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Shared (Sales) Responsibility is No Responsibility!

It’s that time of year again!  No, I am not talking about the opening of the Major League Baseball season, I am talking about your first board meeting of 2012. If you made your Q1 revenue plan and if the pipeline is strong it should be a low stress meeting.

The selling environment however remains difficult and the odds are that you either had to stretch to make the Q1 Sales Plan or you missed it by a mile.

If your miss was significant it’s a natural instinct to try and “share” the responsibility with others. Perhaps the sales portfolio was weak, or you had operational/delivery, issues, or your sales team was not fully staffed. Regardless of the reasons if you are the CEO or the Chief Sales Officer the responsibility is yours alone!  Your board is not interested in excuses – they are interested in the actions and activities you plan to implement to fix the issue.  Whether you made it by just a hair or missed badly, here is a good 3-step approach to articulating the problem and explaining your roadmap for sales improvement.

First, Solve the Sales Equation

How much revenue or bookings are needed between now and the end of the plan year to make the number? Compare this with your current qualified pipeline to determine you unidentified pipeline gap. If you have metrics on your sales cycle time, sales stage velocity, and closing rate you can quickly determine the true unidentified gap in terms of additional new deals to get back on track.

You may determine that you need additional headcount or that you must increase deal size or volumes to cover the gap.  Investment may be needed to catch up and now is the right time to ask the board for some additional support, but make sure your “get-well” plan is grounded in metrics you can back up.  It makes better sense to invest to make the bottom line instead of cutting expenses somewhere downstream and seasoned board members will recognize this.

Second, Solve the Lead Generation Equation

If you don’t have a lead generation process, or if the one you have is not yielding the results needed, you have to investigate this immediately.  It’s common for sales people to complain that the leads provided by marketing are weak.  This often means reps create 100% of their own leads via cold calling.

Sales reps are expensive resources and to be effective they need a steady stream of highly qualified prospects. Take the time to work with your marketing team to jointly define what a good lead looks like and make sure your sale people follow-up on each of them and provide feedback on those leads that are deemed unqualified.

If you don’t have a lead generation program it’s time to establish one. Consider using one of the many marketing automation tools that help you engage and track the behaviors of your prospects. There are many good products available but all will require a good process, useful content on your site and a disciplined approach for a strong ROI.

Third, Solve the Time Equation

Time is the worst enemy of every sales plan.  As each month passes your ability to catch up is diminished, making it difficult or impossible to get your plan back on track. Highly effective executives plan their time at least one quarter out. If you are a CEO, plan on spending one-man week a month in front of existing and prospective accounts.  Impossible you say, but what could be more important than achieving your revenue plan? If you have hired good people trust them to make good decisions and get out and work with the field sales team.  If you are a Chief Sales Officer you should routinely spend 75% of your time working side by side with your field team, working sales opportunities and coaching your team.

Besides, it’s way more fun working deals than dealing with office politics!

In baseball terms it’s the top of the third inning. The score may be 5-0 but there is a lot of game left to play. If you have the right team on the field you just need to adjust your game plan. Tell you board where you are, get the right assets out of the bull-pen and get back to game on!

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