Working Hard


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I meet thousands of sales people a year.  Most of them really care about the job they are doing.  Most of them work very hard–they put in long hours, they are constantly busy.  But too often, they miss their goals.  It’s not through lack of effort, but much of it is they don’t approach the hard work of sales in the proper way.

This may be worded strangely, but too often, I see sales people working hard to achieve their goal, but they don’t have a plan to achieve their goal.

Here’s an example.  This week I’m working with a number of sales teams.  They are reviewing the deals they are working on, all the things they hope to do and the results they will produce.  Taken at face value many of them will make or come close to making their number.  But that’s if they win everything they are working on.

So we start talking.  We do some analysis, we look at recent win rates, analyze the situations, and look at their pipelines.  All of a sudden things aren’t looking as healthy as they should be.

But these teams are pragmatic, they say, “We have to prospect and find more deals.”

I’m heartened by what they are doing, and ask, “How many do you need to find?”  They say, “Well the gap is….., we have to find that many deals….”

You know what my response is, “But you aren’t going to win all those deals, based on your performance and the analysis you’ve done, you’re going to have to find and compete 2.5-3 times the number of opportunities you are saying you need to find.

At this point, as the reality sinks in, I usually see the blood draining from people’s faces.  They start to lose hope—but we can stop it quickly.  We work to build a recovery plan.  We analyze the gap, we look at different ways to tilt the numbers in our favor–perhaps better qualification, perhaps focusing on certain types of opportunities, perhaps leveraging resources more effectively.

As difficult as it is, there is always a way to build a plan, there is always a way to recover–it’s never easy, it requires a lot of disciplined, tough, hard work.  The folks that do this, and execute nearly always achieve their goals.

So you’re probably wondering the point of this article.  “Yeah, Dave, we know about pipeline metrics, healthy funnels, coverage models and so forth, so what are you saying?”

I think what I’m seeing is a subtle but important difference in the perspectives of people.

There are those sales people who work hard, looking for the next deal that gets them closer to the number, then the next, then the next.  They are trying, but it’s deal by deal scraping–and they almost never hit the goal.  In fact too often, they miss by a huge amount–and it’s not because they aren’t working hard.  Other than hope, they don’t have a real strategy for hitting their goals.

There are those sales people, working hard as well, doing much the same, but they are looking at it from the perspective of “Here’s what I need to do to make my number.”  They develop the plan.  They realize part of it is deal by deal, but it’s really about engaging and competing in enough deals, the right deals, doing the smart things to tilt the numbers in your favor.

Unfortunately, most sales people tend to have the perspective of the first group, not the latter.  Unfortunately, too many sales managers have the same perspective.  Perhaps, that’s why the data we see about percentage of people hitting plan is consistently around 60% or lower.

Everyone works hard.  But we have to have a plan to get where we are going, otherwise we’ll never get there.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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