01. What to Expect

Breakthroughs in Performance Come From Breakthroughs in Thinking

Unique business challenges require unique business solutions. RavenHouse International designs and builds customized performance models that turn business potential into business results.

Whether your challenge is generating more revenue, creating competitive advantage through outstanding service quality, or drafting a blueprint for the future, RavenHouse will take you beyond the generic and help you generate measurable business results.

Ask the Experts.

Four Sales Challenges & Insights

Have a business problem and not sure where to turn? Wondering if a solution is right for your company? Our experienced team is here to answer your questions. Sales challenges Q&A:

01. ``Although our sales force has had a lot of sales training, our over-all sales performance remains disappointing. One of the re-occurring themes is a lack of re-enforcement, on-going development, and coaching by our sales managers. It’s been a disappointment to see that a great deal of what people are taking away from sales training is quickly lost because there is no robust field implementation strategy or process. Clearly our assumption that sales managers will know what to do and then do it is wishful thinking. What should we do?``

If transformational learning and skill application is to take place there must be a lot more movement back and forth between the performance field and the practice field. Whether its learning to play basketball, play the piano or sell your products, mastery of skills takes place through focused attention on a few skills at a time – implemented under the watchful eye of a competent coach. Effective feedback is essential. Competent field planning to improve deficiencies in knowledge and technique should be happening daily.

I suspect the problem is not unwillingness or lack of good intentions. If your sales managers have not been schooled in how to lead, manage, and coach it’s not surprising that they don’t have the teaching and coaching skills they need to be highly effective in developing their salespeople. Secondly, what are the performance requirements for sales managers? Development of their sales team should be at the head of the list and there should be painful consequences for non-compliance.

No matter what you do to train your sales reps, unless the issue of learning transfer is addressed you will continue to get a lot less performance than you could be getting. You need a written field deployment plan with specific action steps, a timeline, and tracking metrics. And remember above all, your sales managers MUST be held accountable. After all, it’s the most important component of their job.

02. “My company has never taken customer concerns very seriously. Now that competitors are eating our lunch and coming back for dinner, the CEO has asked me to head up a taskforce to improve our sales and service effectiveness. I don’t have a clue about where to start. Any suggestions?``

You have a big challenge. If you haven’t done this sort of thing before, get some help. It’s easy to get it wrong. Craft a benchmarking plan to research what other companies have learned that works. We’ll be happy to send you a free protocol for organizing a benchmarking project.

Get out and develop customer intimacy. That means face-to-face meetings with key customers. It’s the only way to learn the truth about what its going to take to turn things around. Don’t make it more complicated than necessary. Here’s a mini-research protocol to get started:

Customer Research Protocol

  • What are the first things that come to mind when you
    think of your relationship with our company?
  • What do competitors do better than we do?
  • What do you expect from us?
  • What are we not doing that you’d like us to do?
  • What is changing in your business that may impact
    what we deliver to you?
  • How well do we understand your needs?
  • What is your decision criteria for selecting suppliers like us?
  • What must we do to win and keep your business?

03. “My account execs are bringing in good numbers but we’re losing money. We have 70% of our business coming from 10% of our customer base. We have new line extensions that reps refuse to sell. As EVP of Sales, I’ve been getting a lot of heat, but I haven’t been able to shed much light on the answer. Any thoughts, or do I start looking for a new job?”

Don’t jump off a cliff just yet. It sounds like your performance management process, especially compensation, needs an overhaul.  Your account execs are engaging in very rational behavior. If they are commission rewarded for simply bringing in the bucks that’s exactly what they’ll do. Look at it as your account execs see it. “There’s no downside to low-balling to get the business or no need to go after new business if I can hit my numbers with one or two customers. I’ll simply “go where the lov’in is easy.”

Systems drive behavior. You need to change the system to drive the behavior you need. Define new performance hurdles and tie percentages of compensation to each. In addition to tracking the usual process metrics like sales activity and product knowledge, measure and reward for hitting newly defined required outcomes. Here are some examples to consider:

  1. Revenue against target
  2. Customer retention
  3. Margins
  4. Mix of business (reward for those product extensions
    you mentioned
  5. Account penetration
  6. Territory coverage
  7. Old versus new business

Realize that there will be howls of protest when you implement the new system so be sure your change management skills are up to snuff.

04. “We are a regional consulting firm. Our projects have become very big ticket and very complex over the last two years. We have a dedicated sales force; however, they are having difficulty because of the complexity and the fact that we are now selling at the most senior levels. It’s been suggested that we move to a team-selling platform but that’s been rejected by the CEO. How else can we approach this problem?”

Many professional service firms use a sales platform that centers around what is called a Senior Client Officer. The concept of Senior Client Officer is based on principles of professional excellence in service firms like yours. First, client work and selling is everybody’s responsibility. This means that senior executives should be involved in client sales and service as well as their other duties.

Secondly, continuity is important. Clients expect the same senior person from your firm to be involved over time. As consultants and sales people leave one client and move on to another, the client would like to work with the same senior executive in your firm for as long as the relationship exists. In your business, clients do not like being “passed off” to someone else.

Senior Client Officer Roles and Responsibilities
Senior Client Officers are assigned to projects and major sales engagements whenever the complexity or business potential requires their leadership and supervision.  The responsibility of the Senior Client Officer include:

  • Intellectual leadership of work, including the selling proposition and proposal. Participation in key sales presentations is common.
  • Building relationships with senior people in client organizations.
  • Responsibility for developing the skills of sales people and project leaders on key engagements.

Senior Client Officers focus on growth accounts and therefore, over time, they will be involved in multiple projects as the relationships grow. However, Senior Client Officers can be assigned to any key account that requires their skill and experience and justifies the investment of senior people.

It is expected that Senior Client Officers will develop an explicit strategy to build multiple senior level relationships with key clients. Clients like this kind of attention and multiple business opportunities will be the result.

If you use this approach you can retain your current sales platform and solve the problem. As you sell the concept to your senior management team, remind them that this is a best practice of the world’s top performing consulting firms.

Discussion Points

  • Who should we include as Senior Client Officers and what criteria will we use to select and legitimize the role?
  • What is the role of the Senior Client Officer in creating account plans for targeted growth accounts?
  • What is the on-going process for assigning Senior Client Officers?
  • How do we review these assignments?
  • How can the relationship between the Senior Client Officer, the salesperson and the project manager be structured to ensure everyone’s satisfaction and benefit?
  • What are the staff development responsibilities of the Senior Client Officer?

RavenHouse Service Guarantee.

RavenHouse International is dedicated to helping clients worldwide to develop first-in-class business capabilities. To this end, we offer an unconditional service guarantee. We deliver what we promised – or you don’t pay.

Randy Lottsen
CEO, Baylor-Foster Company

“Your approach to driving breakthrough business performance is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. We were skeptical at first, but when the revenue started rolling in, we became believers.”

Strategic Deployment

Defining and Deploying Your Sales and Service Strategy:

 Knowing Where to Play & How to Win

Sales Effectiveness

Building World-Class Sales Systems:

 Selecting Performers to Landing Big-Ticket Sales

Service Effectiveness

Developing Best-In-Class Service:

 Guaranteeing Growth & Profit Through Service

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