In football they call it the “2 Minute Drill.” It could be the last 2 minutes of the first half or the last two minutes of the game. Everyone on the field is expected to know their play and their role and they are expected to beat their man. On offense the objective is to score and on defense it’s to prevent a score. Both teams play with intensity, passion and a sense of urgency.
Most sales leaders would answer these questions with a resounding yes. They would say their sales force works smart, hard, long hours and is results-focused. They might provide metrics to prove their claim.
The harsh reality, however, is most sales organizations don’t play fast. Consider a few reasons why and some solutions to improve sales performance.
Urgency in a sales environment can mean different things to different people. A culture of urgency is likely to manifest itself in a number of ways that are conducive to improved sales performance.
- Get Busy– Spend more time face-to-face or phone-to-phone talking to buying influences where an opportunity exists in which you have a fighting chance to win the business.
- Out-Work the Competition– Does each member of your sales team start their workday earlier and end it later than your competitor? Are they motivated to excel to make their number?
- Use Discovery to Reduce or Eliminate Discounting– Is your sales team spending enough time in discovery so they can craft value propositions that resonate and position your product, service or solution as the only logical solution? Do they sell value instead of discounting?
- Sharpen Your Sword– Are you helping your team learn something new every day that helps them execute better with customers. Does your sale team see it as a priority to improve their business acumen and financial literacy by reading blogs, listening to webinars, subscribing to journals and using social media especially LinkedIn and Twitter?
- The Clock is Ticking– Top sales performers know that time is their enemy. There are only so many sales days each quarter. Does your sales team know how many sales days are left in your quarter?
- Manage Your Funnel–You know the drill. You can’t close opportunities unless you have some in the funnel. How often do you check the number of opportunities, velocity of movement, dollar volume, product mix and match to your ideal customer profile? How often do you measure the length of the sales cycle and win rate to ensure your team can make their quota for the month, quarter and year? Remember sales funnel balance and health are important but change quickly.
- Time to Fill Open Positions– Open territories greatly diminish the chance to make the yearly forecast. Does your Human Resources Department work with the sales organization to have a bench of available candidates that can be hired and on-boarded quickly? Better yet, what are you doing to reduce involuntary turn-over?
- On-Boarding Ramp-Up– How long does it take to onboard new hires to an acceptable level of productivity? Does your on-boarding process need a reboot?
- Measuring the Right Thing– Carpenters say measure twice and cut once. In sales it’s mandatory to measure the right action or outcome at the right time. This varies by organization but everyone measures at least the following: percent of sales reps making quota, percent of company plan attainment, forecast accuracy and percent of sales rep turn-over. All of these are useful but they are lagging indicators because the event has already occurred. The question is what indicators are you measuring that are leading? These tell you the right behaviors are occurring.
- Remove the Obstacles– Is it easy or hard to get things done in your organization? Think about the development of sales proposals, responses from marketing or field service, price discount requests, responses to RFPs and contact revisions from legal to name a few. Is marketing, customer service and product service your friend or foe? Is your sales force empowered to make decisions to provide rapid responses to customers? Are you truly customer centric?
Playing fast is a mindset and, as one Vice President that we work with stated recently, “We set the pace for the company and it won’t be slow. We empower our sales team to make decisions. We don’t wait on corporate or operations for approval. We force them to keep up with us.”
From our perspective, this is sound advice. Obviously, sales teams need parameters for decision-making. Sales teams, however, are more likely to succeed and thrive in a culture that shows no tolerance for complacency and promotes a sense of urgency.
As always we welcome your thoughts and input. Let’s start a discussion and elevate the sales profession with a thoughtful, civil and informative discourse.