Big Swift Kick Case Studies

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The Situation salesforce case study:

A professional services company had a handful of junior sales reps, all of whom were missing their numbers. The CEO was frustrated because they had a strong direct-mail program that was producing a very high call-in rate. But the call-in conversion rate was quite low and generating far less revenue/sales than projected.

Analysis

We went in to study the client acquisition process from beginning to end. Clearly, the direct-mail campaign was working based on the number of pieces that were sent out every month and the high percentage of prospects calling in from each mailing. The sales reps had good selling skills and used a traditional consultative selling process. However, the company’s offerings were simple and straightforward. We discovered that the prospects calling in were ready to buy and didn’t need to go through a consultative process. So the sales reps were actually getting in the way of the sales!

Changes Made

We took one sales rep out of the client acquisition process for one day and had his incoming calls answered by an office assistant whom we asked to play customer service rep. At the end of the day, the number of call-in conversions was up significantly. We immediately replaced all of the sales reps with customer service reps. Since the company wanted to keep the sales reps, we moved the handful of sales reps to outside sales with a major account acquisition strategy and execution plan.

The Result

Sales tripled in the first thirty days from the direct-mailing call-in conversions! One sales rep left the company within three weeks. Another sales rep set the world on fire and closed two major accounts a week with corporate licenses after a thirty-day ramp-up period. The others did moderately well, gaining 1 major account a week with corporate licenses after a thirty-day ramp-up period. Total revenue from the new major account division was an additional 29% at the end of four months.

The Common Mistake

Literally 99% of all companies that we evaluate have no company-wide sales process or, even worse, an ineffective sales process. This is like a football team not using the same playbook or defending against a running game when the opponents are playing a passing game!

Your Takeaway

Take the time to understand and map out your sales process. Align that process with where your prospects are at in the buying cycle when they begin to interact with your reps.

The Situation salesforce case study 2

A medium-sized software company was experiencing eroding market share, tougher competition, and slipping value proposition. The company had invested heavily in different kinds of sales training, including sales tactics, major account planning, and how to talk with “C”-level executives. But 75% of the sales people were missing their quotas and overall sales were flat. The worldwide Sales VP was looking for a way to boost their numbers.

Analysis

We conducted an evaluation of the sales management team, focusing on their sales process, sales activity, pipeline, accountability, coaching, and sales management skills. We discovered that most of the sales managers had been top-performing reps who were promoted into sales management. They had never been given the skills, tools, or clear expectations of what was necessary to do their job.

Changes Made

We started with a two-day custom sales management training program to teach all of the managers the science of sales management. The philosophy behind this is that sales is like a factory with consistent predictable results when run properly. By the end of the two-day training, each sales manager had created his or her own “sales factory.” We then installed a three-month implementation accountability program with the aim of getting the managers to step up or be weeded out.

The Result

Within thirty days, the weak managers did weed themselves out, as expected. The other managers stepped up in varying degrees, with 5% doing exceptionally well. In the next six months, overall sales went up 27%.

The Common Mistake

One of the two most costly mistakes a company can make is to promote its top sales reps to sales management. Statistics show that 82% of top producers who are promoted into sales management go back into sales at another company within eighteen months. This is like taking your top-scoring basketball player at the height of the season and making him the team coach.

Your Takeaway

Have you put your top producers in management roles? Has it hurt your sales? Think long and hard about this decision, and consider putting them back in the field.

The Situation salesforce case study 3

The CEO of a medium-size gas production company was looking for ways to grow sales and increase the value of the company. His goal was to then sell the company once it had reached a particular size.

Analysis

After evaluating the company’s sales force, we noticed that the sales people were not calling on all of the potential influencers and decision-makers. We also noticed that the sales folks were not asking enough of the right questions, so that the resulting deals were much smaller in size and more difficult to close than necessary. Part of the problem was that the “sales” people were actually operations employees who had been given sales responsibility and they didn’t feel like they had the right to talk to executives.

Changes Made

We helped the sales people identify all of the stakeholders in a deal and determine what information they needed to find out. Then we started weekly coaching calls with the sales team to help develop some sales muscle. Each coaching call involved a combination of skills training, situational analysis, and mental conditioning.

The Result

The sales folks not only closed more deals but also closed larger deals. Within seven months, they had closed enough deals to double the size of the company and enable it to be sold for a healthy multiple.

The Common Mistake

Rule: If you change the way a person thinks, you will change the way he or she performs. In this case study, the problem was the sales team’s discomfort in speaking with executives because felt they were not entitled to talk to them. This type of self-sabotage mindset comes in many different flavors. We see it when sales people fail to ask good business questions, fail to find value or discuss price, exhibit a strong need to be liked, insist on showing the whole 100-slide PowerPoint – the list goes on and on. The real trick is to determine who can adapt quickly and who never will.

Your Takeaway

Do your reps have the right mindset? Go have some conversations, get inside their heads, and see if their mindset is helping – or sabotaging their performance.

The Problem salesforce case study 4

The CEO of a small telephone-systems company was looking for a way to stand out in a sea of competitors in a market that was going flat.

Analysis

We took a close look at the company’s strengths, its ideal client profile, and its sales reps’ ability to position and sell at an executive level. We discovered that they had a unique advantage over their competitors in the region as well as a very clear concept of their ideal client profile. We were unsure if their reps could sell at an executive level, but they were hungry and coachable so they had a good foundation to work from.

Changes Made

We came up with a powerful approach to get the sales folks in the door at an executive level. Then we developed an educational executive presentation to highlight business issues and focus on the target executives’ frustrations. After a few weeks, we were getting the first meeting at the executive level but were then delegated to other people in the company for a follow-up meeting. So we added a compelling no-risk guarantee and a few additional selling skills to turn the delegation meeting into an implementation meeting.

The Result

In the first six months, sales went up 50% with an additional 43 systems sold. Based on their no-risk guarantee, they had to refund one system, which they turned around and sold on the used market for a tiny profit including the de-installation labor cost.

The Common Mistake

Most companies don’t recognize their strengths or know how to leverage them to create a huge selling advantage for themselves. Even in a flat market, performing a market analysis, refocusing sales efforts, and taking a little coaching can yield significant gains!

Your Takeaway

Take a good, hard look at your strengths. Do you know what they are? Are you leveraging them? If you’re not, you’re certain to perform far below your potential.

The Problem salesforce case study 5

A medium-sized technology training company was getting ready to do an IPO in a fairly warm market. For the last two and a half years, the company had been cleaning everything up and repackaging itself for that special day. Its growth and market positions were right where it wanted them to be. The IPO got delayed, however, and the company’s revenues started to slip.

Analysis

The company had a four-month sales cycle due to the way it acquired its clients. The company looked only at traditional sales performance indicators – i.e., deals booked and what the industry calls “butts in seats.” The problem that the company didn’t recognize was that an IPO takes a lot of time and energy away from the normal routine of running a business. In addition, they were not looking at their early sales performance indicators, which would have identified a decline in sales early enough to take corrective action with little or no negative consequences.

Changes Made

Unfortunately, the CEO had asked us for only a little consulting in his early IPO preparation days and had not used us on an ongoing basis. At the early stage, I had helped him define some early sales performance indicators. But the CEO had a sales VP who chose to ignore the advice, and the CEO failed to hold the sales VP accountable. If he had, the CEO would have spotted the problem months in advance!

The Result

The IPO was delayed due to circumstances beyond the CEO’s control. At the same time, the company’s revenues dropped significantly, which made an IPO impossible. Not surprisingly, the IPO never happened. Instead, the company went bankrupt and was dissolved a short time later.

The Common Mistake

The biggest mistake is not defining and paying attention to your early sales performance indicators. To help illustrate this, think of a dashboard in an airplane cockpit. The pilot in the cockpit must always look at all the different gauges and make constant adjustments to reach the airplane’s destination. If your company has a six-month sales cycle and you follow the traditional sales performance indicators, you won’t know you have a problem for four months, and then it will take another six months to ramp back up. That is like waiting for your car to run out of gas before doing anything about it. If you do what I suggest, your sales and cockpit gauges will always tell you where you are!

Your Takeaway

Do you know your early sales performance indicators? Take the time to figure them out. Knowing them, and watching them, can avert significant disaster.

The Problem salesforce case study 6

A medical-equipment company with a good product was thriving in a growing market after years of increasing demand. The company was number one in the market, but its service revenues were down because its reps were selling only the equipment and initial training. Their service revenues were the most profitable aspect of the business and they couldn’t afford to let the trend continue. The problem was compounded by a third-party service company that was making a play for their customer base.

Analysis

The company had provided additional training to educate its reps on why selling service was so important. Also, they had instituted a bonus program to encourage more service sales. They weren’t, however, seeing an increase in service sales quickly enough.

Changes Made

What the company needed to do was make a change in sales culture and replace underperforming sales reps. But there were too many of them and time was short. So what we did was put in a team of what we called “quality control managers.” Their job was to follow up on every equipment order within two days of the order by contacting the client directly. They asked the typical quality-control questions, but also asked the clients why they had not purchased the service package. In addition, they educated the clients on why the service package was so critical and gave them an incentive to purchase it as an add-on.

The Result

In the next twelve months, the quality control team sold an additional 57% in five-year service agreements. During that time, management had the opportunity to identify and replace the underperforming sales reps with minimal impact on revenues.

The Common Mistake

Many companies don’t define the responsibilities of sales reps or hold them accountable to what I call “minimally acceptable standards.” What’s more, this indicates problems with the company’s sales management, since strong sales leadership would have identified problems and taken corrective action earlier on, before they turned into an epidemic. If the company CEO had had a sales dashboard, he would have spotted these problems earlier and realized he needed stronger sales leadership a long time before!

Your Takeaway

Make sure you have defined responsibilities for your reps, and hold them accountable to minimally acceptable standards!

The Situation salesforce case study 7

The client was a large information-database company with salespeople in most cities in North America. The Sales VP brought me in because they wanted to help their new West Coast Regional VP to ramp up quickly. They decided the best way to do that was to conduct a sales force analysis to determine what would generate the most revenue and have the biggest impact.

Analysis

After studying the company’s West Coast region, I discovered that 82 of 106 salespeople were missing their targets for the year. Even so, the Sales VP was happy because sales in that region were 25% above the prior year’s numbers. Likewise, the sales force was feeling pretty good because they were getting the message that “25% above last year’s numbers” was a great job. But the CEO was unhappy because they were not hitting their sales goals for the year. In doing a little sales math, I also noticed that the salespeople were not getting the minimum number of weekly appointments needed to achieve the sales goals.

Changes Made

The first thing we did was get the CEO, Sales VP, and all 5 Regional VPs on the same page. The CEO made it clear that the company’s budget and expansion plans were based on the sales goals being met, but if they weren’t, the company would have to cut back on its expansion plan – which was unacceptable. So everyone reluctantly agreed that the sales goals would be the measuring stick that everyone would use and be held accountable for.

The company already had all the resources and tools that its sales organization needed to succeed. We decided to require a minimum of 15 meetings a week and 30 days to ramp up, which I felt was extremely generous.

The Result

Within 30 days, 50% of the sales organization was on-target with weekly meeting requirements and sales goals. Another 30% was on-target with meetings but behind on sales goals. The last 20% of the salespeople were off-target for meetings and sales goals – the company implemented a recruiting plan to replace them with stronger sales reps.

The Common Mistake

I see salespeople missing their numbers all the time because two executives are using two different measuring sticks to define the company’s success. What makes it worse is their reluctance to directly address the problem – which of course makes correcting the problem more difficult as time goes by. This complacency is what I call “silent approval.” What issues are you endorsing with your silent approval?

Your Takeaway

Go back and read that last paragraph. Find the answers to the question in the last sentence.

The Situation salesforce case study 8

A specialty financial-services company wanted to double its sales organization because it felt it was not getting the market share it expected. A new Sales VP hired a recruiting firm to help the company find sales rep candidates, but the recruiters were having limited success. The COO hired us to come in and do a sales force analysis because he was wondering if there was another way to get the results the company desired.

Analysis

After taking a close look at the company’s sales organization, it was clear that the sales managers were spending too much energy helping the weaker reps and not enough time helping the stronger ones. It was also clear that the sales managers had never learned how to be sales managers. But they were eager to learn how to be more effective, and we believed they had the abilities to do the job well.

Changes Made

We implemented a coaching program to mentor and develop the sales managers. Working with the Sales VP, we put into place new measurements, accountability methods, and changes in priorities and focus. This allowed the sales managers to focus on supporting the stronger reps and to leverage their strengths to close more deals and gain more market share. It also helped the managers identify who couldn’t get the job done and weed them out of the organization so that they were not a distraction.

The Result

Instead of doubling the sales organization as originally planned, the company cut the sales organization in half within four months. As a result, sales went up 50%. The sales managers had become more effective at doing their job, allowing the VP to focus more on strategic issues. The recruiters were still looking for new sales reps but now they had a new, more selective list of requirements necessary for top performance.

The Common Mistake

Many sales organizations try to compensate for weak sales strategy and weak sales management by hiring more salespeople. More of the wrong people doing the wrong things just adds to overhead and further reduces results. Done properly, you can sell more with less, as the results above show. Are your companies overstaffed and under-performing?

Your Takeaway

Take a good look at your staffing. You very well may be doing less with more, when you could be doing more with less!

The Situation salesforce case study 9

A well-known private company that provides real-time weather information to the government, education, and commercial sectors lost its very capable Sales VP. As a result, the company promoted a bright meteorologist with no sales experience into the Sales VP position. Within a few months, the new Sales VP realized he needed some help and was given my name as someone he should call. When we spoke, he wanted to know what needed to happen to get him familiar with the fundamentals and to take sales to a new level.

Analysis

After conducting a full sales analysis of the Sales VP’s five sales teams, it was obvious to me that they had very little sales management support and no accountability standards. Plus, the sales process that had been in place a few months earlier no longer existed. In addition, the sales pipeline was light and booked business was falling. To make matters worse, the new Sales VP had no clue what needed to happen and could not get executive support to make some changes.

Changes Made

It has been a year since we conducted that sales force analysis and nothing has changed. The Sales VP is going crazy. The executives are too busy chasing bigger fish, and have taken their eye off the sales ball for this part of the company.

The Result

Sales for all five sales teams have dropped 40% in a market that they dominate with plenty of demand and very little competition. All the strong sales reps have gone to other companies and sales staff turnover is at an all-time high. The Sales VP is now spending all his time babysitting new reps and getting too involved in day-to-day deals. Unless something changes, the future for that division appears bleak.

The Common Mistake

It is common to confuse intelligence with ability to deliver. Either the company or the Sales VP must find a way to get the skills necessary to do the job, but sometimes neither has the hunger, desire, or commitment to take it on. Do you have any sales teams, managers, Sales VPs, or companies who aren’t taking ownership to make business happen?

Your Takeaway

Take ownership over sales performance, and make sure all the critical figures in your business take ownership as well.

The Situation salesforce case study 10

We were contacted by the CEO of an internet newsletter company who wanted to take sales to the next level. The company was on target and business was going very well. The CEO’s goal was to make sure he had solid infrastructure and that the sales manager had all the tools and support needed for continued growth.

Analysis

Sales is like a factory. It is important to identify and track all the critical success factors that are necessary to keep the production line running and to maintain quality control. Many people refer to this tracking system as a dashboard – and this company didn’t have one for its sales force.

Changes Made

The first thing we did for the company was to define and create a sales dashboard. We focused only on measurements that directly tracked critical success factors. For the next 8 weeks, we monitored and adjusted the sales dashboard until we had enough data to have confidence in its accuracy. Then the sales manager started communicating expectations and dashboard data in weekly team meetings. We also provided weekly coaching for each sales rep that focused on activity, skills, process, and beliefs, while using the dashboard data as a feedback and accountability tool.

The Result

In the next 4 months, sales went up an additional 23% above the expected growth curve. We let go (and replaced) 20% of the sales force because it was clear they couldn’t or didn’t want to change. In addition, the new sales reps hit quota within their first 30 days, versus the 90 days it had typically taken. The CEO and sales manager are both very happy because they now know exactly what a good rep can produce, how many reps they will need for next year, how to troubleshoot sales problems, and when to let someone go instead of hoping they will improve.

The Common Mistake

Few companies know their critical success factors, use a sales dashboard, or know how to implement them for maximum performance. Most sales organizations are reactive – but using a dashboard allows sales management to take charge and be proactive. Imagine a car with no gas gauge, speedometer, or oil or engine temperature indicator. How far could you go before running into trouble? How many of your companies can show you their sales dashboard and explain how they use it?

Your Takeaway

Critical success factors are exactly that. They are critical. Do you know yours? If not, you’d better find them out!

The Situation salesforce case study 11

We were in a meeting with the CEO of a national technology training company. He was really pissed off because the telesales department was spending less than 50% of their time on the telephone. The market was very hot and highly competitive, and the CEO knew they could be doing a lot better.

Analysis

After meeting with the Telesales VP, we found out he was happy with how the sales teams were doing. They were 30% above last year’s numbers and slightly ahead of quota for the year – so he didn’t understand what the problem was. We see this situation over and over again, where the CEO and Sales VP are not on the same page. The CEO was looking at activity, whereas the Sales VP was looking at results.

We decided to track daily time utilization for one week to see if spending more time on the phone was a reasonable expectation. After analyzing the daily time-utilization logs for the telesales organization, we discovered that they were spending a lot more time sending out information than anyone had realized. Also, there were other administrative distractions and CRM software that was restrictive and cumbersome, which was working against the sales force instead of helping them.

Changes Made

The first thing we did was hire 2 sales assistants to take over sending out information and to handle customer-service type calls. The second thing was to bring in a CRM expert to rework the CRM software based upon the needs of everyone who had to use it. This included adding more computing power, a CRM upgrade, some customization, and CRM training. The third thing was to get the CEO and Telesales VP to meet weekly to look at the numbers so that they would be on the same page and could raise expectations.

The Result

Both sales and telephone time increased, but the Telesales VP never got on the same page with the CEO. As a result, 3 months later, the Telesales VP was let go. The company hired a new Sales VP from the outside, who raised the bar on phone time activity and results expectations. Within 12 months, he doubled sales!

The Common Mistake

In this case, there wasn’t a common mistake because new issues were emerging as the business grew. The CEO knew in his gut that things could be better and took action. There were legitimate obstacles that needed to be resolved internally, and he did just that. He took steps to get the Telesales VP on the same page, and fired him once he realized he couldn’t get the job done. He then hired a much stronger Telesales VP who understood the expectations and delivered. Think – is there an item where you should be taking action?

Your Takeaway

Leadership needs to have the guts to do what’s right for the business. When it does, the impact can be profound.

The Situation salesforce case study 12

We met with a CEO and sales VP of a large specialty graphics firm. It was time for the quarterly review of each sales reps performance. We were going to look at who was on track, of track and what to do about it.

Analysis

They had made impressive changes over the previous 6 months which were working really well. That included hiring stronger reps, implementing a customer relationship management system, increasing their marketing efforts and using a sales activity management system (dashboard). All the reps were doing very well with one exception. That one exception was the only independent contract rep (not an employee) who consistently resisted putting activity and contact information in the database. They estimated his substandard performance was costing the company and additional $300,000 – $400,000 annually.

Changes Made

The company decided to convert this individual from a contract rep to an employee. The rep received the contract and used all kinds of excuses to string the company along without signing it. The company finally took action and let the rep go.

The Result

The rep filed a law suite to be released from the non-compete agreement. The company contacted all the clients in that territory and discovered the rep was trying to go out on his own and steel their business. They quickly had a couple of customer service reps focus on the territory and business continued to grow.

The Common Mistake

The common mistake we see over and over again is not recognizing or wanting to recognize the signs of what we call “hiding”. You know the phrase “action speaks louder then words”. Reps who “hide” will tell you what you want to hear, i.e. say they will populate the database, send in the report or get you the paperwork… but never do. When pressed they will accuse you of micro managing. They forget a condition of employment is providing the necessary information to run your business!

Your best course of action is to have a “let’s get real” conversation whenever you first notice any negative signs. If the issue continues put them on probation ASAP. This will force them to make a choice…either get on board or start job hunting. Either direction is a good outcome for you!

Your Takeaway

Do you need to have any “let’s get real” conversations? If so, go have them!

The Situation salesforce case study 13

A large company with call centers around the USA wanted to increase their average order size on each telephone order. The more the average order size increases the more profit they generate per call. The key question: what was the best way to increase the average order size?

Analysis

We took an in depth look at the people, processes, behavior tracking tools, skills and compensation program. Three issues became very clear: 1) increasing the order size on each call was considered punishment by the reps, 2) the compensation program didn’t provide incentive to increase the order size and 3) front line managers weren’t holding reps accountable for increasing the order size.

Changes Made

The company thought it was a training issue and decided they needed to hire a director of training. The director of training has been in place for 6 months and all the reps have been through a new skills program. However the three issues we identified have not been resolved.

The Result

The reps had the skills, knowledge and ability to increase the order size so training doesn’t offer any additional benefit. Since the training there has been no increase in the average order size because they tried to fixing the wrong problem.

The Common Mistake

One of the common mistakes we see is that companies want to increase sales results but they focus on the wrong issue. In this situation the consequences are: 1) all the lost productivity of people sitting in training, 2) the lost revenue while in training, 3) six months of no additional order size revenue, 4) six months of additional lost profit and 5) continued lost opportunity do to still not fixing the real issue.

Your Takeaway

The right kind of training, properly applied, has tremendous value. Misapply it, and you might do more harm than good.

The Situation salesforce case study 14

We were referred to work with a division Vice President at a large communications company. The division had missed its quota for the last eight quarters and was under pressure to turn things around.

Analysis

We took a close look at the sales organization. We thoroughly studied the sales people, sales management, sales process, pipeline and key deals. It was clear that the sales manager was overwhelmed and unable to give the sales team what they needed to produce more results. The sales manager was well respected, had tremendous skills and knowledge, and was seen as a strong asset because he was a specialist. But what they needed was a strong sales leader.

Changes Made

We put in one of our folks as a temporary Sales VP while participating in a search for a permanent one. Our guy put in fundamental sales infrastructure and best practices that the permanent Sales VP was going to have to do anyway. The sales manager was moved into a major account role after much conversation. The sales team received training in an effective consultative selling process. For each rep, we reviewed and strategized the top five deals expected for the quarter and held weekly progress/coaching conference calls.

The Result

Within ninety days, the team exceeded quota by 70% and was on track to exceed quota for the next two quarters. The company hired a topnotch sales VP who was aligned with our thinking. And the former sales manager was mentally onboard and producing excellent results!

The Common Mistake

There is a big difference between intention and commitment. We often hear executives say they will do whatever it takes, but rarely (and I mean rarely) do they put action behind their words. The division VP was exceptional because he was truly committed to making the hard changes needed to achieve the expected results. In his words, “failure is not an option” and his actions proved it!

Your Takeaway

Take a hard look at how your sales team is performing, in every role, in every position. Pinpoint any team members that are failing to contribute at a minimally acceptable level, and do what it takes to fix the problem.

The Situation salesforce case study 15

A large technology company with worldwide offices was seeing the size of its average deal fall. Also, its enterprise-wide licenses worth $1,000,000 or more had all gone away. Company morale was dropping and senior reps were starting to leave. The Sales VP knew the situation had to change or the company would need to “right size” (i.e., downsize).

Analysis

We took a close look at the company’s value proposition, target audience, competition, sales process, and pricing strategy. The company had a best practices group that had put some tools together but had not rolled them out yet.

Changes Made

Working with the best practices group, we put together a three-day training workshop that would be delivered throughout North America. The focus was on how to talk with an executive and how to determine value proposition and pricing effectiveness. The workshop was rolled out in two phases, with sales managers going through the training first and the sales reps next. Also, everyone received a follow-up one-day training four months later.

The Result

The company’s average deal-size went up an additional 15% as a result of selling a total solution-combining technology, professional services, and training. The number of enterprise-wide deals worth $1,000,000 or more went from zero to sixteen in 12 months.

The Common Mistake

The rule that applies here is “Inspect what you expect.” The company had a well-trained senior sales force, but they had gotten away from the fundamentals and it reflected in their top line. The sales managers were assuming that their people were doing all the right things, but they weren’t inspecting to make sure. This leads to a situation we call “Senior reps doing junior things.”

Your Takeaway

Are you inspecting the right things? Are your senior reps doing junior things? Make sure you have clear expectations for your sales organization, and are inspecting their activity in these areas.

The Situation salesforce case study 16

A VC firm had a portfolio company that was requesting another round of funding. The company’s results to-date had fallen short of expectations but they appeared to be on the right track. The VCs were wondering if they should put more money into the business and what would need to happen in order to achieve the expected ROI. The issues were further muddied by difficult interactions between the company’s CEO and Board of Directors, resulting in a very high frustration level.

Analysis

We performed a one-day analysis that focused on the company’s history, market, product/services, business-capture process and sticking points, sales indicators, pipeline and forecast reports, specific deals, and people. It was clear that some issues existed, but the company had a sales manager whom I ranked in the top ten of over two thousand sales managers I had worked with over the years.

Changes Made

We provided the Board and the CEO with a standard sales-forecast report so that everyone knew where the business stood. We also suggested that the Board leverage their contacts, when appropriate, to expand the business and help close large deals. We recommended against changing any of their sales force for six months because the sales people were doing all the right things. Per our suggestion, they changed their sales practice to tighten each step of the process, and used presentations to move the sales forward instead of just educate the client.

The Result

The company implemented all of our recommendations and changes. Today, the company is number one in its market with over two hundred Fortune 500 clients. It also has a powerful Board of Advisors and is exceeding its business plan.

The Common Mistake

When sales organizations miss their projections, the inclination is to make changes. But 70% of all CEOs lack any sales experience so they don’t know if they have the right people doing the right things or what changes to make. The question becomes: What are the right changes to make for maximum results? In this case, an outside opinion confirmed that they were on the right track. They simply made some adjustments and gave their Board and CEO a way to work from the same page, which helped advance their market position to number one!

Your Takeaway

Are you putting pressure on sales, when the problem is somewhere else? Take a good look at your business and see if, perhaps, the performance problem lies elsewhere than your sales department.

The Problem salesforce case study 17

A medium-sized employee drug-screening company was competing in an industry where a major industry roll-up was occurring. The company’s two biggest competitors had recently received VC money and were on a buying spree. The company was not interested in selling at that point and was wondering how it was going to compete successfully under the new circumstances.

Analysis

Industry roll-ups have always had a land-grab feel to them. Clearly, the goal is to be number one and to increase corporate value and multiple. However, problems with operations and key personnel typically arise whenever there is a merger or acquisition. Since the company was interested in organic growth, we decided to take advantage of the weaknesses in each competing company that was going through a merger or acquisition.

Changes Made

First, we conducted a competitive analysis on each company being merged or acquired. Through various means, we identified those companies’ largest clients and anticipated what kinds of problems their clients would most likely experience. Next, we came up with a ninety-day blitz campaign to go after the competitors’ largest clients. We positioned the company as the “go-to alternative” whenever the clients noticed a slight decline in service. We asked them to perform a few trial runs to make sure everything would flow properly at the flip of a switch whenever the clients called. They also beefed up their operations to handle the extra workload.

The Result

Over the next twelve months, the company landed eighteen major accounts, and sales went up 218% over the year before. In the meantime, their competitors were still in disarray. The company planned to conduct another similar blitz while the companies involved in the mergers and acquisitions were still delivering poor service.

The Common Mistake

During a merger or acquisition, everyone is so focused on getting the deal done that they forget to secure their customer base. You may not be able to secure every account but, with a little forethought and executive attention, you can secure your key bread-and-butter accounts. If you don’t, your smart competitors will.

Your Takeaway

Are you aware of your competitors’ weaknesses? Take a close look at how you might gain new market share by capitalizing on the situation.

The Problem salesforce case study 18

A small software company was selling into a large international prospect that was covered by a team of 40 IBM sales reps. The small company’s CEO knew that his firm had better products and could turn the prospect into a lucrative account if they could get to the right people and make an initial sale.

Analysis

The company had a key account manager with the right talent and mindset who could carry an executive conversation. The company did have better products and a powerful implementation process – but no name recognition – so it was going to take some hard work to get in, let alone land a deal. But they had good testimonials and some impressive accounts already. If they were willing to be patient and work smart, getting the business was very doable.

Changes Made

The first thing we did was a little homework to determine where IBM’s weaknesses were and how the software company’s strengths mapped with those of the international prospect. Next, we identified the people and positions at the prospect where we thought we could have the most impact. The company took the list to their existing clients and asked if they knew anyone on the list or someone who knew people on the list. If the answer was yes, they asked to be introduced to that person – because introductions are twenty times more powerful than a cold call.

The Result

It took nine months, but the company was able to land a first, small deal with the prospect. The implementation process included a weekly meeting, where all attendees completed an implementation report card. Any time that a particular target area fell below a certain mark, the teams pulled together to raise the mark within a week. This strategy caused all the stakeholders and the implementation team to work together instead of pointing fingers at each other. The project finished ahead of schedule and was the smoothest project in the international company’s history. It went so well that the value expectation was exceeded and the company was given another small deal.

After getting the same results three times in a row, the international firm’s CIO invited the small software company to participate in his annual planning meeting; he also asked it what deals it wanted to do that year. No other company has ever been invited to participate in this meeting. It took eighteen months to land and implement three small deals, but for the last five years, the international firm’s CIO has let the software company handpick their deals – which have generated multi-million-dollar revenues year after year.

The Common Mistake

Most companies focus on the client’s transaction, instead of focusing on getting the client value that meets or exceeds expectations. Not every company can do what this company did. But because they had a good product, a great strategy, a fantastic implementation process, and the right account manager, they were able to slay the goliath IBM!

Your Takeaway

Don’t just focus on the transaction! Focus on giving your client maximum value that meets or exceeds expectations.

The Problem salesforce case study 19

A medium-sized nationwide systems-integrator company had just reorganized to improve its sales. One of its division managers brought me in to look at his team, which was dead-last in sales, and advise him on how he could get maximum results in the quickest amount of time. Their goal was to start meeting their numbers because they had obtained VC money and had visions of doing an IPO.

Analysis

We conducted an analysis of this sales division. In doing so, we were told that its poor performance was similar to that of all the other company divisions across the country. I was surprised to then learn that all of the sales people had received three years of consultative sales training and certification in a particular methodology. When I asked all thirty of them whether they were certified and whether they knew the steps of the methodology, they all answered “Yes.” When I conducted a pop quiz on the group, however, none of the thirty could name the steps of that sales process, even though they are built into their CRM system. This knowledge is so fundamental to a salesperson’s success that I equate it to a child in grade school learning how to dribble or kick a ball.

Changes Made

After talking with the company’s regional sales VP about each division, it became obvious that he didn’t really care about improving the situation. I then spoke with the company CEO. After our discussions, he knew he needed a 90-95% sales-force turnover in the next twelve months just to stabilize the company and to change its sales culture from the very top.

The Result

Today, the first phase of the turnover process is complete and the company is stabilized. But it still has a long way to go to accomplish its revenue goals. In addition, it is too early to tell whether the company has the potential to conduct a successful IPO.

The Common Mistake

Don’t confuse salespeople who say they can do their job with those who actually perform and let the numbers speak for themselves. Ninety percent of all salespeople can’t dribble or kick the ball. How in the world do they expect to do their job when they don’t know, and can’t perform, the fundamentals? In this case, the situation was even worse because the regional VP couldn’t or wouldn’t do his job. The company had training and systems in place for its people, but it wasn’t holding them accountable to use the tools they were given. There is no substitute for hunger, intelligence, and coachability! If your salespeople lack these qualities, you may want to find some who do.

Your Takeaway

Take a hard look at your reps. Do they know the fundamentals? Are they held accountable to perform them? If the answer is no, then get to work and do something about it!

The Situation salesforce case study 20

A company that sold “a call center in a suitcase” – using VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) technology – to political-campaign managers asked me to help them. The company had hired a long-time Capitol Hill staffer to sell their technology to potential buyers – the contacts listed in his Rolodex.

Analysis

The company had a hot product that allowed political campaigns to set up mini call centers in any small town within 30 minutes. This technology allowed political candidates to reach and activate previously untouched armies of volunteers, while eliminating thousands of dollars in long-distance phone call bills. Some early adopters had used their product in earlier political campaigns with huge success! But even though the company had a great product in an active market loaded with cash, the former-staffer-turned-sales-rep couldn’t close to save his life.

Changes Made

After talking with the CEO, we discovered that the new sales rep was a friend of his, and the CEO was reluctant to make any changes (i.e., fire him). The CEO believed that having a great Rolodex at their disposal, plus the upcoming political elections, was all they needed for the sales floodgates to open. Normally my advice would have been to fire the rep and hire a new one. But since we had only a short window before the elections, it made more sense to hire a strong sales rep and have the two reps team-sell together. This is what I advised the CEO to do.

The Result

Despite our experience in evaluating over 14,000 sales reps and 2,000 sales managers, the CEO decided to take none of our advice and make no changes. As a result, shortly after many hotly contested midterm-election campaigns, the company closed its doors due to lack of sales.

The Common Mistake

This CEO made three common mistakes that we see often. The first one is hiring a friend for sales when you aren’t ready to do whatever it takes for your business to thrive. The second mistake is believing that a good Rolodex, or contact list, is a substitute for strong sales skills. And the third mistake is thinking that a great product sells itself. Are you making any of these mistakes?

Your Takeaway

Take note – those three mistakes aren’t unique to this situation. They are COMMON. Make sure you aren’t falling into these common traps.

The Situation salesforce case study 21

The CEO of a wine importing company hired us to increase the firm’s sales efficiencies and growth, in an industry that was basically flat. His growth was already double that of the industry average, so his company was doing very well.

Analysis

The company had a good strategy, excellent infrastructure, and productive people. The next step in the company’s growth was to help the sales managers raise the bar within existing territories and to hire stronger reps as territories opened up from turnover.

Changes Made

We conducted a workshop with the sales managers to define what raising the bar meant, and got their agreement to implement those new standards immediately. We also held a workshop to benchmark what the sales manager’s job required and to define what the ideal rep would look like. In addition, we provided an assessment tool to help compare the qualifications of potential new hires to the position’s requirements.

The Result

Sales went up to a figure that was triple the industry average, and sales staff turnover went down 10%. The CEO told me, “Now I can spend my time providing tools and support to help my sales reps reload, versus spending my time and energy to rebuild the sales force!”

The Common Mistake

Though this CEO and his sales organization were exceptional – and I don’t say that lightly – there is always room for growth. The common mistake that many CEOs make with their sales organization is accepting mediocrity and excuses as acceptable performance and not expecting more. How much would your sales numbers go up if you raised the bar and stopped accepting excuses? Would it be double or triple the industry average?

Your Takeaway

Maybe you are already very successful. Where is your room for growth? There is sure to be a critical area in your business where raising the bar even higher could produce serious gains.

The Situation salesforce case study 22

Many companies tell me they can’t find good salespeople any more. I have to admit that I have noticed a decline of good sales talent since corporate downsizing in the 1980s. Why is this happening?

Analysis

Before corporate downsizing in the 1980s, if you wanted to be a professional salesperson, you got a job at a Fortune 500 company. If you were hired for sales at IBM, NCR, HP, or Xerox, you would typically go through 21 weeks of formal sales training and 80 weeks of coaching, mentoring, and accountability training – for a total of 2 years’ training!

Here is how it would break down:

  • 14 weeks of training on product knowledge, corporate knowledge, and basic skills;
  • 9-12 months as a technical assistant making joint calls, then recommendation into sales;
  • 4 weeks in pre-sales school, then promotion to sales assistant;
  • 3 months as sales assistant, then recommendation to sales;
  • 2 weeks in sales school, then moved to junior sales rep;
  • 3 months as junior sales rep on probation, with weekly sales management meetings;
  • if you hit your goals, 2 more weeks of professional selling school;
  • after 2 years, knighted as an official salesperson;
  • every year, mandatory 40 hours of sales skills training to stay current.

Since downsizing in the 1980s, these same companies have cut back to 8-12 weeks of training, coaching, mentoring, and accountability training over the same first 2-year period. This means that, for the last 20-25 years, sales professionals have been getting only 12 weeks of development training!

During those 25 years, 99% of sales reps did not spend their own money to improve their sales skills, and universities did not offer a degree in sales. Nor did the Fortune 500 companies return to their sales development programs from before.

Changes Made

Very little has happened in these last 25 years. Five sales associations had formed to help bridge the training gap, but only three of them exist today and only a handful of salespeople belong to any of them. In the last five years, ten universities have begun to offer a degree in sales. Today Fortune 500s are just starting to increase sales development again, but not nearly enough.

The Result

The 25-year training gap has created an entire population of salespeople who don’t have the skills or abilities to do their job well, plus two generations – or 97% – of sales managers who are ill-equipped to fill their positions.

The Common Mistakes

Seventy percent of CEOs have never been in sales. Common Mistake #1 that CEOs make is to confuse a person’s longevity in sales or sales management with being an experienced sales professional. Common Mistake #2 is to hire a sales rep candidate without using a sales-specific assessment tool to find the real sales producers and weed out the rest. Do you have sales pros or average Joes working for you? And if they’re average Joes, how much are they costing your business?

Your Takeaway

Poor performance is avoidable. Solid training can, and does, make all the difference in the world. Close the training gap in your business.

The Situation salesforce case study 23

We received a call from a CEO who wanted to take sales to the next level while grooming the sales manager to become COO. The company had three divisions and a small sales force. The bulk of its revenue came from specialty recruiting, and the rest from systems integration services.

Analysis

After analyzing the sales organization, we discovered the company had issues relating to leadership, sales infrastructure, and messaging (explaining what the company really did). They had a documented 10-step sales process that was pretty good, but nobody was following it. They didn’t know how many weekly meetings were required to hit monthly quota, and there were no consequences for missing quota. Also, there was much disagreement about what the company’s core business should be, which explained the messaging problem. Fortunately, the sales manager was motivated, smart, and open to coaching.

Changes Made

We started weekly executive meetings with the goal of putting in more sales infrastructure, getting clarity on the core business, redefining the ideal client profile, and driving more sales. Another objective was to mentor the sales manager for a more senior role. We calculated some sales math to determine how many weekly meetings each sales rep needed to hit quota, and implemented a mandatory weekly-meeting quota. We also made sure they were following their 10-step sales process, AVP pipeline report, and a qualification checklist to make sure deals in the pipeline were real. In addition, the sales manager went out in the field with each rep on a weekly basis.

The Result

After 8 weeks of coaching, 20% of the sales force resigned because they didn’t like being held accountable for results! The other 80% were hitting their weekly meeting quota and sales were starting to climb. The management team got clear on their core business and message. As a result, the management team decided to spin off a new systems-integration company and have the sales manager build and run that new business. They hired a new COO with sales experience to run the existing specialty recruiting business. Both businesses are on track and meeting the CEO’s expectations.

The Common Mistake

In small companies, the drive to achieve healthy cash flow leads many owners to become opportunistic and deviate from their core business. When salespeople are added to the opportunism equation, the result is they feel pressure to hit quota so they start to sell anything (including bad business), or they sell very little because they aren’t clear on the offer. How many of your folks have taken their eye off the ball?

Your Takeaway

Are you a smaller business? Are you opportunistic and deviating from your core business? Get your eye on the ball. If you don’t, your short term gains may sabotage your long term profitability, stability, and growth potential.

The Situation salesforce case study 24

We met with the Worldwide Sales VP of a large international software company. It ranked in the top 300 largest sales forces, according to Selling Power Magazine. The company stock had taken a huge beating because they had missed their quarterly sales projections, and the VP was wondering what changes needed to take place to get back on track.

Analysis

We undertook a sales force effectiveness study on a country-by-country basis to see what was going on. We didn’t have to dig deep to discover the problem. The most obvious issue was an overall lack of inspection and accountability standards on sales activities and deal-qualification.

A specific country in Europe was the biggest violator: in 12 months, 20 out of 60 sales reps had booked nothing – I repeat – ZERO revenue in 12 months! Another 20 reps were at less than 50% of quota, and only 5 reps were at or above quota. To add insult to injury, 80% of their deals fell out of the pipeline in the last week of the quarter and just disappeared (i.e., they were not pushed into next quarter). Strangely enough, that pipeline fallout was the exact number they had needed to hit the numbers given to Wall Street.

Changes Made

Leaving aside the complex and protective employment laws of the EU, our suggestion was to fire 3 out of 4 sales managers and 2/3 of the sale force for that country. We also advised the company that it needed to hold front-line and second-line sales management teams accountable for results and provide training to fill in the gaps.

The Result

Shortly after we met with him, the Worldwide Sales VP was dismissed and replaced by an internal person with a similar hands-off approach. For the next 3 years, the Sales VPs were replaced over and over again, with new Sales VPs varying their approaches but with not a one of them wanting to hold salespeople accountable. Because none of them wanted to take the problem head-on, they were forced to conduct 2 rounds of major layoffs.

The Common Mistake

The common mistake that this company made was assuming that its sales organization was full of senior people who knew what to do because of their longevity in the business. But if that was the case, why were they doing so many amateurish things and getting out-sold on most major deals?

The Sales VPs were in their 50s and blind to the fact that most of their sales organization – typically anyone under the age of 45 – had never received the great multi-year foundational training that the VPs themselves had received, due to the corporate cutbacks of the 80s. Unfortunately, this blind spot was the kiss of death, since that company no longer exists. Does your sales organization have any blind spots that are hurting your business?

Your Takeaway

What are your blind spots? What you don’t know, can kill you. Take a good look at what you are doing and make sure take the time to uncover hidden factors that might be jeopardizing your business.

The Situation salesforce case study 26

A real estate agent just spent a long day showing a very demanding well known celebrity multimillion dollar homes. The agent was tired because he felt like he had been beat up all day long…and he had!

Analysis

After spending a little time with the real estate agent it was clear he didn’t understand how his prospect made decisions based upon her personality type. Each personality type has a unique way of building relationship, expressing their needs, processing information and making decisions.

Changes Made

We took a three phase approach. We helped the real estate agent understand what personality type he was, what type his prospect was and how he needed to adjust to “speak her language”.

The Result

He realized his approach was the exact opposite of what he should be doing and making life way more difficult then it needed to be. He needed to adjust how he prepared for his meeting, his communications style, the speed in which he moved through the sales process and the way he closed. He adjusted his approach to fit her world and the next day sold her the first house she saw.

The Common Mistake

The majority of sales reps don’t understand the power of understand personality types. This is one of the easiest most powerful tools that a sales rep can learn and it is fast to implement. Reps who learn to master the ability to read and adjust to each personality type increases sales on average an additional 26% without changing anything else.

Most reps sell the way they want to be sold to…so they run on autopilot.

Your Takeaway

Can your sales reps adjust to personality types to increase sales performance? Is 26% increase in performance worth it? I think so…

The Situation

How to orient our very strong sales team to think bigger in terms of target sales opportunities and how to pursue and close larger deals.

Analysis

The sales leadership and team did not have a consistent and proven approach as to how to identify, pursue, and compete for larger opportunities while experiencing organic and acquired growth of their company.

Changes Made

BSK introduced the “Hunt Big Sales” concept and strategy for pursuing larger deals and provided the team with the training that created a consistent language, approach, and confidence to pursue and win larger opportunities.

The Result

  • Accelerated organic growth through larger new business wins and continued to scale the company organically and through acquisitions.
  • Enhanced cross-selling across a broad continuum of services and capabilities.
  • Created excellent equity and shareholder value across a decade-plus of private equity investment, while building a stronger brand identity and recognition of the business in the industry.
  • As a result of the approach and training that you and Tom gave us, it contributed significantly to our recent success in landing the second biggest deal in the company’s history.

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