Situation: The CEO of a new company is struggling to generate sales momentum. Part of the issue is adequately productizing their current offer. A second issue is building a good sales team and sales momentum within the team. How do you productize an offer?
Advice from the CEOs:
The issue may be that the company is regarding its product and the sales process too narrowly. Look at the sales process in new and different way.
Role play the current sales-to-close process. Have salespeople document what they do. Look for a product concept that appears from this exercise.
Try different models to determine what works best at the company’s current stage of growth.
Position the company’s ability to deliver outcomes. Make it risk free if nothing is produced. “Here’s our package – it costs nothing if we don’t produce results as promised.”
Consider specializing in services that enhance other companies’ sales – a need that is always present.
Look at the car dealership model – lower level salespeople qualify prospects and bring the qualified prospects to more experienced colleagues for the close.
How is the company currently positioned – as a generalist or a specialist? Potential clients more often look for a specialist to help them solve specific needs.
Conduct local surveys to help define prospects’ and clients’ top needs.
Start developing and advertising specialty areas. Add to the list of specialties as the company expands.
To build the sales team look at younger salespeople currently with competitors. If these individuals have been recruited right out of school, they will often look for other opportunities after a year or two.
Target good salespeople who are currently employed. Tell them that the company is interested in getting to know their business and look for salespeople who are good at selling themselves as well as their offering.
Situation: A company is doing well, but the CEO is concerned about emerging hurdles that may stall momentum. The key issue from a systems development perspective is changing a “one-off” project based focus towards a modular mindset – essentially shifting a short-term to a long-term view. How do you align expectations across the company and transition to a broader focus?
Advice from the CEOs:
Start by clearly communicating your expectations. Work with your managers so that they communicate a consistent message to developers. Look for organizational changes to better align talents of individuals to roles taking advantage of these talents. You may want to refresh the gene pool by bringing on additional people.
One company with multiple teams creates healthy competition against performance objectives between teams with recognition and rewards to the top team.
If the change involves creating greater alignment between functions, create opportunities for individuals from different functional areas to work together. For example, have an engineer accompany a sales person on a critical call to close a deal. If the deal meets spec objectives, is closed, and the project completed on schedule and on budget, the engineer is bonused on the sale.
One company rents a lake cabin every year. Use of the cabin goes to teams recognized for meeting objectives, deadlines or other outstanding performance. An added benefit is that on the way to and from the cabin as well as while they are there, teams spend time talking about the next performance coup that will get them the next use of the cabin.
Look at your organization – both your Org Chart and the physical space. One CEO found that his engineering organization was stove-piped both in terms of reporting and incentives, and physical barriers prevented groups from easily interacting with one-another. To create better coordination between design engineering and manufacturing engineering, the teams were relocated to a new shared space, without physical barriers. Also, the Org Chart was adjusted to increase incentives for collaboration between the functions.
Situation: The Company has both an annual and a 5-year plan. These are discussed in both company meetings and in 1-on-1s with managers. The CEO fears that he’s starting to sound like a broken record. How do you maintain the focus to stick with your plan?
Advice from the CEOs:
Break the 1-year plan into quarterly objectives. Don’t just divide annual objectives by four. Vary objectives for each quarter so that the total sums to the annual plan.
Divide your broad plan into a series of milestones. Celebrate the achievement of each milestone. This helps to maintain momentum and keeps everyone engaged.
Establish metrics to assess your progress against the plan. These will enable you to evaluate progress against plan and the degree to which you are above or below plan. It will also help you to evaluate whether underperformance is a matter of externalities or a flaw in the plan itself. If there is a flaw, fix it as soon as you find it.
Evaluate your “worst case” scenario so that you know the implications. This enables you to compare current performance against “worst case.”
In his book “Good to Great,” Jim Collins found that an important difference between G2G and non-G2G companies was the ability of the G2G companies to maintain faith and to slowly build momentum regardless of the apparent obstacles faced. This allowed good companies to establish the momentum that eventually made them great. Non-G2G companies continually changed direction and never built sustainable momentum.
Key Words: Plan, Annual, Long-Term, Objectives, Milestones, Celebrate, Momentum, Engaged, Underperformance, Worst Case, Good to Great