Thursday, February 19, 2009

7 Keys to Operating A Successful Direct Sales Organization

by W. D. Cravenor

Method of Operations Overview in Executive Direct Sales Management

The following seven focus areas represent an overview of the critical keys prerequisite to initiating, implementing and maintaining a vibrant, robust and successful direct sales organization:

1. Headcount Management

Hiring right includes:

the right people
in the right numbers
at the right time
for the right positions
within the right budget
performing the right functions
to produce the right results, month in and month out

Recruitment is a never ending process, even in times when headcount and productivity are optimized.

To facilitate headcount targets, all interviews will be conducted utilizing a Targeted Selection approach, ala DDI. This situational based focus, in consideration of each candidate’s background, leaves little room for subjective reasoning, in the evaluation and avoidance of vague, "blue sky" responses. This screening methodology is also instrumental in separating "wheat from chaff" as related to specified selection criteria.

Each candidate selected, prior to offer issuance, should be required to execute a “Performance Expectations Acknowledgement,” (PEA), which constitutes a personal action plan, detailing each and every performance attribute, as well as specific goals & related timelines for accomplishment. An expectation must first be set to be managed to.

Contained within the PEA is specific Performance Improvement Program, (PIP), ramification “triggers” pertaining to any potential failure to produce the specified results within the indicated timeline parameters.

2. Attitude Management

The goal of this focus area is to proactively insure that all team members maintain an attitude that is worth catching!

Incumbent with this focus area is a total ownership of the opportunity at large by all staff.

Attributes of total ownership include a:

Complete call-to-action and since of urgency with respect to the delivery of sales results.
Unanimous "share of voice" among all staff in terms of the delivery of the corporate mindset to the market.
Dedication to team play and servant hood.

Proper attitude should be easily observed in the following behaviors:

energy, excitement and enthusiasm
drive, discipline, dedication and determination
time, temperance and tenacity

The above describe behaviors, displayed over time, will birth an “attitude of success” that has been proven to produce sustained results.

3. Sales Process Management

Critical Sales Process Management includes, (not intended to be an exhaustive listing):

Sales Objective Development:

A. specific, measurable, attainable, relevant & timely, (SMART goals)

B revenue over units

C. billed over booked, (realization to approximate a 1:1 ratio)

D. built-in reserve or breakage on rep to manager, managers to directors, directors to RVP’s, RVP’s to SVP/EVP

E. YTD to YTD bonus calculations, (“flash-in-the-pans” need not apply)

Selling for Success Fundamentals:

A. UDM ID - Ultimate decision maker identification, with preferred C- Club orientation.

B. Team selling approach, utilizing engineering, implementation and customer retention staff as extensions of the sales organization, thereby enabling reps to promise good and deliver great.

C. The three-call-close, (keeps reps from becoming "professional visitors"):

- discovery: 80 % listening, asking the right questions, to the right people, gathering the right information, to address the right situations impeding access to identified client goals. Set second appointment, (3-5 business days out to facilitate CSR collection and engineering analysis) prior to departure.

- Proposal development, presentation and mini-close: 80% talking, communicating service & product laden solutions to conquer previously identified situations. Present benefits and financial impact on organization of each solution, from a P & L perspective, (to translate the sale from expense to investment status). Gain initial agreement(s) via verbal, LOI or signed contract. Re-calibrate solution(s) as necessary and set third appointment prior to departure.

- Closing: Re-present client goals-situations-solutions-benefits-impact dollars and close, close, close.

D. “Feet-on-the-street“: Managers, Directors, RVP’s, SVP/EVP leads by example, in-the-field, with rep staff, on a regular basis.

E. Inspect what you expect: Weekly one-on-ones with all staff, SVP/EVP with RVP’s, RVP’s with directors, directors with Managers, Managers with rep staff.

F. “Ticket-to-ride“: Reduce tacking/reporting on performers, (at or above 100 % of plan YTD), increase tracking/reporting on non-performers, (including ramp period).

G. Three Strikes Rule: Effective upon failure to meet expectations for any three months within a 12 month, (PIP enforcement along the way).

H. Promotions/Incentive Management - Keep some skin in the game and keep it fun.

4. Activity Management

The nuts and bolts of the business: standardized goals for weekly dials/door knocks, first and follow-up appointments, proposal dollars generated and sales.

Specific activity models vary with industry, sales rep title and target market.

5. Funnel Management

Five bucket funnel, weighted based on funnel position and probability of close, ala Siebel/DEI/Shipman. All reps required to maintain a minimum of 3x monthly sales plan in their funnels at all times, (weighted). Rep funnels ramp to Managers, Managers to Directors, Directors to RVP’s, RVP’s to SVP/EVP.

6. Territory Management

By zip code for key accounts, equalized by market potential, based on total revenue opportunity. “Challenge & split” guidelines in place across all boundaries.

7. Account Management

Account Management should be segmented by monthly revenue potential. Major account "blue sheet" sessions should be held each month until total addressable revenue opportunity acquired exceeds 80 %, (within each account). Account Management goals include:

A. growth of existing base depth - sales of existing products to existing clients.

B. growth of existing base width - sales of new revenue stream products & services to existing clients.

C. growth of incremental base depth - sales of existing products to new clients.

D. growth of incremental base width - sales of new products to new clients.

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