If your goal is to drive growth, you’re looking for ways to improve your bottom line and accomplish your goals in a short time. One key to organic growth is evaluating your current sales management processes and structure, and making the tough decisions to implement changes where needed. Zywave Sales Operation Director Craig Passler and Regional Sales Manager Andy Aschenbrener offer these three steps to get started:
1. Promote a sales culture
Growth starts with planning. Evaluate where you are today and develop a long-term strategy, and as you contemplate changes you will make, focus on shaping a sales culture that supports growth. There are many ways to promote a sales culture, including holding brokers accountable, managing your sales force, effectively tracking your pipeline and evaluating compensation schedules.
Creating a sales culture and structure now will position you for the inevitable future, when veterans retire and green brokers sign on. You’ll have established expectations and tools to help brokers succeed. Plan and prepare carefully whenever you make changes to ensure a smoother rollout and reduce the risk of alienating your brokers.
- Create a written plan for changes you will make and put thought into the implications of each change.
- Consider rolling out in stages and plan the rollout carefully.
- Before implementing, ask a trusted broker for feedback on the proposed changes.
- Sell it! Focus on the fact that you’re improving the tools and resources available to help them make more money. Position the changes as win-win for the brokerage and brokers.
- Expect resistance upon rollout and have answers for broker objections. Be sensitive to their concerns.
2. Evaluate your compensation plan
You may hesitate to change your comp plan for fear of driving brokers away, but evaluating your structure and tweaking it can yield significant benefits. For example, if your plan rewards new business with 30 per cent commission and recurring business with 20 per cent, are you really encouraging brokers to aggressively sell? Here are some suggestions for changes:
- Consider a commission structure of 40-45 per cent for new business and 15 per cent for recurring. This puts the emphasis on selling and gaining new revenue.
- Focus on activities (cold calls, first meetings, second meetings, deep-sells, cross-sells, etc.). Decide which activities are most integral to driving new business and tie those activities to compensation. For instance, make half of brokers’ base salary contingent upon fulfilling a monthly quota for certain activities.
- Change commission per cent based on performance. Pay more for exceeding personal goals or less if goals are not met.
- Add alternative incentives, such as a mid-year trip for those who hit their numbers.
- Roll out a new comp plan for new brokers, but keep veterans on the original structure – but move anyone not hitting their numbers to the new plan as well.
3. Manage your sales pipeline
Have you ever had a broker say that a prospect “feels good” and then the business never came through and you didn’t know why? Not tracking your sales pipeline means you can’t determine future cash flow or evaluate why business was not won, so pipeline management is essential.
Once you choose a pipeline management system, determine the stages of the pipeline for your brokerage; this will be different for every brokerage. Once you establish this you can eventually predict future cash flow. Forecasted close dates along with the probability of closing (based on the stage in the pipeline, using past history) offers you an idea of your cash flow. Plus, your sales manager can more closely manage brokers’ pipelines (especially newer ones) and step in to help close bigger accounts.