December 27, 2011

The Skinny Pedal on the Right Keeps Your Sales Car in the Power Band

As we wind down 2011, I’ve got a few thoughts about keeping the RPMs (engine speed) up in our sales cars.

It takes a lot of energy to establish an effective new business development sales attack. We strategically select target accounts, create sales weapons, and we plan the attack. It takes time to work our way into prospective customers, unearth opportunities, and begin building a sufficient pipeline of deals. Anyone who has attempted this from scratch knows how hard it can be and how long it can take to build sales momentum.

It helps to view our sales effort as a high-performance race car. We tune the engines, select chassis settings, set tire pressure and head out to the track. We work our way up through the gears gaining speed with each lap. It takes hard driving and intense focus to achieve maximum speed and begin passing other cars. But eventually, we settle in to a groove and find the engine’s sweet spot. Once there, we continue to click off laps at top speed as long as we can keep the engine in its power band. If we can’t achieve top speed or we keep getting passed by other cars, it’s back to pit lane to make adjustments. Then we must painstakingly start over to work our way back to racing speed.

Recently I’ve had several conversations with senior executives and salespeople alike about the importance of maintaining sales momentum. For various reasons, I have seen sales teams or individuals letting off the gas and allowing the sales car to slow down. And what’s crazy to me is that they were doing this intentionally!

Listen here: The sales car only has one pedal and that is the skinny one on the right. Just like Jim Collins’ brilliant “Flywheel” illustration in Good to Great, it requires enormous energy to get a new business acquisition effort up to speed. When salespeople come off the throttle, or even worse, start applying the brakes, the negative consequences will be felt for a long time. It is much much easier to maintain a high-speed sales effort than reestablish momentum once it is lost.

Reflection:

  • Think back on your sales career to replay and remember how much energy it took to get a new sales attack up to speed. How long did it honestly take for you to build momentum sufficient to carry your efforts forward?
  • Check your gauges. If your sales speed is not what it should be, check your RPMS on the tachometer. Are you operating below the power band and is it time to downshift and work yourself harder? Stop cruising. You are a race car driver!
  • Have you intentionally lifted off the throttle to slow down? Why? Was it your idea or someone else’s in your company?
  • Who can help you achieve and maintain maximum speed? If your manager isn’t, find someone else to keep you focused and remind you to keep the gas pedal nailed to the floorboard.

I have a few theories why sales teams are letting off the gas and I will share some common dangers observed in a variety of mid-size organizations in a future post.

Now go make something great happen during this short week!