulate payments against results over time. Is the plan achieving your original goals? Is the plan reinforcing desired sales activity behavior? If not, develop a new plan, and gain internal buy-in from your team. Focus on shorter-term goals, and implement a new plan with commitment to keep it in place for at least six months. Use the existing market opportunity to focus on short-term achievements.
9.
Increase your investment in training – sales skills, product/service knowledge - In tighter times your team must perform more effectively. Review your past efforts, and take an inventory of training needs based on individual salesperson comparisons against your desired profile. Schedule ongoing training programs. Develop your own internal programs to ensure your salespeople fully understand and can sell your product/services and then arrange for commercial sales skill training programs. You will experience both short-and long-term benefits. Focus on increased levels of training for six months.
10.
Develop an active program to contact every customer - This is a great time to establish a program to make contact with each existing client to fully understand their situations and use of your product/services, to offer new packages, and seek references for new potential clients. Make sure you are effectively using your CRM or SFA programs, and update your database with each customer contact. Verify that your sales team’s recent contacts with every prospect and client are appropriate. Develop, execute, and monitor a program of continuing contact with all targeted clients, prospects, influencers and partners. Review your progress each week/month at your sales meetings.
11.
Build better planning into your sales organization - Failure to plan is the number one obstacle thwarting revenue generation. First, define the specific steps of your sales process, and ensure that each salesperson executes those steps effectively. Second, develop detailed six-month individual salesperson business plans. Third, create specific named account tactical sales plans for those key strategic accounts, and follow up on your salespersons’ actual actions.


You’ll find the word “execute” many times in this brief article, because action is critical.
Successful sales managers plan, successfully focus, and execute their programs. Take these 11 actions, and you will enhance your sales team, increase revenues, and build a focus in your organization when it is critically important – NOW! Take Action. Stay Positive.




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