The first thing to do is properly define the bottleneck in your process. Sales leaders have a tendency to blame comp plans, talent, or lack of training. The bottleneck can easily be misdiagnosed. As a Sales leader you may be too close to the problem.
You are also concerned that addressing the bottleneck will negatively disrupt the revenue stream. That cannot happen.
To define the problem correctly, you need to understand what piece of the sales supply chain is broken. What is a sales supply chain? It is s series of processes that bring your sales strategy to life.
Click here to get the Sales Supply Chain diagnosis tool shown below.
This tool will allow you to start answering the following:
- Where are the bottlenecks in our sales supply chain?
- What are the upstream and downstream effects of each bottleneck?
- What are the root causes contributing to the bottleneck?
Are you able to take an unbiased view of the problems within your sales org? If not, get a second opinion from a peer, friend, or 3rd party. This will ensure the problem is defined correctly.
An Example of Reframing the Problem:
We were in discussions with a $75 MM software organization. The SVP wanted us to assist with training during their sales kickoff. They were missing the number in 2012 and he believed sales training was the answer. It wasn’t. Instead, we diagnosed the problem as a lack of qualified leads going to the sales force. The sales force was also receiving low quality leads. They were being qualified by an outside rep in phase 1 of their sales process. Outside reps were working deals that had little chance of closing. We worked closely with the client to design a lead management process that addressed the issue. New logo close rates jumped from 14% to 27%. Reps were working real opportunities.
Assisting with event based training would have produced little business benefit. Instead they have a sustainable lead generation process in place that has solved their revenue problem.
Once the bottleneck is defined, how do you fix it?
Here are the options:
- Do nothing
- Fix yourself
- Hire a third party
#1 – Since this problem is a priority, #1 is not an option. You must make a change.
#2 – seems reasonable until you start peeling back the layers. You realize the complexity involved with solving the problem is immense. You don’t have the internal resources or expertise to properly address it.
#3 – is intimidating. In your experience, Consultants tell you what you already know and charge you for it. They regurgitate information with a twist to make it seem original. What if they make a recommendation that interrupts our business and puts us in a worse place? That is a risk some SVPs aren’t willing to take.
What are a few risks of hiring a 3rd party?
- Revenue Stream Disruption – what if they disrupt the sales force? We might miss the number.
- Waste of resources – they will just tell me what I already know.
- Loss of control – what if they throw me under the bus? Should I trust them?
- Project Failure – what if the project fails and I made the decision to bring them on?
- Advise and Run – they will tell me what to do and disappear when it needs to be implemented.
These risks are real. You need to ensure that any sales consulting firm you consider can address these.
We asked our customers why they hired SBI to help diagnose and fix bottlenecks in their process.
Here are the top 4 responses:
- Experience – we want someone that has been in our shoes. A degree from Harvard doesn’t translate into sales expertise. You can’t learn sales in a classroom. There is no substitute for on the job experience.
- Speed – we need to fix this problem fast. SVPs are looking at this quarter and the next. If you can’t drive results within that time horizon, you are too slow.
- Agile Approach– the ability to change with your business needs. We take an iterative approach. We test solutions and make changes based on feedback from reps and customers. It isn’t about SBI producing the best product. It is about SBI partnering with a client to drive business results fast.
- Adoption/Knowledge Transfer – we want you to be self-sufficient. Some Consultancies are trying to fix one thing and break another so they secure more business. We believe that driving sustainable business results through capability transfer will make us more valuable partners.
There are a number of sales consulting firms that address sales problems. If you are purely looking for strategic advice many firms can assist. If you are looking for an execution firm that will drive adoption the number diminishes significantly. Many firms hire people from Ivy League schools. Few hire talent that have both brains and experience carrying a bag.
Why is sales experience so important in a Consultant? If you haven’t carried a bag or led a sales team, it is difficult to filter the academic from the useful. Also, trust is extremely important. Former sales leaders understand the emotions involved with hiring a Consulting firm.
Call to Action:
- Properly diagnose the bottleneck
- Get a second opinion from an unbiased party
- Evaluate the risk involved with each solution option
- Solve the bottleneck
- Make the number