Co-author: Rachel Epstein
The current economic climate is causing customers to re-evaluate the necessity of existing vendor partnerships and SaaS platforms thus leading to a possible increase in customer churn next year. The last thing any sales leader needs right now is to worry about customer retention while already stressed out about reaching their, probably unrealistic, quota that’s been set for 2023.
A proactive strategy for retaining your customer needs to be in full swing heading into 2023 to ensure your customers are engaged, invested, and getting value. During economic uncertainty it’s more likely that customers will ask themselves,” Do I really need this?”
Make sure their answer is, YES!
Co-Written with Rachel Epstein
Salespeople often don't enjoy following imposed rules around selling. And we get it - it can seem more like a burden than a benefit. But companies without a formalized and documented sales process are more likely to have underperforming reps who generate less revenue.
We’ve had a lot of turbulence in the last three years. The pandemic, the Great Resignation, and most recently the war in Ukraine which has pushed the price of oil and gas to an all-time high. All this turmoil has increased prices of just about every consumer good and I’m now seeing an impact on business spending because of talk about a looming recession. The result for your sales team and the reps you manage is that companies are or will be delaying purchases or reducing spending in general until they better understand the economic impact of all these events on the next few months or years. This will make it harder to hit quota and get to OTE (on target earnings). So, the time to act is NOW.
We need to be preparing our reps for the next 7 month and make sure they can control what they can control…..the pipeline. Even though there’s inflation happening globally, a full-blown recession isn’t here yet. It is going to be easier for your sales team, that made ambitious 2022 sales goals in Q4, to achieve if not all, then decent percentage of those goals this year by overfilling the pipeline now.
For most of the startups I worked with, this is the first economic challenge they've faced so I’m helping them understand that when a recession starts, like in so many before, a lot of projects will be paused, and it will be much more difficult to put warm leads into your pipeline. So, let’s talk about actions you and your team can take now to try and mitigate any loss of revenue by filling the funnel.
Ever since the pandemic, we’ve seen increases in prices when it comes to the food and housing market. Combine that with the highest ever rate of resignations and career switching ever in the history of US (In November 2021, 4,510,000 people quit compared to 3,084,200 in November 2019) and you get a huge surge in salary increases and the hottest job market in decades. Great situation for employees, since everyone will get a raise by switching jobs, and horrible for companies, especially startups.
The last two years have been a challenging time for sales leaders as we’ve tried to navigate remote leadership, the Great Resignation, and a global pandemic. So, I hazard to guess that you might not have had professional development at the top of your radar. It’s your responsibility to ensure that you’re a better and more effective sales leader each year.
Read more: What Are You Doing to Improve Your Leadership Skills?
WARNING - If you found my last sports-related blog post 2 weeks ago boring and something you couldn’t relate to, I’m sorry, but I’m back with more leadership lessons from Big 12 Football.
Yesterday, Lincoln Riley, Head Football Coach at SEC-bound (not bitter) Oklahoma Sooners, announced that he was leaving OU for USC with NO warning, NO discussion, and NO explanation.
“We made the decision early. If we scored, we were going for two — going for the win.” - Coach Leipold
Something amazing and very unexpected happen last week. The Kansas Jayhawks beat The Texas Longhorns at DKR Texas Memorial Stadium. That’s right, we’re not talking about the top-ranked KU Men’s basketball team. No sir, y’all, we’re talking about the 1-8 Kansas Football team! The 31-point underdogs beat the SEC-bound (not bitter) Longhorns, in overtime, on their home turf.
I’ve written a series of blog posts to help you attract, screen, interview, and hire the best sales rep you can find on the market. I’m going to share successful strategies I’ve learned, developed, and implemented, in several companies over the past 20 years. Hiring the wrong sales representative is costly. I want to help ensure that you have the tools needed to make sure you’re placing the right bet on the right rep.
4 million workers quit their jobs in April, according to the Labor Department, and only 740,000 of them worked in the leisure and hospitality industry. The Great Resignation is real, and startups should be jumping for joy!
The Pandemic has changed the way employees think about how, when, and where they want to work; along with what type of company they want to work for. Pre-Pandemic, they never questioned the 50–60-hour work week with an additional 45-minute commute one-way each day. Now, they understand there is a different way to live and that might also mean a different job and company to work for.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to travel to Bucharest, Romania to visit a client I’ve been working with for 6 months. I didn’t have expectations beyond strengthening the relationship with my client, by spending time together, and wanting to better understand the country and culture. Since I set the bar fairly low the trip far exceeded my expectations.
It has been over 30 years since I’d been to Europe, so some memories came flooding back to me, so many people are still smoking and there were things that weren’t in place when I had visited last, such as the Euro being the universal currency of Europe (Romania uses the Leu and not the Euro). I wanted to share with you some observations and feelings I had during my trip and after I returned.
There are few things as frustrating to me then when I discover a new client, who’s hired me to come in figure out why they are missing their revenue targets, has mis-hired. This is because most of my clients are small privately-owned startups that have either taken VC money or are bootstrapping, and regardless of how they are financing their startup, they can’t afford to waste the limited financial resources they have.
Hiring the wrong sales rep is frustrating, expensive, and could lead to you missing your revenue target as the sales leader. Repeatedly mis-hiring can literally make or break a business in its few couple of years, so as the founder, owner, or sales leader you need to make sure that you’re getting what you want and are expecting out of a “sales rep.” Most of my clients are looking for hunters and not gatherers, so let break down the differences and how you can spot a gatherer posing as a hunter!
Read more: Sales Reps are professional interviewees – Don’t be fooled.
I am so excited to announce that I’m a contributor to this month’s edition of Top Sales Magazine!
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Sixteen years ago, I sat in my office, door closed, stomach in knots. It wasn't even 9:30 in the morning and I’d just fired my top three sales reps, one by one, as they came in for the day.
They were completely unprepared for what was about to happen, and I watched the fear and disbelief creep over each of their faces as I ushered them into the conference room and broke the news that this would be their last day with the company.
After it was done, I retreated to my office with one burning question, “How the hell did we get to this point?” How had we become hostages to three women and the revenue they produced? Over the years I’ve unpacked that question and have come to a deep understanding of the answer.
I had failed to create a culture of accountability.
2 to 3 times a month someone I know will come to me and say, "Hey, I've got a friend looking to find a new sale job, would you mind talking to her to see if you can help."
To which I always answer, "Sure, I've got 30 minutes for everyone, what kind of sales job is she looking for?"
The confused look on their face tells me all I need to know. My friend thinks a sales job is a sales job. So, the education begins. Inside or outside, hunting for net new business or taking on a book of business and growing and retaining it, and finally do they want to keep what they catch or give the fish over to someone else to clean and fry?
I laugh as their eyes get big and they respond with, "Uh, I have no idea. Can you just give them a call?"
"I'd be happy to," I say.
2020 is almost behind us and I’m sure you’re just as relieved as I am! No matter how you are leaving 2020, 2021 in upon us and now’s the time to do some reflecting and decide how you can make 2021 a year your team consistently hits revenue targets, is more accountability, and grows professionally.
I’ve put together a check list of actions to take NOW to ensure you’re ready to hit the ground running in 2021.
I attended this webinar in October on compensation plans. It was the best, most data-driven conversation I’ve heard. Here’s what you can expect to learn:
Even though the economic recovery may take longer than they initially expected, there are strategies that organizations can adopt to rebound and rebuild momentum in the year ahead.
Read more: Building a Rebound-Ready Strategy for the Year Ahead
“Do the right things and the right things will happen.”
- Kristie Jones
I share this with founders, sales leaders, and reps on a regular basis. I truly believe that if each and every person does what they know to be the right thing then the universe will conspire to make sure the right things will happen. Things like financial security, success, promotions, work/life balance, and much more.
What’s the catch, you ask? Doing the right thing requires #Discipline!
It appears that there were enough deals in the pipeline and yet here you are again, a few days left in the quarter and you’re only at 52% of your Q3 goal. The quarter started out as it usually does; a “full” pipeline, reps confident they will hit quota this month, and you reporting the good news to the board. But with only a few days left neither you nor your reps feel good about how the quarter will end.
“Chose Discomfort Over Resentment”
- Brené Brown
These are awkward times. You and your sales reps are still working from home. You’re being asked to think about equality and how that might change your leadership style. You and your team are under a lot of pressure to hit the revised (or not) revenue targets you’ve been given. AND the end of the quarter is just days away.
Read more: Accountability - Understandably Uncomfortable... Still Necessary
Like every company out there, start-ups and privately-owned companies are worried about the impact of the current economic situation. The #1 priority is figuring out how to keep the business afloat with limited people and financial resources.
Most owners or founders have not ever led a sales team during a crisis – and are unsure how to lead, motivate, and drive the activities necessary to capture new revenue. What made your team successful during the past 3 years will not work in the current economic climate. Do you have experienced Sales Reps? Are you positioned with the right strategy and process to effectively sell in a crisis?
Cutting costs will not address the lack of revenue. To survive, you are going to have to sell your way out or risk going out of business.
You were happy with your sales team. Most of your reps were hitting at least 62% of quota. They loved working for you and the company. Who wouldn’t? Free lunch on Fridays, beer in the fridge, and you weren’t really holding them accountable to performance metrics. Life and the economy were good; until they weren’t.
As you are finding out, what worked then, won’t work now and this might include your sales reps. You need experienced hunters, with a track record of success, to help you sell your way out of this economic challenge. I know you’re not sure now is the time to bring on a new employee, but a sales rep that can bring in net new revenue during this time is an investment in your company’s future.
Read more: You Need a Rock Star to Help You "Sell Your Way Out"
Last week I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion with John True, Managing Partner at Cultivation Capital and Adam Weber, Co-founder of Emplify, an employee engagement company, around strategies executives need to take now to position their companies for a bounce back.
Here are the key takeaways from that discussion.
Read more: Be Rebound Ready. Strategies to Position your Company for a Bounce Back.
I worked for a CFO once who would regularly say, “That sounds like a broken process.” I got tired of hearing that, not because he was wrong, but because he was right.
I often get calls from Founders or Sales Leaders asking if I will come in and evaluate their sales reps. because they aren’t sure they’ve got the right players on the team. I gently say to them that I’d be happy to interview each rep., and provide feedback, but only after I’ve had a chance to evaluate their sales process. Most of the time I find the people aren’t broken, their sales process is. Without a formal sales process and KPI around it reps. will flounder and sales leaders will be frustrated and clean pipelines will be a fantasy.
The dictionary definition of productivity is:
The KKJ definition:
So what’s the big deal? Why should sales leaders care about and measure the productivity of their sales reps? Because it matters. What I love about sales is it is the blending of art and math. I tell sales reps. I don’t care if they work harder or smarter- just hit quota! Productivity is the grease that makes the sales wheels move. Each prospecting call, email, discovery call, demo, and negotiation will all add up to success if done consistently and effectively.
I was doing a pipeline audit for a client a few years ago when I ran across a sales stage called “Stalled”. What is this, I asked? “Oh- That’s where we put all the deals that we think will close someday but are currently stalled out. We don’t want to lose track of them.” WTF????
So as crazy as this sounds, they aren’t the only company I’ve run across with a similar thought process. So let’s set the record straight. Stalled is not a stage in the sales cycle!
So, sometimes I refer to myself as “The Badass Sales Leader”. I do this to set the right tone for hard conversations I need to have with Founders and Sales Leaders about behaviors I have no tolerance for, like Sales Reps. who take their base salary for granted. Let me be clear. I’m all for paying SDRs, AEs, and CSMs a base salary along with commission and bonus. What I’m not ok with is NOT getting ROI on that investment.
Read more: Base Salary: Are you getting what you're paying for?
T-minus 45ish days and counting. This year is coming to a close and even though you’re working hard to squeeze all the revenue you can out of 2019, it’s time to begin thinking about next year.
There are 2 ways I like to help my clients prepare for the next year:
We spend most of our life trying to add more to it. More money, more friends, more activities, more fun, and more time off. What if life, work, and sales weren’t a quantity game, but a quality game? What if you could enrich your life and work by saying “No” more often? We are over-scheduled, stressed out, and under the delusion that more is better. Saying “No” or “I wish I could” isn’t easy, but it’s better than saying yes and being resentful. #ownyourownshit
“Choose Discomfort over Resentment”
– Brene Brown
There are two areas that I introduce the addition by subtraction philosophy to my clients: People and Pipeline.
I regularly speak with founders that are looking to get out of the sales leadership role but can’t justify hiring someone who’s sole responsibility is to manage a group of SDRs (Sales Development Reps) or AEs (Account Executive). Instead, they’ve decided to add a quota carrying rep who will also play the role of sales leader. I cringe each time I hear this. Here’s why...
Read more: If Player/Coach was a Good Idea, Then the NFL Would be Doing It