SGS Helps Flint Group Hit a Home Run.
The largest international supplier of narrow-web tag and label-printing inks struggles to reverse a three-year trend of declining sales in the Western Hemisphere.
Sales Growth Specialists helps Flint Group’s Vice President of Sales develop a system of sales management processes that change a culture of excuse making into one of personal accountability that generates predictable, sustainable revenue.
Bottom Line Results:
- Market share grows despite an industry recession.
- Sales management processes yield predictable revenue for more accurate business planning, more efficient operation and higher margins.
- Faster, organized sales process generates revenue more quickly.
- New hires reach higher performance levels 30% faster.
Stepping up to the plate:
To unify its sales effort, strengthen its customer focus, and reverse three years of post-merger declining sales, Flint Group consolidated its decentralized U.S. operation. As part of this critical initiative, the largest international supplier of narrow-web tag and label-printing inks for pharmaceuticals and beverages appointed Hank Malone Western Hemisphere Vice President of Sales and Marketing in August 2001.
Realizing that he faced a sales turnaround challenge that perhaps his extensive operations background hadn’t quite prepared him for, Hank tapped SGS CEO Danita Bye. Her 20-plus years of sales leadership and sales-management expertise impressed him.
“I realized that an outside resource with Danita’s expertise would not only provide needed professional assistance, but also a fresh, objective perspective,” says Hank. “Her philosophy that a disciplined culture fosters the creativity required for individuals to generate sales success seemed to hit the nail on the head. The standalone events that we had tried like the typical annual sales meeting and training failed to produce lasting results, so I knew that we needed a long-term, process-based initiative.”
I realized that an outside resource with Danita’s expertise would not only provide needed professional assistance, but also a fresh, objective perspective.
Analyzing the team:
The first step in this initiative was a competency analysis to assess the sales team’s strengths and weaknesses and learn what was preventing each sales person from achieving success. The assessment pinpointed a cultural lack of personal accountability as the source of deficient sales performance. Actions, behavior and conversations revealed that excuse making was acceptable. “This insight was telling,” says Hank. “I knew that the road to Level 3 accountability would entail cultural change, which meant this would be a continuous process.”
Hank and Danita developed and implemented “hardball,” a very controlled system based on a baseball theme. Hardball’s features – tracking, follow-up and accountability – keep the game moving. But this disciplined system is tempered by creativity in a compelling visual that analogizes the sales process to a baseball game. Prospecting is the on-deck position, the place to start a pipeline. Twenty actions take an account from on-deck to fourth base.
Each base was a process milestone:
- first base – qualifying/learning who the decision-maker is, what the issues are
- second base – identifying/quantifying the cost of the pain
- third base – closing/obtaining agreement on all points before proposal
- home plate – submitting contract
The bi-weekly scouting report is a follow-up process that reviews all accounts in the game – their status, the next action, and the timetable in which it is to be performed – to keep accounts moving around the bases. If an account doesn’t move to the next base in time, it’s out of the game (no excuses), and the salesperson must bring another prospect into the game from their list of draft picks derived from referrals, advertising leads and press manufacturers.
The transition to a consultative selling role wasn’t easy since the sales team had a technical background. Hank explains, “We’ve changed our product positioning to add value to our customers’ businesses instead of merely selling ink. We help customers save money through cost and inventory control and waste elimination. We no longer rely solely on customer relationships. Instead, the team uncovers the customer’s pain and learns what’s causing the pain. Time and money savings are documented and virtually indisputable by the time the account reaches third base.”
Rounding the bases:
Following some initial scepticism and pushback from the sales organization, the team agrees that the new system works. A successful 20-year veteran, who didn’t think his revenue production could improve, was the first to contribute a success story to the monthly sales newsletter that Hank started to support the program. After insisting that he had 95% of the market, this salesperson generated phenomenal growth. So this naysayer, who had the ear of the sales force, actually sowed the seeds of acceptance.
But the scoreboard tells the real story. In the first year, when the market reported a two percent decrease, Hank’s group actually grew revenue from new customers by almost 6.5 percent. In 2003, sales grew 7.9 percent despite a down market.
Hank also credits hardball for helping larger accounts round the bases more quickly, shaving the process from 18 months down to three or four months. “Our scoring statistics have improved dramatically. Forty percent of all draft picks reach second base, and we close 75-80 percent of those accounts.”
Danita says that hardball changed the company’s culture. “The organization now has a disciplined sales-management system based on a creative framework that demands uncompromising accountability and eliminates the right of the person to fail.”
The results earned Hank the company’s Nobel Prize at the company’s international meeting in Denmark in 2002. The award recognizes him for implementing a disciplined sales management process that wins new business and retains existing business. In fact, Flint Group rolled out the program to its European and Asian Divisions with Hank’s help. “
We’re still trying to master the dramatic changes we made in our sales culture. and I know we couldn’t have come this far without Danita’s constant attention and support. In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In sales management, it’s commitment, commitment, commitment. We had top management’s commitment to support this process. And I had SGS’ commitment as my personal coach,” says Hank, who is more committed than ever due to the results that the program continues to generate. “It was the right message at the right time.”
Hank.firstname.lastname@example.org 763 398-2718