How to Develop a 4 Step Action Plan for Achieving Sales Target
As we round out the first half of the year, is your sales team where it needs to be to hit your year-end goals? Tune in to learn how to turn summer downtime into an opportunity to regroup, recalibrate, and fine tune your sales engine for 3rd and 4th quarter. Discover how to develop an action plan to hit your sales targets by the end of the year, and ramp up quickly after the summertime lull many of us experience.
In 19 hyper-focused minutes, we’ll cover:
- How to turn the problem of slowed summer business into an opportunity for your sales team
- Tools you can use to “take the temperature” on where your sales team stands today, in relation to achieving your year-end target
- Specific ways to course correct on your original strategy to be successful for the balance of the year
- Tips for setting a coaching cadence to make sure your salespeople are engaging in the right high-gain activities with the right prospects
Read the Full Transcript of the Briefinar Below:
Anita Greenland: Summertime blues. It’s that time of year, and it might be what you’re experiencing in your sales now, too. Clients aren’t returning calls. Opportunities have gone off the radar. What are your sales people doing when they disappear in the middle of the day? Well, you can rant on in sales meetings, or you can see this as a propertunity.
Lisa Rose: Propertunity? What’s that?
Anita Greenland: A propertunity is a problem that’s an opportunity.
Lisa Rose: That’s right. Well, hello, and welcome to Briefinars for sales leaders. We promise to be brief and bright and bring it all to you in 19 minutes. Good afternoon. I’m Lisa Rose. I’m Regional Vice President of Sales here at The Brooks Group.
Anita Greenland: I’m Anita Greenland. I am the Vice President of Client Experience here at The Brooks Group.
Lisa Rose: You can put down your pen, if you like. We’re going to send you a recording afterwards. What we’ll do today is review an action plan to make sure you hit your sales targets by the end of the year and give you a chance to take a short quiz to gauge your progress so far.
Anita Greenland: So, there are lots of reasons for the summertime blues in the sales world. In the next 19 minutes, we will offer you a cure for those summertime blues, but let’s start with some challenging news first.
Lisa Rose: Right. Let’s look at what’s happening across the country. From an economic standpoint, the US economy isn’t growing as quickly as they predicted at the beginning of the year, but it’s still growing. For instance, spending on equipment grew at 7.2% rather than the predicted 9.1%. Same with consumer spending. Growing, but not as quickly as anticipated. Interest rates are rising, too. In fact, we had a hike last week from the Fed. So, what’s that mean for business-to-business sales? How’s that translate down to us? It means, like we say in the South, you’re not shooting fish in a barrel. You’re having to be smart about your sales strategies. So here are four strategies to fine-tune your sales engine for third and fourth quarter this year, how to finish strong. Step number one, look over your shoulder. What’s gotten you here so far? Analyze the trends in your results so far this year. It helps you to pinpoint what’s working well and what’s not working at all. If you’re not already using a postmortem on lost opportunities, here’s a chance to start. Many sales people don’t like defeat, and when they lose something, they want to move on quickly to golden horizons, but it’s really valuable for them to figure out what led to the loss so as to not repeat the mistake or start a pattern. You may be able to come up with a strategy to add to your tool belt so you can recognize and address the situation when it comes up again.
Anita Greenland: Lisa, you are so right. As you know, one of my responsibilities here at The Brooks Group is to work with some of the teams that have gone through our sales training. One of our biggest coaching tools is to not only talk about the successes, but also discuss the failures. There’s just as many lessons, if not even more lessons, that can be learned from the failures.
Lisa Rose: Absolutely. Failures hurt, but I think I’ve learned my biggest lessons from failures.
Anita Greenland: Right, yeah. So starting off those team meetings with talking about the wins, talking about the losses, and lessons learned from that is a very powerful tool, not just for the individual that won or lost the sale, but really for the whole team. I can’t tell you how many times I learn lessons from my colleagues that I was able to take their failures and turn them into my wins.
Lisa Rose: You know, it’s a great way to develop a culture, too, a coaching culture among peers. Once somebody shares a loss and experiences that with the team, you may get some ideas from your teammates that are even better than what you would get from your manager. It also helps you lean out and help each other naturally over the course outside of meetings. It doesn’t make you feel like you’re a loser because you’ve lost an opportunity.
Anita Greenland: Right. As a sales leader, it takes some of the pressure off you, as the sales leader, to always have all of the answers and all of the solutions. Not to mention, it creates good team bonding and team building within your organization.
Lisa Rose: Absolutely. Great. Well, let’s look at step number two. Mind the gaps, as they say in jolly old England. On the last point, you may have identified where the sales skill gaps lie, so let’s take a look at what it means. If a skill gap is early on in a sale, it’s likely that the sales person needs some help with pre-call planning, setting objectives for the call, putting together some questions, qualifying prospects, questioning overall. Are they using those open-ended questions? What are they doing to try to develop trust? If they’re losing them early on, those may be some issues. Now, if the opportunity is qualified, a lost sale later in the process may mean the sales person could benefit from learning how to sell the value of their solution. Don’t just present price. How do you present the value, as well? Overcoming objections. Sometimes sales people shut right down if they hit one objection in negotiating, so how do you come back? Your price is too high. How do you come back from that? Sometimes it’s as easy as finding comfortable ways to ask for the sale. Only 35% of sales people ask for the sale, according to research.
Anita Greenland: Which means that 65% of sales people don’t ask for the sale.
Lisa Rose: Yes, that’s true.
Anita Greenland: A lot of times, it’s because they’re not comfortable because they don’t feel that they’ve earned the right to ask for the business. You know what? A lot of times, they’re right. They haven’t earned the right to ask for the business, because they have oftentimes skipped steps in the sales process, if they’re even following a sales process. That makes them hesitant to ask for the business. Make sure that your teams are following some sales process and that they’re not skipping steps. That’s going to help them be more successful.
Lisa Rose: Yeah, and their behavioral styles, they don’t want to come off like a pushy used car salesman. They think asking for the sale is really being aggressive, whereas, in most cases, the person wants you to ask them for their business. If you’ve earned the right, like you said before, you should feel very confident in doing that. There’s ways to do that that are not overly aggressive.
Anita Greenland: Absolutely, yeah. When you’re in lock step with the customer, it does feel more comfortable, even for those who are naturally wired to not want to be pushy.
Lisa Rose: Too, it’s a natural progression. If you keep the customer focused on the focus of fit from the very beginning, you’re walking through step by step together, and then it becomes a natural progression of where it ends up. Now, if you jump right through and you’re asking them for business without having earned it and not having asked them some questions to determine their wants and their needs, then you are going to come off like a pushy used car salesman.
Anita Greenland: The most likely result will be a no.
Lisa Rose: Yes, and then you learn from that failure.
Anita Greenland: Yes, exactly.
Lisa Rose: Okay. Well, step number three, get on the right track. Once you start working on a development plan for the team, it’s worthwhile to sit down with every sales person and chart out specific targets to achieve their goal. Not the team goal. It all adds up. How do they achieve their goal? Start with the end in mind and back up through high-gain activities. In other words, how do they need to spend their time in ways that lead directly to the sale?
Anita Greenland: You know, sales people can be busy being busy.
Lisa Rose: That’s right.
Anita Greenland: I’m sure many of you guys on the call today have experienced that. You really want your sales people being busy focused on the high-gain activities. Lisa, what are some examples of high-gain activities?
Lisa Rose: Right. Examples of high-gain activities that lead directly to the sale would be setting up some meetings with C-level leaders in organizations that you’re trying to approach, updating an account plan, putting your plan in place and executing it, speaking at events where you’ll have some key and target prospects there, as well. It really helps to put together kind of a business development plan overall, with the concept of chunking. Have you heard of chunking?
Anita Greenland: I love that concept. It’s a great way to approach and digest the whole process. You’ve heard the saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” That’s the concept of chunking. Lisa, tell them how we do chunking here.
Lisa Rose: Sure. It’s taking your goal and then backing up. If you look at your overall goal and you broke it into these categories, how many clients do I need to renew? How many new clients do I need to sign up? What percentage needs to be retention? If you break your budget up that way … For instance, if you said, I need to renew 23% of my budget needs to be in renewals, 29% needs to be in new business, and 48% will be from retaining the clients I have. That kind of breaks it into chunks. Then, from there, you outline some actionable strategies to achieve objectives. Then, you align those strategies with the high-gain activities, right? How do I need to spend my time to achieve those objectives?
Anita Greenland: So no longer are you busy being busy.
Lisa Rose: Right.
Anita Greenland: You’re busy with purposeful activity.
Lisa Rose: No more time on Facebook and online shops anymore.
Anita Greenland: Exactly.
Lisa Rose: High gain. Okay, step number four, set the cadence. Like a marching band, the sales manager needs to set the beat to march the for success of the team. So, how regularly will you review activities with targets with each team member? Most successful teams do this on a regular meeting time. Set your time and stick to it. Make sure these meetings are focused on coaching and development, not just going through the call report. Sales people hate when you just walk through the call report. You should really know before then what happened on these calls. Sales coaching is the activity with the greatest impact on sales effectiveness, but according to the Sales Management Association, formal sales coaching strategies tend to be poorly executed or non-existent. You work with a lot of sales managers, Anita. Is that what you find?
Anita Greenland: I do. I would have to say, it’s probably one of the … The focus that you were talking about, that focus on call reports, is the biggest habit, the hardest habit to break. What resonated with me years ago that Bill Brooks said, the late, great Bill Brooks used to say that, “Small things reinforced lead to big change.” That is what coaching does for your reps. It creates that big change so that the daily, the weekly, the monthly feedback that you’re giving to your sales reps in the form of one-on-one meetings, in team meetings, in field rides, that is the best way to help develop your reps.
Lisa Rose: I think when I was a sales manager, the mistake I made the most was to overlook my high performers. I figured they were doing everything they needed to be doing, and I would spend my time with the laggards or the ones that were really struggling. That’s a big mistake.
Anita Greenland: Absolutely, yeah. Research indicates that the more time that you spend with your mid-level and your high-level performers, you’re going to get a much bigger return on investment, but our knee-jerk reaction is to put all of our attention on our low performers and try to squeeze more out of them. They often are low performers for a reason, and they may not ever grow to be mid- or high-level performers.
Lisa Rose: That’s right. Your high-level performers, if you don’t coach them, they may look to go somewhere where they will get coached.
Anita Greenland: That’s right.
Lisa Rose: They’re high performers for a reason. They have high expectations for themselves. They’re going to work hard. They want to learn how to work harder and more effectively, just like everybody else.
Anita Greenland: I’ll just say one more thing about the cadence. When you set that cadence in your one-on-ones or your team meetings or your field rides, honor that cadence. The tyranny of the urgent oftentimes will get in the way, and you postpone it or you cancel it. Then, before long, you’ve fallen out of the habit of it. If it’s a cadence that your reps can come to count on, then they will look forward to it. They will be prepared. It will enable both of you to maximize your time and results.
Lisa Rose: I think, too, it’s important not to make it a one-way conversation. Ask them what they need. Sometimes, you can get meetings, and it becomes about reviewing the numbers. Sometimes it’s more effective to view the strategies they’re using on opportunities. How can I help you on this opportunity?
Anita Greenland: Yeah. If they’re just looking at the numbers, that’s too late. It’s really too late. They need to be looking more in process versus at the end of the process.
Lisa Rose: It can’t be, “What are you closing today? What are you closing this week?”
Anita Greenland: Right. Focus on some of the front of the sales process activities.
Lisa Rose: Right, absolutely.
Anita Greenland: So if you’re needing to get a little bit of information and insight on how to conduct effective one-on-one meetings and other sales coaching tips, you can find that information on our Brooks Group blog, which you can access at our website, thebrooksgroup.com. Just in the search bar, type sales coaching tips or sales coaching best practices. That’ll get you some good ideas and information on conducting those one-on-one meetings and coaching practices.
Lisa Rose: Our blog has a lot of great content, too. You may want to sign up to get reminders sent to you, because it’s updated consistently. New trends.
Anita Greenland: Got a question.
Lisa Rose: Sure.
Anita Greenland: How’s your team doing at this point in the year? How poised are you to hit those 2017 goals?
Lisa Rose: Well, that’s a great question. As we said, monitoring your top-line metrics is one thing, but how can you really tell if the field is working on the right things to be successful for the rest of the year? We’ve developed an easy target check-in quiz that’s really helpful for revealing where your sales team stands against the target at this point and where you need to focus your efforts to reach the goal for the rest of the year.
Anita Greenland: You know, as sales leaders, we usually know what our teams need, but sometimes, we’re just too close to objectively assess the situation. It can be really helpful to take that step back and look at what’s really going on, beyond just those top-line metrics. If you’re interested in the quiz, we will be sending out a link to it, along with a recording of today’s presenting. After you take the quiz, you can leverage the results to define your strategy for Q3 and Q4.
Lisa Rose: Yeah, it’s very simple. No risk. Just fill out the quiz, and we’ll send you the results.
Anita Greenland: So, we did receive a few questions that you guys submitted ahead of time.
Lisa Rose: Which is great, thank you. Mike asks, “When a team is behind its numbers by more than 20%, is it better for the sales manager to push the laggards or the achievers?” We just spoke about that a little bit.
Anita Greenland: Right. Both. I mean, we said focus on the mid-level and the top-level performers, but you do want to focus on both, because your low-level performers could be lacking knowledge or lacking skills. Do they need some mentoring versus parenting? If they’re in the parentship bucket, then you need to question whether they should stay in your organization, but maybe they need a little bit of mentoring. For the most part, you do want to focus more on your high achievers.
Lisa Rose: Well, and that comes back to hiring, which our next question’s about. John asks, “Do you have any tips on hiring a sales individual who will match my top sales performers?” You know, a lot of it comes down … It used to be just a guessing game, right? You would see if you liked the guy or girl. Is the woman outgoing? Will people like them? Now we have tools that can help with that, so there’s not as much guesswork. If you run some type of assessment ahead of time, you can see if the person has the behavioral style and are they motivated by what the job rewards, right?
Anita Greenland: Right. I think a lot of sales leaders fall into the habit of trying to clone their top performer. I’m not saying that that’s all bad, but your top performer may not be as good as it gets. Like you said, benchmarking the role as far as what are the key capabilities that are needed? What’s the personality, the behavior needed? What motivators does it reward are going to help get the best candidate.
Lisa Rose: Right. Those tools are available. We can help you with that, and there are a lot of good ones out there.
Anita Greenland: Brian asks, “Can you discuss getting people off of performance improvement plans with positive results?”
Lisa Rose: The answer is, yes. A performance improvement plan doesn’t need to be just putting paperwork in place to run somebody out of town. There may actually be a reason they’re not performing well, right?
Anita Greenland: Well, I think you’ve got to ask yourself a couple of questions. Is it a can’t do issue, or is it a won’t do issue? A can’t do, they need knowledge. They need skills. They might need training. A won’t do is they may not have a willingness. They may not have the attitude. Those are two different ways to handle that situation. When you do determine an action plan, it needs to be two way.
Lisa Rose: Right.
Anita Greenland: There’s got to be actions that the rep is responsible for, but also, you as a leader should have some responsibility and some accountability in that. The third thing I would say is you want to make sure to set up a timeline to track the progress and make sure that they’re moving along and you’re moving along in meeting the deadlines and meeting the expectations. That’s how you get them off of the performance improvement plan successfully.
Lisa Rose: And a positive result. That’s right. Okay, folks. Well, we promised we’d keep it under 19 minutes today, so that’s all the time we have. If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Keep an eye out for the recording and the sales target check-in. We hope you found this information today to be valuable, and we look forward to seeing you on the next Briefinar. Have a great afternoon.
Anita Greenland: Bye-bye.