If you’re a sales leader, you are tasked with striking a delicate balance. Your job is not to sell for the members of your team – selling is what you hire, train, and retain good salespeople to do, after all. Yet your job is to help shape the business development strategies that make the most sense for your business, for the salespeople who report to you, and of course for your customers. Although there are many different strategies you can share with your team, here are three particularly effective ideas that you may want to consider.
1. Land and expand. It’s that word “expand” I want to challenge you to look at closely in terms of your team’s business development strategy. Most of the time we're landing, but not really focusing on our expansion opportunities. Whether we are talking about net new conversations with other organizations within an overall conglomerate, or about different departments within a single organization that we are selling to now, there are opportunities waiting for us.
As leaders, we already know that salespeople can get a little too comfortable with the products and services they know best, the people they are already talking to, and the departments they already have relationships with. The result is that most salespeople focus on a relatively narrow set of offerings, and have great relationships with individuals... but not with the overall organization. When you move into an “expand” mindset, you change that approach.
It is important to bear in mind that, as you do so, you are likely to be talking to different buyers with very different business issues. Recently, a major client of ours faced just this issue. They were reaching out to C-level decision makers in their current accounts to discuss a whole new service with a whole new set of buyers, each of whom had unique issues that had to be uncovered. Our client could take nothing for granted, but they were nevertheless expanding based on past experience and service within each existing account.
If you can inspire your team to focus on both landing and expanding, you can do two very important things. First, you can leverage the positive feelings that the current customer has, so that they walk you through to other opportunities within the organization’s network. And second, you can create discussions about additional products and services that can benefit the person you're currently selling to.
2. Behavior plan. A behavior plan is an agreed-upon sequence of activities and behaviors that someone on your sales team can do every day and every week in order to be successful. When you come to work as a salesperson for Sandler, for instance, we help you create a behavior plan based on your goals: a certain number of LinkedIn referral letters per day, a certain number of voice-to-voice conversations per day, a certain number of networking events per month, and so on. Notice that the behavior plan focuses on the activities, not on revenue outcomes like closed sales. We sometimes call this plan a cookbook because it operates on exactly the same principle as a good recipe. If you turn to the page of your favorite cookbook and find the page that reads “Apple Pie,” and if you obtain ingredients A, B, and C, and follow steps X, Y, and Z to the letter, then the end result you’re going to experience is an apple pie – not just sometimes, but every time!
Helping people set up and follow the right cookbook is one of the simple, high-impact things that we as sales leaders can do right away to create positive change. We all have our business goals. We know the quotas that we're going to need to hit in order to meet the corporate objectives. What we as sales leaders sometimes don't do, though, is to turn those goals into a clear set of behaviors that are required from a given salesperson every single day. In order for him or her – and the company – to be successful, those behaviors have to happen consistently!
When sales leaders complain of the ups and downs of revenue production by salespeople, or when they complain that a salesperson is only focused on one or two products and not the full portfolio of the products being offered, or when they say that a certain salesperson has a very limited view of the type of customer that they're chasing, all of these issues are symptoms that tell us that the sales leader has not worked with the salesperson to create the right behavioral plan. A personalized cookbook makes your job as a sales leader much easier, because at the end of the day, there’s a very simple question for the salesperson to answer: Did you do the activities? Everything starts with that. When the salesperson’s answer is consistently “yes,” you have a behavioral pattern to analyze together. The right cookbook will make it crystal clear what has to happen on a daily and weekly basis... it will help you in coaching and training the salesperson and, eventually, it will deliver consistent revenue performance that supports both the salesperson’s personal goals and your organizational goals.
3. KARE. The KARE account planning tool (which you can learn more about here) is a game-changer for you and your team, because it groups both prospective and current accounts into four logical, meaningful profiles: KEEP, ATTAIN, RECAPTURE, and EXPAND. If we were to categorize our existing portfolio against these four very different objectives, and if we were to do the same in each of our sales territories to determine exactly what our business development priorities should be, our team could invest its time and energy a lot more intelligently. What we find, though, is that teams tend to gravitate towards just one or two of these four categories. Why? Typically, it’s because the leaders don’t step back and look at the bigger picture. KARE is all about clarifying that bigger picture by prioritizing those four objectives. If you have a well-rounded approach, with a clear sales cycle and a clear behavioral plan attached to each and every one of those categories, then each category will get the appropriate level of attention based on the goals of the company. KARE helps both the organization and the salesperson to achieve at the highest possible level.
Begin implementing these three simple, powerful business development strategies right now, execute them consistently, and you’ll set your team and yourself up for success over the long haul.