As we head into the second half of 2019 (for those companies on a calendar fiscal year), it is good practice to evaluate progress made to date and to plan for any adjustments needed to achieve second half goals. For example, do you need to make radical changes because something isn't working? Do you double down on the initiatives that are making your team successful?
The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.
- John F. Kennedy
Insight’s Sales Center of Excellence recommends a few key considerations as your sales team turns the corner into the second half of the year:
Assess what is currently working…and reinforce!
Regardless of current sales performance, there will be some key areas that are working well. Determine what those success areas are; whether they are key customer wins, new product launches, changes to your customer segmentation model, or training you deployed that is improving the productivity of your teams. Whatever it may be, find it, isolate it to confirm its success, and then determine how you can invest further to reap the rewards.
Evaluate changes in the market, competition, and your organization.
Have any new competitors arrived that are now impacting your sales? Are there market dynamics that are impacting the success of your sales team (e.g., is there an economic downturn in a specific country resulting in lower sales)? Has the enactment of any local laws and regulations resulted in a positive or negative situation for your sales team? Now is a great time to evaluate the forces that are either supporting or hurting your sales teams so you can make adjustments to your strategy.
Be clear about what is NOT working and move fast to make changes.
Many companies fail to make changes to problems that are negatively impacting the sales team or wait too long to make changes (e.g., internal politics, poor decision making, distractions with other activities). If results from one team are down, it’s worth investing the time to dig deeply into the true “WHY" and to find options to address the problem. What do your KPIs and leading indicators tell you? Do you have enough leads and the necessary conversion rates to hit and exceed your targets in the second half of the year? Come up with a short-term and long-term plan to address changes that are harder to fix immediately.
Talk to your team.
This may sound simple, but you would be surprised by how many leaders don't address their teams regularly. There is a Spanish saying, "To talk of bulls, is not the same as to be in the bull ring". Sales leadership and the C-Suite often think they have an idea of what’s happening in the trenches with their teams based upon data and reporting. Input from the front line is an important additional data point – one that invariably yields interesting findings. Get your teams’ input on what is working well, what is not working, but also ask them for what they need to be more successful. One way of doing this efficiently across a large sales organization is to generate an online survey that asks 5-10 questions, and then follow up with a few in-person interviews. Example survey questions include:
- What tools do you have that are useful for closing business?
- What do you need to close more business?
- What obstacles do you encounter from prospects?
- Which competitors do you see most frequently? Why do they win?
- What can sales leadership do to help you be more successful?
- If you could get more training, what would it be?
- Where are you wasting time with inefficient processes?
Carefully thought out mid-year changes can make the difference between missing plan, getting back on track, and significantly exceeding your targets. In my prior experience, my team noticed that the performance of the overall organization was being dragged down by one of our regions. That region had experienced high attrition in the sales team and thus, the sales manager had carved up the territories and shifted most of the opportunities to the top three reps at the start of the year. We ended up with 3 overweight territories and 3 territories with very low sales potential. The region was performing below 85% while the other regions were hitting or exceeding plan.
One would think that the region’s performance would naturally increase if we were to give the best opportunities to our best reps. Yes and no. There is only so much capacity a rep can handle, so doubling the size of a territory does not equate to double the performance. On the other side of the equation, the territories that had been ransacked were performing horribly and had high attrition – if I can’t make any money, why should I stay?
We evaluated our options mid year and realized that we had to make an immediate change, even though it would potentially upset some of our top reps (given the prior change had been deployed at the start of the year). By implementing a careful transition plan, re-balancing the territories, and focusing on hiring the right talent in the vacant territories, we were able to finish above 100% of plan for the year – as a region and as a company.
The four points discussed above evaluating the state of your organization mid-year are actions you can implement now. Don’t forget that your Sales Ops team can also play a useful role in gathering the necessary information to help you make an informed decision.
Be thoughtful in making changes that impact the livelihood of your sales organization, but don’t avoid making a change for the wrong reasons. Importantly, don't make changes for the sake of making changes. Evaluate the inputs and determine what changes will have the highest ROI in the current year, else save the larger changes for next fiscal year.
At the start of July, once Q2 is complete and you’ve turned the corner into the second half, we will start to think about strategic planning activities for FY20. It's never too early to start preparing for next year so you can set up your organization for success.