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Athletes train activities and fine-tune behaviours, you should too!


Clear and challenging goals boost performance 

Studies show that by setting clear, challenging, meaningful and agreed objectives for ourselves, our productivity increase 10-15 percent. When the goals are followed up though structured feedback methods, the positive effects are approximately doubled (!!)  (“A little book on Goals”, Christopher Svensson & Stefan Söderfjäll 2020)


Performance (Activity) and Learning objectives are not micro management


Setting and working with objectives on all levels is enormously effective and will almost certainly guarantee you a new boost to your growth. You as the teams manager need to become very good at using different types of objectives in combinations, often adapted to the capacities and experience of each individual.


Most companies we work with have sales targets for sales personnel, in the form of quota letters, with or without financial rewards attached to them (bonuses). These are pure Result Goals, and the problem is that we cannot coach or improve results – they already happened! (See our article on Leading and Lagging Indicators)


Our focus must move to Performance/Activity and Learning. The Activity, how well we perform it, and which customer we prioritise, explain a good part of the productivity increase, the rest is explained by the increased motivation through the intrinsic sensation of empowerment and control of your own situation. 

  • The first part, how well we do customer work, depend on competence and skills, and improvement happen through Learning
  • The second part – prioritising the right customers and contacts in the right moment, improves through pro-active calendar planning and careful selection of where we invest out time. 


When you define tactical 1-2 month objectives, plan the month together, and move focus to almost exclusively discuss the activity, not the result. Set goals for the activity, who to visit, where to present, contacts to prioritise. While the overall Result objectives may stay the same for a year, your road there – the choices you make, the visits you plan, the trade fairs you attend, the calls you make – will be constantly adapted, revised and changed! 


Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.

Richard Branson 


As the manager, your principal goal is make your sales rep become successful, to sell more with less effort, spend more time with prio customers, and eventually having a better life, more time with family.  This is important to understand, the wish to excel must be present, and rooted inside our rep. As with all change management, the desire to perform must be there before you can introduce new ways of setting goals. Otherwise you risk being perceived as “micro managing”. (See ADKAR model, on Desire in change management )



The swim coach and you


You can compare the methodology to coaching Athletes. The Athlete and his/her coach set up a common goal. “I shall win the World Championship in 200-meter Medley”. None of us would expect a Coach to just give the Athlete the Result Objective of winning the championship and then walk away wishing him/her luck. Right? Yet this is what we often do as Sales Managers/Directors.


What does the coach do? The coach follows the Athlete through training, identifies weaknesses, uses strengths for tactics, build individual training programs and coaches and helps the Athlete to push him/herself to the limit, and cross it.


In Medley, the three strokes are carefully studied, and optimal individual training programs are planned and executed. Just like we need to balance our Platform in Sales, the swimmer need to balance training in Butterfly, Backstroke and Breaststroke. And it is the coach ́s job to cut the Total Time of the 200m distance down to a minimum. (as it is our job to maximise Revenue)


The training and exercise program that the coach build is everything to the success of the Athlete. And it is Activity Based – the Result objective of winning championships is there at the horizon, but the daily challenge revolve around movement and behaviour – Activity. The coach looks at every movement in the water. Should the left hand be a little more angled during the stroke? Is the position good in the water?


The same way, we can only help our Salesrep if we know where in the process he/she tend to get stuck, where he/she spend too much time, if he/she is talking to the right people, is saying the right things, making the right questions. Our job as Sales Directors is to build these individual training programs, and by joint activities and follow up, coach our Sales Rep to excellence! 


Select the right Sales Model for profitability

Today, a common challenge for companies is to find the right sales model for their products and services. Where previously a deal could be signed, delivered and invoiced upfront, companies today face subscription models and pay as you go schemes. The selling company face all the Cost of Sales up front, through development cost, sales salaries, while the income is deferred over time. This creates very challenges to financing and cashflow, specially in growth companies. 

As sales managers, we may not need to be CFOs, but we certainly need to understand the concept of Cost of Sales, and be vigilant that our company doesn’t run out of money before getting paid by customers. It is up to us to do what is possible to lower complexity and cost, and to maximize the size of each transaction and charge well for our solutions. 


Complex sales needs large deals


Look at the complexity involved in your sales cycle. How much work does it cost you to sign a deal? What guidance does your prospect require in the process? Only too many companies are struggling with a too expensive sales model for the sales their team actually produces. Customers and partners all would like to get your product at a “Good Price”, (or for free if they could). At the same time they demand guidance and help from our salesforce to understand the product and its benefits.

What is the real price they would need to pay, given the extensive hand-holding and human interaction during the process?


Sales can be very very different depending on what you sell, and range from giant projects and systems sales where tens or even hundreds of people are involved in one single sale, and where the sales team closes a deal a year, to high volume sales, where the seller needs to close tens of deals every day. We normally talk about “high-touch” and “low-touch” sales, and sometimes even “no-touch” sales if self-service, to distinguish these models. Most of us are somewhere in between these extremes.


The trick is to find “your” model and align it to your business to make it profitable.

In more technical terms, this is all about aligning the ratio between your cost of sales, or Customer Acquisition Cost (commonly known as CAC) with the money you can expect to earn from that customer, your Deal-size, or in businesses with high recurrence, your Lifetime Value (LTV) on that relationship.



Do not get stuck with high touch sales in a volume business.


Especially in B2B technology sales, with sellers claiming high differentiation, your customers are likely to require handholding through the sales process.


This cost you money. Customers in this type of business are also used to receiving lots of attention from the sellers, as low-cost SaaS models and Pay-As-You-Go schemes are recent, and customers have not yet got used to taking a technology decision without guidance and human interaction.



Find out where you are on the scale between low and high touch


The first step you need to take is to get to know your real current sales cycle complexity. If you don’t know where you are, you will not know how to improve. Put some simple measurements and metrics on your process. What’s the real effort you put in for every sale? What is:

  • the effort; calls, e-mails, other interactions = “touches” that you on average need to convert a lead into a deal?
  • the average time spent on these “touches”.
  • Perhaps you have accurate activity registers in your CRM, but if not – do a manual “post mortem” on your last 10-15 successful deals. (This can be turned into a great team building exercise for a sales meeting)


It is of course also relevant to look at the total time your team spends on sales, to determine how efficient your sales team is. The longer the process is in the successful cases, where you actually end up selling, the more important it will be that your team are doing a good job qualifying opportunities early in the cycle.



Improving profitability per transaction


So, let us assume you have discovered that you have a complex sales cycle today, with a too low average deal-size for you to feel happy about it.


What can you do about it? Logically you have two options, either

  • lower the sales cost/effort, (your Customer Acquisition Cost – CAC) – or
  • increase your Deal-size, which increases the value of that customer for your (Life Time Value , or LTV).

Often the latter is more difficult to achieve in the short run, but in a longer perspective where we want to head towards. On short term, it is often quicker fixes to work the cost of sale. There are a number of things you can try to see immediate results.



Short term fix – work Cost of Sales


Shorten the cycle – Identify the stages in the sales cycle/process. Are there any step that could be improved or eliminated. Could demos be automated? Can you create some materials that help accelerating the process, and limit the number of “touches”?

  • Spend some time on this, why not inviting a few of your trusted partners or even customers, to get their feedback.
  • What would have been the minimum help they really would have needed when they decided for you?


Improve pipeline efficiency. – Disqualify early. Learn how to maximize the proportion of time spent on opportunities that convert into sales, and minimize the efforts spent on opportunities that will not. The earlier in the process you can narrow down your pipe, and choose where to spend your time, the lower Customer Acquisition Cost you will have.


Automate, automate, automate – try to eliminate any human interaction from the process except for where it is absolutely necessary.

  • if you are receiving your leads from webforms on your pages, get yourself some marketing help. Inbound marketing can be very powerful. Consider marketing automation tools, providing “hotter” leads instead of a mix of “cold”, “lukewarm”, “warm” and “hot” ones. A rep that is behind quota tend to let many “bad” leads through.
  • Minimise sales admin work a sales person need to do on proposals and order management. If your proposals are customised every time, try improving your qualification process so that only opportunities that will convert receive proposals.
  • Can the purchase process be automated? Creditcard payments, buying via a web interface?

These tips may or may not be right for you, but what you should do is to work on identifying what will work for you. Work through your sales cycle, adjust and improve wherever possible.


In the medium to long term, increase your Deal-size


The other side of the coin, to improve your sales figures for every customer you make, you have some options:


  • Cross-Sell more products in every transaction, and to existing customers. Invent yourself your own cross-selling opportunities and build a strategy to create your own “catalogue”. Initially if you are a single product company today, expand through services, trainings. Can you sell add-ons separately? Look at your ecosystem, are there any products that your end customer uses together with your product that you could resell with your own product?
  • New product Editions that allow a higher price, if your current product has an entry level and a premium level, add more levels for a higher priced platform, an Enterprise Edition, super-premium.
  • Increase your footprint in existing customers, add more seats, sites, or what ever your pricing model is based on, penetrate deeper into your customer, and sell into more departments. The best reference to use when you sell to one division in a corporation will be other divisions in the same company.



To cross-sell, upsell and discounting less, you need to provide Value to your customer, in every interaction and contact surface. Visit our Value Sales sections to learn more about Value Based Sales technique, and how you as the sales manager can work this with your team.