salesIn the song “Cheaper to Keep Her”, the words spell out the trials and tribulations of whether to stay in a bad relationship or make the painful decision to cut ties.

Companies are always looking for a big finish; then the analysis begins.  The bottom line seems to get all the attention.  Did we make more money than we did last year?  Every expense gets the once over.  And the biggest expense in selling is walking around on two legs: the sales force.  The compensation, training, travel and entertainment and benefits all add up to the overall expense.  How can companies rationalize the investment in sales people?  When do Managers make the decision to stick with an average contributor, or move them out of the organization?

The three quantitative measurements in relation to expenses that Management needs to look at are total revenue produced, margin on sales, and the mix of products sold.  There are also important qualitative measurements that should be considered, and they will be addressed in the next article.

1.  Revenue Production:  The most common quantitative analysis done on sales people is at the macro level; did they hit their revenue number for the year?  The challenge is that some of the sellers who drive revenue have huge salaries and some do not.   In sports, the salary (expense) does not necessarily correlate to how well the athlete performs.  In business, the total expense associated with the revenue production must make sense.

2. Margin: A week after Q4 ends, most management teams can see what the net effect of last minute discounting when the reps buckle to pressure to close year end business. The exercise to protect margins should be built into a coaching formula that includes opportunity review. Once this is embedded, the mechanism should allow managers to know the profit that reps can obtain in closing situations.

3.  Product (and Service) Mix: Product mix will show if the sales person is selling the right products to the correct customers.  Let’s say a sales person consistently sells low on a medical device but the consumables for the device are sold at full price.  It will take twice the volume in consumables to make up for a discounted sale of the device.  These numbers tell a story and will point dramatically to drags to the bottom line.

After watching Moneyball,   the movie that documented the notion that winning in baseball boils down to how many players get on base during a game, you would think there is a scientific formula that could provide the answers to controlling selling expenses.  The good news is, for our customers that mechanism is in place.

Once fully implemented, a well created sales process can provide managers with a lens to look at these, and the related qualitative measurements, to determine if they should invest more time in developing sales people. In this capacity, “Cheaper to Keep Her” means continuously developing the skills with the seller to bring their performance up to speed in relation to the 3 areas mentioned above. Otherwise, it may be time to part ways with that employee, and begin the arduous task of replacing them with new talent.


In March, John is up in the Pacific Northwest in the beautiful tree filled city of Seattle instructing a Sales Process Workshop, and working with the Managers on how to Coach to the process. In this video, John previews the upcoming articles for the newsletter and announces exciting travel plans that take FSS back out to the global market. Pack your bags and listen below.


jackie_meyerThe following is a guest post by Jackie Meyer, a former customer and current colleague of Flannery Sales Systems.

The idea of 180 Degree selling is not a new sales methodology, rather it is the strategy of selling internally into your organization.  Most sales books, seminars and classes teach how to sell into an external customer, but what about your internal customer?  Everyone in business has internal customers, and they range from the C-Suite all the way down to your subordinates.  Selling 101 has taught us to find the Coach, Fox or Sponsor inside the organization to which we are selling, and if this is your unofficial title in your organization for the third parties you partner with, take note of how to find success as the leader of any project you need to get off the ground.

Do Your Homework – What is the situation in the organization or market that would help you support the project you need executed?  Are there secondary research reports that can help you with your facts?  Have you interviewed people internally to get their thoughts and identify their needs – rather implicit or explicit?  Most importantly, how and what are the internal politics you need to manage?

Build Your Concept Pitch – With the data you have collected so far, what correlations can you draw?  Do you need to include some education about the project to help others understand its scope?  What are the organizational weaknesses you need to consider, and how will you overcome them?  Set expectations of what the project can and will do so there is no second guessing for both you and others in your organization.

Provide Project Options – Most people do not like to be told what to do, so provide options with pros and cons.  Do not assume everyone understands the opportunity costs involved or that there is money to pay for the project you want to spearhead.  In fact, in most cases the money is not budgeted.  You must determine how you can mine for it or even plan for its future in the next quarter or year.

Beta Test Your Pitch – You might think you have it all figured out, but after gathering all your data, circumstances and people often change.  Find your own coach, fox or sponsor within; gather their feedback on your pitch;  and fine tune your knowledge and budget.

Commercialize Your Pitch – Plan it far in advance so you can work through how best to present in order to ensure your content is absorbed in the various minds of the people from whom you need to gain approval.  Can you apply the ‘so-what’ test to everything you plan to say?  Can you address likely objections that will come your way? Are you confident under pressure?  If not, seek help from a trusted friend or colleague to practice your pitch. Besides the fact that Mom was right – practice makes perfect – remember how you need to influence your audience and brush up on your Aristotle philosophy on the art of persuasion.

Plenty of sales reps think that productivity is the same as staying busy, or at least “looking busy”.  Strategy meetings, internet research, emails, social networking, golf dates, and dinners may be keeping reps “busy”, but such activities may be inconsequential to the bottom line.  Let’s define sales productivity as the ability to produce.  Productivity is measured by yield or throughput.

Here are four tips to help increase the productivity of your sales team giving them more active selling time:

1.  Analyze Current Processes

Do a health check on the selling processes currently being followed by your team.  Although each sales rep’s process may be unique, consider the following key productivity drains across your team:  How much time is spent weekly on administrative tasks? How many calls are being made on qualified vs. unqualified opportunities?  How many in-person calls end in a sale?  What is the average time of lead to sale?  What is the current cost of sale?   A good sales process based on the analysis of the data retrieved from these questions will provide guidelines for keeping productivity in check.


2.  Define Expectations/Goals

Every team member needs to know what is expected of him/her.  Once new expectations are set, look at your team and see who needs help organizing their time and territory.  Help reps prioritize which opportunities are worthy of their time and get rid of the ones that are not qualified.  Being on qualified sales calls is where results will happen.  Once you set expectations, expect them.  Set up a streamlined accountability process of reps’ progress toward outlined expectations.


3.  Leverage Technology

Reduce the administrative responsibilities required by your reps by providing an electronic format for as many tasks as possible.  A good CRM system will automate certain tasks and keep customer data organized.   Technology can also aid you in getting quality lead lists.  Monitor social channels.  Set up alerts on topics of interest and respond to those who show buying signals.  Consider timesaving video calls and web conferencing.  There are hundreds of time saving sales technology tools out there that can help increase the productivity of your team.


4.  Increase your Team’s Skills and Knowledge

Sales training, and coaching are important for every salesperson, no matter how experienced they are.  There are always new skill sets to learn and new tools to master.  Analyze deficient sales skills in the individuals on your team and coach to those needs.  These skills may include phone etiquette, product knowledge, industry knowledge, customer engagements and rapport, presentations, and everyone’s favorite topic:  negotiation.  Look for a training company that will offer a customized approach to developing specific relevant skills for your team.


Try these tips and you will see increased productivity in your team.  The measure of success will be evident in a yield to be enjoyed: More revenue!

Keeping the pipeline filled with qualified opportunities is one of the toughest things a sales person is required to do.  And just as water in a pipe will follow the path of least resistance, so will a sales person when not kept on task.  It’s like homework in college or that dentist appointment that you’re putting off;   eventually these issues have to be addressed.

But why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?  Introducing the #1 pipeline killer – procrastination.  Just like pressure gets water in a pipe moving, a plan is the best way to prevent procrastination from sneaking in.

Here are 3 ways to bite off a “chewable” plan and keep constantly back filling the pipeline:

  1. Assess Current Customers – in many industries 60-70 % of new revenue is generated from the existing customer base.  These prospects are the most likely to close in a timely, predictable time frame.  Forecasting this revenue is the most accurate.  As a frequent customer of a Brooks Brothers, I was recently contacted by a sales person.  Through our conversation I gathered that I was a targeted customer because I spent $X in their store every year.  They know that I’m already a buyer and with an assigned salesperson they could easily increase those sales.
  2. Assess the Quality of Leads – no matter if leads are given to you or leads are organically generated, the most qualified leads are those with a personal connection.  In today’s world we are interconnected as in no other time in history.  That’s the marvel of social media.  I find in my business that the business-focused social media is very beneficial. Do I know who someone in the company that I’m targeting?  An introduction from a mutual acquaintance turns a cold lead into a really warm lead in an instant.  To spend time most effectively is the name of the game, and one of the ways I do this is with social media.
  3. Assess Progress with a Milestone – This is adding water pressure to the pipe.  The speed and velocity of the water through the pipe depends on pressure.  Sales people need triggers in place that quickly determine the speed and velocity of deal from contact to close.  There needs to be a trigger immediately after the first conversation.  Did the customer share any goals with me?  If so, that’s someone I need to spend more time pursuing.  The best milestone that can provide a great forecasting tool is a Deal Map. This is a document that lists by date and responsibility a map of the deal.  Buyer and seller agree to the terms and proposed timeline of the deal.  When both parties are working off the same document, forecasting probability and close date are easy to determine.

To get to the golden customer sometimes it means you have to sift through 100 not-so-golden ones.  It’s easier to tackle this daunting task with a plan.  As the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, so wisely said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”