The management side of the sales process and how that helps the sales organization as a whole

Running a sales organization is simple. You only need to do three things:

  • Make sure you have the right people.
  • Make sure they are doing the right things.
  • Make sure this all happens in a culture of accountability.

Simple. Not easy, but simple.

What is written above is the very (very) short version of my second book. I am in the process of writing it now. If all goes according to plan – a simple but not easy plan – then the book should be out in late winter or early spring.

There is a lot to say about the above three things.  Each section – as simple as it sounds – opens into a set of information as complex as each individual salesperson; each individual sales transaction; and each company in which these people engage in these transactions.

Who are the right people? How can we spot them? What attributes do most employers look for that don’t matter and which ones do? What attributes should we make sure our salespeople have, and maybe even more importantly, which ones should we make sure they don’t have!

Beyond attributes, there are skills. Attributes help define the orientation of a person, but the skills need to be executed. Without the right attributes, execution of skills will be avoided, but even with the right attributes, it is the right skill set that needs to be possessed so that those things that need to get done do get done, and get done correctly.

And what is it that needs to get done? I have spoken at length about the limitations of having nothing but revenue targets as measurements of sales. What are the things that the salespeople are supposed to be doing to get from not-yet talking to someone to closing a deal with them. This is the sales process, and it needs to be detailed, measurable, and specific to each industry, company, and in many cases, even to each sales person.

What happens when there is a disconnect between what is supposed to be happening (execution of the steps in the sales process on an ongoing basis) and what is really happening? In many sales organization, the answer is – sadly – nothing. If revenue targets at the end of the period are used as the only measure of sales performance, it is often because there is no structure of accountability, and no-one to enforce accountability if there is. Too many sales managers spend most of their time selling rather than managing. Those who do manage, often don’t really know what to do. If the steps of the sales process are not clear and measurable, what can the manager do other than go on calls, offer random bits of wisdom, and listen to subjective excuses for lack of results? It’s not hard to do better than this, but most don’t.  You would fire your receptionist if she only answered 80% of the calls and did not step up to a plan to correct that, but in sales….

The job is called sales. If what exactly it means to be selling is defined, measured and managed, and someone who is supposed to be doing sales isn’t, they should be fired. You would fire the janitor for consistently skipping a few rooms, or the accountant for keeping up the books in anything less than 12 months of the year. Salespeople should be fired if they are not selling. That’s called accountability. It only works when the structures are in place to make sure that everyone knows what is expected. In a well run organization, a salesperson should never be surprised when they get fired.

And finally, if we are going to fire salespeople for not doing their jobs, we should be hiring salespeople who will. This brings us back to skills and attributes – we should hire the right people. Their training should revolve around the sales process and how they will be held accountable. Most importantly, we should ALWAYS be searching for these kinds of salespeople.

Why always?

Because – no disrespect to Mr. Pareto – but in your sales organization, the real meaning of the 80/20 rule sucks. The 80/20 rule implies that we will have four mediocre-at-best performers in our sales organization for each strong performer. If instead, we hired winners, held them accountable for results, and fired those salespeople who do not deliver adequate results – then we would want to be hiring as many new salespeople as possible, all of the time. This dynamic implies that each will be profitable, and those who are not will be sacked. When your organization is run this way, your greatest dream should be to go back to the office supply store for more chairs and desks. When they are all occupied by someone who is either profitable or soon on the way out, you just can’t get enough of them.

At the end of the day, we can identify and implement the elements required for sales organization success. It takes some work, some skill and some time to bring about the kinds of changes in a sales organization that will yield better results with less management effort, but for those who have successfully engaged in this endeavor, the rewards are quite worth the effort.

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David