Want To Fast-Track Your Sales Agenda?

Most sales managers have an agenda that they want to push through.  However, they can be frustrated by the pace at which they can affect the changes required to make it happen.

The reality is that getting organisation-wide agreement about what must be done to accelerate sales can be a challenge.  Even if there is agreement, translating it into action can be tedious and slow.

With this in mind here are 4 questions that will tell you if your sales strategy is on course for success, or if it needs to be fast-tracked:

[expand title=”Q.1 Does Everybody Agree On The Priorities?” tag=”h3″]

How do you know if your agenda is on course for success?  Well here is the test: Ask each member of the sales team to list the top 3 priorities for the next quarter.   Then look to see just how ‘on the mark’ the answers are.  The likelihood is that you will get as many different priorities as the people that you ask.

While it is to be expected that each team member would have their own personal priorities, it is essential that there is a clear agreement as to the priorities for the sales team as a whole.  That consensus around what is most important is the essence of team.  Without it people are unlikely to be heading in the same direction.

Ask your colleagues/peers on the management team the same question about priorities for sales and the answers are likely to be even wider off the mark than those of the sales team.  For example, most CEOs and CFOs will struggle to list the top 3 sales priorities.

Now, you may say that they don’t need to know what the priorities for sales are, that is not their area.  Well, it is clear that these people are increasingly quick to express their opinion regarding sales at management and board meetings.  For this reason the savvy sales manager takes care to ensure that they are aware of and in agreement with the priorities that have been set.  It is the sales manager’s clever way of keeping them on side.

Managers will say that there are priorities for sales, but question as to whether they are the right priorities.   However, getting agreement on priorities, that is the right priorities, presupposes that your team shares:

  1. The same assessment of sales performance to date
  2. A realistic picture of your company’s sales strengths and weaknesses
  3. A common appreciation of marketplace conditions
  4. A balanced view of what is possible, the trade-offs required, etc.

Thus these four items are the bedrock for priority setting, because having the right priorities for sales depends on having the right view of these 4 key sales-related variables.

For example, if people have an overly favourable view of their own sales strengths, or their company’s competitive position, then it is unlikely that issues around developing sales skills, or improved competitiveness will feature among the priorities that are set.

If the company’s skills and its competitive position have been exaggerated then an area in need of improvement is likely to be overlooked.  Therefore changing the team’s priorities may require changing how the team views itself and its environment.[/expand]

[expand title=”Q.2 Is Everybody Committed to The Priorities?” tag=”h3″]

That every team member knows what the priorities are is a good start, but it is only that – a start.  People can know things and yet care little, or do nothing about them.

While setting priorities is easy, getting others to sign up to them is not.  There must be buy-in to the priorities for the quarter and a commitment to see them through. That means people must be consulted and engaged in the setting of priorities.  They cannot be handed down from senior managers like edicts.

If there is to be a real commitment to the priorities a transfer of ownership is key – they must be the team’s priorities, not just the manager’s.  That commitment is essential to making the priorities a reality.

The measure of that commitment is whether people are prepared to do what it takes to make the priority a reality.  More specifically it is:

  • The effort, creativity and enthusiasm that people are prepared to make
  • The changes (including changes to behaviour) that are required
  • The willingness to make any necessary trade-offs
  • Being prepared to take the pain that may result.
  • Being undeterred by any set-backs, or challenges faced along the way.

Discipline in its truest sense means commitment to ones goals.  Its sounds very obvious, but commitment to any priority is directly related to the payback that is anticipated.  So, if you want to increase the level of commitment, make the rewards clear to all those involved.

If people are to share in the responsibility for making the priorities a reality then this notion of payback is vital.  Of course you must make clear the negative consequences that are likely to arise if any priority is not addressed.
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[expand title=”Q.3 Is Everybody Committed to Act?” tag=”h3″]

It is a reality of business that many great plans fail in terms of imagination, but implementation.  When it comes to sales strategy in particular what is decided around the boardroom table and what happens in the field can be two very different things.

Action is where the rubber meets the road in respect of the priorities that have been set.  So what is being done to make the priorities set a reality?  Specifically, is there enough activity to make it happen?  Is it sustained and consistent enough to produce results?  Oh, and is it the right activity?

Activity gets results, but it casts the manager in the role of change agent, project manager and coach.  More specifically, here are some of the things managers do to bridge the gap between setting priorities and seeing results:

  • Having a clear action plan, with owners, deadlines, etc. for the various tasks
  • What people (managers & staff) will do more off, less off and none off
  • Removing (ahead of time) the most obvious obstacles or barriers
  • Changing the relevant processes, systems and structures to facilitate the changes required
  • Keeping track of what is and is not being done – make it visible
  • Ongoing review of activity and results
  • Keeping attention focused on the priorities and not letting it slip
  • Coaching people in line with the priorities set and what it means for them
  • Recognizing progress and celebrating success
  • Preparing for the dip that occurs when the initial enthusiasm wanes
  • Making people accountable

[/expand]

[expand title=”Q.4 Is That Action Proving Effective – Generating Results” tag=”h3″]

If something has not worked then there is probably a reason for it.  That is often because the people involved don’t have all the tools, strategies, or skills that are needed.  However, they can be slow to admit it.

When managers provide their teams with the tools, skills and strategies that relate to key sales priorities they can greatly boost the chances of successful implementation.  In the words of some managers this is a proactive way of removing not just barriers, but also excuses.  It is the necessary ‘quid pro quo’ from managers to their teams – a manager’s way of saying ‘I have done my bit, now you do yours’.

These tools, or skills enable people to do aspects of their job more effectively thereby directly impacting on the results achieved.  Equally importantly they enable people to do key tasks with greater confidence.  So, the question is – are the tools, systems and processes required to tackle key sales priorities working?

As a profession, sales has been slower to embrace tools, systems and process than many other areas.  This represents a great opportunity for the manager who recognizes the all important link between tools, confidence and skill.  This can be as simple as providing a salesperson with:

  • A new sales aide or piece of sales collateral
  • A proposal building too, objection handling responses, or a ROI calculator
  • Even a new list, or source of leads

The same applies to providing salespeople with new sales techniques or skills to make key aspects of their job easier – be that a new approach to lead generation, or to closing the sale.
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These questions are essentially a speed test for the success of the sales manager’s strategy, or agenda.  Click on the arrow to expand.

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