Why are all the horses in the barn?

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Rob Batten

Why are all the horses in the barn? I use this phrase often when working with sales management during transformational engagements. It’s a rhetorical analogy that relates to sales force utilization and revenue generating activities that I’ve picked up over the years.

I, like many southern Americans, grew up on a farm. This meant taking care of farm animals, particularly horses. I would get up early in the morning to feed, groom and clean out the stables, only to repeat the same activities later that evening. This never-ending cycle of maintenance left an indelible imprint on my mind. All that effort, just to be able to ride the horses for a fraction of time. Why? For me, the joy of riding made the efforts worthwhile. For others, the utility of the horses around the farm made these efforts worthwhile. Regardless of the ‘why’, the value gained using the horses on the farm or for transportation/recreation had to equal and exceed the efforts put into maintaining them.

When the horses in question are Thoroughbred race horses, the analogy gets even sharper. Race horses, like top salesmen, are a breed apart. They represent enormous revenue potential, but have very high maintenance costs respectively… EVERY SECOND a race horse is not on the track can be seen as a lost opportunity for revenue and thereby equal to overhead.

In this blog series, I will be focusing on sales force utilization and metrics. Like race horses, every second a salesperson is not client facing (e.g. on the track) they are accruing overhead. For most IT companies, sales professionals represent the pointy end of the spear for corporate revenues, as well as competitive awareness and positioning. Achieving more client facing engagement will translate directly to the top line.

So, the question remains: why are the horses in the barn? Why are sales teams’ client facing engagement rates low in many organizations? Naturally, a horse cannot be on the track all of the time. It has to be fed, groomed, trained, etc.

In this blog series I’ll provide some insight into the key areas where salesforce utilization can be optimized.

I’ll cover:

  1. Optimization, what does it mean?
  2. Operations vs Execution
  3. Fine tuning
  4. Enabling
  5. Grooming
  6. Measuring/Goaling
  7. Winning the race - Team work

Many of you may recall the recent Hollywood Blockbuster movie “Secretariat”. Secretariat is considered by some to be the best racehorse of all time. He had a winning combination of great genes and a wise and enabling owner/trainer combo. By taking the raw talent and ability the horse was born with, the owner & trainers crafted a winner and put him on the track where he made money by the baleful. Some people say that good salespeople are born not made. While there may be some truth to this, once they are identified the real trick is getting them on the track and into as many races as possible and keeping them there.

In my next blog, I'll focus on optimization. What does it mean with respect to sales, particularly the sales force? This exercise in optimization is not strictly a numbers game, it also involves insight and vision for what the future will hold. With that in mind, we'll explore how digital transformation applies to sales and sales organizations.

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Kori Needham

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Kori is an experienced Business Development and Technical Sales Enablement leader skilled in empowering C-level executives to leverage industry-leading transformative technologies in order to achieve their expected business outcomes.  He excels at helping key stakeholders to fine tune their tactical and strategic objectives in order figure out which relevant technical solutions are required to achieve the intended business results. 

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