Each year you wrap, roll, and repeat the same thing you did last year. And each year you come up frustrated and short of plan. Does that sound familiar? Could it be that you are not in touch with what is going on with your salespeople, market and customers to set achievable goals for the business? Are you assessing productivity by salesperson? Do you keep loading the goal on the same salespeople that come through for you when you’re pinched? Let’s change all that and put a sound plan in place. A plan that assures achievement, growth, and energy in your company. Let’s talk about these one at a time:
Top Down Goal Setting
Most CEOs start by calling together their senior leadership team and decide how much the business needs to grow in the coming year over past year projected actuals. Discussion might start with what new hires to make in the coming year, and what expenditures are going to be required to run the business into the next year (technology purchases, marketing expenses and the like). Oh, and let’s not forget the other topics that get discussed at these meetings such as decide on 401K or benefit contributions, salary planning, product development, new products, and manufacturing improvements, just to name several areas that determine goals. Everyone gets the chance to plead their case and finally after much give and take a decision is reached. That is typically where the give and take stops. I am going to suggest a better way …
Sales Planning Meeting 1st
Before you have your leadership meeting, I am going to suggest that you have a planning meeting with your sales team and give them a range of growth (5-10%, 10-15%, 15-20%, or more). Select a range that you expect is beyond what your senior leadership team will be asking for. Get the sales team to stretch a little bit. Good ideas come out of a good stretch. You pick what is appropriate for your company, your industry and your plan. Let them know … failure to achieve is not an option. The purpose and goal of this meeting is to find a way and to get everything on the table (SWOT) so there is a plan and process in place to achieve. We will do this by understanding the investments we need to make, and by understanding who is signing up to contribute. By salesperson, by customer, by strategic account, by existing and new product lines or existing and new service lines, by targeted prospect opportunity to name several. Each one of these, at a minimum, should produce a projection of what will be contributed to the overall growth and contribution to the company’s goals. Customer attrition, and contingency planning should also be discussed. I recommend your product line managers, marketing, engineering or manufacturing leaders attend some portion of the meeting to hear the voice of the field, and to contribute their thoughts for growth.
As the CXO in your organization, you owe it to yourself and to every employee in the company to be sure you have the absolute best salespeople. If you’ve had issues with sales productivity this year, let’s not repeat that problem again as we have in years’ past. Low productivity can suck the blood out of your plans and is demotivating to other employees. If there is no fire in the gut, you’ll find out in the sales planning meeting we discussed above. Be observant, and listen to those that suggest ways to achieve, vs. those that are DOA. You have a few months to mentor and explain what is expected, or make other plans to replace them with someone that will make the necessary contribution. Don’t procrastinate on this decision … you don’t have much time. Either make the commitment to mentor, or move on.
The Sales Star
The fastest way to lose your best salesperson is to surround them with other salespeople that don’t challenge them to be even better. It is a foolish move to load them up with goal and let others off the hook for productivity and contribution. Golfers, tennis players know this … or for that matter anyone that competes in a 1:1 sport (notice I did not say “plays”). If you perceive your opponent to have better skills than you, you play your “A” game. You usually even surprise yourself. You finish the match with a feeling that you learned from them, and challenged your skills just by being around them. Sales is no different. Surround your Sales Star with other Sales Stars. The energy will make an incredible change in your results!
Roll expectations down from the top … sure, but don’t plan your future revenues or growth without hearing and listening to your sales team and those that are upfront and personal with your customers. You are going to not only learn where your spending priorities lie to achieve your goals, you might even realize some restructuring is needed to get there. The more you involve Sales and others that touch the customer in the process, the more ownership they will have of the goals they are going to be expected to achieve.