Getting Real Value from Sales Force Automation

For a sales manager to be able to derive value from Sales Force Automation (SFA) the following key issues must have been addressed:

1) Clarity of the objectives for the SFA implementation. What exactly does management expect will improve / change with the adoption of a SFA solution by its sales team?

2) Make sure the SFA solution, and how you implement it, follow how your sales people work. For example – how important is remote access, and if so, what data needs to be accessible, does your sales team rely heavily upon tablets, etc.?

3) Training for the sales team on how to use it. And deliver the training in “digestible” segments.  Sales people are not natural record keepers and “memorializers” of data, so show them how the system works, the shortcuts to use and how it will benefit them.

4) Management must actually use the SFA system.  For example, are sales managers regularly analyzing the data in the system, either weekly or even daily?  If not, sales people will rapidly catch on that management is not serious about the system and will stop using it as intended.

Brad Leggett, is CEO/Founder of The Leggett Group, Inc. His firm focuses on the issues and challenges associated with building, leading and retaining high performance sales teams.

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The Four Steps to Setting Demanding but Achievable Sales Targets – with Sales Team Buy-in

I approach target setting with the sales team as “joint exercise” between management and the sales team, using the following steps:

1)      Upper management should have its overall revenue expectations in mind before starting the process.   The revenue projections should include management’s assumption set about what will drive its projected increase in revenues (ex. new product, competitor going out of business, overall increase in the economy, etc.)

2)      Then management should approach the sales team for their take on what is achievable in each territory and what resources are needed to achieve a proposed level of revenue.

3)      Sales should analyze each territory by establishing base line revenue – last year’s revenues less any major one time spikes and any unusual “hits” (ex. cancellation of a very large order).  Then conduct a “tailwinds” and “headwinds” assessment.  Tailwinds are drivers that can boost sales (ex. key customer just acquired another company and you can expect more business from that client) and “headwinds” are just the opposite.  Then determine the boosts or hits to the overall revenue line based on the tailwinds and headwinds. This should provide a reasoned analysis of the territory and what it can produce. Sales should also prepare an outline of resources that may be needed to achieve its projected number.

4)      Sales and management should now sit down and review each others “revenue targets”, analysis and underlying assumptions.  Then listen to other party’s business cases and then set demanding but achievable targets – with the resources in place to meet those targets. Sales may not get exactly the target proposed, but at a minimum sales will be “heard” and management will understand the perspectives of the sales team.

A caveat to the above, how far down in the sales organization this process gets driven depends upon the seniority and analytical skills of the sales team members. In other words, for a newbie to sales she/he should sit with the sales manager and jointly conduct the “tailwinds” and “headwinds” analysis and proposed revenue number for a given territory.  And the manager should be the one presenting that analysis to upper management.

To learn more about setting realistic, achievable but demanding sales targets and overall sales plans, contact Brad at or 949-388-6910.

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Should You Promote Your Top Performing Sales Rep to Sales Manager?

It is often seen as the right, or natural, choice to put your top performing sales person into the sales leadership role.  And it may be the right choice.  However, sales leadership is about coaching, selecting talent and gaining results through others.

The thing to consider is that many, if not most, very high performing representatives are self focused individuals and are most interested in their own personal achievement.  It is that focus on personal achievement gives them the drive to be extremely successful in sales.  However, that personality type is very seldom a successful sales manager.

I look for people on the sales team who are strong performers (the sales manager needs a good sales track record to have the respect of your sales team) and who have shown leadership and mentoring skills while in the sales role.  So, a sales representative who has been selected to be on a “task force” or work on a joint team with employees from operations, manufacturing or finance and gained their respect would show signs of good leadership and being able to work effectively with other parts of the organization.   If that person had also been a good mentors or trainer for new sales people joining the team would be another strong indicator of an “aptitude” for sales management.

So, while a good sales track record is a requisite for being a strong and well respected sales manager, people skills, be able to work across company “boundaries” and a love of developing others are just as essential.

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Running Effective Sales Meetings

An entrepreneur who runs his own sales meetings asked:

We run through an hour-long sales meeting every Monday morning and I am beginning to really question our approach.

Typically, each rep gives a quick status update of their pipeline potentials and then we discuss what we can do to move the deal forward in our pipeline…but that’s not always all that productive.

So, I’m wondering what the best-run sales meetings look like.

My response:

The purpose of sales meetings is two-fold; provide accountability and provide value to the “people in the seats.”

Accountability: At the sales meeting a brief review of sales performance to date, both revenue numbers and key sale activities (# of calls, # of proposals presented, etc.). I present the numbers and compliment high performers.  As to under performers I let the lack of results speak for themselves – during the meeting.

In addition to the sales meetings I have weekly 1:1’s with each sales team member (app. 30 minutes) to review their pipelines in depth, discuss deal strategies and address any “under performance” issues (praise in public, critique in private).  It has proven much more effective to review individual pipelines 1:1 than in an group setting – more time to review specific deals and sales people are not interested in nay pipeline but their own.

Value to people in the seats: This can take several forms. Training on your product or services, sales skills training, practice sessions (role plays) to hone skills and product knowledge, or team review  of “stuck deals” / key sales challenges (not a pipeline review but a session where each team member presents a challenge or stuck deal and gets team feedback on how to address the issue).

Who speaks:  Have other team members lead the meeting at times, particularly if you are conducting training.  You must be in charge but rotating who speaks, trains and leads the discussions.  It takes some burden off of you, gives you a chance to see how sales team members step up to the plate or not and keeps the meeting fresh.

Length of sales meetings: Preferred frequency is monthly (combined with weekly 1:1’s) and they run app. 3 hours.  If you keep to a weekly schedule then no more than an hour.

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Switching from ACT to Salesforce

I was recently asked by a client if she and her team should switch from ACT (a contact manager) to Salesforce (a cloud based CRM).  I have personal experience with both products. I used ACT for over ten years. I have also implemented Salesforce for clients on five occasions and used it in my own business for the past two years.  The key to determining whether to switch from ACT to Salesforce is clarifying what you are not getting from ACT and then determining if Salesforce will meet your needs. In summary here are some key pluses and minuses of Salesforce I suggested she consider before making a decision:

Upsides of Salesforce:

  • Shared, integrated database that is maintained for you (I am speaking about database integrity, not inputting of data)
  • Available on all major mobile devices (ACT is yet to implement an iPhone version for instance)
  • No updating of the software – all done for you.
  • Relatively easy to set up custom fields, reports, etc.
  • Great set of stock reports
  • Sales person focused in the way it works and the information available. It is more intuitive than ACT in my opinion.
  • Great set of training videos for each role in the organization (sales, mgt, admin)
  • Third party add-on applications (both free and for fee) – ACT does not come close in this arena.

Downsides of Salesforce:

  • Potentially the software fees, depending upon the number of users.  A highly attractive Salesforce version for small businesses is Group Edition. However, it only allows a maximum of 5 users. If you need 6 or more users you will have to go to Professional Edition which is considerably more expensive.
  • If you decide to migrate away from Salesforce it is not easy to export your data. It is doable but not particularly intuitive for someone doing it for the first time.
  • It is not integrated with any ERP system. So, if you need to share data with your accounting system you have some data manipulation to do.
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