Friday, November 19, 2010

Sales Reporting: When you spend more time filling out the reports than actually selling

From the very beginning, the vision of Front Row CRM was based on Etien D'Hollanders long sales experience. For a pure sales person, having to fill out sales reports was one of his least favorite activities. Not because he didn't see the value but because he felt robbed of valuable time that he could be making commission.


The Nirvana of Sales: Commission
Etien D'Hollander 1980

In 1980 I moved from Pharmaceutical Sales to Medical Sales. The transition was far more difficult than I thought it would be. In pharmaceuticals, you never really have to ask for the sale, you are simply detailing. In medical sales, the ultimate goal is to get a purchase order for your product. From a positive stand point, my compensation moved from salary plus bonus to salary and commission. My first exposure to commissioned sales - I had reached Nirvana. There was nothing more motivating for me than the amount of money or more truthfully the recognition you get with success.

In Pharmaceutical Sales my peers were science and medical grads. In Medical Sales, my peers were business grads and MBA's. The fact that I had a Physical Education degree made me work that much harder. I thought I was not worthy. Yet my first promotion into Medical Sales was directly related to what I had learned in phys. ed.  The philosophy that I have adhered to for the rest of my life "work hard, play hard".  I put my head down and worked hard. Based on my first year in Pharmaceutical Sales, working hard paid dividends.

It is here that I was introduced to Matinee Tuesdays. This was a secret society of Sales Reps who would meet weekly, bi weekly or monthly, depending on the rep (and the film) to skip off an afternoon and go to the movies.  This was kept out of the eyes of Management, for all the obvious reasons however was an accepted ritual by sales.  For me, Matinee Tuesday's was an occasional novelty however commission was far more important to me. 

The only negative in Medical Sales was the amount of reporting I was responsible for : daily reports, weekly forecasts, monthly updates, customer profile reports and on and on. It seemed there were days that I spent more time working on reports than selling. And worse none of it had any impact on my commissionable earnings. Opportunities were being missed.

There had to be a better way!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sales Management: Top 10 Things that keep Sales Managers up at night

As a sales centric organization, we are always interested in understanding what is important to Sales Managers & Leaders. We came across an interesting white paper article from Focus Media – Top 10 Things that keep Sales Managers up at night.

While they may not be the 10 ‘most worrisome’ items, what is interesting is the universal nature of the concern.

1.  Do the reps have a sales process. Which one may be irrelevant, but for now do they have one?

2.  Are they qualifying toward a sweet spot? I’m concerned if they’re chasing anything that moves. This implies qualifying skills, knowing the sweet spot and knowing how to qualify in or out relatively efficiently. Failing fast is an underrated skill.

3.  Rep turnover. If it’s high, even by design, there are some leaks in the foundation.

4.  How to shorten the sales cycle.

5.  Win percentage. Factor losses to ‘business as usual’ into the equation.

6.  Do my team and I know why we are winning and losing?

7.  How much sales coaching is my team getting? Am I coaching effectively?

8.  Is my team engaged? Professionally and personally.

9.  The customer! How do our customers perceive us? Are they satisfied? Are we addressing their needs? Are there additional needs we could be addressing?

10. Have I built an effective machine? In other words, do I know the right kinds of behaviors/activities and the metrics attached to those behaviors to get the results that my team needs to produce, and do I have a dashboard or investigative means that gives me a pretty quick, accurate assessment of where the team stands at any point in time toward getting those results.

Robert Koehler, Focus expert and Global BI Field Sales Enablement at Hewlett Packard

It is interesting that the top 10 things that keep Sales Managers awake is not how they are going to invest all the commissions and bonuses they are going to make or that their team is made up of rock stars.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In the beginning...

First, let us introduce you to Etien D'Hollander; Founder, President and Visionary of Front Row CRM. Front Row CRM was realized in March 2009 however the idea starts in 1979 with a new sales rep and a Cutlas Supreme. This is his story.


Etien gets a job but finds a career
January 1979.
Well reality had set in, I needed to get a job. I had finished university and done the 6 months mandatory travel with my room mates. (including 4 months on the beaches of Waikiki). My school debt was overwhelming and my travel mates had gone back for another year of education (shades of St. Elmo's Fire). A friend told me that if I got a pharmaceutical sales job, I would get a company car. Since I had never owned a car, never sold anything in my life and knowing nothing about legal pharmaceuticals I thought that was the job for me. (How I got my pharmaceutical job with a degree in physical education is a tale for another time).

My new company sent me on two weeks of training in Montreal and then flew me to Edmonton where I picked up my brand new Cutlass Supreme and checked into the Four Seasons Hotel (nice change from my buddy's couch). My territory was Alberta and Saskatchewan (2 of the bigger provinces in Canada) and my job was to call on doctors, drug stores and hospitals detailing 3 pharmaceuticals - sythroid, travase and coloxin. I knew this job was for me right from the start. I loved it: the freedom of the road, the professionalism of the job and the satisfaction of making a call successfully resulting in a sale. I particularly liked the challenge and satisfaction of CLOSING the deal. Since I didn't have enough money for the first months rent of an apartment, I spent all my time on the road - including weekends. While on the job I worked hard making my calls: 3 to 5 doctor visits per day, visiting every pharmacy in Alberta and Saskatchewan while constantly practicing and perfecting my sales skills. Most importantly, I learned to listen. In the 11 months I did this job, my boss never worked with me nor did any other company employee visit me. I sent in my expenses (often late) and did my reports which were individual signature cards with forms to fill out (which I hated). This was the only contact that I had with my company other than sending me samples and literature.

After 11 months I went to Bermuda with my company for our national sales meeting. I was excited as was my first opportunity to meet my peers and the company executives. For those who haven't attended a company meeting with a large corporation (this event had more than 300 sales reps) in an exotic location, let me tell you that all the rumors you have heard are true. The meeting was led by a big Texan who was the VP of sales. In his opening motivational address he told us "the firings will continue until morale picks up" and further that "the last stage coach has not left town and you might be on it".

At the awards banquet, I was shocked to be awarded 'salesman of the year' for our division. Reflecting back on that year I thought I had put in a fair days work for fair pay. I realized that since I had been selling for less than one year, my success could not be due to phenomenal sales skills but rather simply that I worked harder than my peers. My fellow sales reps did not appear to be as committed to the job. It also confirmed that sales was the profession for me.

The big Texans words rang true the next day as another stage coach left town with some medical sales reps on it and I was given a promotion into the medical division.

Hard work and activity had paid off. What I realized is that my employer had no real visibility into what the front line sales team was doing. There had to be a better way.

Next blog - Matinee Tuesdays!