Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Sales Funnel (or Sales Pipeline) Part 1

I am now officially tired of organisations that feel their CRM is a pipeline. Lets be clear—it is not!

The sales process is often compared to a funnel where new leads coming into the system (prospects) are placed into the top of the funnel (the widest part) and then worked through the system. The salesperson may then use a number of techniques such as informing, persuading, providing information, demonstrating until, at the narrow end, an order is placed and a sale is closed when payment from the customer is received. A sales funnel report presents a "snapshot" of your sales function at any given point in time. 

The funnel framework works fairly well because for all new leads that are generated by marketing, there is a closing rate that represents the sales that ultimately result. The number of resulting sales is usually significantly less than the number of total leads generated hence it is useful to think that as leads work their way further down the funnel, there will be less and less of them until they come out the narrow end as sales.

One important thing to note is that organizations define each phase in the process (or, part of the funnel) differently based on their authentic sales process. The pre-defined ‘Sales Steps’ in an off the shelf CRM system rarely cover your unique sales process therefore sales people will not naturally follow it. 

Each step working through the funnel should have clearly defined criteria so that there is specific knowledge about all the leads at that point (questions and rules need to be developed for each step). In other words, leads become more and more qualified as they work their way through the funnel, and at each step you will know exactly what that specific level of qualification is. 

Another important thing to keep in mind is that the funnel is a great way to track and forecast sales (a great tool for sales leaders) as well as gauge marketing activity.

By running a sales funnel report, the sales manager can see how many leads are at each step, if there are any "bottlenecks", or if there are an insufficient number of leads at any stage. It allows the sales manager to check the sales effectiveness of the team. Armed with that knowledge, the sales manager may instruct his or her sales force as to where they should focus more attention to keep sales at the desired level. That’s great sales coaching! They can then also work closely with the marketing manager to ensure they are generating enough leads to hit sales goals, whether the leads are of high enough quality, or what needs to change to hit sales goals. That, of course, brings about sales and marketing alignment not warfare. 

Get your sales process right, build an authentic sales funnel/pipeline and then coach it. Simple.

Stay tuned for the definition of CRM in my next post, just to completely clear things up.


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

It's agony buying from you!

Following a recent atrocious experience I appeal to all customer driven organisations to improve their operations.

As a devoted Essendon Football Club member, the new AFL TV rights deal means we must have FOXTEL to view all games live. So begins the installation agony...

Over two months we have, at last count, spoken to 16 people, had four separate visits from tradespeople who were unable to proceed without further authorization and spent collectively over three hours talking to automated voice machines and call centre staff. 

Last night, at the end of our tether, I spent 67 minutes on the phone trying to find someone in FOXTEL to care about and consider the challenges we were having with a sympathetic ear. 

Over an hour later one person finally said sorry. He worked through my concerns and then, wait for it, he asked me to ring back again in the morning because everyone in the orders department had gone home! I said "If I have to ring back in the morning it will be to cancel the order!" He agreed to try and get a message to them (maybe tie it to a stone and throw it). 

Clearly, their business has become so bureaucratic and process driven they have lost focus on the kind of business they are in, the customer business.

This got me thinking. What if they tried buying from themselves? How do you keep the human element to sales and service in this cost down economy?

What was sadly lacking here was:
  • Someone to truely listen
  • Someone with an intent to solve and help make customer satisfied
  • A process that allows common sense and doing the right thing as a norm
  • The ability of a manager to take control and change the outcome to a happy one.

Proctor and Gamble have just spent millions getting the full story about their customers on a number of products with stunning sales results. Once they let customers drive the innovation and sales model they could deliver a product and service that matches.

Here is a test for today. Go undercover for a day, try and buy from your own organisation and see how it goes? Document the experience and process map it. Then feed it back to all in your business so you get better. 

Secondly, look at how you can ‘humanise’ your business again. In this new world of economic uncertainty and volatility an understanding, active listening and commonsense approach to serving your customer could just become a modern day competitive advantage.


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Lets drop the price and sell a bit more!

Consider the following scenario. 

You are just leaving for an important meeting with a major potential client when the phone rings and a very excited territory manager asks you for a quick decision. She is on her way to a very important meeting and has just been informed that she must make a final proposal in 30 minutes. 

The conversation goes like this: 

"There is no way that I can get any more sales of "Wonder Widget" if you insist on selling it for $10.00 per unit. Now do you want to sell more or not?"  Of course you do. "Well I am convinced that I can get the state contract if we offer it at $9.00. This will increase my state sales by 50%. How about it?" 

You trust her judgement and are pretty sure that she will really get that 50% increase in sales.  Of course it will almost certainly mean that the new state contract price will flow on to the existing customers. The increase in volume would really help your national sales, not to mention relations with those in high places. 

Your gross margin is 20% and your business group profit is running at $98,000 per year. It would be a major achievement to get this up by $100,000 pa. A slight problem is that you are under strict instructions not to let your total profit fall below $98,000. You suspect that they really mean it this time!

Question: Is this a good deal? 

How many more units (%) would you have to sell at the reduced price to ensure total profit does not fall? 

Here is an example.

Today: You sell 100 units at $10.00 each = Revenue of $1,000 

  • Your gross margin is 20% 
  • Therefore Total Profit is ($1000 x 20%) - $200
  • Profit per unit is ($200 profit divided by 100 units sold) - $2.00
  • Cost per unit is ($10.00 minus profit of $2.00) - $8.00

Now you drop the price by 10% to $9.

  • Costs are not going to change and from the above example each unit still costs $8.00
  • This means that you now make $1.00 per unit profit when you sell at $9.00
  • Your previous profit level was $200
  • You now have to sell 200 units to make the same $200 profit
  • Since you were selling 100 previously this means an increase of 100%

Tomorrow: You must sell 100% more units after reducing the price by 10% in order to make exactly the same profit as you had before you reduced price. Sell only 90% more units and you will reduce your profit. 

Now use the table below to find out how much more you have to sell, to make exactly the same level of profit as previously. 

Example: Your gross margin is 25% and you decide to cut your selling price by 10%. 
Locate 10% in the left hand column and follow across to the figure in the column headed 25%.
You need to sell 66.7% more units to produce the same level of profit as before the price reduction.

  • Work through the process described above.
  • Ensure that every member of your sales team who may have an opinion about what price you should sell your product or service at, is familiar with this table.
  • More importantly, that they all know how to do the calculation themselves
  • Work with you coach to develop a presentation to your sales team on the pitfalls of discounting.
  • Prepare specific examples using your own products
  • Involve your team in calculating the impact of price reductions.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Why have strategic business meetings?

Strategic Business Meetings are a very useful method of understanding what your customers actually value when it comes to their business. Keep in mind without customers you are dead, period. Not knowing why customers do what they do or what they value is like having a tooth ache and not going to the dentist because you are scared.

Traditionally in Australia customers very rarely tell us they are unhappy or dissatisfied with our service or offering, they just go somewhere else. Therefore we should spend as much time as possible understanding them and their reasons for doing what they do.

In the late eighties, IBM took a group of their best sales people off the road for a 2 week period to conduct a test with stunning results. They instructed these sales people to go to their top 15 customers and spend time understanding them and their blockages to growth and success. Of course this was very new ground for these people as they were used to hunting and selling product, however the results of this exercise were staggering. After this exercise IBM found that the group of customers interviewed and understood spent nearly 21% more with IBM in the next financial year. Pretty amazing result considering all the sales people did was to stop selling for a moment, take a breath and take a little bit of time to understand their customers better.

Following is a road map for conducting Strategic Business Meetings with your best customers, good luck.

Objective: To increase the interaction between key customers and management both in the quality and frequency of calls.

Rationale: We believe by making key customers feel special and understood we will achieve and secure more work from them in the future.

Outcome: To gain valuable understanding of a customers environment, so as to continue to present unique selling propositions and ideas to them.

The Process:
  1. Define Key Customers
  2. Develop an Engagement List
  3. Contact Key Customers by phone
  4. Conduct a Strategic Business Meeting
  5. Follow up with a thank you letter or email

1. Define Key Customers – Strategic Business Meetings should involve your Key Customers or “Gold Stars”. Using your database you can identify your 20 – 30 most valuable customers. If you wish to more accurately identify the most valuable client list you can use the “Luxury of Choice” process.

2. Prepare a List or Report – From that produce an excel spreadsheet that you can use as a planning document.

3. Contact Key Customers – Keep in mind this is all about the customer, we must remember this is not a sales call; it is not another opportunity to front product. You are going to use this time with your customer as an opportunity to gain understanding of their business problems and “blockages to success” that will enable you to assist in tailoring solutions in the future.

You are calling to make time with them, respect the fact they have little of it! A suggested approach may be:

You: “Good Morning Michael, the purpose of my call is to see whether you would have the time to meet with me at some stage to discuss what is on the horizon for your business, which will assist us in the planning of our business? As one of our best customers I was hoping by spending some time with you, approximately thirty minutes, we could learn how to help you and your business better. Please keep in mind that this is not a sales call.” 

You: “Do you have a time that suits you?" (have diary ready) 

Customer: “How does 9.30am on Wednesday sound?”

You: “That’s fine Michael, I think this should be a pretty informal process so would you like to go out for a coffee/sandwich/quick bite or is the office O.K.?”

Customer: “Good idea …………………………..”

You: “How does Acme café sound?”

Customer: “Done!”

Keep in mind you have 15 seconds to convince this valuable customer that they should see you and spend their valuable time with you. 

You must have a - Purpose for the call,

        - Process how long will this take?

        - Payoff         what will we both get from spending time together?

Plan out your approach, document or write it down if you must, practice it and then put it into practice. It will feel a little awkward at first, however as you get some appointments it will become easier. Also the role play above is a guide, it is not a script. Change it and develop it to suite your own style and delivery method but don’t forget the rules, purpose, process and payoff.

4. The Strategic Business Meeting – With the key objectives and outcomes defined meet with the customer as scheduled. Be on time! Firstly you must thank them for their continued support and custom. Again restate the “purpose, process and payoff” and check for agreement. “Is that O.K.? “Are you right for time?” Then by asking clever, “open questions” you should look to allow the customer to open up about their business. A good question to start with might be: “So John, I know a little about your business, however I would love to know more, especially about what the next 12 months has install for you?” or “Could you describe to me the 3 biggest challenges you face in your business in the next 12 months?”

Keys for this meeting:
  • Planning
  • Open questions
  • Empathy
  • Active Listening
  • It should feel like you are genuinely interested in them and their business. It should not be an interrogation with the secret police!
  • Take notes (remember to ask for permission to do so at the beginning of the meeting)
  • Note down actions agreed on and then carry them out.
  • Look for clues!
  • Look for opportunities to close the GAP for them.
5. Follow Up – After the meeting is completed make sure the information gained is inputted into the appropriate database or document. You should also send a thank you message. Using email, a card, with comps slips or a letter with a simple short message can be a powerful indication that you care and appreciate the time they gave you. Make sure all agreed actions are followed up promptly or within the agreed time frame.


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Key Account Management

The Sales Science of gaining, developing and keeping Key Strategic Customers with multiple projects.

With sales changing so rabidly for all sellers of products and services post GFC, Key Account Management is the one area that has seen major shifts in the buyer behaviour model and the skills needed to respond through sales effectively.

Unfortunately for most sales organisations this is one of the most organically developed, poorly skilled and resourced areas of a sales teams. Most organisations key customers have grown via an organic simple sales approach into large high value business using the same simple sales approach.

This is a problem, a big problem in 2012.

If these customers supply a large part of the organisations revenue and we still treat them as ‘simple’ customers who we simply call on more often, wine and dine sometimes, and keep via price/margin shrinkage, we will inevitably loose them. Ask these questions of your sales team:

‘Is sales getting easier or harder?’

‘Are we being treated in sales as a commodity more today than before?’

‘Are customers demanding more support, technical expertise, knowledge and time of our sales people?’

The answers, nearly without fail are yes, yes and yes. 

But hang on a minute. They want commoditisation and yet more ‘consultative’ support? Surely this is an impossible position for a business to fund with the massive cost of running a sales team? 

Of course it is, however that is the reality due to many reasons and the real reason it is essential for sales groups to build their Key Account Management Expertise.

At Banjar Group we take a unique approach to developing the skills of Sales Teams when it comes to Key Account Management.

Science + Experience + Skills + Strategic + Planning = KAM

Science – With Sales so often devoid of any ‘science’ we must bring a level of science to improve the effectiveness of KAM within organisations. The science may involve:
  • Consumer behaviour modelling
  • Use of DISC, MBTI and or TMS profiling behavioural tools
  • KAM Competency Modelling
  • Innovation
  • Key person analysis

Experience – The collective global wisdom of Banjar Group combined with its 180+ years of selling experience mean one thing, we know what it takes to win big business. We have:
  • Run customer ‘war room’ scenarios
  • Planned and been successful in winning major accounts of up to $50 million in value
  • Lead, coached and participated in large scale key account management at both B2B and B2C levels
  • An understanding of the culture and skills required to win big and keep big
  • The knowledge to communicate this wisdom and create effective learning beyond just ‘ego’

Skills – What are the skills needed to create great sales behaviours, techniques and outcomes at the KAM level? They are over and above the simple sales training matrix. They may include:
  • Coverage modelling
  • Team selling
  • ‘War’ room principles
  • Strategic Business Meetings - SBM
  • Question techniques for high level selling
  • Negotiation skills
  • Call structure for KAM phases
  • Follow up matrix
  • Account planning
  • Problem solving at KAM level
  • ‘Octopus’ selling in layers
  • A pure consulting model – the art of sales consulting

Strategic – What are the strategic foundations of why we must develop this business? The essential reason for selling. Does it affect the critical success factors of our business? This may include:
  • Sales Strategy – Vision, philosophy, story, principles, product, resource
  • Coverage
  • Product portfolio analysis – what fits?
  • Forecasting
  • Justifying resource
  • Short term v long term
  • Value proposition
  • Revenue, cost, risk
  • Business cases for profitability

Planning – If we have all the above checked and taught, then implementation is required. For this the best KAM planning skills will lead to the most effective sales results. High-powered planning is key to KAM success, fact! The areas covered here are:
  • Planning as a culture for sales
  • Tools – 1 page plan and beyond
  • Project planning
  • Follow up
  • Activity at sales levels
  • 3 Tier plans
  • Short term v long term
  • Decision process
  • Forecasting Goal, Budget and Target
  • Phases of activity
  • Change force fields