The System and its Benefits
Systems recognize the importance of their interconnected parts and appreciate how stress, failure, changes, or growth of one part affects the others. And, systems provide diagnostics, methods, and mechanisms for repair.
The same is true for a sales organization. It is a rather complex system made up of sales people, customers, products, processes, and technologies. Sales leaders benefit from employing an effective system; one that provides clarity of purpose, increases operational efficiencies, and improves performance at all levels.
An Organizational Framework
The Sales Strategy Execution System provides an organizational framework for strategy execution. Common sales scenarios such as the following pose a conundrum for sales leaders such as yourself. First, you must identify if your issue is a people, process, or technology problem and then decide a course of action. This is when having a system really counts.
Perhaps you have experienced one of more of these common sales problems:
- Some of my sales people are not on track for hitting their sales targets.
- Achieving our sales strategy demands that our sales people target a new ideal customer profile, but they are reluctant to get out of their comfort zone.
- Forecast accuracy is an ongoing problem for our sales organization in spite of all the training we’ve invested in.
Let’s take a look at our Sales Strategy Execution System and discuss how to use it to address the first problem on the list where the sales person is not on track to hit their target. You probably hired the individual because she had the background, education and experience to be a successful team member. You hired her to perform certain tasks, use various processes, produce work products (presentations, proposals, demonstrations, etc.) which enable goal attainment. It is the performance system and it looks like this:
Sales Person > Tasks > Processes > Work Products > Goals
However, executing strategy, improving performance, or solving problems requires us to analyze the performance system in reverse order starting with goals. It looks like this:
Sales Person < Tasks < Processes < Work Products < Goals
How does the system help the sales leader whose people are not on track for hitting their targets?
We begin by asking questions starting with goals and proceeding through the system components until we uncover the root cause of the issue.
Step 1. Align Sales Goals with the Sales Strategy
- Has the sales person ever hit their sales goal? If the answer is yes, then we can assume it is not a capability issue and continue asking questions.
- Is the sales person’s goal realistic and attainable?
- Has anything changed in their situation, region, or personal life that would prevent them from reaching their goals? Perhaps there has been a change in their territory that would inhibit goal attainment at this time. Goal adjustments should solve this issue.
Step 2. Identify High Value High Impact Work Products
- What work products do you require from your sales person, i.e. Forecast Reports, Call Planning worksheets, Opportunity analyses, Account Management Plans, Pipeline Reports, Sales Presentations, Product demonstrations, Meeting Notes, etc.?
- What is the quality of your sales person’s work? (These are just a few examples)
- Call planning sheets are thoughtful and well-prepared.
- Opportunity analyses are thorough, complete, and up-to-date. In my experience this is a persistent problem for sales leaders. You may have invested in world class training initiatives that stress the importance of gathering information and yet your sales person produces a sparsely populated Opportunity Analysis. This may represent an accountability problem.
- Customer communications such as emails are professional and well-written.
- Account Management Plans are strategic and contacts are at the right level and indicate broad account coverage.
- Have you clearly communicated your expectations regarding work products and quality of work?
Step 3. Improve Processes
- Are necessary processes, such as a sales process and opportunity forecasting in place? A common process problem I’ve encountered is that funnel stage definitions and data input requirements are vague or ambiguous. This may lead to accountability problems.
- Are your processes functioning as intended and expected?
- Are your sales people adequately trained in using the processes?
Step 4. Prioritize Tasks
- Are your sales people aware of their required tasks?
- Have you prioritized tasks to support your strategy and goals?
- Are your sales people proficient at performing the tasks?
- Have you observed your people perform in front of customers? Some tasks require performance skills so it is vital to observe them perform in a sales environment, not in a classroom of their peers
Step 5. Develop People
- Do you have the right people in the right roles?
- Do they have the education, experience, and training to ensure success?
- Have you clearly communicated your expectations including what will make them successful and, equally important, what will cause failure?
- Do you handle poor performance or behavior issues in a timely manner? It is not uncommon for sales leaders to delay dealing with sensitive issues and hope they take care of themselves?
- Do you have regular coaching meetings?
The above scenario illustrates how the system components help you isolate a problem and explore potential solutions. Some sales problems involve quick fixes while others may become on-going projects.
Sales leaders who have the tenacity, discipline, and courage to tackle sales issues head-on are rewarded with increased endorsement, status, loyalty, and authority. I hope this will be you!
Coming soon: links to pages with detailed objectives, instructions, and support documents for all five steps in the system. Check back often! Step 1. Align Sales Goals with Sales Strategy, Step 2. Identify High Value High Impact Work Products, and Step 3. Improve Processes are available now on the System Implementation page.