This week a CEO client of mine sent the above image to me with a question:
“What should A**’s “sales cadence” calendar look like? Here’s what we have so far . .”
I can be scatterbrained, so forgive me that the first thing that came to mind was that I received this question the week of the NFL draft when professional football teams add college players to their rosters in hopes of improving their team for the upcoming and future season. For offensive players, teams dreamily search the college ranks for “Five-Tool” players.
(I know, another drecky sports analogy. Please know that I am trying, I really am.)
Stay with me. NFL teams have roster limits, so finding multi-faceted players is paramount to reaching their objective of winning the super bowl. While large sales organizations do have budgets, they don’t have “roster limits” so they can parcel out their five sales tools to individual contributors. For example, they may hire sales development staff to search for new opportunities which they hand off (see what I did there?) to account executives. They have customer success or account managers working with clients to grow the footprint of happy users. They likely also have process improvement or sales operations staff refining the way sales people work.
Small companies and often consulting firms don’t have it so easy. In 2016, according to the Census Bureau over 99% of employers in the United States had fewer than 500 workers. Let’s assume a significant percent of those sell business to business and are much smaller. Most B2B companies – like NFL teams – need their sales staff to be “five-tool” players – however leadership defines those five tools.
For my client (and I agree), those five tools are:
- Improve sales processes
- Receive sales coaching
- Execute discreet pipeline activities
- New lead generation in the form of prospecting and “spidering”, defined as asking for referrals
- Relationship maintenance
Back to the original question about “cadence”. I knew he meant that he knew what she had to accomplish, but not how to do it. He was asking for my advice on how to organize around the five identified tasks. My mind immediately went to the old saw:
Plan your Work, Work your Plan
Obviously, right? But it needed to be said out loud. I subscribe to the thought that if you substitute “as any idiot could plainly see” for “obviously” and there’s a chance someone is insulted it’s not obvious and needs to be discussed. We got on a conference call and went through the “how” of their five sales tools.
Most importantly, she had to become a slave to her calendar.
I suggested she try hard to dedicate time each Friday afternoon, Sunday night, or Monday morning to review the week ahead and plan her work. The monthly coaching sessions are already on her calendar and should be inviolable (I’m selfish like that J). Similarly, she should attempt to “Hard Schedule” regular 15-30 minute “check-ins” with her largest and most valuable accounts. For this company, a quarterly account review is appropriate.
During this update follow an agile-ish standup agenda such as:
- What are you accomplishing with our software?
- What would you like to see in the future, who else needs access?
- What road blocks or annoyances can I clear away?
Next, I urged the “take care of the big rocks first” mentality, and the biggest rock for this Account Executive is her pipeline activities. The calls, emails, presentations, etc. she needs to accomplish to move deals along and are already scheduled in the Customer Relationship Management system. These should be on her calendar as well so it’s right in front of her.
When looking at her calendar she will now see white spaces where there are no pipeline activities, coaching sessions or current relationship check-ins. It’s time to schedule dedicated time for new lead generation or spidering for referrals. If it’s on the calendar for the upcoming week, it then earns the status of “Holy Prospecting Time” and no one wants to desecrate something they hold up as holy.
CAN I GET AN AMEN!!!
“Improve Sales Process” is the last remaining item on her cadence. I asked the CEO whether that was an appropriate task for the seller to take on individually, wasn’t it more appropriately a Big Rock for him? He agreed. They have their own internal standups where the two of them and the rest of the team can bring up sales process issues and then schedule time to be thoughtful on improving them. While she should note areas in need of improvement and jot down thoughts when processes seem awry, it should not take up time on her work calendar unless the CEO requested time on her calendar.
Finally, I gave the CEO credit. Over the years, I’ve heard many sellers complain that their executives tell them what to do, but not how to do it. This one realized they were solid on the “what” but not the “how” and reached out to me to figure it out. Bravo!
So, are you figuring out the “How”?
SalesReformSchool: Food for Thought
Clear and concise and in alignment with the above five sales activities.
I should take digital security more seriously. This 11 Secrets post scares and informs. I think I scored 5 of 11. Yikes!!!