My coach asked me today: “You’ve got some sales goals, but how do you hit them? Is it activity tracking, focused account planning, leveraging your marketing? ” My response was “Well, yeah, sort of…” because we do have certain planned sales activities and we track the source of each lead; but I know we should be doing more so we can more accurately forecast sales numbers. The idea of accurate forecasting has always been elusive for me, so I dug into some of the items that my coach mentioned above to see what I could uncover for our own use – and I expect it will be helpful for you as well.
Activity tracking. This tool is simply an understanding of what your salespeople are doing with their time. What events are they attending? What calls are they making? And – this is important – what results come from each of the activities being performed? For example, we have different people on the team performing different sales and relationship building activities. We clearly monitor the source of each new lead, so we can definitively say that involvement in a particular organization resulted in a certain number of leads and new business. However, in addition to knowing what the sales person is doing and knowing the results of those activities, you should also have goals for each activity. If your sales person is spending 10 hours per month involved in an industry organization, you should expect a certain level of business to result in order to make that effort worthwhile for your business. Bottom line on activity tracking is that each activity performed by your sales team should be documented, goals for the activity should be set, and results should be compared to goals regularly. With this structure in place, you can understand more objectively whether the activity is worthwhile for the business.
Focused Account Planning. Focused account planning looks at a client account and projects what needs the client may have in the future. I know of an accounting firm in town that has each of the team members serving a particular client meet to determine what they don’t know about the client. They then meet with the client and learn all the things they feel they should know to be good advisors. That model is a perfect example of account planning. As general counsel to businesses, we strive to also serve in this role – the role of understanding the business holistically and proactively recognizing future needs of the company. Often, though, it’s hard to get the necessary information to do this well. It’s easier to do this for the clients using our General Counsel Services because we are actively working with the owners on a regular basis; but I see incredible value and opportunity in doing this for all our clients. (By the way, if you’re a client and you’re interested in this, let me know!)
Leveraging Marketing. This seems an obvious step we should all take in managing our marketing budget. We should ask the question: “Did we get any new sales because we spent money on a sponsorship (or trade show or advertisement)?” However, I think it is a question less connected to the topic of managing sales. For me, the takeaway here is that there must be consistency between marketing and sales. The sales team must be able to use the marketing materials and messaging to communicate the value proposition of the company to prospective customers. If there’s inconsistency between the two, the marketing dollars will not result in added sales.
I know we can incorporate some of these tools to be more successful in sales management. I don’t want to forget to add, though, that the most important part of the selling process for us is the relationships that we build. Ours are long term relationships with clients, and our first and foremost job is to serve the client well. Service and relationship will drive a lot of sales success – but don’t forget the metrics too because we all know the mantra: “What gets measured, gets managed.”