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Why an Accurate Sales Forecast is the Key to Monthly Sales Success and Predictable Sales Growth

Why an Accurate Sales Forecast is the Key to Monthly Sales Success and Predictable Sales Growth

Any accurate sales forecast is a guaranteed gift towards your bank balance, your sanity, and your stress levels!

A truly accurate sales forecast means you know where you’re going, and how you’ll get there. Easy sailing…

So why do so many sales people and business owners fail to use the sale forecast to their advantage?

An Accurate Sales Forecast – Urban Myth or Unicorn?

I genuinely believe no-one really subscribes to the actuality of an accurate sales forecast.

This is simply because both you and I have all seen great sales forecasts fall apart. We’ve seen them fall apart probably on more than one occasion. Often just one week before month end! That happens.

So, you might suspect that when you drop a prospect in the sales forecast that it’s a best guess…because that’s what lots of sales people do.

And that’s where it starts to go wrong. An accurate sales forecast is not a best guess.

It’s a document of record.

I guarantee if you start to think about it as such, you’ll find a huge difference in terms of you being able to predict your sales success. This means you’ll find it easier to hit your target and predict your sales growth…and take control of your earnings.

What Does an Accurate Sales Forecast Look Like?

Confirmed Order Details w Decision Maker Uncovered Specific Needs Solution Agreed Prices Agreed Budget Available Date to Sign Off Agreed Delivery Date Agreed Contract Sent Purchase Order Received Invoice Date Order Value
Acme Limited  √  √  √                
Jelly Bobble Inc  √  √  √  √  √  √    √      
APV Ltd  √  √  √  √  √  √  √        
dtx SA  √  √  √  √              

I like this format because it focuses the sales persons mind, and also, it’s easy to see the solidity of the deal at a glance.

I’m not only advocating this template as a formal document, I’ve seen it used very successfully as part of self management. It’s a great self reality check for how solid a deal is, but that’s not the most powerful part of this template.

By far the most valuable element is that it forces you, as the sales person, to ask those sales based questions that can often just pass the sales person by.

But, you see, it’s these very questions that make the difference between a sales forecast and an accurate sales forecast.

And that means the difference between solid stable growth, predictable sales performance and a stress free sales environment and a hand to mouth, peaks and troughs sales sea saw…no, which would you rather have?

Building an Accurate Sales Forecast = Asking Structured Questions

You might want to check out some of the recent BANT articles I’ve written here about how to qualify prospects…Why Sales BANT is Not Enough and Has Anyone Seen My Buyer? because they’ll give you a broader understanding about the value of asking those qualifying questions that are critical at the end of the sales process.

Good Quality Questions Create Accurate Sales Forecasts

Here are some of the key questions you mighty consider.

It’s important to look at the format, the detail and the accountability you are conferring to your prospect to work with you, honestly, openly and with a high level of transparency:

  • So following the template above, when you’re thinking about creating your accurate sales forecast it’s perfectly acceptable to ask and re confirm the following, through all the stages in the sales process:
  • You’re the person who will make the final decision on this? Will that decision need to be signed of by anyone else? Who holds the budget for this purchase?  What part do they play in deciding who to buy from?
  • We agree that the costs associated with doing nothing provide a clear and definitive ROI using our solution/product/service?
  • That if, as discussed we provide you with the solution/product/service as discussed at $£X then you are happy to buy from my organisation?
  • And that budget is available now? /And that budget for this purchase will be signed off by dd/mm, so you can get delivery by dd/mm then we can agree I can go ahead and raise a contract so you can send me a purchase order by dd/mm…?
Why is this Important?

It’s important because you as the sales person gets to see where the variable or undecided factors are, most often this will be around timing, but not always…

Using these questions and the template above you know exactly how solid a prospect is, and what detail you need to chase down to convert a prospect to an order.

What Else Contributes to Inaccurate/Accurate Sales Forecasts?

Think about these factors and reflect on the impact they could be having on your sales forecasting ability…

  1. Qualifying is not a one time event. Qualify and re-qualify as often as you need but especially when there are changes taking place. Be that shifts in time scales, new people entering the discussion, shifts in agenda etc
  2. Don’t rely on your sales CRM to forecast for you. In the main I’ve found sales CRM sales pipeline generation and management the cause of much distress and false hope. Use it, but have the reality check on high alert.
  3. Use your judgement. If a deal wobbles a few times, starts to drag, the prospect avoids your calls, then read the signs. You need to get involved and re-assess. Trust me, a great prospect is never that busy to return a call.
  4. Honestly is critical in your sales forecast. If you insist on fabricating, padding or listening to your ego, then you’ll find people losing faith in your pretty quickly. Your judgement is flawed and your word’s not to be trusted. That’s not a rep you want.
  5. You need to get smart about new business development. That way you’re not tempted to hang on to dead deals, and chasing prospects who’ve died on you.
  6. Accountability – state your numbers, commit your focus and own it. No shirking. Don’t be that sales guy!
  7. If things are going pear-shaped – go talk to someone. Don’t put your head in the sand…get a 2nd view and draw up an action plan. Don’t panic, or start discounting or give up…
Now Consider This

Dropping a prospect out of your sales pipeline is acceptable. It’s much better to do that than cloud a picture where you need absolute and razor sharp clarity.

You’ll find the clarity especially when it comes to working out your Sales Recipe

How to Generate an Accurate Sales Forecast
Gaining clarity in this area and generating an accurate sales forecast is the key to turbo charging your sales results and your sales bonus

If you can get clarity in this one area, you’ll find your ability to fully turbo charge your sales efforts, and therefore your sales results, and therefore your sales bonus!

So, in summary, an accurate sales forecast is neither an urban myth or a unicorn, but it is magical in terms of what it can mean for your business, your bonus and your sanity.

Happy Selling

Carol

carol@mortonkyle.com

0779 002 1885

P.S. Get easy read sales and business development training tips directly into your inbox once per week – all spam free – great for you in house training, your sales coaching, daily sales huddles and business development drives…register for your free subscription here – The Advanced Business Achiever

 

 

 

Building Highly Qualified Sales Funnels

Building Highly Qualified Sales Funnels

Building Highly Qualified Sales Funnels…

Building highly qualified sales funnels is the single most important task in building any growth model, scaling your sales team, and therefor, building your business.

Anything else is just risky, costly, as well as unpredictable.

Is that what you want?

So…

How Would You Describe the Health of your Sales Funnel?

Spot on…it’s my guiding business tool?

Getting there – still some lingering prospects in there but they’ll be sorted soon?

It works on paper but it’s not producing the sales results I want?

The metrics are there but I don’t know what to do about improving them?

What sales funnel?

Or any variation of the above!

Why Should I Even Bother Building Highly Qualified Sales Funnels?

This is something I typically hear from people, sales leaders, business owners who have never known the absolute joy and certainty of having a smooth-running sales funnel, producing, managing and closing highly qualified sales leads, as often as they need, with the margin they need, at the frequency they need.

And that’s ok.

Trust me when I tell you I’ve seen all sorts of sales funnels. The great news is once you’ve got a working sales funnel…it’s like having your own ATM machine where you hit and it pumps out cash.

There’s a degree of certainty about the results it produces, what part your sales function needs to play, you can tell the marketing team what they need to produce in detail, account management becomes a breeze and the money keeps rolling in.

As long as you don’t get lazy, complacent and comfortable…you’ll only have to set your sales funnel up once then refine it until it becomes the highly qualified sales funnel you and your business needs.

Building Highly Qualified Sales Funnels – What Does That Mean?

Well, first of all, lets look at what a Sales Funnel is.

A sales funnel houses your sales process.

At the top of your sales funnel you have a wide entry – this is where the sales prospect is first identified as a potential target, worthy of engagement and spend, so it might be a list purchased against strict criteria, it might be twitter followers, LinkedIn contacts….

This follows though, post a level of suitable marketing activity, then the prospect acknowledges they have ‘seen’ you.

A prospect at this stage has migrated from the marketing stage of the sales funnel to a more directed stage in the funnel, it may be someone who has downloaded your white paper or your lead magnet. It might be someone who’s contacted you for further information, asked for details or spoken with you proactively via some form of social media.

The key to all this is the vital work QUALIFIED Sales Funnel. If you want to get your prospects in to this stage of your sales funnel and you want to watch what they do and how they interact with your business then check this out

Anyway, back to the structure…Rubbish in the top…rubbish quality or no business out the other end…you look busy BUT nothing’s happening.

This is why having strict go/no-go criteria about what level and type of prospect enters the top of the sales funnel is key. Too broad is as bad as too skinny. Likewise you’ll need some go/no go criteria at every stage if you want your sales funnel to stay healthy and producing

So, potential prospect enters at the top and as the sales process progresses, with very tight go/no-go criteria at each stage, so the funnel gets more selective regarding the quality of the prospects it lets through.

There is a go/no go set of criteria here at the top of this page – you’re version might look different.

What Building Highly Qualified Sales Funnels Means for Your Business

Each one of these stages in the sales funnel has a metric. For example:

How many prospects passed from one level to the next? Higher than expected? Lower?

Why did you reject? What are the remedial actions at this stage that could convert a dead prospect to a live prospect again?

Knowing your metrics at each stage and your conversion options at this stage has many huge benefits:

Lost business is minimised – this can save you fortunes, and keep your competitors running hard

You are able to act in a timely manner to any deal that’s falling off the expected path

For more insights into what metrics to use – you can start by downloading – 7 Sales Metrics To Measure, Manage and Monitor

Sales Forecasting Using Highly Qualified Sales Funnels

You can identify weeks, months, maybe even years (depending on the sales cycle duration) what your sales figures will be…which means you can make corrective action to boost sales when you still have the time.

You will be able to continuously monitor the quality, profit, value of the business you’re chasing

No deal falls through the net

In fact, a strategic and robust highly qualified sales funnel answers all the management information questions you need to run your sales function like clockwork…of course you need a motivated sales team who honestly report activity and a sales methodology that’s robust enough to train sales teams to ask the tough questions, and this is where having the go/no-go gates really pays dividends.

Types of Sales Funnels

Building high quality sales funnels is not always a one off…in some instances you’ll need a sales funnel for different products and services because the sales process for those products and services is different.

This is where it’s worth considering how you are selling each of your products and services – some sales funnels maybe based on different sales methods – some of your products/services may respond better to Challenger sales methods, some will be SPIN based, some more strategically focused and often sales funnels need to be tailored to encompass various methodologies at different stages.

Note: this is reflected in the sales structure of the pitch, the reporting metrics and the no/no-go gates.

The Single Most Common Flaw with Building High Quality Sales Funnels Today…

Is this; firms forget that even though it’s called a sales funnel. It’s actually a Sales and Marketing Funnel!

If you start building your high quality sales funnels at the point where the sales process formally starts, you’re actually starting it half way through the process…and missing a vital, key stage in the sales funnel.

Other common flaws are:

  • Over filling the sales funnel
  • Not being quick enough to cut away or spend time re-qualifying prospects that have stalled
  • Using discounting to attempt to flush solid sales prospects through the sales funnel at a faster rate
  • Not focusing enough on filling the top of the sales funnel
  • Putting any sales prospect in there, rather than focusing on high quality

If you’re looking to at how you should be building highly qualified sales funnels in your business, you can call for a confidential chat 0779 002 1885

Alternatively, if you are looking for some insight into how your current sales funnel could be improved to further improve the sales results of you business, you can book your Sales Audit and get the results back within 10 days. Find out more here – Sales Insight and Fast Action Pack

Happy Selling

Carol

0779 002 1885

carol@mortonkyle.com

p.s. One of the other real benefits of a highly qualified sales funnel is that it makes recruitment of sales people and onboarding a breeze…call me to find out more

Your Sales Conversion Rates: Your Very Own Sales Crystal Ball

Your Sales Conversion Rates: Your Very Own Sales Crystal Ball

Sales Conversion Rates: The Ultimate Sales Metric…or is it?

Lots of sales leaders and sales people monitor their sales conversion rates since it’s a good top line indicator as to how things are going…from staying steady to gently increasing or, heavens forbid, heading south.

But, I also know some firms who don’t pay that much attention to it at all. Personally, I think that’s a huge mistake and hopefully, soon, you’ll agree with me.

Here’s why…

Sales Conversion Rates, whether you are a sales person or a sales leader, informs you how you are using your most precious money making commodity….time.

Plus: anything that allows you to predict future performance in sales is worth watching.

Very closely.

Sales Conversion Rates: Where do I measure them?

Your sales process, documented and detailed, rigid or flexible, will have certain gates in it.

If you subscribe to my idea of a Plug and Play Sales Model – see here – then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

But, for the sake of speed, let’s assume you don’t.

You’ll know (or should know) how many sales calls you make in a day. How many of those convert to opportunities – meetings (that’s one gate) or quotes (that’s another gate)…or declines, or call backs, or deadlines…(these are all gates too)

You’ll know how many of those meetings turn to quotes. how many convert to orders immediately. How many decline and how many pipeline for another time (that’s another 4 gates). Even more gates will you consider monitoring sales cycle times also.

From your quotes, you’ll get another series of sales gates….

And at the end of that, you’ll get a final, maybe monthly, weekly or daily overall sales conversion rate based activity during that period.

It’s all about knowing what gates to measure

What gates to pay especial attention to and how focusing on the quality of interaction at each of those sales gates can dramatically improve the sales conversion rates for the individual gates as well as overall sales conversion rates.

Further sales metrics that drill even further down into the sales process is you’re serious about really improving your sales performance are detailed here. Just hit the link for your free guide – instant download – The 7 Sales Metrics to Measure, Manage and Monitor.

You see, measuring just one overall sales conversion rate is just not enough…it doesn’t give you a detailed enough picture.

And certainly you won’t be able to do the sales improvement diagnostic you need if you’re serious about really boosting those sales figures…

Sales Conversion Rates: The Fastest Way to Predict the Sales Future

Once you know the metrics at each of your selected sales gates, you’ll have your sales recipe. If you’re struggling as to how to calculate this – see here.

Your sales recipe is the formula, which may fluctuate slightly, allows you to judge sales performance, manage sales resources, predict sales performance, optimise sales resources and most certainly is the first step in creating any scaleable sales model.

It’s also the crux of real sales or performance management program.

5 Things To Think About With Sales Conversion Rates

  1. Too high and it could mean you’re pricing too low, or at least it’s an opportunity to reconsider your offer, your pricing, your route to market, how you package your product/service, and how you compete in the market place.
  2. Too low and it could be an indicator that you need to look at the prospects your chasing and the offer your proposing. On the whole this presents a huge amount of opportunity for positive growth (Click here to find out how one company went from 1:25 sales conversion rate to 1:3, and tripled their average order value)
  3. A sales conversion rate that stays the same (as long as it’s healthy) could mean many things, but on the whole it means you’ve got a solid test bed for testing out some new sales initiatives; namely – testing out new pricing, new positioning, different sales techniques.
  4. A sales conversion rate that’s in rapid decline should set all alarm bells off very quickly. Are you under competitor attack? Is it dissent in the sales ranks? A change in product? A raft of customer complaints? (A branding issue? Pricing problems? Quality issues? Read here about poor customer service nearly killed one firms new business efforts).
  5. A sales conversion rate that’s increasing dramatically – well first thing you do is celebrate…obviously, the second thing you do is monitor customer complaints…and then refer back to my first point.
Sales Conversion Rates: The Sales and Business Thermometer

Sales Conversion Rates are gold to me. At a glance I know who is performing and who is not. I know where to focus my efforts and what to leave well alone.

I know who’s on fire and who needs a fire setting underneath them.

Sales Conversion Rates tell me what types of customers my clients should avoid. What types they should hunt for, what to charge in what sectors, how to pitch and present in those sectors, as well as when to actively hammer a region as well as when not to waste time.

Monitoring sales conversion rates works.

It’s very effective and takes no time at all to set up, and it’s the certain route to optimising sales resources and minimising costly waste.

Happy Selling

Carol

carol@mortonkyle.com

779 002 1885

P.S. To check out more sales improvement insights and business development strategy, then check out our blog  

Plus: to receive weekly sales and business development support, directly into your inbox, just hit the link. Claim your free subscription to the Advanced Business Achiever

Sales Audits: Uncovering Untapped Sales Opportunities

Sales Audits: Uncovering Untapped Sales Opportunities

Why Conduct Sales Audits?

Sales Audits are vital if you’re serious about continuous sales improvement.

The truth is – sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know!

We’ve all been there. Whether it’s mastering a new sport. Developing a new skill or just trying out a new Jamie Oliver dish for the first time.

We miss things.

You and I will give much greater importance to some things and negate the relevance of others. Sometimes to our cost.

Eventually we get where we need to be, and hopefully, we’ll have enjoyed the process and all our inexperience will have cost us is a bit of time, maybe a few bruises in the pursuit of a new sport and hopefully no dodgy tummy when cooking plans went awry.

It’s all part of learning, and it makes life interesting.

But what happens when you need to solve a business problem.

And the clock is ticking.

Money is running out, or at least the money isn’t coming in as fast as it should.

What do you do?

Would you enjoy the process of solving that problem as much?

Would you enjoy the detours the challenges gave you?

I didn’t think so.

So it makes sense to make the problem solving process as smooth, effective, efficient and productive as possible.

Why a Sales Audit?

Here’s two examples to show you why Sales Audits are so valuable.

These examples are specific to failing divisions/firms. Beware, Sales Audits should also be used in profitable firms to ensure nothing is lurking in the background and to further ensure that all profit and sales generation opportunities are retained.

Sales Audits are crucial in showing that uncovering the REAL problem. Scoping the impact of the REAL problem can save you time, money and stress, lots of time money and stress.

Sales Audits – Example 1:

Client was looking at the new business team in a buoyant and expansive market and seeing a long term sales plateau starting to take a sharp downward slide.

Their options:

  • Invest in training
  • Start performance management
  • Increase coaching
  • Talk to customers
  • Enhance/change the product
  • Fire the sales manager
  • Up the marketing spend
  • Fire the sales team
  • Ditch the market and concentrate in another vertical

Or, any or all of the above…what’s the solution?

On further exploration, the Sales Audit took me 4 days, I discovered the cause of the sales drop was a change in strategy. A change that had been employed about 18 months ago in the business.

Quite simply, the Sales Audit showed that 18 months ago the business has eschewed all manner of account management and moved their whole focus into new business development, which mean that the business had just one person to account manage per 400 customers.

So, in a nut shell, bigger focus on new business development caused sales to plateau then drop through the floor?

Absolutely.

It turns out, the real problem was nothing to do with the new business development, the team, the function, the price, the product, the market, the business or the vertical.

The Sales Audit Uncovered the Real Problem.

That real problem had everything to do with the vibe that was now going around in their vertical market that said ”this company is great at the up front sell, BUT, once you’ve signed, you’ll never hear from them again, and, heaven forbid if you do have a problem, it’ll take you months to get a response, if you are lucky enough to get a response that is”

By diverting extra resources back to the account management team. By ensuring a strong and immediate account management and customer retention strategy, the new business team started to see an immediate lift in their sales conversion.

4 days and 1 Sales Audit saved that company in that vertical market.

Sales Audits – Example 2.

Division failing badly, average order price just covering costs but conversion rate running at 1:25. The division was being propped up by other more profitable trading divisions by things were getting worse not better as time went on.

Again – large potential market, highly competitive but very buoyant, no where near saturation.

But 1:25 conversion from meeting to order was killing the business.

Lots of opportunities to improve and all pointed to firing the sales team and starting again.

Many solutions also pointed to cancelling the external sales function and relying simply on a telesales team.

Either way something had to change.

A three day Sales Audit came to several crucial conclusions:
  • Competitors we making the same mistakes as this company…so it really was a race to the bottom.
  • The division wasn’t selling what the prospects needed…although they could have
  • The division wasn’t selling what they thought they were selling…no-one had unpacked the benefits
  • The average order value of the competitor that was succeeding and doing very well was 7x that of the division in trouble
  • It was a very crowded market of failing ‘me-too’ competitors
  • Every competitor was trying to serve every vertical
  • Every competitor was doing a ‘hit and run’ sale

Knowing all of this and employing some highly practical solutions mean that neither the product nor the routes to market changed, instead by changing the vertical, extending the sales presentation by 1 stage that happened post sign up, and by employing a higher level and more robust ROI demonstration during the sales process, we got the sales results we needed.

.All resulted in a 3x increase in average order value and a 1:3 close rate instead of a 1:25.

Summary: Sales Audits

And there are plenty more examples of how an intensive Sales Audit can dramatically change the fortunes of a sales division…but you see, the most crucial  point is, sometimes the most obvious solution to a problem is the correct solution, but not always.

For example – had we dismissed the Sales Audit all together and taken some or any of the actions outlined in the first case study above, the client’s sales performance in that vertical would have nosedived still further, even faster…and still with no clue about how to improve it.

In the second case study…simply training the sales staff would have brought about marginal improvements in the short term, would have minimised the growth potential and most definitely would have seen the sales division closed within 6 months.

Solving the immediate problem is one thing.

Identifying the true cause of that sales problem is another.

That’s where a Sales Audit really comes into it’s own, and can prove invaluable in saving time, money and other valuable resources.

Solving the cause of the problem and not the symptoms displayed by the cause of the problem can just do more harm than good. You can send results spiraling out of control, waste precious time and money as well as driving you insane in the process.

When you’re dealing in high risk situations, where the cost of getting it wrong is huge, where you’re against the clock, and money is flowing in the opposite direction to you…shouldn’t you take a deep dive into causes before looking at solutions?

To discuss any aspect of the Sales Audit, just use the contact details below.

Sales Audits can be conducted in as little as 3 days and feedback provided within a further 2 days.

When you’re business isn’t getting the sales results you want, need and deserve, time is of the essence so contact me now.

Carol

carol@mortonkyle.com

0779 002 1885

To receive the most up to date Sales and Business Development Insights into your business every week, register for your free copy of the Advanced Business Achiever