A lot of B2B companies are using the truculent economy as a scapegoat for many of the ills that plague them. At the end of the day, they’re not making as much money as they used to or perhaps they’re even running at a loss. The fact is, though, that an economy resembling a wounded sloth only serves to highlight and magnify the problems that already existed.
And every company has problems.
It’s no secret that, in times of plenty, companies are protected by the fat but when times are lean, there’s little lard buffering the harsh realities of retrenchments versus the unbounded joy of swelling coffers.
It’s also no secret that it’s then that sales managers begin to bald prematurely, wake up in the dark of night in a cold sweat, and quaff one consecutive coffee after another while chain-smoking like a legionnaire.
Needn’t be the case
The reason for their accelerated ageing is that they don’t know what to do to remedy the situation. But that needn’t be the case.
The causes for lacklustre revenues range from misalignment of sales people with sales management to few sales people meeting their targets, poor forecasting, underused vendor relationships, poor closing ratios, non-existent or ill-defined sales methodologies, and no or poor differentiation, or a poor sales strategy.
What sales and business unit managers in complex sales environments must do is gain visibility into their sales processes because it is then that they can start to take appropriate, relevant and effective actions to do something positive for sales.
They will know, for example, which leads offer immediate potential – if any at all – based upon factual metrics derived from accurate sales data, and distinguish them from those that will not be closed in the immediate future.
Where to focus sales effort
That will tell them where to focus their sales effort to get the maximum returns. They will gain the ability to differentiate their service or product.
It’s not as easy as it sounds.
Sales environments become increasingly complex as organisations grow in size. The larger the business, the more territories in which it operates or offices it maintains, the more sales people it employs, the more divisions it spans, the more products or services it offers, the greater the complexity. It can be an epic task to drill down into the data and learn what’s really happening.
And when managers do try to look into the reasons for poor performance, they are often stymied by the poor forecasting that runs riot through most businesses. Forecasts are typically based on past performance; they’re based on supposition, they’re an enigmatic brew of science and art, thumb sucks, bum covering, and the whole gamut of corporate ethics, mixed as they are.
So how is a sales manager or business unit manager (BUM) supposed to come up with a plan? And while they’re at it, how do they come up with a plan they’re pretty sure will succeed?
First, they need to know what’s going on. Without a sales methodology, process and proper tools in place, they cannot even begin. Those three components give them a common language and qualification that leads to qualitative selling. But not without coaching that will allow sales managers and BUMs to put the three components to proper use.
Take those steps and sales people ultimately end up with clear differentiators and compelling reasons why clients should choose them, which means they don’t have to resort to the unsustainable business practice of discount selling. Sales managers and BUMs gain visibility into where to maximise impact through focused, appropriate, and effective actions. Sales people cannot fudge forecasts and activities.
Sales people become more productive and more effective – or they leave. It’s the ugly side of sales performance management but right-sizing can cost companies an inordinate sum unless the situation can be reversed.
Clear and factual metrics
Clear and factual metrics will identify under-performers and top performers without prejudice, and under-performers without the will to change typically leave of their own accord once it becomes clear.
Those that do wish to remedy the situation, however, will know precisely where to make an effort and how to do so and sales managers will be able to support them as they become more productive for the business. It’s the most attractive option for everyone because, ultimately, companies exist to make money and any working person, particularly a sales person, is no different.