CSO Insights Blog Posts
Are You Kidding Me?
The first half of this year is already gone? Well, as they say: Time Flies When You're Having Fun! Behind Plan...
Almost before you could say, "Economic slowdown," the first quarter was history and now the first half is behind us. Yes, this year's first quarter was a little slow coming out of the blocks and given the disastrous state of the US and global economy, can anyone be surprised that you're a little behind? No.
But if you're looking for relief, forgiveness or an understanding board to tell you it's OK, think about your own reply when your reps come to you looking for quota reductions. Same answer: No.
So, with six months to go, what are the right moves to make right now? If you're thinking of adding or replacing headcount, think again. Sales rep ramp up times have been steadily lengthening the past five years and if you're like 70.5% of the CSOs reporting, a rep you start TODAY won't be fully up to speed until at least Q1 2010 (see pie chart).
Should you be cutting headcount to reduce expenses? Maybe, but unless the reps you prune from the sales force were simply unable to recognize deals in their territories waiting to be closed-an unlikely prospect at best-then you won't be any closer to your revenue target. If you do shed some non-performers, rather than replacing them immediately you may decide to redirect the funds freed up by the salaries saved into lead generation programs. Which lead gen is most successful for your industry, your company?
Our 2009 lead gen optimization (LGO) survey which we'll be releasing this month reports that email marketing was the top lead generator overall. However, while this was true for technology companies, for manufacturing firms the top lead generator was LiveEvents/Tradeshows; email marketing came in fifth place. This points out one of the biggest dilemmas for CSOs: the need to take action, to deploy reps and resources as efficiently as possible, and yet needing to do so with very little information. And industry specific real-time insights are even harder to come by. Networking with peers can help inform your own decision-making but, as this example shows, variances can and do occur between industries.
So if you're in high-tech, one of your first investments with any savings from reduced headcount may be to get your marketing team to do a couple more email programs over the summer months. You'll also want to look at how email leads are followed up, how quickly and what the most successful methods are for converting leads to initial meetings, and other process improvements you can leverage.
If you're in manufacturing (non-computer related) and are debating whether this summer's trade show or other live event is worth it, the answer appears to be "yes." To make the most of doing so, you'll also want to refresh your reps on how best to engage trade show attendees and do some role plays before the show. In the weeks ahead of the show you should power up efforts to invite suspects, prospects, current and past customers and nail down specific appointments when you can see them, rather than hoping they'll attend and stop by.
It's true that half the year is gone (glass half empty) and equally true that another half remains (glass half full). Make the most of it by getting the best current intelligence you can and formulating a game plan based on that intelligence. Oh, and this would be a good time to begin the recruiting process (maybe at the live event?) to identify the best possible candidate(s) to bring on board as you begin to look at rebuilding your staff in 2010.