Your Bulletproof Selling Resources Are Below
You Said It Was Important - Here Are Your Sales Systems On
Staying Positive During Sales Slumps
FROM BULLETPROOF SELLING:
Sales slumps are a tough part of the sales industry, and no matter how good we are, how many great scripts we have, there will be times when results aren’t appearing as fast as we’d prefer. Salespeople who hope things turn around will keep plodding along, hoping the phone starts ringing or the email inquiries come in.
Bulletproof salespeople, on the other hand, take action when their existing processes and systems aren’t working as effectively as they did in the past. Our world is constantly changing and that means the world of our prospects are changing. If we’re using what worked last month, last year or last decade, we’re operating with an outdated model of selling no matter how well the processes used to work.
To take an honest look at what’s working and what’s not, we need to use the same process the highest-performing teams use to constantly examine and improve their processes and systems.
From Chapter 18:
Lessons Learned System
Trigger: Conducted at each weekly sales meeting, new lessons are entered by sales leaders or salespeople as needed.
Bulletproof Impact: A Lessons Learned program is the engine that fuels innovation and continuous improvement across all pipeline movement, campaigns, outreach cadence, call scripts, sales meetings, negotiations, delivery, service, and referral generation. It’s an online database where challenges and discoveries can be recorded and replicated across any size team so that every salesperson can benefit from what other salespeople learn. Lessons Learned are a way to measurably scale performance improvement across a sales team, regardless of experience, competition, or economic conditions. Ultimately, it ensures no sale is lost for the same reason twice.
While it is possible to invest thousands of dollars into a continuous improvement database, it is also possible to do it for free. My own company – along with many of our clients – has been making use of Google Sheets for almost a decade for this purpose. As you prepare to stand up your own Lessons Learned program for your sales team and incorporate it into your weekly sales huddles, ensure your database meets the following criteria:
Shareable Between Team Members
It is imperative that your Lessons Learned database is accessible for each member of your team, and that means it needs to live online. Salespeople need to be able to access the database from home, on the road, in a prospect’s lobby, and of course at the home office.
Sortable and Searchable
The Lessons Learned program makes use of pre-defined columns, which allows for ease of input and means that terms can be searched and quickly found by salespeople in the future.
In our clients’ companies, the Lessons Learned program is an active part of sales huddles and thus becomes an active part of the lives of salespeople. Not merely a record of what was discussed at a previous sales huddle, a Lessons Learned database also serves as a living record of what salespeople are learning as they adapt and pivot in the ever-changing environment of sales. Standing up a Lessons Learned database for any size team can be done in as little as two minutes and only requires an internet connection, but having a Lessons Learned program languish from misuse can occur in seconds. For this reason, it’s imperative that sales managers use it themselves and hold their people accountable for entering data and meeting its accountabilities.
Because Lessons Learned may be a foreign concept, let’s walk through a Lessons Learned example so you’ll understand how the system works. Then we’ll apply it to taking lessons our salespeople bring back from prospecting, outreach and sales meetings for the benefit of the entire company.
First, State the Situation
(As stated by the salesperson)
Bob, a new salesperson, worked for weeks to schedule a meeting with the executive director of the Widget Manufacturers. Forty minutes into the presentation, Bob discovered that the person he was meeting with would need to consult their CFO and board of directors before investing in Bob’s service line. Bob left the meeting with the promise of a follow-up meeting when all parties could be gathered.
Second, What Was the Lesson Learned?
We need to ensure we ask in our discovery calls if the person we’re speaking to will need to involve anyone else in the decision-making process. We also need to ensure those additional parties are available to be at the sales meeting before we invest time and money in sending salespeople to a prospect’s site.
Third, Who’s Responsible for Making the Change?
(What single person in the sales organization is owning the system creation or update that results from what we learned here?)
Charles, the sales manager
Fourth, When Will This Change Take Effect?
(As agreed to by the person owning the change)
October 1, 2021
Fifth, What’s Changing?
To justify a meeting with a prospect, especially on-site, salespeople must confirm in account notes that they have asked about the decision-making process to ensure all required parties are present at scheduled sales meetings.
The above scenario may seem like a simple problem that every salesperson encounters at some point in their careers. As a result, many sales leaders treat this as a lesson that each salesperson must learn on their own and hopefully remember. What this tells us is that salespeople are having to re-learn the same lessons their predecessors figured out through delayed or lost sales. The result of this is an untold amount of lost revenue.
I understand that if I’m asking business leaders to pull their team out of the field once a week and away from prospect-facing activity to stop forcing salespeople to learn lessons the hard way, I’d better be able to justify it with potential sales and performance growth. I’d been using Lessons Learned in my own company for more than half a decade and seen the results it generated in recaptured time and revenue but needed to express it in a way other sales leader could understand as well.
To make this math simple, let’s assume every lesson our team brings back that we implement across our pipeline, campaigns, templates, and/or sales conversations gets them 1% better and you or your salespeople capture 5 lessons, challenges, or ways to improve your sales systems this week. Those 5 lessons create improvements in how you sell that are shared and implemented across your sales team. That represents a 5% improvement in performance across all the salespeople you manage or in your own sales, beginning this week.
Next week, 5 more lessons are captured, and their changes are implemented across your team’s systems. Instead of being just 5% better than when you started, in two weeks you’re now 10% better (two weeks of a 5% weekly improvement). As you and your team increase performance each week in measurable, trackable ways with your Lessons Learned program, you not only reap the rewards of this week’s improvements, but also the gains of previous weeks’ lessons.
A few things are worth noting about the impact of a sustained Lessons Learned program in a sales team. First, improvement is consistent. Each week, problems are addressed, solutions presented, and folks held accountable for implementing changes. This sets a tone on any sales team that everyone’s improvement is important. Winston Churchill, a man responsible for selling ideas to an entire nation, is famous for saying, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm.” Knowing that failures are welcome and that tools will be provided for improvement allows salespeople to remain enthusiastic even when their next sales meeting doesn’t generate a sale. Using lost sales as Lesson Learned means it can generate a way to improve their chances with the next prospect.
Second, these improvements go beyond the salespeople that discover them. They’re built into campaigns, scripts, systems, and onboarding training for the entire sales department, no matter how geographically separated they may be.
Third, it closes the loop on recurring sales challenges. If someone on the team struggles with an issue solved by a Lesson Learned update again, sales managers will have a clear path for retraining.
Fourth, the compounding effect of a 5% improvement each week really kicks in during the final quarter of the year – more than 1/3 of performance gains occur there. While you’ll experience freed-up time and increased performance in the first 6 months of rolling out a Lessons Learned program, the second six months will speed you ahead of competition. With major and recurring challenges knocked out, Q4 will be almost entirely dedicated to innovating while competitors will still be putting out fires on their team that you extinguished months ago.
The Lessons Learned program is the engine of a Bulletproof team, whether on the battlefield or in sales, because it is a living document that handles systemic issues that prevent most teams from having the bandwidth to innovate. It’s the formula for weaning a team from relying on hope as their strategy.
Because Lessons Learned can generate changes to email templates, call scripts, briefing templates, debriefing checklists, or administrative processes, they’re easily updated for every salesperson using a shared CRM. While it should be the business of every salesperson to keep themselves up to date on what’s working and what isn’t in their industry, the Lessons Learned program feeds them the situations they and other members of their team encountered, what was learned from an encounter or exchange, and what the system-wide update will be to ensure success is replicated or a mistake is avoided.
A side benefit of a robust Lessons Learned program is that it provides a way sales managers can standardize performance across an entire sales team by not just tracking compliance with new systems, but giving your team systems they can comply with.
Keep in mind that your Lessons Learned program isn’t just a complaint-fest of sales meetings that didn’t generate sales. These are ‘lessons,’ not ‘post-mortems.’ A post-mortem, by definition, is an examination of something that has died. While your Lessons Learned database will be able to capture situations that resulted in lost sales and prevent them from being lost for the same reason in the future, it is also a place for your salespeople to bring their ‘lucky breaks’ – the innovations that occur during almost every sale. These are times when the salesperson used their intelligence and professional experience to try something that worked in their favor.
As we dive into systemizing this for your team, let’s review the basic layout of the Lessons Learned template as we did with our weekly sales huddle agenda. Next, we’ll dive into each section so sales managers understand the meaning of each field and how to enter information.
Once we review each portion of the Lesson Learned flow, we’ll walk through an example gathered from a sales meeting debrief and use it to create lasting and permanent change for that sales team. Then we’ll go over how to systemize it to update outreach methods, improve conversations, and close more sales.
Systemizing Success with Lessons Learned
This is the format of a Lesson Learned, and the same column headers can be found on our online database, as well as that of our clients’:
What did we learn?
Who’s responsible for the update?
When will the update be made?
What’s the change we’re making?