If your firm is struggle to grow sales, you already know that you are facing an important issue which needs to be fixed quickly. We cannot “pilot” our organization, if we are not able to manage the top line of the company (sales). We could try to protect the profitability of the firm with cost-cutting programs, but those initiatives have a short-term limit effect. Healthy companies need a reliable revenue growth “engine” (sales organization) or perhaps they need a sales transformation…

Sales Diagnostic

The first thing we need is to make a diagnostic of the severity of the sales issue. So we would suggest checking quickly, if your firm was facing any or most of the following symptoms:

  • Commoditization of your products/services
  • Lack of sales leads
  • Low sales success rate
  • Revenue does not take off
  • Margins are getting eroded
  • Weak company pipeline
  • Low sales forecast accuracy

Unfortunately, all those symptoms used to be interrelated and companies underperforming in sales used to face most of them. In those situations, the firm need a sales transformation to fix the root cause of those symptoms. Although before analyzing the sales transformation, let me tell you the story of one of the company in which I have worked that showed clearly in two different times of that company life cycle how used to be a high-performance sales firm, and how used to be a low-performance one.

How it is a sales high-performance and low-performance organization

At the beginning of 1990s this firm developed a very good strategic vision in which the transportation industry will grow and transform into the logistics industry. In order to materialize that vision the company understood that every business start by sales. So a strong sales function had to be built to sell the future logistics projects that large firms would demand according to the new coming logistics outsourcing strategies. So the best salesperson that I have never ever met (my best sales coach) was in charge part-time like company sales director and part-time acting as a large accounts sales executive.

After a few years the company was importantly growing in number of large accounts, revenue and margin. It is true that at that time the company was in a new and fast growing industry. So competition was lower, and buyers used to be less experienced. However, enter a new industry and sell “new” services are not anything trivial that just a real A-player could do it.

At that time, the sales department was the most relevant one in that organization. A strong customer-driven and sales culture were building up. Everybody in the firm respected and supported the sales function. The CEO used to participate in the sales meeting, and he used to have his complicated agenda “almost” opened for new customers’ meetings. All the staff got a customer-driven and sales training which set a clear message for the whole organization. Salespeople had quarterly meetings with some time allocated for sales skills training (AIDA selling technique, purchase motivations, company presentation role play, sales objections management, etc.) Additionally, salespeople used to have regular review meetings with the sales manager, and the sales manager used to visit customers with salespeople in order to be able to offer a better feedback and support to them. Etc.

Suddenly, the company decided to try to find new ways of fast growing and it started to focus on “new sales toys searching for the magic bullet” (NLP, selling quantified value, hiring a high-performance industry veteran, etc.) Unfortunately,  the company made a chain of big mistakes that are quite common in many sales organizations underperforming:

  • Believe that there is just a “magic sales bullet”
  • Forget to motivate its “golden goose” (A-player)
  • Ignore the fundamentals of sales management

The new direction and consequences were terrible. The part-time sales manager function was assumed by a 100% operational general manager with a lack of customer orientation and no sales managing experience. All the sales management fundamentals  were substitute for a few meetings to review the sales quota progress (no training, no sales team support, etc.) So the sales team got unmotivated, without direction and immersed in the chaos (“as goes the leader, so goes the organization”). Then, after a while the unmotivated “A-player” and real “hunter” was fired, and the company tried unsuccessfully with a few “farmers” to fulfill the real “A-player” performance. The sales situation was deteriorating. The company was really struggling to get new sales, and contract renovations became an issue too…

Sales Force Transformation Approach

The most important key success factor in sales used to be following the sales management fundamentals. However, for whatever reason nowadays you can find an important amount of companies that are not following those fundamentals and get struggle to create a healthy sales organization.

For those firms with important issues on sales, we would like to suggest the following sales transformation roadmap to improve results:

  • REFRAME Sales
    • Leadership: Coaching the sales manager about how to lead the sales team. Tools: monthly sales meetings, monthly one to one review meetings, working in the field, etc.
    • Strategic focus: Reframing the sales strategy. Tools: market segmentation, strategic account targeting, messaging, etc.
    • Organizational change: Reviewing the team, roles, and responsibilities. Tools: people performance review, talent management, hunters vs. farmers, etc.
  • RENEW Sales
    • Diagnostic: Reviewing main causes of failure, best practices, processes, and the team. Tools: one to one interviews, questionnaires, visits to customers with salespeople, etc.
    • Culture management: Renewing the sales culture fostering a high-performance and result-driven sales culture. Tools: communication plan, compensation plan, etc.
    • Change management: Making things happen. Tools: conditions for success framework, etc.
    • Critical processes improvement: Improving the high value sales process. Tools: sales territory plan, sales pipeline, value proposition, etc.

I would like to highlight that other sales “toys” like NLP or CRM are good sales support tools that should be incorporated inside the last part of the framework as process improvements. Nevertheless, in order to be success in sales we suggest that the main focus must remain in the sales management fundamentals rather than in the sales “toys.”

Right now, someone could think “well, most of this is anything new, it is just to train and enforce the traditional sales management fundamentals.” Indeed, it is not as simple because it is getting quite uncommon to get people in house with strong experience on performing the “sales management fundamentals.” The training option is needed it but it is not enough because unfortunately just a couple of days of training will not materialize a sales transformation. How many people does it get trained and after a few weeks you realize that they are not using almost any of the training?

The sales management fundamentals are mainly based on sales leadership and cultural management factors and those “soft factors” used to require some coaching to materialize the nontrivial sales transformation. Moreover, the rest of the transformation framework proposed is not part of the sales management fundamentals rather than a necessary complement for success transformation of the sales organization. For instance, strategic focus reviews the sales and market strategy and connects it with the firm strategy. Change management makes sure that we correctly implement the transformation at the salespeople level. The critical improvement processes get advantage of a few chosen sales tools to maintain the sales process as simple as possible in order to improve the effectiveness of the sales process execution .

Benefits of the Sales Force Transformation

The correct sales transformation approach will create a high-performance, well-motivated and properly trained sales team. This team will be able to match customer expectations, differentiate the firm, and being perceived for customers as high value advisors. So the sales success rate, revenue and margins will start taking off again. Then, the pipeline will show the healthy of the company sales. This is a virtuous circle because salespeople will become energized by the success, and they will work better and with a higher success probability.

It looks simple and logical, but all of us we know that making a success sales transformation is one of the most difficult tasks. A experience person on sales and a clear sales transformational roadmap are the foundations for the transformation.

Additionally, we must say that this sales management transformation approach should be leveraged with other transformational approaches like: growth transformation that takes advantage of a better synchronization between sales and marketing, or customer experience transformation to leverage the sales mainly from current accounts. Many times areas as sales are view as silo, and honestly speaking high-performance sales required of the properly coordination with other areas as marketing, or customer service to improve the number of leads, referrals, cross-selling and so on.

Right now, it is your decision if you transform and accelerate sales…

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