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August 14, 2012

A Checklist for Conducting your own Sales Audit

Last week, we discussed ways to step back and take a look at your marketing with a fresh set of eyes.  This week, let’s apply that same philosophy to your sales effort…

Sales Rep – Client Alignment
Are your sales reps aligned appropriately for the clients they cover?  For example:

  • Does each rep have a reasonable number of clients – not too few that they’re bored and not too many that they can’t cover them all?
  • Are your reps “hunters” (targeting new clients) or “farmers” (maintaining/growing repeat clients)?  Or both?  And both are important.
  • Do your reps have assigned ‘territories’… as defined by geography, size of clients or vertical markets served?  Having clearly defined parameters eliminates any conflicts and ensures the appropriate focus.
  • Note: if size matters (and it always does!), consider inside reps calling on smaller firms while outside reps call on larger ones.

Prospecting/Cold Calling

  • Are your reps responsible for generating their own leads… or is that the role of marketing in your firm?  Either way, what’s your process?
  • If done through sales, do they have the resources to prospect effectively?
  • Cold calling is the hardest selling there is… what are you doing to ‘warm up’ prospective clients?

Marketing Support
Don’t rely on your selling initiative to also be your key marketing tactic/awareness builder.  Your reps will not be in front of every client every day… so what are you doing to help your firm stay top-of-mind in-between sales calls?

  • Think through and create a marketing/sales support plan.
  • Not all tactics need to be expensive – think about email, social media involvement and blogging.
  • And don’t forget basics like business cards, collateral pieces, etc.

The Sales Presentation
Whether delivered in-person or virtually, your capabilities presentation is a key step in the buying-selling process.

  • Create a visually compelling presentation… “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.”
  • Talk about how you can help clients, not just what you sell.
  • Have a long version (for in-person) and a shorter one (for virtual presentations).
  • Practice… practice… practice…
  • Before you put your rep in front of clients, you need to know that he/she is representing your firm that way that you want.  Have the sales rep present to you like their job depended on it – because it should!

You can’t just hire a rep and send them out into the world; make sure they’re fully prepared.

  • Training:  about the industry, your company, your competitors and your products
  • On-going development: selling skills, industry updates, etc.
  • Tools:  CRM system, laptop, smart phone, virtual presentation software (like WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc.)
  • Subscriptions: make sure to fund industry magazine subscriptions… you want your reps to become ‘students of the industry.’

Metrics/KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
Much like marketing – if you don’t measure your sales effort, how do you know if it’s working?!  Key areas to check daily/weekly include:

  • Revenue (of course): vs. goals, vs. last year, overall and by client.
  • Activity: # calls, # presentations, # new prospects, etc.; if Revenue is off and you’re not tracking Activity, you won’t know what to fix.
  • Pipeline progress: Suspects / Prospects / 1st-time Clients / Repeat Clients (or however you define it)… is the total number of firms in the pipeline growing and are they moving closer to the smaller end?

Sales reps must be compensated for bringing new business into your firm.  If they don’t sell – you don’t have a business (or at least no business growth).

  • Know this… there are no perfect comp plans, but work on one that serves both the company’s and the rep’s needs.
  • Make sure the reps at least pay for themselves before paying any commission.
  • Sales reps like instant gratification… so pay out monthly if you can.
  • A good comp plan will drive behavior – so make sure the plan is aligned with your goals.
  • Make sure you create a plan that you can actually implement… that you can easily get the data you need from accounting, etc.

Other sales reps
Sales reps don’t have to be the only ‘sellers’ for your firm.

  • Make sure your PMs/PDs are trained to up-sell and cross-sell.
  • When appropriate, have the outside reps take a senior executive along on sales calls – there is strength in numbers and in that level of seniority.
  • Have the sales rep take along other team members – PDs, marketers, analysts, moderators… not only does it help those team members to better understand what sales does, but also to better understanding clients’ needs.

Elevator pitch
For in-person sales, on the phone or at networking events, make sure everyone at your firm (not just your sales reps) has an outstanding “elevator pitch.”  There are four distinct parts to a pitch:

  1. What you do
  2. Who do you do it for
  3. What’s different about it
  4. Why they should care

For more details on creating a great elevator pitch, Click Here.

As with marketing, every so often, take the time to step back and really take a look at your sales efforts.  Done right, your sales initiative can be the single most important thing you do to generate revenue… and planning and managing it well can give you a competitive advantage that lesser programs can’t match.

Question: What would you add to the Sales Audit Checklist?

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