In order to achieve peak ‘sales fitness’, now and in the long term, leaders and their sales teams must adopt a ‘systems thinking’ approach to sales operational excellence in order to sell better, deliver competitive sales strategies that work, find new uncontested markets while also minimising execution risk on the ground.
Systems thinking is a holistic approach to analysis that focuses on the way a system’s constituent parts interrelate and how systems work over time and within the context of larger systems. The systems thinking approach contrasts with traditional analysis, which studies systems by breaking them down into their separate elements.
My persistence in promoting and advocating for a systems approach to sales excellence is deliberate on every level, because if leaders want to stay in business and remain relevant, adopting a systems approach pays, on every level, and shifts our thinking away from seeing training as the only solution to selling better.
Systems thinking recognises there’s a lot more to selling better than just training. However, most leaders’ default setting to improve ‘sales fitness’ is to select training as the option of choice.
Sales operations are complex variable systems with many moving parts. They do not follow a straight line, and smart companies get this. They recognise that oversimplification is their enemy when it comes to developing and deploying effective sales strategies and functioning sales operations and teams.
However, in a world of soundbites, instant information, and the constant pressure to come up with solutions to someone’s problems, easy answers have the greatest appeal even though these are usually far removed from the best answers. Hence, sales training and the default choice.
Easy answers lead to the proliferation of the oversimplification of complex issues especially when it comes to running an effective and sales-fit team and operation.
Opting for the simple answer, like a two-day sales training course, to fix a systemic sales issue usually makes matters far worse.
Which is why I thought you might like to do a preliminary assessment of your own sales system by answer the following questions.
- Has your business or sales strategy stopped delivering the returns it once did?
- Is your sales team reacting to market challenges and changes by discounting prices?
- Are your salespeople reactive or lacking focus, and missing new market opportunities?
- Is your brand equity and value proposition losing currency with clients and markets?
- Do your salespeople and leaders struggle to articulate the value their clients can get?
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these five questions you will likely need to review and assess your sales strategy and its effectiveness, sales market segmentation plan, sales operations framework, sales messaging, value propositions and go-to-market action plans.
- Do your salespeople have an ad hoc or reactive sales approach with no consistent sales process?
- Are other internal teams unaware of what your sales team is trying to achieve with customers?
- Do your new sales recruits take too long to get up to speed and earn?
- Are you missing the picture of what good sales performance looks like and how to recruit for it?
- Are your sales managers managing from behind a desk rather than leading in the field?
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these five questions you will likely need to look at your sales processes and sales leadership framework, check your sales team structure, review your job descriptions and ideal candidate profiles and review your minimum standards of sales excellence and KPIs.
- Is your sales productivity stagnating and sales results dropping despite training initiatives?
- Are your salespeople finding selling harder and, instead, making more excuses than sales?
- Are your salespeople talking product features and benefits instead of business issues and solutions?
- Are your sales managers behaving as ‘super salespeople’ instead of leading and coaching?
- Is your sales team struggling to meet sales targets despite KPIs and lots of ‘sales effort’?
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these five questions you will likely need to review and assess your sales training and content approach and its relevance, think about creating a perpetual learning environment, step up your sales coaching activities and look at your current sales culture.
These are just some of the many questions that can reveal where in your sales system you need to take action to be able to sell better now and in the long term.
Understand, accounting for and continually working on the interconnectedness of your sales system is key to future success. And don’t be fooled by short-term fixes that promise amazing results overnight, as they are, unfortunately, likely to be all ‘smoke and mirrors’.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.