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Rethinking Sales Incentives0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Rethinking Sales Incentives

As part of a series of posts dealing with areas you should consider, better yet reconsider, going in to the New Year, today we look at incentive. No doubt everyone should be thinking about commissions, after all is in effect the cost of revenue. While there are other expenses, commissions/incentives, are the most direct “payment” you pay for bringing in revenue.

While there have been variations, updates and paint over through the years, little has changed in how and what you pay for.

In this article I penned for November issue of Sales and Service Excellence Essentials, I challenge and suggest an alternate way to spend incentive cash, and actually driving right behaviours that lead to results (revenues), and actually sustain both.

Take a read, let me know what you think, pro or con, some will call me names, others will want to pick up the phone and call me to discuss. In the end it’s your money, you should always be open to investing it more productively.

Read the piece here: Rethinking Sales Incentives Then comment below.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Key Sales Management Actions To Prepare for 2015 (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2015 rocket

About a month ago I had the privilege to be part of a great panel exploring key issues sales leaders need to not just think about, but act on in preparing for a successfully 2015.

The panel included:

Lori Richardson – Score More Sales
Lee Salz – Sales Architects
Steven Rosen – STAR Results
Dan Enthoven – Enkata
Miles Austin – Fill the Funnel
And myself.

As the next instalment in this week’s posts dealing with kicking the New Year off right, meaning in a way that will help sales organisations and teams exceed quota in 2015. Below is an expert from that discussion, but I encourage you to take in the full discussion by clicking here. It is a lively and insightful discussion that will provide a number of ideas for helping your team crush their number.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Personal Deficiency Bonus0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

2nd prize

With special thanks to S.G. and my friend B.P.

Everyone, including me, writes a piece this time of year about closing the year strong. For the most part these are aimed at front line sales people, and the better ones offer choices that make sense year-round even if initially implemented in Q4. Few are aimed at helping managers in helping their sales team adopt new habits, or create breakthroughs for their reps that can again be extended as a regular practice, and that is the thought here, helping managers, or actually sales coaches, which good sales managers are.

Often when speaking to managers they point to “that one thing”, that if the rep in question would change or address, it would have a dramatically beneficial impact on their execution and results. A personal deficiency. Could be anything, tardiness in updating the CRM, slow to move on renewals or price increases, insufficient preparation for prospecting, you name it. These elements are important to achieving results, and are often included as elements of a balanced scorecard. But the fact remains that most bonuses are paid out based on achieved results or specific objectives in the case of MBO.

Traditionally bonuses are meant to reward positives, and negatives either limit or eliminate rewards. But what if you turned things around. What if you put a positive focus on personal deficiencies, hence the Personal Deficiency Bonus.

Here is how it goes. Say you want a rep to develop a habit, any of the above, we’ll pick prospecting prep. Say a rep is consistently hovering just below quota, Based on their personal metrics, it is clear that two or three more first meeting with prospects would give him/her enough prospects to get them to quota, they just need to develop the habit of being prepared in order to land those meetings. You know, they know, you talk about it in the usual terms, but nothing changes. I would argue because the reward is paid out on something other than what needs to change. So let’s put a focus on what needs to change. And it’s not more sales, not more prospects, but more, better and consistent prep, bonus that.

In Q4, pay some portion of their bonus on changing that one habit, more prep for prospecting giving them more prospect meetings, leading to more pipeline opportunities, helping them exceed quota. It offers a coaching opportunity, with a more willing participant as they get paid not for an abstract related outcome, but for the specific deficiency, prep.

What you’ll find is that once they develop the habit, they will stick with it, next January and beyond. More importantly a rep who can now be coached and taken further, sometimes by focusing and rewarding the positive, but also by focusing on their Personal Deficiency Bonus.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Is Sales a Numbers Game? (#video)3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

Nobody talks about the world being flat or round, so why does this topic merit discussion, there so many other more important unsolved mysteries in sales.  Take a look at what I mean:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Are Buyers Liars?3

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

TV Head

 

Of course not, prospects are liars. No no, that’s not true either. It is less about lying, and more about rationalizing why we lost, take a look at what I mean:

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Seriously – You’re Not That Different – Sales eXecution 2640

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Different 3

Being different seems to be really important to some people in sales. From their buyers, to product, to the way the sell, people want to cling to being different. It is like “Difference” is some sort of badge of honour, a reason to pay a premium, or worse, a rationale for results.

You often hear people talk about how the complexity of their sale makes it different. But all sales are complex in their own way, just because one may have more moving parts than another, does not make it more complex or different. Sure the moving parts in selling desalination plants may differ from those found in selling business process outsourcing, but the core components and core execution, not that different. Wanting it to be different does not change the fact that it has to be executed along a defined path (or process, you know, that’s a bit more complex), and one step at a time.

The “sophistication of the solution”, does not equate to “different” or “complex”. Just ask someone selling a fairly simple and standard product, in a highly competitive, price sensitive environment; these sales people have a much more complex selling challenge, especially if they can maintain price integrity. But in the end there is less difference than many sales professionals would want to pretend.

I remember meeting with a VP of Sales with a “Solutions Provider “, and indeed they had a product that was “cool”, and in demand, addressing a common requirement in their target market. From the time we met at a conference he was into the “I am interested in what you do Tibor, but you gotta understand we’re different.” I don’t know, he like everyone at their booth, had two arms, two legs, a big mouth, didn’t seem that different, maybe I’ll figure it out when we meet at their office.

Later at the office, he was right back at it, preaching the (invisible) difference. As one who likes to break the sale down to logical sequential steps, I thought I would explore.

TS:     So let me get this straight, your people do not have to prospect, you went to the conference because you had marketing budget to blow. You normally have prospects lined up out the door, but you knew I was coming this morning, so cleared a path for me?

VP:     No, no, our folks have to prospect, they need to make calls every day, I have them working the show leads now, those shows are expensive, I am always reviewing their activity, and we should be converting more of these leads, especially with our product.

TS:     OK, but once you get in front of the prospect, it is smooth sailing, they get it, and want to switch or buy right away, no?

VP:     I wish, we have to needs assessments, work through a bunch of data, and for sure three demos, sometimes more.

TS:     But at that point, they just ask for the proposal, and away we go.

VP:     Rarely, we have to help them maneuver internally, that’s why we end up doing multi demos, and data crunching, all the players involved.

TS:     All laid out in your process, right?

VP:     Not really, what we laid out should follow a different path.

TS:     But once you present the proposal, it’s done, no back and forth, no negotiations, no price haggling.

VP:     Are you kidding, even after all that, we still have to deal with that, all the ROI we show them, and we still go through that.

TS:     So tell me again how you are different?

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

KPI’s – What Are They To You?0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Impact Question

Talk to any ‘executoide’, and KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) are bound to be part of the conversation. Nice and practical concept, good resume fodder, often misused or abused by many, especially from a sales point of view. I often get the sense that many see KPI standing for Key Political Initiatives or Key (to my) Personal Incentive.

As a concept, KPI’s are great, helping sales organizations in defining and measuring progress against stated objectives or goals. Determined in advance, measurable and quantifiable, they are instrumental in helping to assess progress, and plan course correction if needed. Examples in sales may be lead to opportunity conversions, or proposals to close. Based on these measures you can make adjustments and respond to conditions on the ground to ensure those goals are attained. You often hear sales managers and director speak of how they are doing against their KPI’s. Looking at it that way can be a part of potential problems.

In the wrong hands, with wrong intents, the best concepts can come back to bite you; in sales it is usually the disconnect between what’s being measured and the desired results. There are many KPI’s being met without delivering the intended result or economic benefit, leading to a culture of measurement rather than success. When reps feel measured instead of being led to success, they turn to rationalizing their performance with the very same KPI’s. I hear reps say “well I delivered against the KPI, I got eight meetings every week this quarter.” Or “what do you want me to do, get sales or complete the KPI’s you gave me?”

It doesn’t help when sales leaders are incented on meeting KPI’s rather than result. While I am a big proponent of paying for success based on leading indicators, it should be on how those leading indicators are leading to consistent and improving results. Without that, when you pay for a checkmark, you get checkmarks, you pay for results you get results.

I was recently contacted by a sales director about training the team. As we discussed the program and roll-out, he insisted on doing things the first week of every quarter, when I asked why, he told me team quarterly development was one of his KPI’s, and the team meets the first week of each quarter. We assessed the team, had input from a number of people in the company, and customers, and designed training that required two days of delivery at the start, followed by Renbor’s Follow-Through Action Plan regimen. He loved the program, but asked that I cut it down to a half day. “What do you want me to cut?” “No no, I love the program as is, we just need to do it in half a day, I have to include some product training in October as well (another KPI no doubt).

No matter how much I tried to impress on him that he was making a mistake, he insisted. Knowing the type, that when things hit the fan, I will be blamed for the failure, even as he collects his KPI based bonus, I confronted him. I revamped the program to make it a one day affair, but he was still reluctant; half glancing at his phone as he explained his situation, including meeting KPI’s. I finally offered to send him some workbooks, pre-filled certificates he can distribute, come in and read a few pages to the team, and he could hit his KPI, and not bother with the challenge of training, but still be able to put the tick in the box next to training. “That’s your goal right?”. I swear he thought about it for a minute before realizing he was being mocked.

We finally agreed to the abridged one day program, with a clear understanding that we would include the remaining material into the January training. Now I have four months to work with and on the executives to change things, either the director or his KPI’s.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

To Shine or Not To Shine – Sales eXecution 2620

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Shoes

Vote in the poll at the end of the post!

Given that it is a holiday Monday, at least where I am, I thought I’d explore a lighter side of sales, but one worth pondering for a number of reasons. It comes down to how we present ourselves and how the buyer sees us, and it’s impact on their thinking and outcome of our efforts. I want to share with you two viewpoints, not sure where I land but interested in your views.

I know a couple of sales people, both guys, both top rate, as evidenced by their numbers and the quality of conversation when you meet them. They share a number of views on sales and their success, and they each have habits or in some cases rituals or superstitions that they rely on for their outstanding success. One point of key difference is shoes; yes I said shoes, we’re you expecting closing techniques?

One will call Mo, not because it’s his name, but we gotta call him something. Mo never wears new or clean shoes to an important sales call, especially what is commonly called a “closing meeting”. His view is that he does not want to upstage the buyer, his way of not wanting to appear to be better than the buyer, or flaunt his success. While he puts on a clean suit, freshly ironed shirt and the appropriate smart ties, there is never polish on his shoes. “I look professional, but that I still need your business.”

Bob (not his real name either), goes to the other extreme, what he does to his shoes before key meetings is nothing short of a ritual; in fact when you consider his closing ratio, it approaches being a religious experience. Bob buys all his “Power Shoes” at the same shop. “If you’re going to close business right, you have to look just so.”. Emphasis on the so. “I am asking these people to trust, to put their success, the fate of the project in my hands. To do that I have to look like the embodiment of success, someone they respect, look up to, would want be if they were selling. Part of that means they should be able to see themselves in my shoes when they look down just before they sign. The shine on my shoes is the final reassurance they need.”

Bob shines his shoes every weekend no matter what is in his pipeline. But the day before the close meeting, he goes into a higher mode. He pre cleans his shoes, then applies a specific polish, lets it sit for an hour, the using a special cloth r something he buffs and shines that thing till it looks like a mirror. He credits his days as a cadet for his prowess.

They are both exceptional sales people, they are both into the shoe thing, I am not sure what it has to do with their success.

What do you think: [yop_poll id="2"]

Tell us about your sales rituals!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Micromanage Me, Please0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

microscope

The best way to turn a positive in to a negative is to give it a nasty name. A great example in sales is the use of the word “Micromanagement”, a favourite among those looking to shirk some responsibility and/or accountability that comes with “Active Management”. VP’s, Directors, Managers, and Front-line reps all love to throw up the Word to avoid dealing with issues and/or challenges they face but don’t like, i.e. “Active Management”.

I do want to acknowledge that real micromanagement, the wet blanket type, in the classic sense is not good (most of the time), but what a lot of people in sales label as micromanagement, is nothing more than active management. This includes real expectations, measured or tied to benchmarks and metrics. And it is usually those who fall short on the measured areas who cry “Micromanagement”.

Regardless of the title, the role of the front line manager is to lead their teams in executing the process, by leveraging and balancing activities and the coaching of their team to consistently better execute the high value activities that drive the process. Straight forward enough but not necessarily simple.

Let’s use the example of a core metric important in driving sales, one of the simplest, proposal to closing ratio. You would expect that most sales people would know their own, and that their manager would too, otherwise how could they possibly coach them. There are a host of indicators that can be used to manage activity and coach for improvement, of course as a leader you want to focus on the leading indicators.

I was interviewing a team last week, including their manager (he’s been around a while, so his title was VP, but he was a line manager), and when I asked him about some key conversion rates, he responded that he did not want to “get involved to that level, I don’t want to micromanage”. This would seem OK if they were blowing their numbers away, but that’s not why I was there. I asked what expectations are set either in terms of activities, pipeline coverage, or territory contact/coverage/penetration. And in all instances, the reply was basically that the guys are professionals, “do things their way, and don’t like to be micromanaged.” Apparently, they don’t like to exceed quota either.

When I asked about how the team was coached, the typical, “we talk every day, they call me when they have issues with a deal, and we meet once a month as a team to talk about the market.” Any coaching plans for the reps? “We do a performance management meeting every six months.”

When I spoke to the reps, I got their version of the “I don’t want to be micromanaged” routine.

Now we all know if I went back and asked them what their favourite ball player’s batting average, or RBI numbers were; or +/- in hockey, they would know it. I am willing to bet that if a ball player didn’t follow the coach’s system, they would expect the coach to get involved, and why not, just look at the success Phil Jackson was able to drive with his process, was he micromanaging? Or if someone was not producing as many goals as in previous years, they would lead the “trade them” charge. If the team was underperforming they would be calling for the coach to be fired, but not when it comes to their performance, the very same expectation would be met with the “micromanagement” cry.

Active management is a must for any professional team to continue to outperform their competitors, sales is no less a profession. You want to succeed, embrace active management.

Hey, if you liked what you saw here, invite me to speak at your next meeting!

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Game the Plan – With Chris Cabrera0

By Tibor Shanto - tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca

Game the plan

Almost everyone in sales will tell you that incentives drive behaviour, but beyond that there is often little agreement among the pundits as to what the right incentive plan is. Some see it as a black art, while others, usually sales people, see it as something to manipulate, hence the expression ‘gaming the plan’. But ask Christopher Cabrera, founder, president and CEO of Xactly Corporation, who has a different view, and believes that front line reps and CFOs do not need to be at odds when it comes to incentives. In fact, Cabrera literally wrote the book on incentives, “Game the Plan: Every Sales Rep’s Dream; Every CFO’s Nightmare”, which suggests that when it’s done right, reps can and should game and maximize the plan, and everyone wins.

I had the opportunity to discuss incentives and the book with Cabrera, and ask him some questions many of my clients ask when it comes to their challenges around incentives and driving behaviour that leads to everyone’s success, buyer, seller, and company.

One aspect of the incentive where the pendulum of opinion swings back and forth is between simplicity and complexity of a plan. While some try to engineer things down to the minute detail, others, look to perhaps over simplify by offering 100% commission based pay. As you would suspect, the reality is somewhere in between. Cabrera’s view is that 100% is not the most effective, but over engineering a plan has faults as well. He suggests that structure is much more important than the specifics. What “counts is the number of measures; there is a strong correlation between the number of measures and a successful plan.” Measures being the elements being paid on, Cabrera suggests that optimal number is three measures being incented. As you exceed that number, you lose focus and therefore the effectiveness of the plan.

Another factor was the number of people being paid on any given deal, an extreme example Cabrera gave was a company that had over a hundred people on any given deal. He suggest that the right number of people is five.

Cabrera is also a proponent of paying different rates on different products. While paying on net revenue is a start, companies should also incent higher margin products at a higher rate, thereby driving sales and higher profits. He also discussed that managing activity is the role of management not the incentive plan.

Another area of discussion was the use of SPIFFs (Sales Promotion Incentive Fund). Cabrera explained that while this was an effective practice, companies need to keep them fresh and not overuse them. “Keep them guessing by changing the annual cadence, if they know it is coming and when, it loses the desired effect.” He also recommends that they not be overused, three times a year, and at different times, for different element. Tying them to quarter end each time really misses the mark.

The thing that gives the book teeth and makes it a must read for sales leaders and sales people is not only Cabrera’s own extensive experience in the field of sales incentive and incentive management. But more importantly, the volume of data that is available to him as a result of the work Xactly does. The ability to leverage the empirical, anecdotal and other elements give Cabrera, the book, and by extension the reader, an unparalleled level of insight into incentives, and doing it right.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

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