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This is not way to plan for success and it is certainly not way you would run a football team!
We call this ‘management by hope’.
So why is sales function not producing return on investment required?
We couldn’t attempt to address all reasons but listed below are some snapshots of what we have seen over recent years.
·The detail of sales function is seldom understood at board level. The belief that if you simply ‘do more’ you’ll get result is frighteningly common. No attention is paid to ‘doing more’ of ‘what’, or to ‘whom’. ·The direct sales plan is not integrated into marketing and business plan and disconnect is apparent. ·The sales management team is usually rewarded for achieving short-term revenue and profit goals with little measurement of qualitative and quantitive parts of job. ·Structured up-skilling and ‘leader & coaching’ programmes seldom exist. ·Apathy and low work rate within sales organisation. (The drumbeat is too slow.) “If Bill hits his targets and only works 4 days per week, why do I care if he plays golf every Friday?” No thought is given to how much more Bill could achieve, how this would effect his motivation and indeed, how his targets were set! ·Lack of a ‘sales culture’ and excitement ·Lack of recognition of true professional selling ·The introduction of internet and e-mail has given salespeople another excuse not to make contact with customers and cultivate their network
We are in danger of seeing standards of sales performance reduce year by year unless we take action now.
So what are our choices?
It’s very simple really……………Organisations can continue in same vein and leave sales results to chance, just hoping things improve……. or they can take action.
How to change?
It is not possible to cover whole spectrum of sales issues regularly facing Managing Directors but here are a few checklist items that you could take action on now.
·Ensure your sales propositions are articulated and clearly understood by salespeople and your customers. Your customers must really understand business deliverables of your products and services and implications of choosing an alternative. ·Ensure you have a leader of sales who really understands sales function and allocates time to managing it properly. Forbid them to be in office for more than a small portion of working week. ·Prepare open questions that establish needs and wants of your customer and then relate their needs and wants back to your products and services. ·Prepare a ‘person specification’ template to ensure standards for existing and new people are met. ·Be sure you know how you want salespeople to spend their time. ·Introduce a professional selection and retention programme for all new and existing salespeople. ·Use outside expert resources where appropriate to plug skill, knowledge and experience gaps within your own organisation. ·Plan, manage and measure quality and quantity of sales effort taking place and compare this with pre-agreed required activity to achieve result. ·Immediately introduce ‘bottom up / top down’ planning to check credibility of your revenue plan ·Link forecasting systems to quantity, direction and quality of activity required rather than just to historical sales results ·Know and understand how your sales team stacks up against competition
So where do you start?
·Start with a thorough review of your sales organisation. The people, procedures, processes and current performance and highlight areas for immediate, medium and long-term improvement. This can be done very quickly and at quite low cost ·Build a programme to manage change and improvement by introducing standards and key performance indicators and ensure salespeople and management ‘walk talk’ ·Where necessary, for fast, expert advice, appoint an external organisation that has a proven track record of implementing change and improving sales performance.
Do not think you can fix these issues by sending your people on a training course. You’d be better off taking your team for a ‘fun day’ and you’ll change no more. Remember football manager who works with his team, shares his experience and improves their skills at coaching ground? While training might be helpful in short term, there is no substitute for getting ‘on pitch’ to play and being observed in real live situations.
It takes a brave executive, especially a Sales Director to admit they need outside help -- but all sportspeople have a coach who is continually improving performance so why should it be different for your sales professionals?
A 10% improvement in sales performance will make a vast improvement to profitability of a company and in most companies this is very achievable. However, it does require an investment of time, and some money. It requires people to stop some of unproductive things they are doing now, and, instead, spend their time focused on what is truly effective and productive.
“The definition of insanity is doing same thing over and over and expecting different results”. Benjamin Franklin
At some point, whether you’re ready or not - things must change.
A Certified Accountant with 26 years experience of selling and marketing achievement in the IT industry. Having been on the board of many companies in the U.K. including Sperry, Unisys and Acorn Computers, the last three years sees Mike running O’RIORDAN LAWES, a business consultancy working with executives to address the issues of improving business performance. Mike is a Non Executive of Quantum a leading company of sales practitioners specialising in improving sales performance.