Admit it: you didn’t do a great job keeping your New Year’s resolutions from 2014. Trust us, you’re far from the only ones.
The truth is that most people don’t even make resolutions anymore. Whether you want to eat more salads, stop smoking, cut down on your Starbucks spending or read a new book a month, many people suffer setbacks at some point over the next 365 days. When that failure happens, it’s easy to just give up entirely.
The key is to be super specific with your resolutions, and shift your mindset from thinking about end goals – smoking no cigarettes or finishing a book before the end of each month – to thinking about improving behaviors. To that end, incrementally smoking less and reading more by the end of 2015 should be considered a success.
Which brings us to Sales Resolutions for 2015.
Whether you’re a sales rep, a sales operations manager, a sales manager or a Sales VP, you can set behavioral resolutions that will result in an overall improvement in your work, your performance and your life. It’s all about changing your mindset to focusing on behaviors, and implementing those into your daily life.
As a Sales Rep, I resolve to…
- Be more agile and learn new skills – According to sales expert Jill Konrath, being agile is the ultimate competitive edge for sales reps today. This means being flexible, open-minded and adaptable, and to never stop being hungry to always learn more
Sales reps should obviously keep up with the latest and greatest in sales, but they can also improve and become more agile by reading books that are not about sales. These books will help them open their minds, learn valuable soft skills and get them thinking creatively and outside the box about ways to sell better.
- Stop selling with cliches – Nothing makes a well-educated and seasoned prospect roll their eyes quicker than when you use one of these well-worn cliches on a call. That’s probably not even the first time they’ve heard that phrase on a sales call that day – lesser reps than you are probably sprinkling these buzzwords and lame catch phrases liberally into their pitches. Improving your conversations to be cliche-free will lead to better meetings and ultimately more deals.
The key to changing this behavior – and getting real value and individualized pitches into your phone conversations – is to work on it as a team. Every time you or one of your teammates says “We’re a leading provider of…” or “What if I told you…” the guilty party has to put a quarter into the team Cliche Jar. The public shame – letting the team poke fun at your expense as you deposit the quarter – along with the financial disincentive are good behavior-altering factors. At the end of the month, you can even treat yourselves to a nice bottle of whiskey to enjoy together, paid for by the cliches of others.
- Stay out of the Sales Friend Zone – Being banished to the Friend Zone sucks. Being stuck in the Sales Friend Zone – where you have great connections and frequent conversations with prospects who won’t ever progress down the sales funnel, much less buy – is probably worse. Your permanent residency here with so many of your prospects in 2014 wasted a lot of time and cost you a great deal of productivity.
As with any difficult self-improvement plan, the first step is to acknowledge and accept what you’re doing when you’re doing it. If you see yourself drifting back into old habits with some of these prospects, you have to put your foot down and be firm. Make the tough decision to spend less time with them and have that uncomfortable, up-front conversation you’ve been avoiding – “So, where exactly do we stand in our relationship?”
As a Sales Operations Manager, I resolve to…
- Better anticipate the needs of the CEO or Sales VP – Usually, the sales operations department takes requests from above, to run specific Salesforce reports or dig in to analyze some top-of-mind issue. It’s a very reactive way to act in this role.Change that in 2015 by being more proactive. Get ahead – both in your own career and in helping the sales team stay one step out front – by better anticipating what the CEO or Sales VP would be interested in analyzing.
Familiarize yourself with the latest sales management concepts and concerns. Talk to the Sales VP about long-term projects that you can get started on. Spend time with sales leaders to figure out what their primary concerns are. Join networks – such as Salesforce.com user groups or LinkedIn groups – and share with the community of fellow Sales Ops professionals.
- Spend less time building out sales reports – Talk to Sales Ops professionals and you’ll hear a common refrain about how they spend the majority of their time – living in Excel, sorting through complicated data sets to build out sales reports. Enough is enough!
Whether you choose to buy a third-party software that can make generating sales reports much easier, turn yourself into an absolute Excel whiz or find some other solution, it’s time to start working more efficiently. Building out time-consuming sales reports should not be your primary use of time, or the bane of your existence in 2015.
As a Sales Manager, I resolve to…
- Spend more time on sales coaching for my reps – One of the biggest reasons why sales coaching fails is that managers aren’t dedicating enough – or any – time to it. Throwing your reps into the deep end and expecting them to improve their swimming strokes through trial-and-error is a lost cause, and really poor sales management.
In 2015, resolve to dedicate more time to sales coaching, for each individual rep. Start by scheduling weekly meetings for each rep, even the best performers. From there, you can scale up or down as necessary – remember that sales coaching should never operate on a one-size-fits-all blanket approach, as every rep is unique with different needs.
- Foster a stronger relationship with marketing – Let’s face it; your team of reps wouldn’t function very well without a steady incoming stream of leads from marketing, not to mention access to all that great content marketing produces. Yet, it would be a farce to describe your teams as being properly aligned – you rarely have any insight into what the other team is doing, your reps complain loudly about the quality of marketing leads (while simultaneously demanding more of those poor leads) and accessing marketing content is akin to looking for a needle in a very messy haystack.
It’s time to change all of that in 2015! Put a moratorium on your reps when it comes to complaining about sales leads – that does nobody any good, and is in poor, unprofessional form. Set up regular – twice weekly, at least – meetings with your marketing counterpart for maximum visibility. Create a database of easily accessible content, organized by buying stage, industry or persona. Sales and marketing alignment doesn’t have to be a myth; with a little effort on your part, it can absolutely become a reality.
As a Sales VP, I resolve to…
- Be more data-driven and run my team by the numbers – That’s it! Just one resolution for Sales VPs this year. It’s not a complicated one, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy one. Sales VPs need to set the tone from the top-down and operate with a data-driven mindset governing every aspect of your job.
This means data-driven sales pipeline management, so you have full visibility into which opportunities are hot, which ones have not received engagement recently and are losing momentum, and can identify which early-stage opportunities you can actually step in and make a positive impact on, in helping the rep close.This means data-driven sales activity management, so you know exactly how effective and efficient each rep is with their sales activities. Which reps are slacking behind compared to their peers?
This means data-driven sales funnel analysis. No longer do you have to guess at where your reps are losing opportunities; you can pinpoint the exact sales funnel stage that is springing the most leaks.
This means data-driven sales forecasting. No longer will your sales forecasts be inaccurate, on the basis of the finger-in-the-wind opinions of your reps. You will be able to look at historical benchmarks and other variables to determine with real certainty which opportunities will close and whether or not you’re going to hit your number. No more guesswork!
Keeping your New Year’s resolutions – sales or otherwise – isn’t going to be easy, but it is certainly achievable. Shift your mindset to focus on incremental behavioral improvements, and over time, those increments will become full-fledged routines that improve your overall life. You can do it – we believe in you.
Here’s to an amazing 2015 ahead for you!