The following post is a based on a true story. The events and characters have been fictionalized to protect privacy.
It is the first night of sales kickoff for a $400 million communications company. I have been asked to give the opening keynote speech the next morning. My phone tells me it is time to meet the CEO. I knock on door 1107. “Charlie” opens the door and invites me in. I hand Charlie my tablet and ask him to flip through my presentation. The title is “Make the Number in 2013” and he comes unglued:
“The number. The number. All I ever hear about is the !@#$%^& number. My board asks me about it. The shareholders want me to give guidance on it. The strategic acquirers want to scrub it. The bank wants monthly statements on it. My exec team wants to argue about who should own which piece of it. My sales force tells me they can’t make it. The analysts benchmark it against my competitors.
I hate the number. I look 3 inches tall next to it. When I beat the number, it gets right back up to fight me again. I have spent millions trying to defeat the son-of-a-gun. This year I bought marketing automation software. Last year we implemented CRM. Three years ago I dropped a King’s ransom with a compensation consultant. Before that I spent a small fortune on sales training. The number is a big hairy beast- it just swatted all this stuff away.
Did you know that I personally made 27 sales calls this year? My team kept losing to this monster: the number. I figured I would fight it myself. It is tough as nails. I barely survived. Thankfully, I won more than I lost. We made the number. But it was a heavy lift. I cannot expect my team to fight this beast E-V-E-R-Y W-E-E-K. They don’t have super natural powers.
All 2012 did was buy me some time. I am counting on these people. But I don’t know if my team can beat the competition. I know firsthand how tough it is to beat this thing.
Greg- I want to kill the number. Can you help me?”
At this point I have a man-crush on Charlie. He is a fighter. I want to help.
I tell Charlie the number, he calls a monster, is like all monsters. It has a blind spot. It can be outwitted. Goliath appeared indestructible but David found his blind spot. With a simple tool, a slingshot, he toppled the giant Goliath. The same can happen here.
The key to making the number is beating the competition. The customers are going to invest in this communication technology. Six vendors are going to get 90% of the dollars in 2013. If Charlie’s sales force is the best, he will get a disproportionate share. And make the number. But, if Charlie’s sales force is not the best, he will miss the number. The monster will defeat him.
I told Charlie that the key question is “where is your competitor’s blind spot?” I explained we need to find where the competition has tunnel vision. What has the competition’s sales force overlooked? Once identified, we can attack with precision.
“No kidding Greg. Tell me how to identify the blind spots of my competitor’s sales teams” says the agitated Charlie.
I walked him through a Sales Productivity Benchmark. An SPB allows for a company to benchmark their sales force against other sales forces. It identifies blind spots and prioritizes which ones to go after. I showed him a couple of examples.
If you want to see an example of a Sales Productivity Benchmark, click here.
The first example showed Charlie how the SPB helped launch a new product. The software product was being launched into a replacement market. A prospect will buy this software to replace a system they already have. A prospect is not buying this product for the first time. The launch was successful. The SPB identified the competitor’s most vulnerable accounts inside their install base.
The second example showed Charlie how the SPB helped assess 460 reps. This payroll CEO wanted to know how good his team was compared to his competitors. The SPB, in this instance, involved interviewing a sampling of reps from the competition. The CEO’s hunch was accurate. His team was getting out sold by superior reps employed by his competitors.
The number, the monster we all fight, can be defeated. The number is to Goliath what your sales force is to David. You can outwit it.
Find the blind spots of your competitors sales team. This is how you will make the number.