Figuring Out If We’re Having An OK Year

We’re hitting our numbers in terms of new sales, but we’re still off in overall revenue and profit forecast. We’re trying to figure out what’s working and what’s not working. Is it mix? If the mix is OK, maybe our forecast was off? What about the time it takes to ramp up and show results?

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Delivering according to plan can be complicated. Coming up with a plan that makes sense can be just as challenging. Look at the puzzle from multiple points of view. Take a critical look at the timing of income and expenses.

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A formula for building up sales

 

We haven’t had good experience turning things over to salespeople. We give them leads and they don’t turn that into business. Later on we find out that they didn’t do a good job on following up. Or they followed up but couldn’t turn the lead into a sale. Not sure how to better manage this.

Thoughts of the day: Your job includes managing both salespeople and sales activities. Make sure that you have the right people in place doing the right job. Save time and effort by knowing the profile of who you want to sell to. Get salespeople involved in the effort so that they place greater value on the leads. Check out the ROI on sales activities.

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Think like a detective when it comes to sales

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When it comes to selling, I’m figuring out that I have to think like a detective and not a typical salesperson. Do you have any suggestions on how to best do that?

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Decide on who is your best customer, then go get more of them. Work through a list of best customer suspects. Figure out where your targets hang out. Find out if you really are talking to qualified suspects. Have a way to circle back to the suspects who don’t seem to fit initially. Get prospects to turn themselves into clients.

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Don’t Hope for the Best, Plan for It

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Trying to figure out what we can really count on for sales this year. Struggling with optimistic estimates and timing. People get excited when they talk to new prospects, and we’ve lost our share of “sure winners” we were certain we’d get. If we do close on a project, saying it’s sold doesn’t mean we can invoice it right away. It can take months between invoicing and when we get paid, and we don’t even have the client signed yet, meaning we can’t bank on anything. How can we possibly plan for growth under these circumstances?

Thoughts of the Day: A robust sales function is essential to the growth and development of every company. Not everything you expect to sell will close, that’s where probabilities come into play. Figuring out how to focus on the likely closers, instead of wasting time on the sexy ones will help everyone feel more successful. It’s a matter of dividing the sales job into smaller buckets and then tackling each one separately. Having more than enough possibilities allows your company to choose the best.

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Instill Order in Sales to Gain Foresight

The part of sales I’ve struggled with is tracking and getting control of what we should be doing. For all intents and purpose, forecasting is non-existent, finger in the wind, seat of the pants, coin flip. 5 proposals jumped ahead of ones that should have been done. I also hear that it can be a real bear to get everyone to use a CRM system. How do we start?

Thoughts of the Day: Knowing what is expected in sales can lead to predictable, profitable growth. Figure out how much of the year’s sales will likely roll in and how much needs to be created. Tracking proposal priority is part of managing sales activity. A good CRM system can be worth its weight in gold, but needs a strong leader to get it into use.

The goal of any well-run company is to have predictable, profitable growth over a long period of time – years, not months. Revenue that is up some years, down others, can destroy profits as the company always struggles to get ahead of the next change in direction.

Make the goal big enough to stay ahead of inflation. Resist the temptation to take on too much growth at any one time. 10% – 20% per year is a good growth rate for most companies. Over time, at that rate, most businesses can double revenue and triple profit.

Most companies experience roll over from one year to the next, and repeat orders from existing clients that won’t take a lot of effort to bring on. Figure out how much of the annual goal for sales will come easily, and how much has to be created from scratch.

Set separate goals for each category:

  • roll over from last year
  • existing clients likely to re-order with little or no prompting
  • existing and new clients with potential that has to be pursued
  • new clients that have to be found

Breaking sales down into these categories will help you scope the amount of effort that has to be put into sales for the upcoming year.

Keeping track sales activity is essential. A spreadsheet to manage proposals can be invaluable. List all active prospects, using columns and dates to indicate what stage they are at: information gathering, confirming needs, preparing a proposal, negotiating, closed, implemented.

Put someone in charge of managing the activity in the proposal spreadsheet. That person needs to watch for a steady flow of prospects at every stage. Additionally, watch that prospects move steadily from one stage to the next. Anything that gets stuck is referred to management to look at why it’s stuck and if they can help get it moving. The person watching the proposal spreadsheet can also predict resources needed because they can see how the volume of activity flows through the sales pipeline. With practice the spreadsheet can turn into a tool to predict future sales, based on historical trends.

In addition to a proposal spreadsheet, a CRM system will provide valuable information regarding sales activities. Start simple. Assign someone responsibility for picking implementing your new CRM system. Make sure that person has the time, experience in sales, management skill and clout to get things done.

Plan on CRM taking 6 months to a year to achieve full implementation. Learn to do the basics first. Start with scheduling activities and using the system to log all contacts, which can be the most immediately gratifying parts. Users find they can look up history and see an increasingly full calendar going forward. Get people to rely on the system for information on who is / has been contacted. Boost engagement because people see the value of what’s contained within.

Give the leader of project authority to compel people to comply. Make sure your project leader has demonstrated ability to lead and train. CRM is not the project for a rookie to cut their chops on – it’s too important to the future of the company.

 

Looking for a good book? Cracking the Sales Management Code: The Secrets to Measuring and Managing Sales Performance, by Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazzana.

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