CRO

Time for a Bankable Forecast

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We’re quickly approaching the end of Q2 and the midpoint of the year. Obviously your forecast is probably front and center now as you start to get an accurate view of what your 2019 revenue will be.

Or are you still unsure of what this year will hold? No matter what your sales cycle time is, you can (and should) have a “bankable forecast.” What we are talking about is forecast accuracy. Do you trust your current forecast? Many of the CRO’s we talk to do not trust what their sales team report on the forecast. Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. If your forecast is unreliable today, you are missing one important piece - accountability.

Accountability in the forecast comes down to using a system for determining how qualified a prospect truly is. Our system incorporates four elements from our 5 M’s Process. Salespeople in our system have to identify, through the prospect’s words, their Motivation, Money, Methodology and Market for our solution. We call these items the Four Aces. Once your salesperson has the Four Aces qualified, you have a qualified prospect worthy of a projected closing date on the forecast.

Here are the Four Aces defined:

Motivation - your Differentiating Value (DV) has traction in the prospect’s world motivating them to learn more about your solution

Money - delivering a strong DV to the emotional decision maker with compelling consequences will lessen (eliminate) their objection to your cost

Methodology - understanding how the prospect’s company makes decisions, including their methodology, priorities, and the relative weight of those priorities

Market - there is competition in almost every deal so your salespeople need to know how well your DV fits with the prospect’s objectives and if their is another solution that is a potentially better fit

Incorporating the Four Aces into your forecasting process will instantly bring accountability into the sales team. A fully-forecasted deal has to have these criteria qualified through the prospect’s words (not the salesperson’s speculation). We’ve seen this transformation first hand - it does not take long. There is still time to impact your 2019 revenue by implementing a bankable forecast today.

What Makes for a Good Leader?

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Matrix corporate structure. Millennial mindsets. Artificial intelligence. Remote communication. As the business world evolves, some core, fundamental traits transcend the changing workplace.

Monster.com offers up an article highlighting 10 attributes of successful, strong leaders (they use the word manager which we tend to avoid). For a taste:

Problem solving

Companies rely on problem solvers to navigate unexpected challenges, says Kathy Robinson, founder of Boston career coaching firm TurningPoint. The best managers don’t just tackle issues, though—they also identify weak spots before serious problems arise.

We assess for this trait as it is critical to successful leadership. Any CRO knows that leading salespeople requires you to see problems before they take root. The reason is simple; your revenue success depends on it.

Empathy

Being able to read a person’s moods is a core quality of a great manager, which may explain why a whopping 96% of workers said empathy is important for employers to demonstrate in BusinessSolver’s 2018 State of Workplace Empathy survey. In addition, research from the Center for Creative Leadership found that bosses who show empathy to the people they manage are seen as better performers by their own managers.

Empathy is a component of Emotional Intelligence which is the focal point of much hiring today. Communication is only 7% verbal (i.e. words) while the remaining 93% is nonverbal. That nonverbal space is where empathy provides the leader the ability to read his or her people. The inability, or unwillingness, to read these signs is a significant weakness in any modern-day leader.

Lastly, the one trait that has charged to the forefront of leadership today.

Creativity

Top managers—like top-performing employees—generate out-of-the-box ideas that push businesses forward. These individuals introduce new strategies that improve their company’s workflow, productivity, and bottom line, says Karen Litzinger, a career coach in Pittsburgh. Put simply, they’re change agents.

Disruption is prevalent in almost all business markets today. The complementary trait for handling disruption is creativity. This trait provides the leader with the ability to move in new directions to stay ahead of the disruptive forces in play today. Stodgy, unchanging leadership will not survive. The ability to think outside the box in dealing with paradigm-shifting disruption is mission critical today.

If you are looking to enhance your leadership abilities, why not consider the RoundTable today?

Leader vs. Cheerleader

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Both contain the word “leader” but they are not equal.  Working with organizations all over the world opens the door to leadership models that run the gauntlet from good to bad to ugly.

Cultures can be toxic when products never work, core values are flawed, employees are abused, etc., but the one component you typically spot first is where cheerleaders are masquerading as leaders.

Most execs today have had enough managers in their careers to know there is a significant difference in leadership effectiveness and those differences can have massive impacts on the overall performance of the organization.  Those managers we worked for - and would gladly do that again - typically had the best organizational traction with delivering success as well as motivating exceptional employee performance.   The other group of bosses – the ones we would never work with again – always seemed to survive but could never cast a leadership shadow even on insignificant issues. 

Leaders
The best street level definition for leader we use in our RoundTable programs is simple: someone people will follow.  Any manager or executive candidate has a track record.  Find out if the people who reported to the candidate would ever volunteer to do that again.  The tools to locate those individuals are available today (clearly start with LinkedIn).  Strong leader profiles are always supported by their previous direct reports along with descriptions like honest, fair, responsive, challenging, demanding, direct, clear, etc.  Any absence of feedback about the individual or a “no” to question about another tour as a direct report are major flags that you are looking at a cheerleader.

Cheerleaders
This profile is a chameleon in that they find ways to take credit for everything positive and avoid anything going the wrong way.  They are the perpetual “success survivors” even when the organization is circling the drain.  The employees view them as empty suits meaning they only have their personal agenda about “how do I win” on their mind.  No career is burdened with only success outcomes – real leaders have all taken hits and had to navigate recoveries.  That is what establishes their leadership profile.  This is the first topic to explore and listen to how they address their role.  If your BS meter locks on tilt with their answer, you have the wrong leader candidate.

The End-of-Year Race

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The annual end-of-year race is about to commence right after Labor Day.  The finish line resides somewhere within the holiday season.  This period represents the closing of the revenue year and will determine success (or something short of that).

The importance of this time period is clear.  Do you have all of your tools aligned to make the final revenue push?  If we may be so bold, here are a trio of recommendations for all CROs heading into the race.

Bankable Forecast - this is the most important aspect of the race. Can you take your forecast to the bank?  If not, you need your team to perform a real-world purge of the forecast for the remainder of the year.  You must know what is closing in the time period to make the right adjustments to your game plan.

Bench Strength - your team may be facing some unexpected turnover.  The economy is roaring and salespeople are confident in finding new opportunities.  When is a popular time to make a change?  Many salespeople will make a move right before the holiday season to leverage time off with family and friends.  Others will wait until early in Q1 to cash in their variable compensation (commissions, bonuses, etc.).  Either way, you need to have a plan for building a strong bench in case turnover occurs in your team.

Results-Driven Incentive Plans - next year's compensation plans will be on your list during the race.  You have to recognize effort and reward results with a plan that drives the behaviors you need in each role.  The mix of salary, commission, bonuses, spiffs and more needs to be designed for a Jan. 1 launch date.

Clearly, there are other topics for all CROs this time of year, but these 3 tasks will cover a good portion of your 2019 foundation.  If you need help on any of these topics, we are here to help.

The Danger of Complete Agreement

From the Harvard Business Review (emphasis mine):

“Team leaders want to nurture creativity. That’s why team building is often a high priority, because cohesion is supposed to help team members work together to achieve their goals. But you should avoid fostering too much cohesion. When it comes to creativity, the best teams fight a little (or even a lot). Structured, task-oriented conflict means that new ideas are being submitted to the group and tested. If your team always agrees, that might mean people are self-censoring their ideas or not generating any new ideas at all. Research suggests that when teams forgo traditional brainstorming rules and engage in debate, they end up with more and better ideas. As a leader, it may seem like your job is to break up fights, but don’t be afraid to act as a referee instead. Allow disagreements over ideas to unfold, while making sure it stays fair and doesn’t get personal.“

How true.  If your sales team is always in agreement, it is probable that you have either assembled a group cloned after yourself or you are overly domineering and no one wants to challenge any idea.  Either one is detrimental and definitely needs to be addressed (i.e. corrected).

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If you have a group that you cloned after your own style and strengths, you are dealing with a group weakness effect whether you are aware of it or not.  Although you have strength in certain areas, other areas can be complete blind spots.  The problem with blind spots is that markets move, and if they move into one of your group blind spots, you will lose market share quickly.  The strongest teams we assess have a variety of styles and strengths which provide a well-rounded group skill set.  These teams are more difficult to lead and they often debate, but therein lies their strength.

If you are domineering, that is a different issue requiring a behavior change (no small feat).  The first step is to know you are overpowering some, or all, of your team.  As the article states, you should view yourself more as the referee and less of the active player.  A thoughtful pause, a question for others’ input, deflecting to the group…these are all approaches that will help empower your people to be more creative.

Top 10 Revenue Rules

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Down from the revenue mountain and written on stone...

1. When you are telling you are not selling – it is all about asking the critical qualifying interview questions.

2. Prospects buy for their reasons – not yours. Features & benefits are your reasons – not the prospects. Differentiating Value exists only in the Prospect’s world – that is what they are buying.

3. Humans make emotional decisions (pleasure or pain basis) and justify those decisions intellectually.

4. Good sales people can ask any prospect any question about any topic at any time.

5. A “no” is rejecting your Differentiating Value – not you.

6. Give the prospect control – keeps them in the OK chair plus they have control anyway. No “Why” questions. Third party stories shorten the prospect discovery process.

7. Anything you bring up, prospects cannot use on you. It keeps the playing field level without creating a “not ok” barrier.

8. You can’t lose something you don’t have. When you don’t know, re-qualify – never assume.

9. Forecasts are the report card for your qualifying process. If forecast data is flawed, so is the qualifying process.

10. 4 Aces are the goal and the audit trail. Do-over’s are better than lost orders.