Sales managers know that if they want salespeople to have a healthy sales pipeline, they need to have a balance between proactive, upstream sales activities, and reactive, day-to-day tasks.
Top-performing salespeople find a way to balance the proactive and reactive—smart sales managers set aside time to ensure all their salespeople are doing this—all the time. This special time is called an Individual Focus Meeting (IFM).
Here’s a deep dive on the IFM concept. Feel free to add this extremely valuable resource to your toolbox!
Exploring the Individual Focus Meeting (IFM)
A typical sales process has several steps. The upstream sales activities happen earlier in the sales process and include identifying a prospect (or sometimes the prospect identifies themselves), securing the first appointment, sharing business insights, uncovering needs, discussing potential solutions, and refining one solution, so it is perfectly tailored to the client’s needs.
How Often and How to Prepare
Conduct an IFM with every salesperson, every week (or at the least, every other week). One hour is a good length. Your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or other software tools may not automatically prompt you to focus on upstream sales activities. You may need some other mechanism (like a weekly sales plan) to set the stage for the right discussion.
Thermometer vs. Thermostat
Looking at a thermometer will tell you the temperature in a room—adjusting the thermostat will actually change the temperature in the room.
- Sitting down with your salespeople to study billing reports is like looking at the thermometer. It will give you a reading on what their past behavior has produced, but it won’t impact future performance.
- Focusing on upstream sales activities is like adjusting the thermostat. It will improve future outcomes.
The focus should be on accounts. Focus on the biggest and best customers (Key Accounts) and the most promising prospects (Target Accounts). In a typical one-hour IFM you can probably cover 2-3 Key accounts and 2-3 Target Accounts.
For each account, follow a process similar to this:
- What is your next step on this account? As they share this, engage in the conversation with ideas and input to help accelerate the process and improve the outcome.
- When do you think you will be able to complete this step? Hold them accountable to their timeline.
Time Waster vs. Sales Performance Improvement Resource
Top-performing sellers look forward to their weekly IFM because they see value in:
- The process: managers can help them get over the hump and overcome sales obstacles
- The time: one hour a week in exchange for ways to grow revenue delivers great ROI
- The accountability: top-performing sellers enjoy accountability when it leads to bigger commission checks
- The focus: uninterrupted time with a quality manager is a beautiful thing!
Conversely, struggling sellers might not see the value in a weekly IFM, and struggling managers might not deliver much value. IFM's are not intended to be an interrogation or a beat down session. As a manager, the choice is yours. Follow the outline in this post and the cash will follow. Your sellers will love you for it!