Sales is a dynamic occupation that engages a dynamic world. Salespeople depend on your support to help realize their efforts. In order to achieve reliable growth, your operation must be designed to evolve from the collection, assessment and wise application of comprehensive data about the situation of your company relative to ability to sell. If you resist change, you will undermine growth.
You are the most important person to your company’s growth. Your responsibility is to ensure the sales success of your company. You can pass the buck to salespeople or step up to your responsibility of a manager of sales.
Your decisions will either aid fulfillment or fail to aid fulfillment of your company’s growth potential. Salespeople depend on your support to help realize their efforts. If you cannot effectively strategize, develop related processes, administer training that is relevant to a strategy and process, and correctly manage productivity, then do right by your company and acknowledge your limitation, or else suffer the consequence and be honest about where to place blame for sales failure. If you can create, implement, monitor, and revise a sales operation in order to achieve reliable growth, then your success will be verifiable by quantifiable results from your well-defined strategies, processes, and management structure.
Note: Sales excellence requires a multitude of skills and capacities to function synergistically. Few people in the profession are true professionals; most individuals employed in sales are ill suited with the demands of their positions. Companies that employ these people suffer growth problems due to the ignorance and incompetence of unqualified people. Experience does not equate to excellence.
Pillars of Sales Excellence
Effective sales organizations (those that can reliably achieve growth) value “outside the box” thinking about the profession. These professionals are beyond the simple-minded clichés and nonsense about Sales being a “numbers game.” (Numbers are an obvious aspect of the profession and, in many cases, are less important than are other aspects.) Effective sales organizations are built upon four pillars of the profession. Anything that you might suggest as being a pillar other than what I present here belongs to a subsection of:
(3) Training; or
Sales is a dynamic occupation that engages an ever-changing world. In order to achieve reliable growth, your operation must be designed to evolve from the collection, assessment and wise application of comprehensive data about the situation of your company relative to ability to sell. If you resist change, you will hinder growth. If you’re ready to build a operation that yields sales as a natural and reliable product of its function, this foundation will lead you to success.
The Foundation of Reliable Sales Growth
(1) Create a comprehensive STRATEGY based on accurate information. Synthesize sales-related information—information about your competition, industry developments, issues of your team, etc. A complete understanding of your situation will provide you with a solid basis for the intelligent design of a strategy to be tested and built upon.
(2) Create a measureable PROCESS structured by clear steps. The steps of a process must be logically placed and, as “actionable,” yield accurate, objective data about each step in the process.
(3) Ensure correct execution of process by TRAINING relevant skills to your team. Relevant skills are determined by the strategy and process to be implemented. Knowledge of skills is not sufficient; skills must be well developed among salespeople. Use comprehensive role plays during training and develop skills pertinent to each step of your process.
(4) Monitor, assess, and evolve progress through focused MANAGEMENT. Excellent leadership manages a balanced and synergistic operation formed from strategy, process, training, and a management system. Management must safeguard and ensure progress through structure, and see salespeople as one aspect of their own effort to achieve excellence.
Note: the person who manages a company’s sales is, ultimately, responsible, for the company’s growth. Salespeople are essential instruments for growth who must be properly supported by the manager. The function of team, through on-going refinement of their work, will help achieve growth and accomplish your goal.
This “simple” four-part method for growth is easy to understand but difficult to realize. Sales excellence requires a discovery process that reveals strategies and processes that reliably convert potential into actual growth. Many managers of sales simply do not possess the creativity and knowledge required to improve growth consistently, or they do not have the time required to create and test potentially superior strategies, and then train the relevant techniques to their team. These companies (which are most companies) lose money that they could receive had they improved their operation—strategy, process, training, and management.
The Key to Improvement
The key to the establishment and evolution of a successful sales operation is data. You simply cannot reach your potential without data. Data provides clues that can be steppingstones to higher levels of success. The daily work of your team produces a goldmine of data. Selected bits of this information must be obtained and analyzed in order to achieve progress from making informed decisions about your operation. Often, data will allow decision-making to be easy – as a matter of selecting an obvious course of action from among a set of options. Without data, your success is left up to chance. An effectively designed and managed operation will allow you to collect, assess, and understand data, which will help you improve your growth reliably.
Data is essential for understanding your needs and making wise choices for solutions, which may include the development of new strategies and training regimens. Your data must be: (a) reliable; (b) broad (cover several areas); and (c) regularly attained (at least monthly). The issue here is not what you know about matters related to your sales; the issue pertains to what you don’t know about the matters related to your sales, which may be found in several areas, including, but certainly not limited to: industry and market trends; developments with competitors; changes in buyers’ interests; technological advancement related to sales and marketing practices.
Data will help you identify your operation’s unique combination of practices that will achieve optimization and balance a step-by-step, revenue-generating process, relevant training regimen, and wise management structure.
Defining and Discovering Sales Excellence
Sales NEVER occur spontaneously, they are ALWAYS the result of some process. In order to achieve reliable results from a sales process, data, strategy, relevant training, and management are critically important.
The extent to which a business owner is willing to allocate resources to a sales operation is one of several factors that impact a company’s growth and ability to achieve optimization. Other variables include: the interests of your buyers and their reception to your marketing and promotional materials; the strategies of your competitors; market and economic trends; new products; and each of your decisions about how to improve your operation. The numerous variables that impact growth and identification of successful strategies and processes are the daily challenges managers of sales must face.
Some sales managers equate sales improvement to a maximum amount of activity that a company and/or their team can manage at any given time. Operational capacity, inventory turns, schedule expansion can constitute “reaching sales potential,” and all or each of these may comprise your understanding of “optimization.” However, there is another aspect of potential that should be considered: profit. Operational capacity, inventory turns, schedule expansion, and all other sales-related activity are shortsighted objectives in and of themselves. Each of these must respectively contribute to maximizing company profit.
The Value of Sales
Sales give life to our businesses, and the sustenance obtained from those sales is profit. Greater profits from sales provide a business with a healthier life. “Sale” and “profit” are not the same. Some companies sacrifice profit in order to gain sales. Therefore, sales improvement must consider sales in terms of quantity and quality.
Sales improvement is achieved through the discovery of a combination of resources and practices that is synergistically more effective than those presently separating you from greater sales. Business owners and managers of sales must be willing and able to learn how and why sales improved.
Strategy Over Experience
“Strategic thinking is the most valued skill in leaders today.”
– The Wall Street Journal
The improvement of your operation’s productivity is a simple matter of choice. Once you have decided to improve, you face the question of means: how will you improve? The decisions that you make here will lay a foundation for your growth strategy. Effective managers make decisions to safeguard the synergy of their operations – operations in which their teams are one of several critically important components. Another critical part of a healthy operation relies on the quality of rational and decisions of managers, which determines the changes in and application of strategies. Strategy, unlike industry experience and product knowledge, depends on creativity and insight, attributes that many managers do not possess, which necessarily limits their effectiveness as managers.
Every company is unique, which means that companies differ in terms of capabilities, resources, and specific needs. Yes, companies share similar problems, but since no other company employs you and your salespeople, shares your brand and market position, or applies your specific combination of resources in a growth strategy. Therefore, each company has a unique situation relative to its growth challenges.
Bottom line: your choice to achieve reliable growth must include answers to how you will:
Ensure regular collection of accurate data
Systemize the evolution of a synergistic operation
Ensure operational progress through management structure
Growth improvement is not sufficient in today’s world; companies should aim for optimization—attainment of their growth potential. Regard for reliable growth aims for optimization and considers the four parts of sales excellence—strategy, process, training, and management. Among the benefits of a well-designed operation, you can expect:
(a) Immediate improvement with long-term dividends
(b) An operation that evolves
(c) Improved efficiency
(d) Increased profitability
(e) Reliable growth
(f) Greater focus
(g) Less stress
About the author
Steve Young is a nationally respected, “outside the box” sales expert who is President…