Yes, I’m on that soapbox again. There have been a number of research reports released, all highlighting the decline in sales performance. CSO Insights, 2009 Sales Optimization report is one that you should look at.
It’s disappointing, but not surprising. My friend, Dave Stein wrote an interesting perspective, Declining Sales Performance: Have You Had Enough Yet?
In many ways, the decline is understandable, though not excusable. We are in the midst of overwhelming and rapid change, it’s difficult just keeping our noses above the water. Customers are changing the way they buy, social media is making information (accurate or not, positive and negative) about our products and services more available, the role of the sales professional in advising customers is changing. Finally, overlay all of this with the new economy. It’s no wonder that sales performance is suffering.
In the face of everything that is happening, what do we do? It’s often difficult to tell where to start? Should we change our routes to market, making the shift from direct to indirect to eCommerce and back again? Should we change our organizational structure? Should we change our recruiting profile? Should we change our incentive systems? What Sales 2.0 tools should we be deploying? Should we embrace the latest greatest sales methodology and re-dip all our sales people? The list can go on, the choices can be overwhelming.
The starting point for each organization will be different. But in some sense, driving the highest levels of sales performance is like building a house, without a strong foundation, everything else is likely to be weak, and sustaining high performance will be difficult. The foundation of selling is based on two key elements:
- Strategically: Who are we, who are our customers, how do we want to be perceived by our customers, what do we want to stand for, what kinds or relationships do our customers want with us (how do they want to buy), how to we achieve our corporate ambitions, how will we provide leadership to our customers? I’ve certainly not addressed all the questions, but this is sufficient for now. These are tough questions, they can’t just be answered by sales–often they are answered for us by our companies.
- Tactically: How do we most effectively and efficiently execute our strategy? What resources, skills, capabilities, programs do we need? How do we measure and track individual/organizational performance? We can come up with long lists of the tactical actions we must consider, but the core question is the first: How doe we most effectively and efficiently execute our strategy—This is the selling process.
Let’s face it, the strategic questions are important, but we need to produce results today! I don’t disagree, let’s focus on what we have to do today–but let’s not forget that we have to also invest time in the strategic issues. Pragmatically speaking, the best starting point to improve sales performance is your sales process. Many of you must be thinking, “Dave, I get this, why do you keep harping on this, why are you always on this soapbox?” I get to interact with 1000’s of sales professionals every year. Additionally, I spend time in conferences, looking at the research, speaking with other consultants, I keep seeing the same things:
- A shocking number of companies actually do not have a sales process.
- Many companies have a sales process, but they don’t use it—or at least aren’t using it as effectively as they can.
- Many companies have a sales process, but it does not reflect current realities. They put it in place several years ago and have not updated it.
Can your sales process stand up? Are your people using it as effectively as possible? Is management leveraging the process as a cornerstone to understanding and improving sales performance? Make sure you can answer these questions in the affirmative, if any answer is No, then you are missing a tremendous opportunity.
Partners In EXCELLENCE has developed a free Sales Process Self Assessment. It is a tool to help you assess your process, understand critical aspects of whether you are getting the most out of your process, and to help you to think about how you might improve performance. For a free copy, click on the link: Sales Process Self Assessment