Lean Sales Management

During the past few weeks as we have been leading our clients through developing potential business contingency plans for challenging times and during our workshops at the IW Business Builder programs “Build and Growth your Microsoft Practice in Challenging Times” (see Sharpening Up Your Skills), we have stressed the following element: Focus on brilliant execution.

What we mean by this is based upon a management program very popular in the manufacturing section called “Lean Management.” The program is based upon the concept that management and teams of employees must focus on each step of any particular process to eliminate waste/fat and therefore be more efficient and run the day to day operations more lean. At Acumen we are encouraging all our clients to consider setting up “teams” to focus on aspects of their operations, from delivery, to sales, to administration. 

The first step is to analyze and fully document each function — whether it is proposal generation to taking customer service calls — and seek ways to take out costs and increase efficiencies. Management must consider this is not a one-time event but an ongoing philosophy and a never-ending process. Once one function is worked on — and improved — move to another departmental area. 

For three months, we ran a series of newsletter articles titled the Sales Factory, breaking down the concept of manufacturing and how sales organizations must focus on production concepts to increase predictable revenue. If you want a copy of the three articles, send me an e-mail

If you have not visited and downloaded the Playbooks and exhibits for your SharePoint, UC, Project Mgmt and BI practices from our Microsoft workshops go to: https://partner.microsoft.com/us/bb. They are terrific for improving your business planning, marketing planning and sales strategy.

Getting Off to a Great Start

As I prepare for a my road trips, off to Philly, NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis and then Detroit and Dallas, I thought I would list a few thoughts that I hope will help you be better prepared to succeed in 2009: 

  • Go back and read your entire calendar, whether it’s paper based or Outlook or both. Look for missed appointments, a suspect that might need to be followed upon again, a networking partnering and events that you attended. Look and evaluate your time management, the number of appointments you made, the contacts you established and then make new resolutions based upon your “inspection.”
  • Clean your desk. It’s a great mental exercise. Throw away papers that have simply accumulated, empty file drawers, create new 2009 files and throw away any folders that you have not used in two years. Take the same time to cleanse your PC. Delete old e-mails, update software and make a 2008 back up.
  • Take a mental break. Force yourself to step away and reflect on your successes of 2008, focus on the good things that happened and write down your goals — both professionally and personal. Then do something that you want to do, but have not had time to do: sleep, golf, cook, read a fun book, spend extra time with family … just release your tensions.

Fairly simple things, but I have found that successful people have found a balance in their lives. The objective of these days is to refresh, refocus and take care of yourself. See you in a city near you or an airport … and pass this blog to your buddies.

Building a High Performance Sales Culture

The role of the sales leader at this time of year is to focus on building or maintaining a great atmosphere of success, dedication and fun. All the marketing plans should be in place, sales systems completed and training planned for the next 90 days.

Here are several actions you should focus on:

  1. A shared sense of mission or purpose. Your overall sales goals and “theme” for the year must be reinforced each day, each week, and in every way. Do you have your 2010 theme on posters in your sales areas? Does each salesperson have their “goalboards” hung in their cubes? (These are pictorials of where salespersons rank according to their sales/activity goals, and pictures of your annual sales trip or other goals they have based on their 2010 salesperson business plans.)
  2. Clear and attainable goals. Everyone needs a quota, but high-performance sales teams have “stretch goals,” as well. These must be realistic. Are your compensation plans or sales contests designed to reinforce the stretch goals?
  3. Frequent objective feedback. A sales leader must find the time to coach, mentor and provide insights to keep their sales team focused and constantly improving. Reinforce the positive actions as well as the need to fix the areas that need to be improved. A great phrase you should always use: “If you had an opportunity to make that sale call over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?”
  4. Positive rewards for appropriate performance. Do you have a first-quarter sales contest to start the year off properly? Having a yearly sales incentive trip is a must. Now is the time to design your second-quarter contest to build sales activity and required pipeline to ensure your summer will be successful.
  5. Timely support and help when requested or needed. Sales leaders gain respect when they provide the atmosphere of “being there” for their team. When a salesperson walks into your office or calls you on the phone, your first response should be, “How can I help you?”
  6. Remember, when you walk into your office each day, your body language, your attitude and your actions will be transferred to your team.

    Ken Thoreson, president of Acumen Management Group Ltd., “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 12 years, our consulting, advisory and platform services have illuminated, motivated and rejuvenated the sales efforts for partners throughout North America. Move up and move ahead! Acumen Management provides keynotes, consulting services and products designed to improve business performance.

    Get’r Done

    Last week, I was interviewed for an hour on a talk radio program about small business and the current and future economic conditions. We started by simply discussing the FUD factor — how fear, uncertainly and doubt have crept into our lives and impacts decision making, purchasing patterns and budgeting. I spoke to the need for leadership at the executive level. Whether you have five employees or 500, the game face is as critical as is sound planning. We discussed the topics I noted in my earlier blog entries, but at the end I gave the listeners four action steps to take:

    1. Hold a company meeting. Speak the truth, but be positive. Speak to the reasons you started the company, the philosophy and the number of customers you serve. But also speak to the need for everyone to be efficient, cost effective and thinking about how to sell more, bill more and work together. The leader must take these opportunities to provide vision and strength. 

    2. Analyze your customer base. Determine what you have sold them — can you upgrade them? Determine what you have not sold them, and then create a six-week plan to contact every customer. Make a list and make sure each customer is touched. In the six-week plan, include a minimum of one action a week that each salesperson and you must do to promote the company. 

    3. Seek leverage. Find two business ecosystem partners. These are companies that sell non-competitive but related products/services to your customer base. Then develop a plan to work together to share leads, hold joint marketing events, share customer lists, etc. The secret is to create a mutual goal that, by working together, each company will sell X dollars within 90 days. 

    4. Now get’r done Ken@Acumenmgmt.com

    Working Through Tough Economic Times

    So, it’s official: According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, we’ve been in a recession since December 2007. In our Acumen Management Group workshop/webinars, we provide our own top 10 tips for working through economic tough times. I won’t go through all of them here, but there are a few key elements to understand in order to keep building your business during the next 18 months.

    Whether you are an executive or salesperson, remember: 1) It’s a mental thing — you have to be tough and push through the negativity, 2) it’s a leadership thing — each person must take charge of the situation and 3) it’s a sales thing — you will have to raise the level of execution and professionalism. 

    Check out my recent column on the topic. 

    After 9/11, I saw many of the same challenges from partners and customers. People were sitting back on their heels and were unable to make decisions. My motto is “take action — stay positive.” I use this motto to help me and to help our clients move forward. 

    I would like to hear from you on how you stay positive and move forward.