The Keys

This article was originally published at

The Keys
Critical questions that need to be answered for organizational sales success.
8/14/2017 | Roger Burnett, The Burn
Building sales teams from scratch has revealed some things. While it’s not impossible, leaving critical elements of your sales structure incomplete or resorting to manual processes endangers the possibility of success with the peril of time.
Whether you are building a new staff or managing an ongoing one that already is in place, answering the “Key” questions below will help to put you on the path to success.


There are keys to the engine.

• Who are you selling to? (Everyone is not an acceptable answer.)

• Where do these buyers congregate?

• What have you identified as the recurring problems they have? (If you haven’t paid attention, you’re failing.)

• How has something you’ve sold solved one of those problems?

• How have you documented those instances?

 There are keys to the infrastructure.

  • How are you documenting your interactions with people? (If it’s not CRM-based, you’re failing.)

• What tool(s) are you using to automate your passive prospecting?

• Who takes care of a prospect once they attempt to convert? How fast does it happen?

• Where (how, how frequent) is your information being analyzed and shared with your supply chain?

 There are keys to the culture.

• What role does staff play in the success of the business?

• How are successes celebrated? How are failures?

• Is curiosity rewarded or punished?

• Where do new ideas most frequently come from?

While no one answer to any one question will ensure success, not considering these questions or integrating your answers into a plan while building (or rebuilding) your team will assuredly slow the pace of progress, sometimes sacrificing the entire venture.

Whether a new entity or a going concern, these keys and your answers as guideposts might help you and your team on the journey toward success.

Enjoying my writing? If you’re a music-lover, I’m also curating a specific Spotify playlist titled The Burn which serves as the musical accompaniment to the articles found here. Subscribe to the playlist and let’s hear from you if you have suggestions for additional tracks that might support what you read!

Roger has spent 20+ years making complex concepts more understandable for both buyers and sellers alike, and has devoted the majority of his recent career to writing and executing sales and marketing plans for early and mid-stage businesses. He is a student of organizational behavior and the disciplines successful selling organizations use to achieve the greatest reach, even in instances of scarce resources. He loves the outdoors and seeks memorable experiences whenever possible. Contact Roger at or 810-986-5369.

You’re Hired! Tales from the Field – Delano Tavares

How do you know when you’ve hired the right person? When does a mistake in choosing a new team member start to reveal itself? What steps should you follow when trying to add a new member to your organization?

I can’t say I know the all of the answers, but I definitely keep these topics in mind when in hiring mode. Over the last few years I’ve had the pleasure of recruiting, hiring and training a handful of brand-new salespeople for organizations. In each of these instances, the teams I assembled were not existing entities – they were built from scratch. The attitudes and approaches instilled in these hires were of my creation and I worked hard to construct a methodology for hiring; one I believed gave the candidates the best opportunity to reveal their talent and also ensure potential new team members had a chance to get a live look at what being a part of the team would look like.

I was curious to understand how my approach feels from the other side of the hiring table, so I asked a few people to jot down their thoughts on the process and how it may have differed from their previous experiences with interviewing for a new job. Here’s one of the responses I received.

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 1.01.26 PMMy experience being hired and managed by Roger was very rewarding. I would say it was my best experience yet! I came in as a raw prospect, and entered an environment which allowed me to hone my skills.

The biggest takeaway was my growth as a person. I learned so much about myself! There is always more to learn and more importantly, how to apply it. My strengths were amplified. My weaknesses have been minimized. Roger’s methods facilitated this environment. He taught me to communicate better and work with my team using the strengths and managing the weaknesses of my personality. All of our interactions focused on this progress, both as a team and individually. He laid the groundwork for me to work towards my growth at my own pace. This made it easy and effective.

As a team, each of us grasped the concept of our individual personality types very quickly. Roger acted as the glue. He was our comfort zone. I believe the lasting effects of the understanding I gained of my co-workers are a great testament to his team building abilities and process. Eventually, our understanding of his methods grew to a point where we could apply the lessons to not only each other, but also our clients.

We are efficient in meetings because our individual positions can be appreciated, while also being effectively countered when there is a need.  We owe this to the balance and environment Roger created. The only other ingredient was time. In those moments when I may have been even remotely uncomfortable, he was there to lead me to a better understanding.  I would recommend his methods to any team.

A lot of disagreements occur from misunderstandings. Even our team experienced misunderstandings. Many (if not all) were simply differences in personality. Talent is a must for any level of greatness, but the proper alignment of that talent and management of the associated personalities can be the difference between success and failure. Roger’s abilities and methods directly translated to the success of our team even beyond the current position we are in. I believe any group or team can learn and function much better following structure and system.

You’re Hired! Tales from the Field – Paty Benitez

How do you know when you’ve hired the right person? When does a mistake in choosing a new team member start to reveal itself? What steps should you follow when trying to add a new member to your organization?

I can’t say I know the all of the answers, but I definitely keep these topics in mind when in hiring mode. Over the last few years I’ve had the pleasure of recruiting, hiring and training a handful of brand-new salespeople for organizations. In each of these instances, the teams I assembled were not existing entities – they were built from scratch. The attitudes and approaches instilled in these hires were of my creation and I worked hard to construct a methodology for hiring; one I believed gave the candidates the best opportunity to reveal their talent and also ensure potential new team members had a chance to get a live look at what being a part of the team would look like.

 I was curious to understand how my approach feels from the other side of the hiring table, so I asked a few people to jot down their thoughts on the process and how it may have differed from their previous experiences with interviewing for a new job. Here’s one of the responses I received.

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 1.01.32 PMPaty Benitez was a member of the inaugural “Red Tie Society” at SnapSuits. Her genuine enthusiasm and sunshine-filled determination were key reasons we were excited to have her on the teamHer thoughts are found below.

I’ll always remember my job interview with Roger. Interviews at other places had always been done by one person, so imagine my nerves when I found out I was being interviewed by two people at the same time. Being interviewed by the CEO first made me extra nervous. I felt like I was saying all the wrong things and as soon as Roger walked in my nerves kicked up another notch. I knew they could sense how nervous I was, but Roger’s approach took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting for him to be so amicable. I could tell right away that I wanted to work for him and I really wanted to make a great first impression. As the interview unfolded I found myself feeling calmer and smiling more.

Roger gave me the sense that I could really be myself (while staying professional). I felt really comfortable and confident in answering their questions. He asked me what I was looking for in a career and why I was wanting to make a change. I know these questions are part of the interview process, but I liked the fact that he took the time to actually listen to what I had to say. Time honestly went by fast and Roger tried to make the interview as painless as possible. I felt really confident, but I knew that if I didn’t get the job it would only be because I had zero experience in the Sales department. I wasn’t expecting to get the job, but to my surprise I got a call from Roger giving me the great news!

My first day was really intimidating. Having zero experience, I didn’t really know what to expect. As days passed I found myself doing things I never thought I could actually do. Roger was honestly one of the best mentors I’ve had. He always pushed me to do new things and really made me come out of my comfort zone. He always took the time to listen to me when I would come to him with a problem and he always seemed to have a solution. Roger also worked with us individually, but he found a way for all of us to use our weaknesses and our strengths to help one another. He always acknowledged our triumphs and made sure to make us feel like equals. Even though we were a team, he allowed each of us to grow individually. I think that’s why I enjoyed coming to work every day. We were like a family, but we all had our own voice. He cared about our future, and that’s what made Roger different from all the other mentors/bosses I’ve ever had.

You’re Hired! Tales from the Field – Rianna Cohen

How do you know when you’ve hired the right person? When does a mistake in choosing a new team member start to reveal itself? What steps should you follow when trying to add a new member to your organization?
I can’t say I know all the answers, but I definitely keep these topics in mind when in hiring mode. Over the last few years I’ve had the pleasure of recruiting, hiring and training brand-new salespeople for organizations. In each of these instances, the teams I assembled were not existing entities – they were built from scratch. The attitudes and approaches instilled in these hires were of my creation and I worked hard to construct a methodology for hiring; one I believed gave the candidates the best opportunity to reveal their talent and also ensure potential new team members had a chance to get a live look at what being a part of the team would look like.
I was curious to understand how my approach feels from the other side of the hiring table, so I asked a few people to jot down their thoughts on the process and how it may have differed from their previous experiences with interviewing for a new job. Here’s one of the responses I received.

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 1.01.18 PMRianna Cohen was the 1st salesperson to join the SnapSuits team in December 2016. A concert flutist, Rianna is a classic analytical. I appreciated her inquisitive nature and her willingness to stand up for the things she believed in, and I always challenged her to not hide her light under a barrel. Her thoughts are found below.

“This will probably be the easiest interview you ever do.”

That was a lie.

Sure, the first interview breezed by as we chatted over coffee (tea, in my case), but I had the distinct impression that Roger had already made his decision before he met me.  He had reviewed my resume extensively (enough to be able to cite it from memory) and had stalked me online (hello, Pinterest).  The interview, in essence, was to see if the person matched the page.

Interview Two was completed in pairs and my fellow interviewee and I were tasked with a mind-mapping exercise.  Harmless enough.

And then we were to leave voicemails on three people’s phones: the interviewer, the CEO, and the CFO.  Hello, anxiety.

I scribbled furiously.  I also kept glancing across the table at the girl interviewing with me.  In retrospect, I think her presence brought out my competitive edge.  We worked mostly alone, occasionally comparing notes to make sure we were completing the exercise correctly.

When it came time to actually leave the voicemails, I was so nervous that I had to pace around the room as I recited my practiced lines.  They were undoubtedly terrible voicemails.  I left, hours later, completely drained.  (Roger’s Note: I TOTALLY have those voice mails saved on my computer!)

The interview set the precedent for life in the office: we would be challenged and we would be expected to get creative with our solutions.  Roger became more than a boss: he was a mentor.  The interview process, though perhaps unconventional, produced a level of trust between our team that I think would be difficult to duplicate.  Taking the time to find the right people (even if we weren’t the best at voicemails ahem) created a synergy that remains even when times get difficult.

Cancel, Cancel, Delete (OMG What Did I Just Do?)

  • Just as you tidy up an emotional response to that member of the team letting you down, you inadvertently send it to the group text including everyone at work. EV-ER-Y-ONE.
  • You send an email to your boss, explaining an internal obstacle in the form of a less-than-enthusiastic member of the team performing poorly – your boss immediately sends your note to the colleagues boss, leaving your tirade in the body of the message, and cc’s you on the message.
  • There are hundreds of other “What Did I Just Do” moments. They’ve happened to almost every one of us. This is (one of) mine – lots more of these to come. 

Communication 2017 v. 1997

The difference is incomprehensible and impossible to properly describe.

From the 27 year old vantage point I had in ’97 and the tools I then had at my disposal to be a successful communicator, what’s available to us looks incredibly closer to The Jetsons cartoons I watched growing up by comparison than most of us care to acknowledge. Amazing technology continues to evolve and now almost daily improves the way we live, and communication is core to this advancement, for the net result of advanced communication tools is this interconnected world we enjoy.

Monolithic sales organizations doled out precious little in budget for sales training & development at the intersection of the digital evolution of the equipment we sold.

While the introduction of networking technology was a boon to those of us savvy enough to learn how to sell it, it was a virtual pipe-dream to actually obtain (and therefore learn) the technology we were selling, as nearly all our sales offices lacked the basic networking infrastructure necessary to connect devices (much less hope our computer spoke the same operating language as the device). We had workplace-altering capability, and we needed to learn how to sell without the most basic understanding of the products we sold. (Sound familiar?)

Information about digital technology and it’s capability were not easily accessed by anyone (sellers NOR buyers, we all had the same problem) but the earliest of sales adopters outsold their peers primarily as a result of acquiring and refining one key non technology related skill in selling new technology to buyers of varied expertise themselves- the ability to equate the benefits of the technology to decreased costs associated with running their business – the harder the cost, the faster the yes.

Achieving this objective required a developed skill for earning the trust of potential buyers, as they often needed to share key financial information about both their business as well as it’s associated cost of operation in this key cost container to make an educated decision. They didn’t know the formula, but they had the inputs. Only by working together could the analysis be effective, and only by figuring out what motivated a buying decision of this magnitude could success be courted, much less expected.

I was the lead in teaching this new technology to our Midwest sales force, mostly by pitching existing clients our staff were selling other product lines. While there were pockets of quota-busting success, there were also entire sales teams taking a “something to ignore” position. Specialization projects had historically left reps & prospects unfulfilled and occasionally cost salespeople a portion of their client base. One such team lived in my assignment. Their scorn was built more from experience than disdain, and they had a historical right to feel that way. Not this time, however!

Forced compliance to the program took the form of a monthly conference call to discuss developments in our offering, new sales intelligence about ours & competing solutions and answer any prospect or deal questions the team might have. Sound inspiring?

It was nearing the end of the last of what had by then become a 6-call in a row death-march. The misery was palpable, and as we ended the call and as I proceeded to slam the phone back in it’s cradle (yes, it was THAT long ago), I let loose a bellow;

“That is by FAR the WORST sales group in the entire company. I LITERALLY* (*contents edited to make the story suitable for parents and their children at bedtime) hate talking to them”

We were on speaker phone.

They were still there.

It’s a day I cannot and don’t intend to forget.

While I defended myself vehemently at the time, it’s obvious in retrospect that a BIG motivator behind them not coming around was a mix of tenure, diminished excitement after adopting numerous other failed corporate objectives (they were the sales team in the Company HQ city and wanted to put their best foot forward) and those circumstances together had left them cynical. I hadn’t done enough to convince the manager the potential value of time devoted to the growth of my vertical. His people were ok with me, he was not and the results reflected that fact.

While it’s been 15+ years since that story actually occurred, the moment seems as clear as yesterday. Within the collection of moments like these, you grow most often when turning away from self-promotion and seek ways to help people in your tribe be successful and make memories for themselves and their families.

Relationship building requires the ability to overcome the obstacles.  That pre-internet Sales Team faced the same obstacles many of us have today, even though the means we have to communicate with one another have exploded.

I hypothesize a problem – we don’t tell each other how we prefer to use varied & shared communication methods. It either works itself out, or you lose touch. Maybe you’re texting me and I want to talk on the phone. Maybe you like SnapChat but I only want to trade goofy filters on that channel. Can’t you just send me the link to IG? It all comes back to the concept of communication. Be purposeful in the ways you use communication platforms, and don’t be afraid to share your preferences, lest you find yourself on the wrong end of an errant “reply-all” e-mail.

Advice for Newer Workplace Millennials

This article was born as a letter to Dylan, the soon to be 23 year-old in our family. He’s made the decision to follow his mother, father & step-dad into a career in sales and he’s forced to listen to my unsolicited advice. While he’s always polite, this advice was the most enthusiastically received, ever. Here’s hoping it means something to you or someone you know going thru the same career challenges.

13083215_10154035960692347_6095560091336571277_nI’ve witnessed you at your absolute best.

You participated in organized EVERYTHING, so you’ve spent the majority of your life competing in one way, shape or form. At the apex of your competitive life, I witnessed you overcome challenges (both mental AND physical) and realize a goal. It’s a joy to watch someone perform at an elite level doing something they love, especially when they sacrificed and persevered as you did to continue to play the sport you loved.

Those days are behind you now, and you’ve entered a much more difficult and time consuming challenge, your professional career. Since graduation, you’ve not yet hit your stride and at this point you’re wondering about the meaning of things and what the future might have in store.

It’s not uncommon to wonder if the “best days of my life” as a competitor are behind you.

I can assure you they are not.

If you can take a purposeful look at the path you’d like your professional life to follow, you can begin to reframe the competition from the lacrosse pitch or classroom to the competitions presenting themselves to you every day. If you know where to look, there are ways to compete all around you, it’s just the nature of competition has changed. It’s more complex and requires command of many different skills to master.

Remind yourself of the journey you took during the arc of the time spent competing in your previous endeavors. Very infrequently was success instantaneous, and often a number of obstacles presented themselves in the pursuit of EACH of those goals – why should you expect something different now?  Your damaged confidence is for a lack of knowledge, not capability. It’s high time to give yourself a little more than instinct to go on. You practiced to win in everything else, so why not follow the same game plan, put in some new plays and get back to competing.

You’re not alone in having an unclear picture of things at this moment in your career. While it may be difficult at this point to consider HOW to take on this purposeful path exercise, know that many before you have been confronted with the same challenge, and you coming to this particular realization at such an early stage in your career is a signal I’ve seen from many on a path toward success. Having a mentor and people you trust on your side NOW can be the antidote to your shaken confidence. Don’t be afraid to share what you’re thinking with people who show they care about your success. Seek their counsel. It will be some of the best advice you will ever get.

Once you start working at it, though, the path you’d like your journey to take will start to reveal itself and as a result your sense of the potential value of your work will sharpen. Understanding how your contribution might be more valuable will spur you to work harder, knowing there is a purposeful conclusion to what you’re doing. Once you become accustomed to the notion of working for an outcome and not a paycheck, it’s SO much easier to understand where (and where not) you might add to your own abilities, you’ll have an easier time understanding what work you should (and should not) pursue and in the process, that which was previously unclear will be more clear to you.

Lastly, if you’ve chosen the right people with which to work, all that hard work generally creates (2) outcomes:

  1. You get noticed for your hard work.
  2. You’re rewarded.

Should neither of these things happen, you know it’s time to move on to the next step in the journey and whatever that next step might also provide you. You’ll worry less about money and more about fit, culture and the people you intend to learn from, which will strengthen your working relationships – all of which will give restore your sense of competition and provide you the satisfaction you’re desperately missing right now.

Here’s your homework.

Write down in one paragraph what you would want to do with your life in money were no object. What would that version of your life look like? Where would you spend your time, and whom would you spend that time with? What would you be doing to leave a contribution behind your the next generation of your family?

Save your work and leave it for 48 hours. Go back and re-read it again, cutting out as many words as you can while keeping it understandable. See if you can reduce the number of words by 50%. Save your work. 24 hours this time, then re-read and see if you can reduce what’s left to a checklist. If there are major categories you can identify, re-arrange your checklist into those categories and then re-organize the list.

Next, complete the checklist as it pertains to your current job. How many of the boxes are checked? If it’s none, that’s ok.. The most important part of this process is creating a way for you to know whether or not that is the case. The second most important part of this process is creating a vehicle by which you can guide future behavior. It’s not OK to quit your job that has 0 checks on the checklist. It IS OK to quit if you have something to replace this job with something that will check boxes.

Share your list. Don’t post it places you wouldn’t want it seen, but don’t be shy with sharing how you make decisions with others. Lots of your peers would benefit from a little purpose in their work and a re-ignition of their competitive spirit, and the world isn’t doing a whole lot of sharing on how to do that well.

I look forward to what you’ll share with me.

A Letter to the Accidental Entreprenuer

There came that moment in my career when I realized recruiters would struggle working with me.

One visit to my LinkedIn profile raised all kinds of red flags  – I’d unwittingly taken one too many visits to the “sales career re-start” section and all of the horrible but effective HR filters meant to weed out chronic under-performers were going to apply to me, even if I wasn’t blindly handing out resumes or applying for random LinkedIn job postings with no inside track. The rumors were understandably swirling, all while my previous managers were writing recommendations on my profile.

I’d long grappled with what my career apex would look like.  By achieving noteworthy success in a multitude of roles, I was approached with and accepted an evolving career of “specialist” roles. Jobs like these came with top notch compensation, lots of opportunity for travel and all the benefits of strategic & team selling with none of the managerial baggage found in an average group of direct reports, but they are assuredly the first of the deck chairs thrown from the sinking ship of a bankruptcy-circling Company. I’d had the consecutive bad fortune of having roles among those lines on the spreadsheet in need of paring before the inevitable Board-directed corporate belt-tightening. Not once. Not twice or three times. Four. (Twice by the same Company) Many of my former colleagues in direct sales and sales management roles now hold executive positions for some of the most recognized names in their industries. The roles they held were almost always spared the accountants pen, and in retrospect, their’s were the more direct path to leadership roles. They may not have been smarter or more talented than me, but they knew the importance of being close to the revenue line when times got tight.

It was time to decide; time to bite the bullet and find my top end. Push the limits as hard as possible. I knew I was able, but had no idea where my capability would run out. It was time to channel my #AccidentalEntreprenuer

In the last 24 months:

  • I’ve written two sales plans from scratch. While there have been some similarities, each plan was unique to the circumstances of the coverage model chosen and the vagaries of the market served.
  • I’ve recruited, trained and hired a grand total 7 salespeople in both inside and outside sales roles
  • Created & implemented activity plans delivered and measured via CRM tools, with training on competence and effective use of the tool to support the plan
  • Created & implemented marketing campaigns (often including a social media component) to aid the sales effort, with occasional front-page worthy effectiveness.
  • Made a tangible difference in the markets in which we were competing. Our presence has made a difference in the way consumers buy the products we sell. The evidence is on the revenue and profit lines

I’ve also:

  • Worked to the point of utter exhaustion
  • Argued, yelled and fought for what I believed in with people dead set against my ideas seeing the light of day
  • Passed countless sleepless nights trying to stay ahead of the crushing workload awaiting me once I decided to stop pretending to sleep
  • Apologized directly to clients for not being able to make the promises I’d made to them come true, all the while working to make the best of the situation for all parties involved – often working to alter client plans to accommodate our shortcomings
  • Gained 15 lbs of worry weight and ignored the need to maintain the healthy lifestyle necessary to cope with crushing amounts of stress

I’m truly the eptiome of the #AccidentalEntreprenuer.

The results have been extraordinary. I’ve come to understand the outer edges of my coping limits. In searching for those edges, I’ve also developed a healthy understanding of the edges I’m willing to seek – and those I’m not. This sharpened understanding has afforded me an accelerated pace in decision making and a sense of the most effective actions possible to move a sales plan forward for a brand new team and formed the foundation for the sales training program I’ve delivered to each of the teams I’ve created.

I’m not a finished product, but I’m no shrinking violet. Each positive step forward gives me more confidence to keep pushing those previously suffocating self-imposed limits on my capability. Make no mistake, we’ve not created the next Google, but I can sense the confidence of my latest recruits – they don’t know they’re not supposed to succeed, so why WOULD they fail?

My only regret is not having figured out how to arrive here SO MUCH sooner. The argument is “you need to go thru that to get here” and I cannot discount the value of the path in this journey, but a healthy understanding of how to push the edges of my capability would have hastened the journey. Perhaps those of you reading along might ask yourself the same question.

Will you explore the edges of your capability in an attempt to serve your inherent ability?

All We Sell Are Suits, Suits, Suits (and Shirts)

Elegant problem-solving via data & technology. User experience focused. Make the 40+ hours per week devoted to vocation the best hours possible. Embrace #thehustle.

We’re a Company based in the realities of today. We have something to say and we’re willing to say it in a voice of our own. We’re #TheRedTieSociety, a collective of #ExcellentHumanBeings.

We’re market-researchers, we’re hypothesis-testers.

Oh, yeah. We also happen to sell really cool custom suits and shirts for $250 & $50, respectively, delivered to your door in 14 days. Today, we focus the brand on those times in your life when you’d stand out in a custom suit – weddings & other formal events, young professionals beginning their careers, anyone searching for the flexibility a lower price point provides for suit ownership. We want you to find us in those moments when you need to look your best, and it doesn’t have to cost you a missed trip or concert festival ticket.

I had the good fortune to attend The Internet Summit last week in Raleigh, NC. My good friend and partner in joy-spreading Danny Rosin and I conducted a few experiments while participating in the event over the course of 30 hours. Being the gracious friend he is, Danny took great pains to introduce me to an excellent cross-section of participants; young & old, male & female, red & blue. Our objective: what kind of initial reaction would the SnapSuits value proposition engender from participants?

I’m kicking myself for not recording the responses. They were THAT good.

I met a bunch of really great people (Hudson Haines, Cole Watts, Chris CiminoDevin Kelley amongst many others) and we couldn’t seem to find one person to tell us the SnapSuits premise wasn’t valid. We DID hear some people tell us they wear more Sport Coats than suits, but NOT ONE PERSON could give me a reason our concept shouldn’t fly, and I’m expecting a few orders after Thanksgiving. Hypothesis tested. Results confirm the validity of the business model.

An e-commerce driven, direct to consumer solution designed to significantly alter the current status quo for custom apparel is the foundation of our business , but it’s our desire to bring a human element to the way we interact with people even when we’re having them buy from us online. The hybrid model lives here at SnapSuits.

Articles are infrequently written from the 1st person perspective of someone in the middle of building a start-up from scratch. Even less frequently found are examinations of the means by which this level of specialization might be approached. I welcome each of you to follow along with this chronicle.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to keep an eye on the brand, please feel free to check us out in all of places you’d expect to find us.




An Ode to Order Managers

It was a sunshine-splashed day in our Itasca, IL office, but the mood of the women in the bullpen was anything but sunny.  As I made my way into the office and got over to the coffee machine, I realized that something was wrong.  Not your everyday “someone has a case of the Monday’s” kind of wrong, but real, palpable issues that were going to need my attention.

I had expected some tension; we’d recently won a multi-million dollar account, and after the predictable calm that comes with the on-boarding of a new client, the web-site had gone live and we’d been promoting it with the client in earnest in the month leading up to my visit. With increased workload comes the prospect of tension, and this group had little experience in processing the kind of orders our efforts were creating, so the notion of some unease wasn’t out of the ordinary, but what I encountered was something for which none of us were prepared.


I’d no sooner finished stirring in my flavored cream before they’d surrounded me.  A semi-circle of confusion, exasperation and anger. Worse yet, one of them was on the verge of tears.

Like the weakest link in a chain, a process is only as strong as the combination of it’s systems and people.  We had excellent staff; tenured, professional and hard-working, but the system they were required to use to execute on the business we were creating was SO flawed and convoluted that it was pushing them all to their breaking point, and they needed me to know about, NOW.

As is often the case, we had not taken steps to understand what an increase in order activity would do to their workload, and we had not hired additional staff to shoulder the burden. We were asking them to do more with the same resources, expecting that the systems would be capable of processing the increased volume. We couldn’t have been more wrong, and it was quickly ruining our best people.

 We were asking them to do more with the same resources, expecting that the systems would be capable of processing the increased volume.

Here’s what I’ve come to understand. Often, your order management staff are bound by your systems, almost all of which have some degree of constraint that come along with them. Because they are focused on productivity, your order management staff limp along with those limitations and become accustomed to working within them so as to ensure the continuing flow of revenue. But that doesn’t mean the system works well. When you add more volume to the mix, it’s only natural for the possibility of the type of revolt I encountered to occur should your team be pushed beyond their threshold of ability to manage that new volume within the context of their overall workload. It often won’t be until the moment that you’ve pushed them too far that the problem will truly reveal itself, and then you have a real issue on your hands in that you need to service both your existing AND new accounts with the kind of service you’ve promised (which most likely won you the business in the 1st place). It’s very hard to remodel a plane at 30,000 feet.

As owner, your responsibility must include some degree of attention to your systems, thereby allowing your staff the opportunity to successfully shoulder increasing levels of volume without the expense of additional headcount.  Fortunately, as is the case with what we’ve created at Order Commander (as well as many other service offerings available today), there is ample opportunity to partner with service providers to offload time-consuming tasks, thereby freeing your staff to take on that additional volume responsibility as your business grows.  A key objective must be to work closely with order management team leaders to prioritize those services which would free the most time for your staff, make the appropriate time investments in learning about those potential service providers and understand when best to introduce them into your order management mix.

The economy is rebounding and many owners that I speak to are enthused about potential growth opportunities.  Plan now for that growth and avoid the evil eyes that you might encounter in the bullpen once your business begins to take off.

Campaign Development (A Cure for the Prospecting Forehead Crease)

Ever walked into your office and seen one of your salespeople behind their monitor with a crease in their forehead?shutterstock_153751445

After some investigation into this phenomena, I came to realize that which often caused said condition. Prospecting.

Let’s face it, prospect development today is, how shall we say it?  Like pushing a massive rock up a very steep hill.  Once-successful tactics are often met with disinterested silence.  Poorly written e-mails are often seen as intrusive, and while a suspect may accept your LinkedIn connection request, that by no means equates to an opportunity.

So, what’s a sales professional to do, and how can you help them erase that prospecting-induced forehead crease?

Campaign development is a fancy term for creating a set of targeted activities and a corresponding schedule of follow-up designed to achieve a specific outcome.  In this instance, the campaign you’re seeking to develop is meant to progress a potential candidate for that which you sell from being unaware and uninterested to aware and willing to talk.

In creating this type of campaign, you have the opportunity to direct your salespersons prospecting into a predetermined cadence of targeted activity designed to achieve the outcome we previously mentioned, plus, it inspires confidence in your people, as they need not concern themselves with HOW to get the attention of their prospects, but rather focus their attention on identifying those prospects best suited for the products or services you sell, entering them into the cadence of the campaign and following a predetermined schedule of follow up activities.  If you are using a CRM tool (and if you’re not, why?), imagine the relief a salesperson might feel in opening their computer each morning to a set of pre-scheduled activities as dictated by the campaigns for which their prospects have been slotted?

More than anything, the crease in those foreheads has to do with your salespersons uncertainty about effective suspect engagement. Campaign development eliminates that uncertainty, creates an overall increase in salesperson activity (as they are merely executing on a predetermined strategy) and shifts your managerial focus from a review of the overall quantity of salesperson activity to a thorough review of the campaigns across the sales team, their overall effectiveness, and where in the campaign those suspects are most frequently migrating into prospects.  Over time, your sales team will begin to view prospecting as a more enjoyable activity, as they’ll be able to witness their activity blossom into a more robust pipeline.

Start the process with a team brainstorming session of their most effective suspect-engagement activities.  Create a schedule of those activities and the corresponding follow up that should accompany the activity.  Lastly, target a subset of existing suspects to use as your focus group and create a schedule in your CRM to follow the cadence of activity and follow up you’ve developed.

Any sales manager worth their salt knows activity feeds the sales pipeline.  Lend a helping hand with the types of activities your salespeople should employ and watch those forehead creases turn into smile lines.