A Furniture Manufacturer
Urban Hardwoods is a furniture manufacturer that uses a unique, artisanal process to create high-end wooden furniture. All of their pieces are hand-crafted one-at-a-time from trees salvaged in the Pacific Northwest. They handle every step of the production process in-house so they can focus on quality and craftsmanship.
When I started working with Urban Hardwoods, they were undergoing serious changes and had some big challenges that they needed to confront. They had just gone through an ownership change. They also lacked any formal sales processes and their compensation plan wasn’t designed with sales in mind. Their showroom staff were more service-oriented than sales-oriented and they lacked sales leadership roles on their management team.
Through observations and interviews, we worked with Urban Hardwoods’ leadership to develop a comprehensive action plan.
First we created their WHY.
WHY: Urban Hardwoods creates functional art inspired by nature with a social conscience.
HOW: Using the largest sawmill in North America they take down, diseased, or dead trees and give them a second life.
WHAT: Urban Hardwoods makes one of a kind wood dining room, cocktail, side tables, and furniture.
Together, we implemented the following steps:
- Instituted a three-month sales training and coaching program with Judy for all of the sales associates, showroom managers, and the company’s General Manager.
- Created job descriptions for three management roles and then recruited qualified individuals to fill those roles.
- Developed a new compensation plan for showroom personnel that tied their compensation to sales performance.
- Re-allocated roles and responsibilities so that sales managers were running the sales functions and other executives could focus on other responsibilities.
- Developed critical internal documents, including:
- Marketing messaging and company stories
- Strategic sales plan, regional sales plans, and tactical sales plans
- Employee manual
- Compensation plan
- Created a marketing strategy that leveraged the company’s many strategic alliances.
The results of our efforts were significant. We were able to increase sales and reduce costs, giving Urban Hardwoods a much-needed boost in their top and bottom line. The results:
- A 25 percent increase in showroom sales.
- Cost savings of 15 percent through operational efficiencies, improved communications between team members, and better inventory management
- A defined sales process that is consistent across all three showrooms
- Implementation of an assessment tool to utilize for self-awareness and to facilitate management coaching
A Winery in Sonoma
A winery, originally founded in 2001, rebranded in 2015. Their mission is to provide innovative wines that deliver extraordinary experiences to consumers. They build great brands and they offer wines, spirits, and custom services, such as private label wines and customized blends. Nestled in Sonoma County, they have a rich history and a wealth of experience in the industry. Even with this heritage, the new branding and new labels weren’t driving the level of growth they wanted.
When I started working with them, they had just hired a new SVP of Sales, who recognized that there were some challenges that needed to be addressed. The sales organization had not had any formal training, they didn’t have a defined sales process for working with distributors or big box clients, and the sales management team lacked the skills to take the team to the next level. He wasn’t sure the structure of the sales organization was optimized to enable the team to have the focus necessary to meet the lofty goals or if the cross-functional teams were aligned with the overall vision of the CEO.
To help them reach their goals and help the SVP gain traction, we focused on a few key areas:
Sales Skills and Sales Process Training. Since their business is both off-the shelf labels and custom, private labels, they offer a comprehensive suite of solutions to distributors and retailers. This means that production plays an important role in the process, as does marketing. It was important to have everyone on the same page when working with their buyers. For example, in the custom, private label space, buyers spent a lot of time with the people who make the wines to ensure their specific needs were addressed. The production managers’ ability to act as an extension of the sales team was critical in this process.
We interviewed the management team and some of the sales people, plus went on a couple of sales calls with one of their top producers to not only see them in action, but also to witness how a customer responds to the current approach. Using this information, we customized a sales training program that was delivered at two of their company meetings, where they brought everyone in from the field. We, also, had data from a personality assessment tool to help us understand the power of different personality styles, and how to use this insight when identifying buyers’ personalities and speaking to them in their language to build rapport and expand relationships. Building on this foundation, they learned a ten-step sales process they could use as a roadmap to driving revenue and elevating the sale to a strategic selling experience.
Sales Management Coaching. One of the keys to being an effective sales manager is to build a culture of accountability and responsibility. During the one-on-one coaching engagement, we built a process that included team and 1:1 meetings that were structured, consistent, and empowering to the team members. We focused on communication, collaboration, and creativity as operating principles which were evident in all of the activities and interactions within the team to create a sales culture and defined targets, personas, and goals that enabled the team to exceed the company’s expectations within six months. As a result of our efforts, one of the Sales Manager’s was promoted to the next level!
Strategic Planning. With the new addition to the executive team, the four leaders were struggling to redefine their respective roles and responsibilities. During the strategic planning session, they learned new tools for decision making that enabled everyone to have a voice, structured the roles of each member of the team to reflect their strengths and what they could provide to the company, and created a stronger bond between each of the leaders with a structured approach to collaborating on a regular basis to steer the business.
The results of these initiatives were significant:
- The sales team is ahead of plan by 125%
- The cost of sales was reduced
- Excess inventory is a thing of the past
- Increased penetration of existing accounts has driven a 20% uplift to the bottom-line
A Food Manufacturer in Northern California
A 30 year old, family owned, food manufacturer of candy, baked goods, dried fruit, and roasted nuts is a private label supplier to the hospitality industry. They provide the food you find in the mini bar, at banquets and conferences, and in many retail establishments. Their growth had slowed to single digits and the VP Sales was being groomed for the President role.
When I started working with them, there were a number of challenges that they were facing. First, they wanted to increase growth by 10%, expand penetration in the retail space, and identify a replacement for the VP Sales who was being promoted. Additionally, the Sales VP didn’t have the experience needed to step into the President role and be responsible for all aspects of their business.
To help them meet their goals and assist with the replacement and elevation of the VP Sales, we focused on a few key areas:
Interim VP Sales. To assist with the transition of responsibilities by off-loading the VP Sales from the day to day management of the sales team, Judy acted as the VP Sales for 3 months. As a result of interviews and being out in the field for two weeks with each of them, she had a clear picture of what was needed. Revamping the travel policy, defining the goals and strategies, implementing new programs to gain contractual agreements from large accounts, and sales training were key to increasing morale, focus, and performance.
Executive Coaching. Moving into a new role within a company can be a challenging situation for the person being promoted and the people around them who are used to operating with them in their past position. Our coaching focused on building trust across the different department leaders, individually and collectively. Communication, asking for feedback without judgment, and developing a game plan for taking on the new responsibilities required new skills and an open mind to looking at the business from a different perspective.
Recruiting and Qualifying Candidates. With the insight gained from acting in this role, creating a job description, working with recruiters, and qualifying candidates enabled Judy to accelerate the process. Not only was the experience in the industry important, understanding the culture and finding the right person to operate in this family owned business was a critical element.
At the end of the 3 months, we made a lot of progress:
- Morale increased as a result of a revised travel/expense policy
- New account acquisition increased by 22%
- Five new multi-year contracts were in place guaranteeing in excess of $500K annually
An E-Commerce Marketing Company
A 10 yr. old e-commerce direct marketing company, specializing in the real estate, title, and mortgage industry had experienced significant growth and was committed to tripling their revenue in three years. Their web-to-print marketing and lead generation system makes it easy to control branding for real estate brokers and to track campaigns and increase leads. The CEO recognized that in order to achieve this level of growth and scale, they needed to build the infrastructure to meet this aggressive goal.
To help them get on the path to reach this goal, we focused on a few key areas:
Sales Process Optimization. In addition to the platform, they offered customization, design, and campaign services that was becoming a challenge for clients to deal with all the moving parts. The opportunity was to better understand what was working, where are the pinch points, and how the company could leverage the success they’ve had. Interviewing employees and customers to understand the playing field, what buyers want, and the constraints/accelerators of the process resulted in a journey map that enabled Judy to identify key initiatives from a plan, people, process, and platform perspective. Presenting the results to the executive team created clarity where they needed to focus, rather than trying to ‘boil the ocean’. Strategic alliances, creating an inside sales team/account managers, and a senior BD specialist were all elements of the strategy, as well as streamlining the customer management process.
Strategic Planning. A few months later they had begun to implement some of the initiatives and felt the time was right to revisit the path that they were on to course correct, if necessary, and continue to build the infrastructure. With the team, we looked at the progress they had made, re-visited the values of the organization, re-defined the executive team’s roles and responsibilities, and identified the next steps.
Sales Management Coaching. With the new inside team established, the VP Sales had three new ‘flavors’ of sales people; outside, inside, account managers. As a relatively new sales manager, only two years in the role, we focused on creating a structured approach to leading the team, helping her to manage her time more effectively, support the implementation of a performance management program, while continuing to elevate the sales skills of the outside team and provide a roadmap for utilizing the inside team/account managers to maximize growth.
We also implemented a few more actions, including:
- Creating a nationwide and some state-wide strategic alliances that align with their target market
- Implementing an internal printing program for title and mortgage companies, leveraging a lead sharing program that existed
- Developing an inside sales process and strategy that leverages internal resources and increases the number of leads they can touch
The results have been substantial. After six months, they have seen:
- Increase of 200% in the number of leads
- Conversions are up 30%
- Regional Sales Directors production has increased 10% as a result of account manager role
A Furniture Dealer
KBM Workspace is a San Jose-based office furniture dealer that has been in business for nearly 60 years. They were the #1 dealer of Knoll office furniture in northern California, and KBM also offers other services, such as design consultation, project management, and furniture installation. While they’ve had robust growth in recent years, they still didn’t feel like they were having the success that they should.
When I started working with KBM, there were a few challenges that they needed to overcome. First, they had some high revenue goals and they needed some help to reach those levels. Making matters more challenging, they had just brought on two new salespeople, and the company needed those new hires up-to-speed as quickly as possible.
Finally, there were some span of control challenges. The CEO was very sales-minded, so he was directly supervising the sales organization’s activity. However, that effort was monopolizing his time and restricting his ability to run other areas of the company.
To help KBM reach their lofty sales goals, we focused on a few key areas:
Marketing messages. KBM does much more than just sell furniture. They transform office space to reflect the personality and energy of a company. They’re a one-stop shop for everything a company would need to furnish their entire office environment and create an experience for employees and their customers that elevates and inspires.
We decided that their messaging should match those services, so we implemented a “before and after” campaign on their website. We displayed pictures of client spaces before the client worked with KBM and then the finished product after KBM worked their magic.
We also designed case studies and aligned it with the rest of their marketing messaging. The new messaging better conveyed KBM’s unique value proposition and helped to drive new leads.
Sales activities. In interviewing KBM’s executives and staff, we realized that one of the most effective sales activities in the business was doing a tour of the company’s showroom. During a tour, a prospect could see and feel all of the furniture pieces and imagine how those pieces may look in their own space.
However, KBM wasn’t doing as many tours as they should. We empowered employees at a variety of levels – not just salespeople – to lead potential customers on showroom tours. We also created a contest to reinforce the importance of driving leads to take a tour and finally, added a virtual tour to their website. Focusing on educating clients vs. setting sales calls generated more revenue and improved the customer’s buying experience.
Sales structure. Finally, we had to address the issue of how the sales team was structured. I worked with the CEO to help him see the value in hiring a VP of Sales, which he ultimately did. That freed the CEO up to focus on other areas of the business while also giving the sales team the dedicated leadership they needed.
The VP of Sales helped to improve recruitment and retention and continue the initiatives we created to increase conversions and create long term relationships.
We also implemented a few more actions, including:
- 3 months of coaching for the CEO, COO, and two new sales personnel
- Implemented a marketing automation program to track traffic and generate leads
- Leveraged their installed base to grow revenue by creating a program to identify past customers and put a process in place to reconnect with them.
The results of our efforts were profound. After our work was complete, KBM became the #1 Knoll dealer in the US and experienced:
- A 53 percent increase in conversions from showroom tours
- A 17 percent increase in revenue
- Improved employee engagement