When markets start to tighten, instead of cost cutting I have found that you need to do the opposite – to invest in your sales efforts. I don’t know about you, but when markets start to tighten or when things feel a bit uncertain, instead of cost cutting and bunkering down, I have found that you need to do precisely the opposite. You need to invest in your sales efforts with good strategy, sales training, good sales management and good sales coaching.
I have experienced selling in tight markets over the years and found these times to be some of my most successful sales years. Why? Because I took advantage of everyone else’s pessimistic approach as they sat around complaining, and I got out there and learned how to survive and thrive in tight markets. While you may hear others saying things are bad and they can’t make any sales, you know there are still potential clients out there who need your help/products/services.
Beware where your thoughts take you and whom you listen to. We have a saying at Barrett: “Watch who you let near your mind”.
In tight times it is too easy just to cut costs at any expense. Cutting costs on your sales efforts by not training and coaching your sales staff or investing in sales support resources just sends you further backwards.
Here is what some of my close business contacts, who hold senior sales management roles in large public companies, had to say about cost cutting at the expense of their sales teams and sales efforts.
They are lamenting the current fad of the career CEO and their gangs who come in for three or four years only and whose only strategy to drive up the share price is to cut costs. Their experience is that these CEOs show no signs of investing in the development of the businesses or their people.
These senior sales managers stated that they have repeatedly asked for and received no investment funding to develop their sales teams for over two years. One of these managers has moved from one public company to another only to find exactly the same issue, despite promises to the contrary when they were being interviewed for the job.
They have put their economic cases and research evidence to senior management about how important it is in this day and age to invest in developing sales teams so they can be competitive and fit in the market place. They have stated that their “competitive edge” is their sales team, not their products or pricing any more.
They stated that developing their teams helps them attract and retain more and better quality customers, make more sales and attract and retain good staff. Just like a sports team, these senior sales managers know that they and their teams need regular training and development to leverage their skills and talent in the market place.
But their requests continue to fall on deaf ears. In my contacts’ opinions, they see their respective CEOs and their gangs only thinking short term with no eye for the future and “cost cutting” as their only maxim.
They admit they are in despair. Here is what they shared with me about their sales teams:
- “Management refuses to invest in people. My sales people are demotivated and many are wanting to leave except they won’t because they know the company is paying (bribing) them more than they are worth in the market, so they’re all waiting for the ‘package’ – how can I run a sales team like that? Sales are stagnating. Staff engagement is really low across the whole business. It’s depressing.”
- “As much as I am out in the field with them and coaching for better performance (which they really appreciate), they know that senior management have no interest in their future well-being or development. My team wants to be better and would love more training on current sales practices but they know they won’t get it here. I am at great risk of losing my team.”
Whether you are large or small, do not fall into this trap. The short, medium and long term consequences are lethal. Be prudent with your dollar, for sure, but don’t kill off the source of your revenue stream.
Regularly invest in your sales team’s development. It doesn’t have to be full blown training programs (although these are helpful on at least a yearly basis). It can be as simple as getting in an expert guest speaker at your sales meetings or giving special executive coaching sessions to your top sales performers to make them even better. It’s what keeps us healthy, fit and motivated.
If you are thinking of using external sales consultants, coaches or trainers to help you improve your sales efforts, I recommend you assess them using the following criteria:
Do they have experience and a proven track record working with companies to create high performing sales teams?
Do they know what makes great sales people great?
Is their sales training content relevant and up-to-date for today’s competitive market place? That is, are they incorporating sales process, sales planning, influencing, developing meaningful business relationships, emotional self management etcetera into their training?
Is their training methodology designed to develop sales teams to deliver your sales plans consistently?
Can they show specific evidence of improving sales results in businesses?
Does their methodology ensure that you can build a sustainable sales culture over time?
Are they able to translate complex initiatives into practical, tactical road maps you and your people can use immediately?
Do they ensure that you can measure the right sales metrics so that you can then manage by them?
Do they have proven competency based approach which leads to observable behaviour change at all levels?
Do their consultants, coaches and trainers all have industry-based commercial and sales experience?
Do their coaches and trainers have relevant industry-recognised qualifications in coaching, facilitation and assessment?
Do they have experience in sales culture and process transformation across industries?
Do they help you make more money than the cost of having them in your business?
Sue Barrett is Managing Director of BARRETT Pty Ltd. Sue is an experienced consultant and trained coach and facilitator. Sue and her team are best known for their work in creating High Performing Sales Teams. Key to their success is working with the whole person and integrating emotional intelligence, skill, knowledge, behaviour, process and strategy via effective training and coaching programs. For more information please go to www.barrett.com.au
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