Selling is one of the few roles in business where, every year, we get to start over. We have the proverbial “clean sheet.”
We may have been a superstar in the past year, exceeding all our goals. Today, it’s “What have you done for us lately?”
Or we may have struggled, falling short of our goals. Today, we are on equal footing with the superstars.
Our organizations use this time as a time to refocus and refresh. There may be new strategies, new focus areas, new challenges, and certainly new goals. Regardless of how the organization performed last year, it’s a clean slate to move forward.
Hopefully, we take some time to reflect on the past year. What worked? What didn’t? What should we do differently? What has changed?
To get a strong start, there are a few things that require crystal clarity for each person:
- What do we, as an organization/individuals, intend to stand for? This includes things like what is our purpose, what are our values, what is our culture, how do we demonstrate these in everything we do? Too often, our organizations don’t have a clear consistent identity. But this is critical, it serves to align each individual in the organization, it helps our customers, suppliers, partners, and community to better understand us. This probably isn’t new for this year, but it’s important that we re validate these with each person in the organization.
- What behaviors are expected to reinforce (1)? How are we expected to work together? How do we work with others-customers, suppliers, partners, and our communities? For everyone, but particularly leaders, how do we walk the talk? How do we model these expected behaviors every day? Again, this is probably not new, but important that we have great clarity in these expectations.
These first two items are foundational for the organization. As we confront disruptions, volatility, uncertainty; as we encounters challenges we have never faced before; as we look for new questions/answers—clarity on these provide the grounding and context to figure things out.
We will never know all the things that may arise, we will never have the answers for everything we will encounter. If we don’t understand and haven’t defined and internalized (1) and (2), we will fail in moving forward consistently with our purpose, values, culture.
- What are our key strategies, and goals for the coming year? This starts at the very top of the organization, rippling down to each individual in the organization. These strategies and goals have to go beyond “the numbers,” though those are a part of the goals. It’s important that each individual connect the dots between their individual goals and how they contribute to the goals of their department, their function, and the organization. I’m a great fan of “OKRs.” It’s a powerful tool that helps each of us connect the dots between what we are accountable for, how we do our jobs, and how what we do contributes to the goals of the organization.
- As sellers, with our managers, we have to drill down into theses goals and what they mean. It’s always more than hitting a revenue target. What are the expectations around balanced performance across the company product lines? What is the expectation for new customer acquisition, customer retention, customer growth, customer experience/satisfaction? Managers and sellers must have great clarity on expectations for each of these areas, because these become the goals by which performance is evaluated.
- Related to the previous issue, how will we track and assess performance against these? What performance plans are put in place and how will performance be evaluated? How does the comp plan reinforce goal attainment and expected behaviors (If it doesn’t you have a poorly designed comp plan). What are the consequences of missing these goals?
- What tools, programs, training, processes, skills, support is needed to achieve these goals? What are we providing to help each person to perform at the highest levels possible, in achieving these goals? What support, coaching, and development will managers provide to help people achieve these goals?
- While we are having these conversations about our corporate, organizational, and team goals, it’s important for every manager to have a discussion with each individual on their own personal goals and aspirations? What are they trying to achieve? Where do they need/want development? What are their aspirations for a career in the organization and what will we do to help people achieve these?
- What does it take to achieve our goals? Here it’s important to understand the math around individual performance. What are their current win rates, average deal values, sales cycles? Based on this, is needed to develop and maintain healthy pipelines? What activities and work is needed to to find new opportunities to maintain a healthy pipeline–what are prospecting expectations? How do we make best use of our time each week? Do we block certain types of activities throughout the week, focusing on those activities during those time blocks. For example, prospecting activities, account management, and so forth.
- How do we shift the numbers in our favor? While these are part of every coaching discussion, the New Year is a great time to look at things like our win rates, deal sizes, sales cycles, prospecting results? What would happen if we could increase our win rates by 25%, or our deal values by 20%, or reduce our sales cycles by 10%? What are the things we need to do to achieve these, what skills, coaching are needed? What is the action plan (for both the manager and seller) to achieve these goals?
- How will we track the progress we make on this action plan? What is our cadence of reviews, coaching? What are the expectations for leveraging tools/technology for reporting and managing progress?
- Finally, every manager should have a conversation with each individual on their personal learning/growth goals? What are learning goals–outside of learning more about selling? What books do they want to read?
A note of caution, here. Too often, we do this, coming up with long laundry lists of goals, activities, initiatives. Rather than focusing what we do on that which is most important, we become refocused. With each person, we have to understand the top three priorities and goals. Everything else supports the attainment of those goals. And too often, we don’t establish the action plans critical to achieving those goals. We have these Starting Over conversations, then go back to doing our jobs. All of this is meaningless if we don’t take action and track progress, course correct, adjust.
Too often, we don’t take the time to sit down, reflect on, discuss, and agree on these things, what they mean and what we will do about them. January is just the month after December, which is the month after November, which is the month after….
We have the opportunity to Start Over. We have the opportunity to rethink, refresh, refocus. Take a few moments with each of your people–and yourself to do this.