(By Leith M. Eades, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Sales Performance International)
The first half of the year is now behind us. For those of you who are on track to achieve your annual goal, congratulations! For those of you who need to play catch-up in the second half of the year, do not despair – you can still make this a successful year.
First, realize that despite some geopolitical instability, most of the world’s economies are growing. Spending is up slightly, with the S&P 500 sales growth rate hovering around 4 percent, annually. These are not the worst of times, though it may feel that way. Buyers are highly risk-averse and cautious about their purchase decisions, but you can still exceed your sales goals if you take the right actions now.
Do the math. Make sure your sales managers and reps take off the rose-colored glasses and assess their situation honestly. What are your current close rate, average deal size, and sales cycle time? Based on this information, how many opportunities do you need to close in the second half of the year, and do you have enough opportunities in your pipeline to recover any gap within the required time frame?
If you don’t have enough opportunities, there are several things you can do.
- Get more opportunities in your pipeline. This will probably require you to increase your marketing spend, and since these will be brand new opportunities, plan for them to take longer to close. If increasing the marketing budget is not a possibility, then you need to enable your salespeople to be better micro-marketers and enable them to create their own opportunities. They need to be able to stimulate buyer interest, without waiting for leads to be generated for them.
- Expand the size and scope of the current opportunities in the pipeline. I suggest more aggressive cross-selling and upselling activity. We often help our clients assess the potential of each account and identify low-hanging fruit using White Space Analysis. This looks at critical business drivers and initiatives in an account, and helps you identify potential options to create more value. You can then create an action plan and provide coaching to win this new business.
- Close a higher percentage of opportunities. To do this, you first need to get an accurate assessment of your opportunities and their readiness to close, and then create an action plan to win each of them. We help clients do this through our Successful Sales Formula, which analyzes opportunities in six dimensions – Pain, Power, Vision, Value, Collaboration, and Compelling Reason to Act. When the right combination of these factors exists, you have a very high probability of winning that business.
Mid- to Long-Term
It is difficult to think long-term when you are behind. However, if you don’t take some measures to treat the root causes of your sales challenges, you will always be playing catch up. This is a brutal way to live, and it is usually only a matter of time before you won’t be able to take it anymore. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Develop a suitable demand generation strategy to get enough opportunities to make your number.
- Verify that your sales processes are aligned with how your buyers buy, and then manage with discipline and consistency in sales process execution. This will help improve forecast accuracy and enable your sales managers to analyze pipelines and identify selling skill deficiencies, and also develop individually tailored, salesperson development and coaching plans.
- Create sales enablement playbooks to replicate success more effectively, and embed these tools into your CRM workflow, so that they will be used more consistently.
- Get your talent right. Get rid of the dead weight. Then, determine the skills and behaviors that make your best people successful. Leverage this knowledge to hire and develop high performing people across your entire team.
Managing Your CEO and Peers
Managing your CEO/President and your peers on the executive team while you are in recovery mode is a very important, but often overlooked, challenge. You are in a tough spot and might be tempted to rationalize why you are where you are. I encourage you to be completely transparent and have a clear plan to address what’s happening. If you’ve got bad news, but also know what you’re going to do about it in both the short and mid- to long term, then you can clearly articulate your plan and stand behind it. If you determine that the problem is a result of systemic or organizational causes, then lead or create a cross-functional team to find a holistic answer. Missing sales goals is not always just a sales problem.
You can make this a great year. Now, go make it so!