In business, there’s an expression: To have and to hold, from this day forward. … Oh, wait, that’s a marriage vow. And even then it doesn’t bind. Here in the sales-verse, people coming and going like serial monogamists can sting your bottom line: Onboarding new hires is costly and time-consuming. Organizations must pay to find and vet potential new hires; they also need to invest at least six months and many person hours getting the newby up to speed and transformed into a contributing member of the organization. That initial investment can include helping them up and over the steep learning curve to know your product/services line by heart, as well as helping them understand how to sell to what could be an unfamiliar demographic for them.
Ultimately, you’d like your new hires to be whistling while they work to bring in business and increase your earnings. But if your organization suffers from RDS (Revolving Door Syndrome), you’ll squander company dollars making up for your attrition rate. In other words, until you get to the source of your retention problem and remedy it, you’ll keep feeding monster.com.
On average, it takes seven months and around $30K to find and onboard a new sales rep, according to a study by the Aberdeen Group. Such associated costs should be expected if your organization is in growth mode. Growth is a good problem to have! But if turnover is high year over year in your sales department, you’ve got a systemic problem. Even worse is losing top performers when they decide to move on to a better opportunity. Suddenly you’re busy trying to plug leaks in a ship from which everyone’s jumping.
From the Get-Go, Be Honest About Expectations
Just as you need to know who your prospective sales reps are, they need to know what sort of work environment they might be bringing their lunch box and framed family photos to. Signing them on to what they hadn’t bargained for will hurt you as they grow disgruntled and cynical on the job and/or quit in frustration. Instead of that fiasco, set realistic expectations at the interview stage, being honest with prospective hires about the workplace. You don’t need to scare them off, just be upfront about challenging aspects they might face at your company. If they’re good, they’ll understand that no sales opportunity is without its pros and cons.
Setting Realistic Goals and Monitoring Progress
Because sales folks are a competitive bunch, you can set goals for them that are challenging—but also attainable. And in doing so, don’t fail to provide the resources necessary to reach those goals. Keep tabs on individual contributors’ progress, and hold supportive one-on-one’s in which you discuss their performance. What you’re doing here is opening the lines of communication regarding job performance, and revealing where improvement and coaching are needed. Ever-competitive, your sales reps will take up the gauntlet.
Outline Realistic Goals and Coach Accordingly
While we’re on the topic of coaching … one of the best investments you can make in your new hires is to coach them. Coaching benefits the company by increasing staff competency rate, while at the same time signaling to your workforce that they are worth investing in. Coaching is something we’ve blogged and “articled” about before because it’s so important for the health of a company. Failing to nurture reps through ongoing coaching will result in a workforce that’s frustrated at being underprepared and under-supported when doing their job.
Reexamine Your Compensation Package
Money is on the mind of top-performing sales reps. They’re not coming to work for the free instant cocoa in the breakroom (with or without mini marshmallows). Casual Friday isn’t tooting their horn. If not properly compensated, they’re likely to shop their résumé around to more generous companies. Reexamine your compensation package on an annual basis, taking into account what’s being offered at competing organizations. Tiered plans with rewards for top performers can attract stronger candidates, as can additional compensation for lower-performing but still valuable reps. Put this question through the thought mill: How much are you saving with your slim-pickings compensation compared to how much you’re losing in attrition costs each year?
Engage in Incentivizing
Developing fun and creative ways to show your appreciation for your valuable staff will further motivate them to stay with you. Incentives such as gym memberships, flex time, additional time off, even an in-house concierge will build loyalty; they also promote a more stress-free work environment. Holding weekly, monthly, or quarterly sales contests will additionally motivate your naturally competitive sales staff to do their best.
Exit Interview: What Went Wrong?
Sometimes despite a company doing everything right for their employees, they lose top people. That’s just a difficult reality you face in business. But these days too many companies fail to take advantage of a relatively painless datamining tool: the exit interview. If you want to know why Jane or John Doe is “breaking up with you,” sit them down one on one and ask why they’re resigning. And don’t have their direct supervisor be the one doing the asking—you don’t want those on the way out to hold back anything. Ideally, the exit interview should be conducted by a member of the HR team.
Remember, when it comes to employee retention, it’s one thing to get them to say “I do”; it’s another to hold them and keep them.
Sales forecasting is commonplace among sales managers, despite the fact that it’s a ridiculously difficult undertaking and the further fact that forecasting accurately is nearly impossible.
It’s typical to end up with forecasted numbers that miss the mark by a sizable margin. Sales managers often find themselves in a familiar situation: running around in a postmortem panic over why their numbers are off. But neglecting to actually get to the bottom of the bad forecast is another classic misstep, the result of which is being in the same forecasting predicament quarter over quarter.
The act of forecasting is an exercise in futility if you fail to identify the culprits behind bad numbers. We’ve spent a lot of time researching and thinking about the topic, and we’re passing our learnings on to you. Read on to find out the root causes of faulty forecasting so you can stop predicting sunshine when there will in fact be rain.
You’re Relying on Bad and Incomplete Data
Your CRM is more riddled with holes than a wool sweater in a moth infestation. Some of your data is missing, or it’s outdated, or it’s simply inaccurate. Holes such as these can lead to skewed forecasts. Remember, what you get out of your CRM depends on what you put into it. The more data points your team inputs into your CRM, the more solid the data will be as far as forecasting. The more data you’ve amassed, the more accurately you’ll be able to forecast.
Direct your team to engage in data input as a best practice. Make sure everyone’s diligent about documenting communication points and populating fields at the account and opportunity stages. This collective effort will draw a data-driven picture of why some deals are successful and others cough their last breath and die. Adhere to this rule: “If it’s not in your CRM, it does not exist.”
You’re Being Blinded by Positivity Fairy Dust
The mantra of this industry could be, “Be optimistic or be obsolete.” Sales is chancy, yet despite what might be repeated setbacks, you must maintain a sunny disposition, staying positive when it comes to growth opportunities and deal closing. That said, you don’t want to go through your sales life being a happy idiot. Engage in that other “ism”—realism. Meaning, don’t clog your pipeline with too many potential deals that are built on wishes and dreams. That magical-thinking “user error” often results in an overinflated, unrealistic forecast. Making the effort to debug your pipeline is time well spent.
You’re Betting on the Wrong Horse
Be careful not to funnel your resources into unpromising deals. Emotion can be the driving force sometimes—“I like that company … I’d love to work with them … they seem cool!” Next thing you know, resources spent on your dream company have not resulted in a deal, and now you’re short on TME (time money energy) that was better spent pursuing more realistic leads. Again, this can be the result of too many deals in the pipeline, and/or the wrong ones getting special treatment while the right ones get ignored. Forget that glam deal you’d love to land. Focus on data management. Or, if you’ve mastered the art of data management already, use what you know about data science to rank and prioritize opportunities for reps, teams, region, or product lines, taking into account things like close probability, momentum, size, and market trends.
As people like to say, “No one has a crystal ball.” True enough, but forecasting can be thoughtful or it can be stab-in-the-dark reckless. When you make thoughtful, intelligent predictions, it’s more likely the clouds will part and you’ll have your day in the sun.
Spring is starting to show through here in our hometown of Las Vegas. We’re in the midst of trade show season and companies from a host of different industries are visiting the city to promote their offerings and vie for future business.
The sales-verse is inhabited by better-educated customers these days, and we have innovations meant to streamline the getting and keeping of business, but trade shows, while somewhat expensive, still present a decent opportunity for showcasing yourself to a vast swath of potential customers. Hotels are booked solid and hosted afterhours get-togethers are packed with peers bonding over open-bar libations. It’s organized chaos; it’s also a lot of fun. And, like the hotels and casinos, you too can see a healthy ROI on your trade show marketing dollars. The difference is, you’ll be working your long game. Here are some tips for ensuring that your money is well-spent, along with practical ways to lay the groundwork for a future return on your investment this trade show season.
Don’t Wing It
“Let’s just show up and work the floor” is the wrong attitude for trade shows. Your booth might be snazzy. The polo shirts emblazoned with your logo might look great on your reps. But being the “cool” booth isn’t enough. Plan and prep for trade shows several months in advance, with your sales and marketing teams collaborating to align goals, set objectives, earmark budget dollars, and put in place any other plans you set in order to have a successful trade show season. Action items on your prep list should include things like nabbing strategically important trade show floor real estate to creating eye-catching collateral to brainstorming fun giveaways that go beyond cheap click pens and magnets to tracking leads and how to assign them.
Map It Out
Put in place a pre- and post-show prospecting plan, using your marketing team’s expertise to create awareness of who you are—among other things, this will help effectively drive foot traffic to your booth during the show. You don’t have to limit your outreach to an email campaign; work it via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and, if you have the luxury of an outbound team, by phone as well. If you cannot get an attendee list before the show, obtain the one from the previous year. There’s a good chance many of last year’s attendees will be there this year.
Keep Things Simple
From booth design to collateral, don’t go to the weird side. Attendees will likely be overstimulated walking through the show, with all the many sights and sounds putting their senses on overload. Be the compelling calm in the eye of the trade show storm.
Identify your target audience and develop a clear, straightforward yet engaging message for them to get their minds around in a relatively short time. It’s like the dying prospector telling where the gold is buried: If he hems and haws, he croaks before getting to the point, and suddenly no one’s interested anymore. Or, compare it to cold calls, during which you only have a few precious seconds to pique a prospect’s interest. Booth hopping is what it’s all about at trade shows, so if you blow your opportunity with a rambling, unclear message, an attendee will be out of there faster than a free fridge magnet drops into a hotel bathroom wastebasket. Both your booth design and your script should tell your story in a concise, compelling way.
Thoughtfully plan for a booth design that looks good and meets your budget. Booths range from lower-end pop-up fiberglass jobbies to more involved aluminum numbers that take hours of set up. And in certain states, such as here in Nevada, you’re required by law to use union-scale labor if power tools or ladders are needed in setting up the booth. If your booth is too elaborate, you might be cutting into your trade show budget by paying out contractors before things even begin.
You don’t want to act like a carnival barker on the midway, heavy handedly ambushing visitors and hovering over them. Expect the foot traffic to come in waves throughout the day. At times you’ll only get a handful of folks at your booth. Don’t pounce. Wait for them to make eye contact before engaging them. Smile and let them browse your booth and collateral, giving them time to acclimate to who you are and what you’re about.
Even before the trade show wraps up, put together your post-show strategy. Attendees will have visited various booths, and they’ll be reached out to afterwards by numerous companies, including your own. If you stood out at the trade show with, say, a memorable giveaway, reference that in your follow-up messaging to prospects—“Hope you’re enjoying your insulated coffee mug/metal water bottle/Amazon gift card.”
Finally, code your trade show leads before inputting them into your CRM. This way, you can track your sales pipeline, separating out booth visitors from other leads to calculate your trade show ROI.
From all of us to all of you, have a happy, healthy trade show season!
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