The second half of the year is now staring you in the face. What you accomplish in the next quarter...what you do in the next couple of months...will determine not only how your year will conclude, but it will also set the stage for 2010. End this year strong and next year will go well. End this year weak and you will have less budget, less pipeline, less momentum for success in 2010.
What's a savvy sales exec to do? (No, it's not play the game entitled "Prepare three envelopes.")
To help you avoid that "deer in the headlights" look, I'll provide some context and a framework that will help you to move forward strongly.
In working with clients over the past several years, we have identified five major levers of sales productivity and built the IDC Sales Productivity Framework. The five levers include the following:
- Talent Management
- Sales Management
- Sales Methodology
- Sales Enablement
- Customer Intelligence
Sales productivity is a meaty issue. Most B2B organizations have some definition of sales productivity and in our experience most of those definitions lead to one rathole or another. (Hint -- it's not the number of calls a rep makes or the amount of revenue delivered in a given time period).
For an initial discussion of sales productivity measures, please see the IDC best practices report on sales metrics and KPIs. This report will help you to start thinking about how you can collect the sales metrics and KPIs that allow you to measure true sales productivity and leverage that knowledge into action that improves your productivity.
That's an important big picture discussion, but not one that will help you to improve your performance next month. You need to balance the important and urgent tasks. If you ignore the important tasks, they will eventually become urgent...and how most sales organizations manage sales productivity is becoming urgent.
Today, however, the urgent tasks are becoming even more urgent. The steps to ensure improved revenue performance over the next two quarters boil down to the following:
- Sales people must have the right conversations with the right prospects now!
If you can get past that discussion, here are the steps to take. They map to the three levers listed above in italics:
#1. Target the Right Prospects and Customers (Customer Intelligence)
This is simple. You have the data in your customer and prospect databases. Ask a couple of your best and brightest business analysts to answer the questions:
- Which of our prospects said "no" to us six to nine months ago?
- Which of our prospects has contracts coming up for renewal in the next three months?
- Which of our competitors is having a tough time in the market?
- What is the buying profile of our customers? After they've bought something from us, what is the next most likely purchase, and when does that purchase typically happen?
- Which of our prospects is growing fastest?
- Which of our clients is growing fastest?
#2. Deliver the Right Conversations (Sales Enablement)
As part of this initiative, you will need to rearchitect the sales conversations. Why should a given prospect buy now? Why should a client upgrade now? (Hint, it's not because you need the revenue!). Deliver these new sales conversations as scripts for territory reps and channel partners. Deliver them as podcasts for enterprise reps and channel partners. Validate those conversations by asking for feedback. Congratulations, you've now just improved your sales enablement capabilities.
#3. Ensure the Right Behaviors (Sales Management)
You've got a secret weapon in your sales organization. This secret weapon can be used to significantly improve sales performance and results, yet in most organizations this resource is spending most of its time filling out reports to deliver to management. Oops.
This secret weapon is your first line sales manager. When the manager spends most of his or her time coaching reps, rep performance soars. In the short term, lighten up on the managers' reporting responsibilities. In the longer term, rearchitect this role so that it is a coaching role rather than a data management role. For a deep discussion of the first line sales manager role and related best practices, take a look at this new IDC report.
Good luck out there. And please, take these issues on with the sense of urgency that they require.
And let us know how we can help you to be successful in this process.
P.S. Please also visit my personal blog on fundraising for cancer research