You've seen this before: a sales leader makes an urgent call to the HR business partner. It’s late and something has gone very wrong. This isn’t the first time. It’s a different crisis each time. Maybe this time it’s the loss of a top performer. Or, the sales talent isn’t ready to handle a sudden competitive threat. How do world-class HR business partners prepare for the unexpected?
This post will help sales leaders Make the Number with the help of their HR partners. The post focuses on the major HR risks to sales objectives. It includes a plan to identify, prepare and respond to 13 common emergencies. Download the Sales Leader Emergency Checklist, then follow the steps outlined below. The two examples below illustrate the stark contrast:
Robert the Reactor
Robert and his sales leader agreed on HR priorities at the end of last year. His quarterly operating plan neatly addressed compensation, development and succession planning. But Robert feels whipsawed by unexpected issues. He blames his sales leader for lack of foresight. “The guy just runs from one crisis to the next. I can’t keep up.”
The most recent example was an urgent call at 6 o’clock on a Friday. Two top sales people were recruited by a competitor. Attempts to win them back and fill 2 openings consumed Robert’s time for the rest of the next week. He dreads meeting with his sales leader. Just seeing his phone number appear on Caller ID makes Robert’s stomach churn.
Priscilla also created a strong annual plan with her sales leader. But she took her support to a higher level. Priscilla’s proactive approach allowed her to think like her business partner. She stays plugged in to the day-to-day operations. Attending the weekly forecast calls helps her understand the success levers in winning business.
When her firm acquired a complementary business it meant aligning the two sales forces. Priscilla’s firsthand experience with sales operations gave her a unique advantage. She quickly recognized that the existing sales team would struggle selling the new product line.
Similar closing skills were required, but prospecting would be far different. Buyers of the new product line rely on social input to make purchase decisions. The existing sales team lacked social prospecting skills. Priscilla could tell simply by looking at their LinkedIn profiles. She took the lead role in developing a training programs that avoided a disaster.
Anticipating the Next Crisis
Sales leaders will always turn to HR business partners for urgent support. But there are categories of Sales problems that are common. Many can be predicted in advance, if you know what events will trigger an emergency. The Sales Leader Emergency Checklist includes 13 of the most frequent Unplanned Events, including:
Launch of a new product or service
Insufficient leads to build a pipeline that will Make the Number
A new Sales Leader takes over the role
A new competitor enters the market
A new competitive product appears in the market
Budget cuts are implemented requiring reorganization
Change in market conditions
The sales leader Misses the Number
The Sales Leader has a new boss; change in senior leadership
Low quota attainment
Exodus of A players
This tool not only tells you what to expect, but it also includes explains the associated HR risk and suggestions an action plan. With the tool’s guidance, you can Identify, Prepare and Respond to each potential calamity. Here’s an example:
Unplanned Event: Insufficient leads to build a pipeline to Make the Number
HR Risk: Sales talent exit due to effort required to earn expected income
Prepare: Investigate existing Marketing Automation capability - use benchmark metrics to spot leaks in the funnel
Respond: Work with Marketing & Sales to make effective lead management a priority
First, download the checklist – decide what is relevant to your organization. Compare it to what your operational plan already covers. Set up a meeting between HR and Sales leaders – share this blog post and the checklist. Get in sync on what may be silently looming over the horizon. Have a contingency plan in place.
You may have experienced an Unplanned Event that is not on the list. Please share it in the Comments section below. It may help a colleague avoid a catastrophe.
Sales leaders rely on HR business partners to Make the Number. HR leaders who expect the unexpected earn the trust and respect they deserve.