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  • Writer's pictureKevin Snow

Sun Tzu and The Art of Sales, Part 1: Know Yourself

"If you know your adversary and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."

The first step in conducting planning for any military operation is to understand the forces you have available and their capabilities. How many do you have? What is there training level? What capabilities do they bring to the operation?

The same is true when planning any sales program improvement program. You need to understand what is actually happening in your sales program. When we are working with a client to refine their sales program the very first thing we do is conduct a Pathfinder Sales Assessment. During the Pathfinder Sales Assessment we want to answer seven specific questions about our client's sales program. But for this discussion we are going to group those seven questions in to four topics.

1. How do you recruit and onboard new sales people?

How a program hires and trains their sales people can have a huge impact on the success of that program. If you aren't utilizing the right process for selecting your next sales people, you risk adding someone that isn't the right fit for your sales role, or bringing in someone that acts like a cancer destroying the sales culture you worked so hard to build.

Having a sub par onboarding program can be just as detrimental to your program and cause you to spend more of your time interviewing to fill open positions. A poor onboarding program will extend the ramp period while sales people spend their time trying to learn how to sell your product on their own from trial and error.

2. How do you sell your product?

Do you actually understand that steps that you go through with each client to get a signed contract? Do you understand the steps to convert a lead to a prospect? Do you know what tools you need to enable the sales person to move through the process in a timely manner?

Your sales process is one of the key items that feeds into the onboarding process. If you don't understand how you sell your product or service, you not only are you unable to replicate it for new sales people, but you also will have multiple people selling in multiple fashions. This will negatively impact your ability to accurately forecast sales numbers and analyze your results.

3. What is your sales culture?

Is sales front and center on every employees mind? Or do they think sales is only done by the some high maintenance employees that are never in the office? Understanding how your non-commission based employees think their job contributes to the companies sales numbers is the first step to building a quality sales culture. If employees that interact with your clients don't think they contribute to sales they don't understand their role. Anyone that interacts with you clients impacts the client experience and when they have a bad experience, the first person they go to is their sales person that they trust and knows will go to bat for them. This takes your sales people away from what makes them and you money, selling to new clients.

4. How does your management team enable your sales people?

Is your sales management team enabling the sales people or are they actually hindering them? 70% of sales people voluntarily leave a company not because of pay but because of their manager. If you have high turnover rates, the first place you should look is your managers. How are they working with their teams to help them succeed? Are they providing ongoing coaching and personal development opportunities? Or are they only requesting more and more data?

Understanding what is happening in your program is the first step to developing any type of improvement program. But it isn't the only information you need. Next week we are going to talk about understanding your adversary and what exactly that means.


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