The Data Checklist For Creating A High Performing Sales Organisation

When in the diagnostic phase of improving sales performance for clients we need to gather certain data sets together. The sales management will often ask if we can provide a checklist to help organise the assembling of the critical data. We thought it might be interesting to publish our checklist below:


  1. An up to date organisation chart of the sales organisation.
  2. Role profiles, candidate profiles and performance contract examples for all in scope positions.
  3. Examples of agendas and actions points from recent sales meetings.
  4. A copy of the sales strategy.
  5. An understanding about decision rights to do with pricing, margin control, discounts and any other (sales) controllable variables.
  6. An understanding of the current CRM and how effectively it’s integrated into the sales work flow.
  7. Sales pipeline/funnel data showing the critical stages of the sales process and the current conversion ratios – by individual and averages.
  8. An extract of customer visit reports and account reviews, with examples of customer account plans.
  9. How customers are segmented.
  10. How prospects are targeted and qualified.
  11. Sales collateral around the Customer Value Proposition, and supporting promotional materials.
  12. Current incentive schemes, how they are calibrated and aligned to the required outcomes.
  13. The performance management system including how effective the consequences framework is covering the spectrum of outcomes, high performance through average to under performance.
  14. Personal development plans, succession and career planning.
  15. The market intelligence system including competitor differentiation.
  16. Any competitive/market PESTLE and SWOT analysis data.


With this data a real understanding can be gained about the maturity of the sales organisation and an insight into its strengths and weaknesses. Often the act of data gathering becomes a catalyst for understanding root cause problems that further inform the work, sometimes taking it to a different direction. For instance, we were asked to design a sales academy but from the data gathering phase quickly realised that issues around the design of the sales organisation was significantly inhibiting growth, so this was addressed quickly and effectively.

The Difference Between Organisational Competences and Distinctiveness Competences

If you are serious about increasing your organisation’s competitive advantage you will need to understand if you have clarity around the strength of your distinctive competences. The basics first:


  • A competence is something the organisation does. Every organisation has competences, fewer ones have distinctive competences. A distinctive competence is something the organisation does materially better than its competitors.
  • It is distinctive competences that deliver competitive advantage.
  • Distinctive competences derive from organisational capabilities e.g. to be lowest cost provider you would expect to find deep, applied expertise around: cost and margin management, procurement, supply chain, outsourcing, resource management, MI etc.
  • Many organisations have little conscious understanding of their capabilities or how to organise or prioritise their development into distinctive competences.
  • It is the lack of distinctive competences that creates a (sometimes fatal) weakness in an organisations’ ability to survive through difficult times. Woolworths is a classic example. It did several things quite well (like pick n mix sweets) but nothing brilliantly well.
  • The major benefit from working this out is that it forces any strategy to have focus, to discriminate around what you will and won’t do. BMW’s quite clear in its distinctive competence, sports focused cars and motorbikes. It has deep capability in understanding what makes a car drive really well. Their strapline the ultimate driving machine is no accident.
  • The more capabilities you focus on developing, the less likely any will have the depth to become distinctive. You can’t be materially better in many things. A nascent capability you can see Tesco consciously working on, to become world beating in data mining. Using its loyalty card information to create a much more personalised and tailored experience for its customers.

We help organisations to understand  capabilities and develop strategies based on building real competitive advantage. We have our own proprietary model covering 11 different dimensions of possible competitive advantage and a process for establishing how an organisation could focus on them most effectively.

Preparing For The Upturn – What Kind Of Salespeople Do You Have?

The upturn in 2010 will be shallow and slow, very much two steps forward, one step back. Business will still have to be won; contracts fought over and price sensitivity ever present. Although things will have improved they won’t return to pre-credit crunch levels for a long time.

Salespeople love responding to market demand. When customers are calling them it’s easy to work hard and do a good job. But what about when customers are more elusive, when they not only don’t make contact, but avoid all sales callers?

It won’t be quite as bad next year, but customers will still have to be mobilised and marshalled into giving up their POs. The ability of salespeople to be pro-active will still carry a huge premium. The problem is we still meet salespeople who are still in survival mode, who believe by hunkering down and waiting business will return. There are three major behavioural giveaways to this mind-set:

  1. Any prospecting activity is seen by them as remedial, negative work. They only do it under duress and when management are paying them, and it, attention.
  2. They try to keep as a low a profile as possible. Survivors try to become invisible.
  3. They are expert in explaining why the business is difficult, they will quote market data that shows things are difficult and slow to improve. They constantly try to rationalise away their poor performance.

The salesperson who is more positive about next year whilst still recognising the necessary role they have to play in making it happen will exhibit three different types of behaviour:

  1. They will construct an activity profile that when pushed through their current ratio analysis delivers the numbers they need.
  2. Rather than waiting for ‘bluebird’ business to fly in and land on their computer they treat that kind of business as surplus to their target. All their business plans are built up from the activity they are going to put in to the job.
  3. They will make a much more active contribution to the development of new ways of working.

This high ownership mind-set will deliver growth next year above whatever the economy or market-place delivers. Growth that delivers a double sweetness; not only will it deliver greater profits but it will also take market share from the competition.


Why Culture Change Is Not Understood – With A Short Guide To Greater Understanding

The recent past has forced many organisations to confront a painful truth. There was something amiss in their culture which meant either they didn’t see the problems coming as the clouds of recession gathered and/or their culture is inhibiting their ability to respond effectively to the new economic realities. Hence the need for culture change.
The problem is that for many organisations they seem not to understand what they are trying to do. Their terms of reference are ill defined and their ability to articulate the cultural current and desired states is poor. There is also confusion over timescales. Often you will hear managers talk about cultural change taking ‘many years’ which its tantamount to saying the culture can’t be changed, whilst others will talk about a three month culture change project.

This is why culture change fails.

To help organisations approach culture change more productively we have prepared a prompt guide to at least try to organise your thinking and process of examining culture change more productively:

  1. Firstly a definition. Culture is expressed as a set of behaviours that are viewed by the organisation as normal and expected – what is often referred to as ‘the way we do things round here’.
  2. Next, values are not a synonym for culture. Values (what you believe in and stand for) inform the way you behave, when those behaviours normalise you have an expressed culture.
  3. So if you wish to change your culture you need to think about what your current values are. By values we don’t mean the laminated 6 phrases on the back of a company swipe card, but the things the company really believes in.
  4. By proper examination of the values you can begin to decide on their appropriateness and think about changing them but you need another compass bearing before you can set a new direction.
  5. The organisation’s vision. What is the organisation’s purpose? Again a real vision isn’t a marketing strap-line on a business card, but a much more fundamental expression of what you are trying to achieve.
  6. As these two concepts start to germinate and synthesise (don’t worry about also needing a mission- we’ve never seen an organisation satisfactorily manage a vision and mission in any added value sense at all) you can focus on the catalyst for cultural change – the organisation’s and individuals’ behaviours.
  7. Behaviours are the visible manifestation of values. By focusing on behaviours which are both definable and controllable you can start to shape a new culture.
  8. This is where we can answer the timing point. Many behaviours can be changed in the very short term which will give you a quick win but they won’t (yet) be unconscious; they will easily revert unless the process is vigilant. This is the longer term perspective.
  9. To affect permanent behavioural change a key component is an organisation’s consequences model. There has to be consequences, both good, bad and indifferent, for a person’s behaviour to permanently change; and this must be separated from their performance. If good performance creates license for bad behaviour any culture change stops right there.
  10. Finally, never call it a programme, project or campaign, and never use the word launch. Culture change is a process, a journey, not a destination, it is organic and constantly present.


Difficult Questions That Effective HR Functions Are STILL Trying To Answer

A lot has changed recently in organisations, whether they are public, private or voluntary sector. HR teams have often found themselves dealing with issues they hadn’t expected, yet some of the key questions that faced HR people have hardly changed at all. We posed these questions 18 months ago, how many have you found a satisfactory answer to?


  1. How do we retain the trust of our people when we are constantly re-organising, restructuring and removing people from the payroll? How do we ‘value our people’ whilst in a permanent state of change?
  2. Skills shortages are getting worse, meaningful price increases are out of the question, and the cost to serve our customers is rising faster than revenue growth. How do we increase productivity, without adding further to our costs?
  3. The legislative framework for employment best practice is increasing in scope all the time. What are the most effective ways of maintaining flexibility in our payroll (often one of our biggest expense lines) allowing us to grow, shrink and change shape as required?
  4. People are becoming more complex in their motivational needs and wants. Whether that’s generational or life stage driven, as an organisation we have to offer attractive, innovative employment practices and benefits, how do we do it affordably?
  5. What are our policies on diversity, equality, grievance, discrimination (in all forms), how to we effect ‘trade-off’ compliance with agility?
  6. The role of HR needs to become one of catalytic agent of change as well as (instead of?) a writer of policies, procedures and people related administration. How do we effectively make that transition?
  7. How do we put leadership at the centre of our organisation’s development agenda?
  8. What is the most effective way in engaging employees in taking part in difficult change processes where a possible outcome of which might put their own job at risk?
  9. How do we build an effective integrated ROI model for our people development, compliance and people administration expenditures?
  10. How do we resolve the paradoxes and seeming contradictions in much of the inter-related nature of the previous 9 questions?


Whilst we don’t claim to have a set of neat, simple answers to these questions, we are working in various ways on helping client organisations to answer them, and where that is impossible, to at least work up a meaningful response.

Badwill And The Shovel Ready Foxtrot Economy

The recession has launched its own share of buzzwords, here’s a few we’ve been hearing lately. If there are any you’re noticing trending, let us know.


The opposite of goodwill, the negative effect on sales and share price (or electoral chances) experienced when the public learns about unacceptable personal or business practices.

Dead Cat Bounce:
A temporary up turn in markets following a swift decline in sales followed by a further fall.

The opposite of incremental, a state of steady decrease.

Foxtrot Economy:
A state in which the economic figures released indicate fast-fast growth, but are followed by further quarters of slow-slow growth.

A self descriptor for people who find themselves out of work and enjoying spending time doing other things that a full time job didn’t allow, usually only used by people without pressing financial obligations.

Shovel Ready:
Descriptor of a project that is ready to start just as soon as financial resources are made available.

Zombie Company:
A business usually in financial services which is not financially viable without government loans and guarantees.


Motivation – The First Principles A Manager Should Never Forget

Being a poor motivator is something no manager will admit to, so why is it when we survey participants on our training courses the poor quality of their managers motivation techniques is always in the top three of ‘my manger’s weaknesses’’?
What is also interesting, most experienced managers say they know about some theory around motivation, but what seems to be lacking is any practical application (assuming the basic understanding has been achieved).

Below we have pulled together what we consider to be the key principles that a manager needs to really understand and be able to apply in their interactions if they want to win the label of being a good motivator.

  • Motivation is achieved by the promise of satisfaction of individual Needs, Wants and Desires (NWD).
  • Everybody is motivated differently (because of their unique NWD profile).
  • Each persons’ NWD is made up of a unique blend of Intrinsic motivators (things that satisfy an internal requirement like job satisfaction) and Extrinsic motivators (things that satisfy an external requirement like having a big boat). These two types of motivation can act on each other in dynamic ways. A large Extrinsic reward can displace an Intrinsic motivation.
  • Each individual will demonstrate different levels of drive depending on their NWD profile.
  • To be a motivator it must relate to the acquiring of something in the future.
  • To motivate someone you must first remove any causes of demotivation. If someone is frustrated and angry with the poor work tools they have they are not going to be motivated to take part in winning a top prize in any incentive scheme.
  • Removing the causes of demotivation does not motivate someone. When you have achieved an unmotivated state, a person becomes suggestible to being motivated.
  • When someone’s NWD is satisfied their motivation will decrease.
  • Money itself is rarely a motivator, think of it as mechanism for satisfying a person’s particular NWD. Someone with a highly aspirational or expensive lifestyle will be more money motivated than someone who has enough money to meet all their present and future lifestyle requirements.
  • There is a level beyond which any further motivation won’t work.

You will notice a key underlying requirement. Knowledge and empathy of, and for, the people you are looking to motivate. The key to effective motivation is about understanding a person’s NWD profile. Without this you will see ‘one size fits all’ motivation attempts and money being used in very clunky (and expensive) ways. What is the key attribute of manager’s who can do that? – a high level of self awareness and insight into their own NWD. You cannot sensibly and sustainably motivate others if you don’t understand what motivates yourself.
Effective motivation is covered on all Structured Training’s  in-company tailored management programmes.

Generating New Business

How do top sales people generate new business in a tough economic market?
In all the conversations we have with sales people recently their biggest challenge is winning new customers. So much so that many simply don’t do it and purely focus on their existing customers and hope they have built enough relationship equity for when the market picks up again. It’s a strategy – of sorts – but it’s dodging the real issue. The uncomfortable issue of ‘cold calling’. In a market where most customers are risk averse, and focused on reducing their costs, how do sellers break through this cycle?

And therein lies the rub. Whilst ever sales people see the market as ‘difficult’ and making those dreaded ‘cold calls’ there will always be something more ‘important’ to focus on. Sales people are by their nature resourceful and can always find ways of not doing the ‘unpleasant’ bits of their job.

However, given that customers are cutting back on their spending, it is those sales people who are pro-actively generating new business who will be in the most advantageous position as the market recovers. So what are those pro-active sales people doing to win new customers?

  • Stop ‘cold calling’ – this is a mind-set problem; top sales people don’t do cold calling, they have conversations with people they’ve not spoken to before to establish whether they are customers who would benefit from doing business with them.
  • Have a vision – top sales people have a very clear idea about what they have to offer and how it benefits their customers. They can articulate their value proposition in compelling terms. They know where they want to take their business in the long-term and which customers they want to be working with.
  • Have a plan – it is essential that they have a strategic focus to whom they’re targeting; why do they want to work with this customer? Is this an organisation that is known to use their type of product/service? How would this organisation benefit by working with them?
  • Have a reason for contacting them – top sales people do their research first and ensure that when they do make that first contact with a new customer; that they have something of interest to talk about, something that the customer will see as ‘insightful’ and a benefit to them.
  • Use the tools available – what did sales people do before computers, spreadsheets and databases? They used index cards and diaries – that’s what! There are now many excellent tools to help sales people plan and track their activity and help to manage their pipeline. There really is no excuse now for not getting organised.

For further ideas on generating new business see our Selling…The Essentials For Success course.

Rotting Or Growing?

At this time of year, when the gardens are closing down for winter and the roses are being dressed with compost, it’s worth reflecting on the similarities between a refreshing dose of well rotted vegetable matter and the resources of businesses looking to emerge from tough times!
After a spell of healthy growth and blooming results, things can turn a little flat; making use of well developed people, changing their utilisation a little and applying them liberally to the roots of success can give us a spur which energises and refreshes the product for the next season. Which of your staff are rooted in the business and would you ideally not wish to lose? How adaptable are they to the changing environment and different approaches that you find you need? How might you inspire them, put them in a slightly changed role and see their raw power give a kick start to the business?

To see how we can help you lead people through the change process, inspiring and motivating them to commit to your business performance, please contact us.