If you’ve ever worked at an entrepreneurial company, been a business owner, or worn the hat of sales person, then you understand a revenue drought. This past year I worked with a company that had been growing annually at just over the 20%. Then, due to industry changes, a lost salesperson, and higher expenses – there was a sudden announcement, if sales didn’t increase that there would have to be layoffs.
Team members were blindsided and understandably nervous. This is not the mindset you want for your team when action and results are sorely needed. However, I wasn’t surprised. For nearly ten months, I had challenged the executive team regarding members that were filling multiple roles and responsibilities. One position was the Sales Director, who also had been asked to take on some operational duties. Any player that plays offense and defense, is a great risk to your success.
I asked Jack Daly (sales guru, author of Hyper Sales Growth) about his experience with similar situations of people playing dual roles and here’s what he had to say:
Over the past month, I ran into a similar situation with two separate clients. It quite frankly happens all too often with many companies (and individual salespeople). Rather than refer to this as a “problem,” I’ve chosen to go with “opportunity.” Both of these clients' businesses are growing well above the norm yet could be dramatically improved with zero increase in costs.
Whenever one has salespeople wearing multiple hats, there is a danger to sales. That is, whatever that non-sales hat is, when hours are spent wearing it, the sales hat is not being worn and therefore opportunities are being squandered.
Let’s take the example of an industry where I invested a couple of decades, the mortgage industry. The typical compensation for sales people in that business is 100% commission only. The vast majority of loans close in the last week of the month. As such, many, if not most, of the sales people will spend the last week of the month, or more, babysitting their deals to the finish line so they can get paid on them the next pay period. The operations team isn’t typically looking for such babysitting and often the sales people are more hindrance than help. That’s bad enough but the real issue is not being in the field generating new business! By the end of the month, most of the pipeline has been closed and wiped out, and now the sales person needs to hustle in the next 2-3 weeks playing catch up to rebuild the pipe.
Then, the end of month arrives and the circus comes again, with this insanity repeating itself. If the salesperson were to wear their “primary” hat and stay in the field originating new business, both the company and the salesperson would benefit financially in a big way. An added bonus comes in to play when the competitors are acting in a like fashion, leaving the doors wide open for access to their prospects during the end of month.
Many industries' players are penalized by taking such an approach – for example, lawyers, architects, and accountants. Many are tasked with delivering the work for their clients AND bringing new business in.
Most would prefer doing the delivery of the work and not selling. Often when ripe with a solid pipeline of business, many will actually “hide” behind the “excuse” of having to work on the work product and that’s why they are not “selling.” Then, the work dries up, and the panic selling approach appears again.
The key then is CONSISTENCY. The pipeline of each salesperson needs to be inspected at least once a month and can be even better when inspected weekly. It is also essential to keep track of the hours planned and spent in the field (procuring business) on a salesperson-by-salesperson basis. All of the above should be detailed out in the company Sales Playbook. Accountability is a must. Amongst my personal life, my business life and my endurance sports life, I have a total of 14 “Coaches” keeping me focused and holding me accountable.
After hearing the above from Jack, here is my closing thought – determine a consistent process to regularly measure team member productivity. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and Priority or Project progress are table stakes. For clients, I recommend a weekly update requiring each team member to status progress on priorities, KPIs, and their focus for the next week (at minimum). This process will quickly give you insight into any team member playing offense and defense for risk identification. You may then selectively take a deeper dive. The data will give you a baseline to ensure a return on payroll, can be graphed to show trends of results over time, and provide a sound foundation for performance conversations. This data will also provide guidance on how to best coach and support team members and most importantly, ensure that you and your team are never blindsided by business performance.
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Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images