Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Become a Sales Leader

Time is one of the most precious resources we possess, and it can either a friend or enemy. We can waste it, or leverage and manage it. Unfortunately, sales people in the snow industry waste it chasing unqualified sales leads.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the saying that “sales” is a numbers game. While I won’t argue with that, I’d stress the importance of which numbers you should be analyzing and measuring, as well as emphasizing the need to have a process in place whereby you’re always improving on those numbers. For example, many sales managers want your pipeline bursting with leads and associated revenue dollars. It’s quality, not quantity, which is important and impactful. One critical sales metric is the win ratio and many factors can affect that number. The goal is simple – always be striving to increase your win ratio. A key factor to improve this ratio is increasing the quality of your leads. Why? Better leads mean better business and profits, and quality leads are mission-critical in becoming a sales leader or laggard.

Creating a process that will generate quality leads prompts many questions including: who’s responsible for generating leads; what methods and mediums do you use for generating leads; which methods are most successful; and do you have a standard definition of a qualified lead.

A great deal of sales failure and disappointing win ratios are attributed to companies that don’t share a standard definition of a qualified lead. The inability to achieve sales success is further exasperated by the absence of a market driven sales plan that identifies who is responsible for generating leads. While marketing and sales both share this responsibility, shifting more of the burden to marketing will increase your win ratio as it allows sales people more time to sell.

Taking time away from selling to generate leads significantly cuts into sales productivity. There is generally a disconnect between marketing and sales when it comes to lead generation. And yet, there is an opportunity for huge returns when these two groups are aligned on the definition of a quality lead, and which tactics should be pursued. When a company identifies and agrees upon which targets and tactics are the best to pursue, and prioritizes those opportunities, only then will their win rates increase. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to defining your standard definition, but what is important is agreeing on a standard definition.

We do have evidence of leading indicators and attributes that determine a qualified lead. When a prospect has an identified need aligned with your service offering and your team’s capabilities, that would indicate this prospect may be qualified and is an opportunity you’d want to pursue. Next, is there an established budget for your service? If the dollars don’t add up, don’t pursue it.

Time is also a key qualifier as your sales strategy should have specific revenue goals with associated timelines. There are several components. First is the time it takes a sales person to receive and follow-up on an initial inquiry that has been generated by some marketing vehicle. Another timing factor includes the sales cycle, which is the time (the full circle) it takes the prospect to identify, interview and award a contract to a snow professional. Is this timeframe aligned with your average sales cycle time? And lastly, there should be some indicator of intent and time to engage and execute. Time will help you determine if a prospect is qualified, and will also help prioritize your sales efforts. Remember, time is money intelligently or foolishly spent. Sit down with your team and discuss what it costs your company in terms of time, money and reputation by pursuing unqualified leads.

Having an agreed upon standard definition of a qualified lead, along with a sales process who identifies the lead and moves it into your sales pipeline, will increase your sales team’s confidence, win ratios, revenues and marketshare. This will also decrease your overall marketing costs, while establishing you as a sales leader in your market. So what are you waiting for? Go lead by example.

Judy Guido is chairwoman of Guido and Associates, a leading industry consulting firm, and a frequent Snow Magazine contributor.

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