Since late 2014, we have been rolling out our Sales Strategy and Operations Audit, working with a wide range of businesses across industries in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors to help them sell better.
In 2017, we compiled a benchmark report for 2015-17 based on over 20 companies, and found several trends emerging that are relevant across businesses and industries. We are also seeing this across many other businesses, with or without the audit.
Here is what we found:
The biggest sales issues facing chief executives and sales leaders today:
- Average or below average: Every business was average or below average on their initial sales strategy and operations audit across most areas, with no differentiation and no sustained competitive advantage. This was reflected in their actual results and presence in the market. Average performance.
- No clarity, communication or consistency: Regardless of industry, every business lacked clarity of purpose, strategy and roles; had very inconsistent or poor communication practices; and no consistency of sales processes, standards, tools or resources across their sales teams.
- Complete disconnect between business strategy and sales strategy: You can’t deliver an effective business strategy without input from sales. Most “sales strategies” were nothing more than a restructure of the sales team or a redesign of the sales incentive program.
- Lack of systems: No-one was running their sales team and sales operations like a system. Instead there was a prevalence of short-termism with limited strategic intent and reactions to the marketplace.
- Poor sales market segmentation: Most businesses were confused at best about their sales market segments and, at worst, had no idea what market segments were.
- Internally facing: They were all internally facing in terms of communication, with their customers and the backend processes not aligned to support the sales and customer effort.
- No alignment between sales and marketing: Marketing and sales were not aligned at all.
- No engagement across the business: Selling and customers were not seen as a responsibility for the whole business to support, leading to disengagement and poor customer outcomes, including retention.
The good news is that these businesses discovered they didn’t need to do anything too radical to improve. What they needed to do was lead their sales strategy and operations execution plan and tweak their sales systems and lead their teams with purpose.
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However, less than half of these businesses chose to execute their plans in full, and those that did, well, the results and sustainable outcomes have been amazing, including:
- Quick turnaround in sales revenue and margin growth, winning more and better business with the right kinds of clients over the short- and long-term.
- More robust systems in place across the business that support the sales effort.
- Reduced turnover and higher retention rates of competent sales staff who want to stay and perform.
- Higher customer satisfaction, increased NPS (net promoter scores) and more repeat business.
- Competent sales leaders leading and coaching their sales teams to better performance.
- Happier, more engaged employees and customers who are clear about why they are there, what they are accountable for and what their purpose is.
The biggest sales opportunities for chief executives and sales leaders today:
- Learn how to design and implement effective sales strategies that deliver real value and a sustainable competitive advantage within the framework of a valid and functioning sales operating system.
- Build an authentic client-centric sales and service culture and reputation based on clear purpose and strategy; ethical, courageous and consistent leadership; sound values and principles that endorse trust, engagement, and commitment with employees and clients.
- Understand and work with sales market segments in concert with marketing.
- Support the development of sales and service mastery through ongoing dynamic education with codified practices, tools, templates and resources: online, infield, and in-classroom.
- Lead and run a business that aims to minimise execution risk and keep people accountable.
This leads to clarity, effective communication and consistency across the board, which builds trust and commitment and makes for far better sales outcomes.
Here it is in a nutshell: Adopt a systems approach with clear purpose and a “clear water” strategy. Ensure you train and educate your people and minimise execution risk on every level.
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.