Are You Moving the Ball Forward?
The excitement and agony of college basketball and March Madness are almost here. I’m reminded of the many conversations with my sport-loving husband about his favorite teams and their strategies for success. Many discussions center around the ability to move the ball forward in basketball and football, or moving the runner along in baseball. In the world of selling print solutions, sales effectiveness can be measured by the discipline in following the sales process, and to measure each step that gets the team closer to the close.
In assessing sales strategies and sales processes for clients, I always ask the sales leaders and the salespeople what they measure. I often get responses about the numbers of new leads, quotes or proposals sent, win/loss ratios, and the numbers of new customers. While these are important metrics in an effective sales process, there is something different between the most successful sales teams who consistently win larger deals and the good to average sales teams. That difference is knowing how to move the ball forward in each deal.
Moving the ball forward in a complex sales scenario means having a defined, repeatable sales process and having honest assessments of pipeline activity on the quantity and quality of deals at each stage in the sales process. These are best practices for the most effective and successful sales teams.
Repeatable Sales Process
In selling print solutions and programs, not print jobs, a repeatable sales process means having a defined methodology the sales team follows to identify opportunities, assess, develop, close, and then expand accounts. After defining the methodology and consistent criteria for each step, the most successful sales leaders measure and assist the salespeople in moving the ball forward for each deal by asking the hard questions and taking a strategic approach.
Quality of Deals
Salespeople are often the most optimistic people about the likelihood of closing deals and the speed in which deals will close. Having metrics and defining a strategic plan for each account and how decisions are made, as well as planning all of the steps to get to closing a deal provide a reality check for sales teams.
True sales leadership comes when strategic thinking is applied to the sales process. I have been part of many sales status meetings where pipeline review becomes a conversation about logistics and next steps — without the nuanced analysis of what decision making is needed and what will impact the timing to get to the next step. Effective assessment means asking the hard questions. Does each salesperson have enough prospects given their average close ratios? Does each salesperson have enough prospects at each stage in the sales process: discovery, qualified, proof of concept, proposal, negotiating to close? Are prospects stalled in any one stage of the sales process? Asking these types of questions and measuring results will enable sales teams to assess and define how to move the ball forward.
Quantity of Deals
Most sales teams measure the amount of deals in their pipeline with some frequency. The most astute sales leaders assist their teams in focusing their efforts on effective assessment and how best to spend their time. Busy is not the same as productive. Do your sales teams have clarity on the customers’ goals? Are your salespeople accurately rating their prospects? Is there a defined next step for each prospect? Are those next steps working to move the ball forward? What is changing in the prospects business or industry that will impact their decision making?
Get a Coach
Great athletes have great coaches and many athletes attribute their success to being coachable. I have been assisting clients in developing and deploying successful sales and marketing strategies for fifteen years. And as a professional I also work with a great coach to improve my own sales effectiveness.
Many owners of print companies have successfully risen to executive roles without being experts at selling. Many rely on a few good salespeople or a good sales manager without a defined sales process or detailed sales strategy. The selling of print services has become increasingly complex with more decision influencers and gate keepers in most organizations. Strategic selling takes planning, process, measurement and discipline to refine and adapt.
Some of the concepts in this article come from by Lisa Magnuson at Topline Sales. Check out winning strategies in her book The Top Sales Leader Playbook, How to Win 5X deals Repeatedly.
Need help with a strategy to move the ball forward? I’ll be following the best coaches during March Madness.
Input for this piece was provided by Mark M. Fallon, president and CEO, The Berkshire Company:
Mark M. Fallon is president and CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. The company develops customized solutions integrating proven management concepts with emerging technologies to achieve total process management. He offers a vision of the document that integrates technology, data quality, process integrity, and electronic delivery. His successes are based upon using leadership to implement innovative solutions in the document process. You can contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lois Ritarossi is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at email@example.com.