As 2018 began to fade and 2019 was on the horizon, I realized that I was in need of a new "Word of the Year". I've never been a New Years Resolutioner, rather I enjoy using a word to help me stay focused. 2018's word was "Authentic". It had served me well, although I knew not everyone in my life had been a fan. As I thought about the challenges I had faced with my clients in 2018, I quickly realized that DISCIPLINE was going to be 2019's word.
Merriam-Webster defines Discipline this way:
- control gained by enforcing obedience or order
- orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior
- self control
There are 3 main areas I see a lack of discipline negatively affecting my clients; a weak pipeline, selling to the wrong prospects, and in the area of hiring.
There is no other activity that sales reps. need do on a daily basis that requires more effort and discipline than prospecting. As noted above, it requires consistently having an orderly conduct of behavior. Not being disciplined about prospecting causes a host of issues; deficient pipelines, which then leads to missing your sales targets, which reduces revenue for the company and income for the Rep., and could ultimately put the Reps. job in jeopardy.
Here are some ways sales leaders can help their Reps. gain discipline in this area:
- Ensure there is a strong outbound prospecting strategy that is repeatable. This applies to following up on inbound leads as well as outbound prospecting target accounts.
- Purchase workflow automation tools, such as Outreach, Salesloft or SalesVue, to make it easier for your reps. to have a repeatable process.
- Set monthly goals for new deals that need to be added to the pipeline. I don't like micromanaging the number of calls/emails/videos/social media touches required, just the end result- New Prospects in the pipeline.
- Hold the sales reps. accountable for setting aside time each day to prospect. It's great if everyone could do it at the same time to create energy around this event.
Selling to the Wrong Prospect or not Firing the Wrong Customer
Selling to the wrong prospect or holding onto the wrong customer will cost your company a lot of money. The wrong prospect/customer will suck the life out of the Implementation Specialist, their Customer Success Rep., and your Support Team. All of which keeps your employees from spending time with the right prospects and customers. If the prospect/customer has a bad experience, which they probably will, they will not have anything nice to say about your company or product/service and they will most certainly not renew. Companies forget that they get to chose who they do business with.
Here are some things your company needs to do to ensure your Reps. are hunting for the right prospects.
- Make sure everyone know what the Ideal Customer (ICP) looks like. This means understanding things like:
They have a problem that your product of service can solve They are ready and ABLE to solve that problem They have resources they can dedicate to the new relationship They have budget to support the initiative Their culture is a fit for your company They are in an industry/vertical you play well in
- Train your Reps. on how to professional "fire" a prospect or customer that isn't a fit. This could happen during any part of the sales or life cycle, not just during discovery.
- Hold a monthly pipeline review to ensure what's in the pipeline fits your ICP. I create a DISCO call template for each of my clients that I strongly suggest the Reps. use for each deal that goes into the pipeline. This document is focused on IPC and making sure we are working with the right prospects.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the price of a bad hire is at least 30% of the employee's first-year earnings. That is just based on hard costs. How do you put a price on the impact of poor morale and lost productivity as a result of a bad hire?
Companies must have a disciplined approach to hiring. It's too costly not to be. Here are some hiring best practices I've seen over the years:
- Write a compelling AND accurate job description. I've seen companies say "You might not be a fit if......" You need to communicate both who is and isn't the ideal candidate.
- Phone screen for the basics. I ask 3 things during my 30 min. phone screens.
How were you compensated at each of your last 3 jobs? What did you contribute that made the company better than when you started? RFC- Reason for Change.
- Do a Behavior-based interview, based on competencies for the position. I ask my clients about the competencies needed to be successful in the position and then I build interview questions around these.
- Have them "test-drive" the position/company. Let them talk to someone doing the job. Invite them attend a department/company meeting, sit in on a sales call, etc. I say the candidate will know before the company will if this is a fit for them or not. Make them an educated consumer!
- Ask them to set up reference calls for you with past supervisors that YOU pick.You know enough at this point to know who the candidates have worked for and which of those managers you'd like to chat with...... leader to leader.
- Involve several people in the process over 3-4 interviews. I find that each time a candidate meets with people at the company they get more comfortable. If there are skeletons in the closet, they will come our over time.
Discipline isn't easy. What makes it easier is having processes that everyone understands and a culture of accountability. We weren't born with self-discipline. It's a learned behavior. Just like any other skill, it will take practice and persistence.