In our experience, the process of Sales, whether the organisation is in a start-up phase or indeed has been long-established, is often undervalued by leadership teams, & this can lead to critical damage to the long-term viability of the organisation. For example:
- In a start-up enterprise, funds are often not available to invest in quality selling tools & / or the company cannot afford a dedicated sales team. Therefore, individuals with limited experience & few or no sales tools – are expected to deliver the sales plan (assuming that there is one in the first place!).
- In an established company, there is often a “perceived wisdom”, that the customers will continue buying whatever happens, & therefore the Sales team have limited value, or even worse, are seen as “an expense or liability” rather than “an asset”, & are treated as such.
At gutowski and milner, we have first-hand experience of both of the above approaches, where in essence, insufficient priority / attention is given to Sales, & the business suffers accordingly & never reaches its full potential.
Before we dive into the details of Sales, we should step back, & consider the wider or helicopter view.
In order for any organisation to be successful, it (the leadership team + Stakeholders), need to regularly ask themselves the following types of questions:
- What is the purpose of the organisation? What problem are we solving?
- Do we know in detail the requirements of our customers? What are their key challenges?
- What are our products / services USP’s?
- How are we differentiating ourselves from the competition?
- Where are there growth opportunities?
- How can we maximise our profitability? Does our pricing model work?
- Do we have the right sales resources available in the right roles / locations?
- Is the organisation set-up correctly for all stages of the Selling process?
From these types of questions (the above is far from exhaustive), we will build up a picture of where we are & what is needed.
Now, a definition of Sales can be considered as the exchange of funds for physical goods & or services. Increasingly, the trend in many countries is for this activity to occur “on line” rather than in person, however, whether it’s a digital or indeed a physical transaction – the principals of Sales are unaffected in our view.
There are numerous types of Sales, including as an example “Inside Sales”, “SPIN selling”, “Challenger selling” & “Value selling”. In this blog, we will not focus on this subject specifically, however, will come back to it at a later date.
What is important to understand (& is applicable to all types of sales), is the Sales process. This needs to be clearly understood by those involved in the Sales, but also by the wider company & of course the leadership team.
The Sales process is a defined series of steps (sometimes referred to as the customer journey) – leading to the completion of the Sale, ie, funds being transferred from the customer to the organisation, at the agreed price & on time. The Sales process is often defined as being:
- Prospecting for new business:
Use of Social Media platforms (such as LinkedIn/ Twitter etc), advertising, use of influencers, webinars, e-mail blasts, mailshots, exhibitions & good old fashioned cold calling – are all examples of prospecting.
Without active prospecting for new business, the organisation’s new order “pipe-line” is in serious in jeopardy. We know of organisations who seem to have forgotten this very simple (but critically important) point.
- Preparation & approach:
Similar to “prospecting”, some aspects of the “preparation & approach” stages will involve coordination with the Marketing department.
The sales team need to understand the context of how the prospect was gained? What is their motivation to speak with sales etc. What is the likely timing for a potential sale. How should the sales team initiate the contact.
Completed carefully & correctly, this stage will prove to be a strong building block in the sales process.
- Presentation or pitch:
A common mistake is for an organisation to fail to take sufficient care in the preparation & approach stages, & jump straight into presentation mode.
Without gaining an insight to the needs of the prospect, it becomes very difficult for the sales person to make an effective pitch (it’s a bit like spraying bullets – just hoping that you’ll hit the target).
Sales materials need to be well thought through & professional. Remember, “first impressions” count.
- Objection handling:
Unlike the common misconception, objections are actually a “buying signal” & should be considered positive!
Handled correctly & overcome, objections become positive influences to the final close.
Another common mistake is to either not close, or not know when to close / stop talking! Having gone through all of the previous steps, at some point the sales team needs to move to a conclusion & ask for the order.
This is a skill that needs to be learned. Go too soon, & you may frighten off the prospect, however, go too late or not at all, & you may loose the sale all together.
Depending upon the type of business (repeat sale or one off), ongoing support will be needed from the sales team, especially, as an existing (satisfied) customer may be a good source of referrals for new business – which are definitely better than cold prospects.
A further key element in any successful sales team is performance transparency. Setting SMART goals is vital (there is nothing more demotivating than after a successful year, the Financial Director sets unrealistic expectations, which nobody is expected to achieve!) Believe me, we have also seen this!!
The implementation of an effective CRM system becomes quickly necessary- when measuring performance, & should be used as a key indicator for performance (as opposed to “stomach feel”).
In our experience, organisations that have appropriately resourced sales teams, which are respected, well trained, competitively compensated for their efforts & who know exactly what is expected of them – normally perform better than those who do not have these elements in place.
For more information please see https://www.gutowskiandmilner.com/sales/