February 2, 2010

Nine Tips for a Sales Turnaround

By Henry Canaday

1. Be hired by a great boss. It is essential to work for a supportive manager when attempting a turnaround.

2. Plan for aggressive objectives. State high goals and objectives for the turnaround so everyone on your sales team hears them. The goal can not be just improvement on last year’s results.

3. Burn the old platform. Most underperforming sales organizations are relying on an obsolete sales paradigm and a collection of crutches. For example, crutches could be free product evaluations, extended payments or invoicing terms, deep discounts, or easy-to-sell products. Find the crutches, and throw them out the door. You will have to force change, and few people will like it.

4. Build a new platform. It must align with your goals and objectives, as well as the reality of your market. Build a detailed, structured sales process from scratch that focuses on the value of your product to customers.

5. Prepare to measure it. Develop short- and long-term measurements to ensure that you will meet the final goals of the turnaround. Augment the standard measures of funnel value and quota attainment with leading or early indicators of success against your new turnaround plan.

6. Make mistakes. Do not be afraid to make a mistake, admit it and do something else. That is one reason why you want to work for a great boss.

7. Hire talent. Do not fall in love with experience for its own sake. Get passionate about finding true sales talent, learn to judge it and look for talent wherever you can find it.

8. Be methodical but decisive. Turnarounds require many tough decisions, some of which involve personnel. Take your time on the staffing decisions, because mistakes here are the most costly. But when you cannot learn any more, you have to decide.

9. Find a mentor. Not a boss or a pal, but someone who has done it. Stay in touch and stay sane.

Source: Brad Lawson, District Manager, SAS Institute