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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Leadership Development through the eyes of Abraham Lincoln


The point you press, the importance of thorough organization, is felt, and appreciated by our friends everywhere. And yet it involves so much more of the dry, and irksome labor, that most of them shrink from it... from a September 1, 1860 Letter to Henry Wilson.

I love the way Lincoln spoke. He is clearly acknowledging the importance of organization and yet laments that many will not have the resolve to do it. This principle of course holds true in many areas beyond organization. Deficiency of execution will more often cause you trouble, not the deficiency of knowledge. Planning for the coming year and having the discipline to take a look at your sales structure and process are good examples of things that are easy to talk about, but take some resolve to actually do.

Planning for Next Year

This is the second in a series of four blogs designed to help you work on your planning for the coming year. The concept I introduced in the first blog was our Performance Prism.

You will see things more clearly in your sales department if you break down the components or disciplines that lead to strong sales performance—in the same way that a prism breaks a light beam into its various colors. There is great value in looking at each area separately.  

The four components of the Performance Prism are: 

1. Goals & Values
2. Structure & Process
3. Metrics & Accountability
4. Talent & Skill

I dealt with Goals & Values in the first blog and I suggest you look back at what I wrote because these four areas build on each other and the entire "prism" works best when all steps are dealt with (in order). We are focused on Structure and Process here. Structure is about your go-to market strategy. Every year you should take a fresh look at the best way to maximize the potential in the market. Your structure is determined by the various ways the market can be segmented (National vs. Local, US vs. International, New Customers vs. Returning Customers, etc.). Sometimes you need a new team for a new product; you might decide you can serve a segment of customers more efficiently with an inside sales team.

Here are some prompts to get you thinking about structure.  

1. Is there a current product or service with great potential where you are not performing well?
2. Are there customers you could serve in a more efficient manner? Look at the bottom 20% of your customers in terms of spending and consider better ways to serve them.
3. Do you have a new product or service coming out that your current team might not be able to give enough focus to make it successful?
4. Would it make sense to have some people in the organization who focus solely on getting that first appointment? 

Process is about how you approach customers. There are many studies that show world class sales organizations spend more time assessing needs and working on solutions than the average sales organization. There is so much power that comes from this approach, yet so many obstacles to doing it well.

Get started thinking about process with these prompts.  

1. Do you have a clear Ideal Customer Profile (criteria) that salespeople use to target top prospects?  Are your sellers comparing each prospect against this list of criteria?
2. Are you involved in inbound marketing so you appear when prospects search?
3. When does the handoff from marketing to sales happen?    
4. Is there a step in the sales process where salespeople are most often getting tripped up?

There are many things to study when it comes to process, but a great place to start is point #4 above.

Download and study our How Selling Steps with your entire management team and answer this question as a group.

Download How Selling Steps