Solving the “Sales Problem”

I think it’s fair to say that just about every organisation I work with or come across would consider that in one form or another they have a “sales problem”. It doesn’t really matter if the organisation is multi-national an SME or a start up; the MD, CEO or SVP will all be faced with the continual challenge around how to improve their sales performance.

Of course the way they express it will differ and to be frank ranges from “my sales people are rubbish” to “my marketing is not working but if my sales people could only get in front of the right people…”.

The symptoms (the things they feel and experience and can tell me about) are pretty common, across the board, regardless of the size or complexity of the organisation.

Typically they will include one or all of these:

  • We’re just not seeing enough people/making enough calls
  • We’re not in front of the right people
  • Typical deal value is dropping
  • Sales people seem to sell what ever the customer wants and not what we can actually deliver
  • Margins are down year on year
  • Deal cycles are longer
  • Sales are dropping out (we’re losing slowly)
  • We’re seeing much more competition and it’s coming from everywhere
  • I don’t know what the sales team are doing
  • …my sales people don’t get it
  • ….my marketing is not delivering

There are also common responses:

  • Fire one, some or all of the sales team
  • Fire the marketing person/team
  • “DO MORE” marketing
  • Manage by spreadsheet – set call rates, visit rates and make the team deliver on volume of visits
  • Hire another sales person who claims to have the right connections and can fast track your success

I am 45 and that means I’ve been helping companies solve their sales and marketing challenges for over 20 years. I can assure you that in all that time, these symptoms have not changed and the common responses still don’t work.

What might surprise you is that the root cause of all of these problems (and I have hard, empirical data to evidence this)  is almost certainly not where you would expect it to be. Equally the common responses and resolutions are almost certainly never going to work (and I have evidence for that too!).

The good news is that the solution in most instances involves simply re-orientating the way you, your sales and your marketing team see and address the problem. Then identifying and prioritizing small but critical actions and changes so that you can optimize the whole process of attracting and winning new and profitable business. In most instances it involves spending less than you are now to achieve a good deal more!

As with most things the answer is not to follow the herd and knowledge is a very powerful thing.

So what do I recommend?

Think a little differently, unravel the traditional Marketing and Sales relationship, re-think what a “good” customer looks like and how and where you might find them and then what it is you are going to say to them that will make sure that yours is the only conversation they are taking seriously.

Intriguing isn’t it.

I suppose what’s likely to get you to take it more seriously is that the whole approach is underpinned by some scarily frank and rigorous research (circa 6,000 companies) and of course about two decades of dealing with the same issues almost every day!