Hunt Big Sales Blog
Insights for Finding, Landing and Harvesting Whale-Size Accounts
Guest Faculty post by Dave Hickman
Right now in the US talent marketplace, the two toughest roles to find, attract, and hire are IT specialists and great sales people. Sales people are everywhere you look, however the great ones who can hunt for leads, think strategically, build trust and then close business are as difficult to find as unicorns in a blizzard.
Over the last 15 years, we’ve helped companies hire over 4,000 sales reps, management, and leadership professionals in critical revenue generating roles for startups through Fortune 500 companies. Because sales professionals come in all kinds of sizes, shapes, and flavors that relate to products, services, industries, types of decision makers, and size of deals, no one size fits all criteria. However, what matters the most is they exist to drive revenue, and a bad hire will cost you 3X their salary if terminated at 12 months. With an investment of that magnitude, having the right strategy and process in place to minimize risk and increase probability of success is absolutely critical.
Therefore, we’ve compiled the top 6 mistakes we see hiring managers make when attracting, assessing, and hiring sales professionals. Focus on a couple at a time and gain confidence in your decisions to hire great sales people.
1. Misaligned your sales profile to what you’re selling - If your average sale is 3k, 30 day sales cycle, targeted to one low/mid level decision makers at fortune 1000 companies, you don’t need a highly skilled strategic sales person who is used to closing 500K deals over 6-9 months with multiple buyers.
Guest Faculty post by Tim Searcy
Goethe (dead, famous German guy) once said “Boldness has genius, magic and power in it.”
If you have been talking about hunting your biggest deal, or changing your sales culture to “hunt big,” you have to be bold. Four concepts we will need to keep in mind to achieve bold goals:
- The goal has to be accepted as a great idea and everyone has to be unanimously behind it.
- That’s right. If leadership can’t get behind the bold goal, then this is the wrong company for you. If everyone can jump on the bus, it will be a helluva ride! Almost every person that I have worked with in the past during these burst periods reminisces with tremendous reverence for what a small band of intrepid workers was able to produce.
- We cannot forget what brought us this far. Change is hard, and sometimes we try to burn down the village to build the city. In reality, there are business practices, cultural norms and people that got the firm to where it is. It is crucial that as we strive toward the bold goals, that we not lose the valuable past in the process. Pick the things that make sense, and hold them close while the struggle towards boldness continues.
- We can’t go much further keeping the status quo. The bar of adequacy just keeps advancing. Simply put, clients’ expectations and that of the marketplace continue to rise and their demands for improvement at the same financial rate or better continues undeterred. To be a market leader, we can’t just be adequate. We must continue to invest and improve in our service offering and professional development.
At some point, we all say dumb things. It is natural and human, but for all our communication abilities, salespeople can say the darnedest things!
I have compiled some classic ones below, but hope that you will add to the list with your own. Think of this as the list of things to never say if you are a salesperson.
“It could be huge!”
We have used this four-word exclamation in almost every seminar we have ever given. However, when a salesperson says it, they’re asking for the owner to either berate them for exaggeration, or pepper them with questions. A salesperson knows that both of these reactions are painful, and yet can’t help but say it anyway.
“It could be the next . . .!”
Like the previous statement, this statement comes jam-packed with assumptions and pixie dust. Of course, the worst of it is that the salesperson thinks that the last really big deal that was brought in looked just like this one. Now, he/she is not only subject to the wrath and ire of the boss, but also to that of all of his/her co-workers, since they’re going to have clean up the mess that “the next” creates.
“This is going to be fairly easy … We only have to do a couple things different than usual.”
Whenever the salesperson starts talking about how easy someone else’s work is going to be, she has lost the audience. It is never as easy as they think, because they don’t have to do the work.
A number of my clients are in the process of interviewing candidates for large account selling. To help them find the best candidates, we go through an exercise at the beginning of the process to define and rank the qualities and skills that we want the ideal person to have.
Here is a list of those qualities I look for in Superstar Salespeople through the interview process:
- Get to the Top--The best start at the top rather than work their way up. In large account sales knowing how to get to the top of the executive chain, to those who make the real decisions of size and strategy when selecting vendors and partners, will be necessary.
- Speak Senior Exec–“You get sent to whom you sound like” is a truth that shows up in action for most people in sales. The best salespeople can speak all of the languages of the members of the buying group, but most importantly, they can speak to the senior executive with confidence and relevance.
- Translate–Complexity is the enemy of speed in the sales process. Superstars know this and work well in translating what appears to be complex into simple and relevant explanations.
- Facilitate–Complex sales require a variety of people from your organization and the buyer’s to communicate, document, exchange information, and stay on task. A great salesperson keeps an eye on the details as if he or she was a Project Manager, ensuring progress and that nothing gets missed.
- Create–Big sales are rarely large volume purchases of off-the-shelf products or solutions.
In Daniel Pink’s important book, “Drive,” he convincingly shows that pay-for-performance is inversely related to complexity. Simply put, the longer and more complex a desired outcome is to achieve, the less pay-for-performance matters. A strong example is in the world of large sales. Large account sales require more time. If you want to keep sales people motivated in these longer and larger sales, you need to provide more compensation in salary.
There are also additional people- not just salespeople, but your whole team. To land a big deal, you’ve got to load up your team with people of all skill sets (subject matter experts who can speak the client’s language), because one person (a sales guy) out there on his own is not going to cut it. How do you keep those people engaged as well? If they’re not seeing their efforts translate into money in a meaningful way (commissions, profit-sharing, bonus, etc), they’ll too be distracted by the not-so-shiny-objects of their every day job.
How to Take Action
1. Pay more for big sales — and spread it around
The sales representative is not the only person involved in the hunt. The fact is, after the initial interest is generated, the internal subject matter expert team does a lot of the heavy lifting.
2. Put a trophy-bonus on the wall
Make it specific and personal. At one point in my career, I had a competitor for which I had a personal distaste. I wrote up on the wall that competitor’s top 10 clients and told my team, “I will pay a 20% premium on commissions for every deal we land from this list in the next 6 months.” We got 3 and it tasted sweet.
Is there a misalignment between your company’s sales strategy and your business strategy? Perhaps you are driving toward significant growth, but your sales force is chasing small accounts that will never result in enough revenue for your company to achieve your goals. Or, maybe your sales team is focusing their efforts on landing large accounts when your business strategy is to grow by diversifying your client base with multiple smaller accounts. Either way, a misalignment between your sales strategy and business strategy results in lost growth opportunities for your organization.
See the article I wrote for Chief Executive on how to examine what sales strategy your sales force is currently following and determine the one you should be following.
“Is your Sales Strategy Properly Aligned with Your Business Strategy?”
Strategy 1: Get Super-Efficient at Transactions
Gartner estimates that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their purchasing transactions without talking to a human. Therefore, if your business strategy relies on your sales force targeting numerous, small accounts, your sales strategy should drive your sales force to become the most efficient and effective transaction processor it can be. This can be accomplished by improving transaction efficiency. This is typically done online, through a portal, a store, or an inside salesperson. Through this process, your company is valued not for the salesperson’s knowledge, but for how quickly, accurately, and cost-effectively you can provide value.
To review the other strategies go to: http://chiefexecutive.net/is-your-sales-strategy-properly-aligned-with-your-business-strategy
Want to learn more about how to grow in this new era of sales?
In the past, sales managers provided oversight, facilitated requests back to corporate to ensure that orders were expedited, and generally stayed out of the way, unless additional support was needed to help underperformers. Today, it is now up to you as a sales manager to view territories, customers and products as if assessing a financial portfolio that you are responsible for investing. The people involved, the marketing dollars spent and the efforts expended are all for you to decide. It is your responsibility to make your investments wisely.
See the article I wrote for Sales and Marketing Management on the seven responsibilities that sales manages must own. You may find that you need to adjust the way you have been executing your sales manager responsibilities.
“7 Responsibilities Sales Managers Must Own”
Shifts in the business-to-business buying process have transformed selling as we know it. In the past, salespeople had a fair amount of control. They were given a territory, a pricing structure, a margin target and a set of products and services they could offer, and then sent off into the wild blue yonder. They were responsible for managing their territory and producing results. Sales management provided oversight, facilitated requests back to corporate to ensure that orders were expedited, and generally stayed out of the way, unless additional support was needed to help underperformers. That’s how things used to be. Now, the role of sellers – and therefore sales managers – is much different.
See more at: http://www.salesandmarketing.com/content/7-responsibilities-sales-managers-must-own
Want to learn more about how to grow in this new era of sales?
Most of us who were trained in sales since the 1970’s were taught the principles of “consultative selling.” However, the consultative selling skills of listening, relationship building, product knowledge, and implementation of incremental recommendations are no longer sufficient for reaching executive-level buyers.
Below is an article I wrote for Middle Market Executive on why middle market companies need to ditch consultative selling. Perhaps you will decide that your company needs to ditch consultative selling as well
“Ditch Consultative Selling If You Want to Reach Executive Decision Makers”
The conspiracy to keep sales people away from executive decision-makers by trapping them in purchasing processes conducted by non-executive gatekeepers is real. You are not imagining it. Organizations continue to seek efficiency through automating and regulating the buying process, which is code for “kicking sales people out of the picture.” This is evident in the trend of companies standardizing the buying process to the point that a spreadsheet or technology often replaces the need for a sales consultant. In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their purchasing transactions without talking to a human.
See more at: http://middlemarketexecutive.com/middle-market-companies-need-ditch-consultative-selling/
Want to learn more about how to grow in this new era of sales? Download a FREE chapter of the upcoming book: Life After the Death of Selling: How to Thrive in the New Era of Sales.
As you think about what expectations to set to help your sales force succeed in the new era of selling we find ourselves in, consider if you are valuing “motion” or “movement.”
“Motion” is a term that we use to describe all of the sales activities that occur in getting people together, having conversations, and exchanging information within a given sales stage. Whether it takes one call or five calls, one meeting or five meetings, one document or twenty documents, it doesn’t matter. All of that is motion inside a system, but is the motion helping move the sale forward?
“Movement” is a term we use to denote completion of one stage and progression to the next. In a stage-gate process, this means that all the items in one stage have been completed, so the gate opens to the next stage. Movement along a sales process indicates that you are approaching either a close or the elimination of a prospect.
How to Take Action:
When it comes to measuring performance, spend less time worrying about the number of motions being made, and more time focusing on progressing forward through “movement.” To encourage movement over motion, consider giving a value of “one” to every movement from one stage to the next in the sales process. That’s right. Whether your sales reps close a deal, move a deal off of the dashboard because they lost it, or add a deal to the dashboard, it doesn’t matter. Each one of these progressions has a value of one.
What salespeople need to bring to the table in this modern era of sales is significantly different from what they needed to bring in the past. In the past, success was driven by hard work, forging lots of relationships, and having numerous prospects in the pipeline, but that is no longer sufficient.
Below are three tactics sellers need to master to win in this new era of selling.
1) Secure an Executive Sponsor
Having an executive sponsor means you have secured the right level of oversight and motivation to see a successful execution of the buying process. It doesn’t guarantee that you will win, but it does increase the chances that you will be able to move the prospect further down the buying process. So what is an executive sponsor? An executive sponsor is someone within the prospect company who has the authority to make the purchase decision, has the ability to pull together the necessary people to participate in the sales process, and has a problem you can solve.
2) Get the Right People at the Table
If you’re going to be effective in the world of large account sales, then you have to become comfortable with larger numbers—not just the larger economic scale of a deal, but also the larger number of people involved. If you do not bring all of the necessary people to the table from both sides, somewhere in the selling process, a stakeholder from the prospect company not at the table will pull the handbrake.