Strategic workshops are used to transfer certain knowledge and skills to our clients when looking to address strategic or organisational sales issues. We work with business owners and sales leaders to help them address sales related challenges such as:
- Developing a Sales Strategy
- Developing a Sales Process
- Developing Sales Communications (Value Proposition, Unique Selling Proposition, etc.)
- Implementing a CRM System
- Assessing Sales Skills level of staff and candidates
- Assessing Sales Opportunities – SOPAC
Most strategic workshops are relatively short, one or two half days at most. The process begins with an initial consultation to analyse needs, which may be one or a number of the issues listed above. Work is carried out on a fixed term contract basis as opposed to an open-ended hourly rate so clients are aware of their exposure in advance. Delivery is always on the client’s site and consists of the relative hands-on input followed up by documentation.
Develop a Sales Strategy
According to the Oxford Directory, strategy is defined as “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim”. In the world of sales, this translates to quantifiable goals such as revenue targets, margins, market share etc., measures that reflect what a company needs to achieve to realise its ambitions. Plan is the key word in the definition and the old saying “if you fail to plan you plan to fail” is as true in sales as it is in any other strategically driven activity.
A strategic sales plan requires that the objectives are clear and unambiguous and the available resources are well defined and understood. Getting the balance right between these two components is crucial, initially we find that the objectives far outstretch the resources and consequently the objectives are often missed. It is better to lower the expectations and achieve them than to consistently miss targets because eventually the objectives become soundbites and the growth that the business is dreaming of will never materialise.
Another saying “the devil is in the detail” is also very apt. Grand strategic plans often fail because the finer details were not thought through. In sales this can mean calculating the amount of time it takes to carry out specific tasks that are listed in the sales process or the amount of actions required to eventually achieve a given KPI. Productivity is as real in sales as it is in production, we only have so many people and they only work so many hours per day and there are only so many days in your month or quarter.
Coming up short on resources can be a great incentive to be creative. When you realise that your objectives cannot be met with the available resources, alternatives must be found. New and innovative ways of doing business are invented, not necessarily entirely new, but new to the company in question. For example, a company may have never thought of channeling their products through partners but on deeper analysis this may prove to be a better model to reach objectives.
Spending some time and effort on this activity can be very rewarding. It focuses the mind on what it actually takes to achieve given sales targets. Typically when management are compiling budgets and forecasts, they consult with the people responsible for delivering the results. Salespeople by nature are very optimistic, they are “can doers” and for this reason they often over promise in terms of what is achievable and this can have serious consequences on overall business goals.
Create a Sales Process
A sales process is a sequence of steps taken by an organisation to progress the sale of their offering from the opportunity being realised to a successful conclusion.
The process will vary from industry to industry and from company to company, depending on many factors such as size, scope, proximity etc. Each organisation must examine their own offering and figure out how best to engage with prospects so that the process takes a logical and progressive path to that all elusive “closed/won” position.
The problem with some sales processes is that they are designed by the seller and based on assumptions of how buyers should react. If you are experiencing a higher than expected “closed/lost” rate, it’s a good idea to examine your sales process. It may be that you are including certain steps that are creating obstacles to progression and should be altered or removed. Likewise, you may be missing certain steps that are necessary to facilitate progression.
Our input to this process is to act as devil’s advocate, putting ourselves in the buyer’s position and delivering feedback that reflects reality. We also take into consideration elements from our Consultative Selling approach that relate to buyer behaviour and emotion, often overlooked in typical sales processes.
Communicate Your Message
It’s amazing how difficult it can be to tell someone about your company, what you do and how your clients benefit from doing business with you. The problem is that every client and deal is different and they all derive different values from what you do for them. Think about your top 5 deals of last year and write a paragraph on each outlining why it was that they decided to do business with you and then compare. Chances are you will come up with 5 very different scenarios, so when you meet a potential prospect, which one of these examples should you use?
There is no quick answer to this question and that is why people invest some time with us to tease out the best possible set of statements. These statements can then be used repeatedly in conversation or in text to communicate the best possible message to people you know very little about.
The statements you need at the ready are:
Elevator Pitch: A one or two sentence statement (10 seconds) that tells what you do, for whom and for what purpose. “I help medium-sized manufacturing companies who have unpredictable revenue streams to balance their cash flows.” Note, it does not state who you are!
Credibility Statement: Credibility can relate to either the company or the salesperson, or possibly both. It gives someone a reason to take you seriously or to grant you a meeting. “I have worked in your industry for 15 years and in that time I have done business with most of the top names.” or “We are ISO9001-2015 certified and all our engineers are Microsoft accredited”
Value Proposition: A value proposition is a clear statement of the tangible results a customer receives from using your products or services. It is focused on outcomes and stresses the business value of your offering. It is financially orientated and speaks to the critical issues your target market is facing. It is specific, citing numbers, percentages or time frames, i.e. measurable and quantifiable business results. It may include a quick synopsis of your work with similar customers as a proof of concept and demonstration of your capabilities.
Unique Selling Proposition: Answers the question: “How is your company different from others in your field?” Examples: “We specialise in working with manufacturing companies” (speciality); “We guarantee a four hour response time on the island of Ireland” (guarantee); “We use a unique ‘opportunity calculator’ to measure the probability of an opportunity” (methodology)
Benefits Statement: Usually a list of bullet points outlining the benefits derived from different features of your product or service. Not to be confused with a list of features!
Advising on and Implementing a CRM System
We take an independent view of CRM systems and advise clients on which system best suits their needs. There are numerous CRM vendors on the market, some of which align themselves with particular industries, others are very generic. Industry specific systems aside, little separates different systems apart from scale and price which plays a large part in determining which system is best for you.
Choosing a CRM System:
In today’s cloud computing environment, most CRM systems are SaaS (Software as a Service) based, meaning that the application and data are hosted in the cloud and not on your computer, so you pay a monthly usage subscription. This removes the need for making a capital investment and the operational expenses are very reasonable, in addition, cloud based systems offer a builtin disaster recovery function.
All CRM systems have an import feature and the chances are that you have data in various formats which can be imported. You will find existing customer details in your accounts system and the sales and marketing people will have multiple spreadsheets containing prospective customer details. This data needs to be standardised and imported to avoid the onerous task of manual data entry.
Because of the generic nature of most CRM systems and the fact that most businesses are different, there is an obvious problem when aligning your business processes with the CRM system. This can be addressed by creating Custom Fields during CRM implementation.
For example, you might want to classify your prospects and customers based on their business activity. This can be achieved by creating a Custom Field called “Classification” which contains a drop-down menu of all the different classification types.
Not all data can be imported or it can be inefficient to do so. Normal day-to-day activity includes manually inputting contacts and opportunities as they present themselves. It is important to plan in advance, which pieces of information are worth entering. The key question to ask yourself is “will this piece of information be used in the future to improve my business?” If the answer is yes, include it, if no, don’t! Once you have decided on which fields to use, those fields should be then structured in a logical sequence to speed up data entry.
Dashboards and Reports:
The flip side of “data in” is “data out” and apart from individual look ups, the two most used methods of extracting value from your system is viewing dashboards and generating reports. There are many different reasons for viewing or extracting data from your system so therefore you will need to build multiple dashboard views and reports.
Dashboards, like your car dashboard, gives you an indication of the status of your sales pipeline at a given point in time and these indicators are represented by graphical images such as bar or pie charts or funnels. There’s nothing like a “big red piece of pie” to stimulate action to remove danger! Reports on the other hand are text based and can be viewed on screen, printed or exported to external applications such as Excel spreadsheets or salesforce automation tools like MailChimp.
Dashboards and Reports can be planned and designed during the CRM Implementation phase and they can be reused on an ongoing basis.