Sales Improvement and Business Development – this is written for you if you’re not seeing quarter on quarter, week on week improvements in your sales team, your sales results and your sales pipeline.
It covers: sales improvement,business development thinking, training needs analysis, performance management, sales metrics and sales leadership.
If that’s of interest to you at the moment, read on…here goes:
We see things, not as they are, but as we are.
And that’s a problem.
It’s a big problem.
Especially if you’re the business owner and you want to get the highest possible return from the sales team, the sales process and the sales function.
And even more so if all you’re hearing is the same excuses week after week, month after month.
Where do you go with that?
Fire the sales function and start again?
Listen to the excuses and buy into the promised upswing or the promise to ‘trade through it’ or do you get involved and start asking the harder questions?
Whatever option you pick – it’s a tough position to be in as a business owner or CEO when you’re trying to build a sales engine.
To grow your business to match your expectations.
To outperform your competitors.
Turn a bigger profit.
When your sales results are less than ideal all of the above can seem like a steep climb up a very rocky mountain!
Is Predictable Sales Improvement Too Much to Ask?
Yes and No
Very few things in sales performance management, business development and sales improvement are guaranteed to be predictable.
After all, you’re dealing with two of the most unreliable products in the history of the world…
That’s the buyers and your sales team.
In case you were wondering.
So, to cut to the ending super quick…in many cases the best you can hope for is that you spot the sales weaknesses early and do something to over come them.
And…that you leave no stone unturned when it comes to dealing with sales fails, whether that’s with regard to people, process or product.
And…that when it comes to sales improvement and business development you resist the knee jerk reactions that send you one step forward, two steps back and three steps to the left…try, where you can to avoid the following
Sales Improvement Assumptions
#1. We need to train the sales team
Stop! No you probably don’t want to do that.
They are selling the way they are for a reason. Before you commit any money to the one day sheep dip sales training course or business development workshop find out why they are selling the way they are.
Also spend some time to:
- Analyse their selling skills.
- Review their winning mindsets.
- Discover where their sales leads are sticking.
- What lead sources are converting at what level.
- Where and how the sales team spend their time.
Sales training may be one of the sales improvement fixes but never in isolation and never the first shot in the arm UNLESS you’re going to use it to also kick off a robust Sales Performance Management Program where you’ll also be seeing who to keep and who to help leave the business.
#2. Sales Turnover and Profit are the Only Useful Metrics
No they’re not.
The sales turnover and profits paint part of a picture, but here’s what those sales metrics DON’T tell you.
What the sales result variance is across the team in terms of average order value, sales velocity through the sales pipeline, lead conversion by source, lost deals by source/reason, and two handfuls of other mission critical information.
The sales metrics, and understanding the conversions at each part of the sales process is critical.
I don’t use that word lightly when considering sales improvements.
If you understand, track, manage and coach against NEEDLE-SHIFTING sales metrics your chances of getting the sales results you want becomes much, much higher.
Improving on those sales results consistently becomes so much easier.
Consistent sales improvement means stable growth…you’re building an empire!
#3. The Sales Leadership Team are Doing their Best
Probably very true.
Here are some of the hints that might lead you to suspect that they’re not, or that they could do better…
Ask them these 3 questions:
- How many hours did they spend coaching each sales team member last week? I mean proper side by side sales coaching, reflecting on the call, offering on the job, tailored and specific sales training.
- When was the last time the sales leadership team went out and helped the sales team net new clients?
- How are the sales leadership team offering your sales team strategic overview of the marketplace such that they are enriching the collective knowledge bank every day, so they can sell better and close more business, more quickly?
This is important, since competitive advantage and differentiation rely on knowledge.
You really want your sales team to up their game – look at the sales leadership function and it’s relationship with front line sales people.
Typically the source of any game changing knowledge in the first instance is the telescopic view of the sales leadership team, which is them augmented by the feedback by the sales team…it’s a truly symbiotic relationship, but it starts and is led by the sales leadership function.
How are your sales leadership team making the sales team better at their job, more competitive in the market space, and better equipped to kill the sales pitch of your competitors?
#4. We Need to Change the Sales Bonus Structure.
Maybe you do, perhaps you don’t.
How much of this is a knee jerk reaction to poor sales performance and an anti sales improvement environment?
You can think of it like this…if a sales person isn’t selling, if his business development activity is weak, if his pipeline conversion if poor, if he hasn’t hit sales target in the last 6 months and has no chance of doing any better in the next 6 months…then how does doubling his bonus on all new sales wins make the situation any more likely to change?
Mess with the reward and sales bonus structure at your discretion, but it’s often one of the last things to look at.
Because 99.9999% of the time, it just doesn’t work.
A good sales bonus structure plays to continuous sales improvement only if it’s structured that way.
More should be.
#5. We Need to Hire Better Quality Sales People.
What a minefield that is.
What do you mean by better quality sales people?
More coach-able sales people perhaps?
Sales people from the industry who have a live address book?
Better paid sales people?
Sales people with better selling habits?
Hungrier sales people?
Graduate sales staff?
All of the above.
This is costly, high risk, and fraught with danger.
A bad sales process is better than no sales process. More often than not – the process is an easier fix than the people.
If you’ve recruited a sales person – you must have seen something in him of value – never lose sight of that, and before you start looking at the staff, look at the sales process.
It’s less risky, can often deliver bigger wins faster and will definitely inform with certainty in who/what you need to do to boost sales results.
There are other ways – quick, easy and fast ways, to suss out if you want to start churning the sales team/business development team – don’t rely on gut instincts, or even sales performance data like revenue or margin, you’ll be missing some key insights.
Continuous, Predictable Sales Improvement and Business Development – Things to Think About
The sales metrics you see, the sales turnover and GP you get are symptoms. If you seriously want to get to a point of continuous and predictable sales improvement and business development then be prepared to really lift the hood and do a deep dive into the whole sales function, typically starting with the sales process.
Resist the urge to change anything.
Anything at all.
Until you have the full picture.
Changing anything has consequences you might not immediately see.
And that’s dangerous, potentially a sure fire way to see your sales results fall totally out of your control.
Instead – look at the key sales metrics you can measure, that you can influence and that move the sales results needle.
Any changes you make should be related to these metrics and making these metrics better – you can look at a few case studies here – Sales Improvement and Business Development – Sales Audit Case Studies
Having done that and when you are in a position to change facets of the sales function then decide on the metric to manage and monitor to reflect that change so you know super-quick if it’s been a good change or not.
When you are able to start changing the way the sales function operates, don’t change too many things at any one time.
Sales dips don’t usually happen over night and whilst some can be repaired really quickly, others need time.
Take the sales team with you. Put them at the centre of any sales improvement drive, accountability, responsibility and control.
Setting Up a Culture of Continuous Sales Improvement.
Every business needs to start somewhere!
You can start here…the Done for You Morton Kyle Sales Audit
Or, if you’re looking to build a Continuous Sales Improvement capability within your own business – you can do that here – How to Run Your Own Internal Sales Audit
Sales improvement within a sales function is not difficult.
Getting the business development function revved to deliver takes effort and application, that can be tough, but it’s not impossible, it’s not difficult.
It’s a win-able challenge.
It’s a simple process to set up, it’s pure cause and effect.
The problem that most businesses suffering from poor sales results simply deal with the effects and not the causes.
It’s a common failing and often only contributes negatively to an already fragile situation.
Whether you’re running a thriving business, busting through sales challenge after sales challenge, or a struggling business who can’t make the numbers work, adopting a framework of continuous sales improvement drives the team focus and business growth in a way that’s got success inbuilt.
Continuous sales improvement is a positive sales culture change.
- It’s low risk.
- Not costly.
- And in many ways puts the fun back into building and growing a business.
- Communication seems seamless.
- Tasks become simpler.
- Hurdles are removed.
- What doesn’t bring value gets ditched.
- It’s a route to freedom, clarity and focus.
Sales improvement and Continuous Sales Improvement in the Business Development function is a tangible force for good in any business, but to be really successful it requires you to step outside of the cliched knee jerk responses and really address the core issues that are preventing you getting the sales results you want, need and deserve.
Call 0779 002 1885 or message now on email@example.com to confidentially discuss your sales improvement agenda.