As a leader in Sales, you are well aware that the waters are rough, indeed. In the past, the goal has been very straight forward – make sure your teams are capturing customers and making their numbers. Good relationships and ongoing offers of discounted pricing – on products and services – kept sales flowing and ensured the all important numbers were on target. Unfortunately, those days of smooth sailing are gone. Adjusting to the new reality means acknowledging that things have changed – customers have disappeared or have greatly reduced purchasing power and costs do matter – even in Sales.
Here’s a life boat with some less well-known tips that may help Sales to survive, when others around you may be sinking fast:
- Critically evaluate structure, purpose, objectives, and KPI’s: In many cases, all of these components may need to change. Perhaps it is wise to reorganize – combining functions, regions, or customer segments? The initial changes may be dispiriting, but if you can make them all at once and they are focused on those who do not display the attitude or aptitude required in the “new” organization, Sales will become stronger as a result of the changes. The goal is not only to reduce costs, but also to get everyone focused on what they need to do for the customer and against the competition. Make sure you understand what the new purpose, objectives, and KPI’s encompass at each revised level, and that the necessary training is provided to ensure buy-in and commitment to the new organization.
- Create an intelligent network: Build information networks that span the clients organization, continually assessing customer pain points and providing solutions before they even realize they are challenged. As a leader in Sales, ensure you are transitioning your sales people into the eyes and ears of the organization – a network that provides ground-level intelligence that can be used to fuel fundamental decisions regarding overall corporate strategy and tactics. This new, evolved sales person will need to have the capacity to analyze each client to determine current and future profitability. They need to be able to tell you how decisions are made at the client site, what the dominant psychology is, and how that psychology is manifested as it pertains to client decision-making, forecasts, purchasing, promotions, and product lifecycles. They all affect your ability to sell… and collect.
- Know what your customers cost: Have a detailed understanding as to how each client affects each piece of the value chain. A good customer on the surface may cause you to incur hidden costs if they demand frequent changes, customized processes, or unusual services/materials. These types demands may put undue pressures or costs onto production or purchasing departments…or they may tie up too much cash by requiring unique materials or components. An important customer that pays late can also become a liability when the seas are rough and the company is managing for cash. When a client’s ability to pay or credit rating drops, you don’t want to be the last one standing on deck when the Tsunami hits…
- Know which customers to drop: Sales people need to be able to help the company answer some critical questions – Is a customer viable? What strains are they under? Are they highly leveraged? What does their cash flow look like? What is the real cost of doing business with the client? Obviously the decision to drop a client needs to be made in conjunction with the executive team, however you need to have done your homework in order to make a sound recommendation. If the business case points to the client as a significant risk and they must be dropped, ensure your sales people partner with the client to ensure a smooth transition to a new supplier. Remember, if the client has a positive experience there will be a mutual respect and the potential of working together in the future will remain intact… should the opportunity arise.
- Link Sales to R&D: Assign your most aggressive and business-savvy people to a dual role – sales and business development. Creating cost-effective solutions to client challenges often emerge from discussions amongst people with different knowledge bases.
- Tie sales people to CXO’s: The best intelligence is useless unless it is put into the right hands. Set up methods to ensure what is learned in the field gets to the senior team. Set up weekly conference calls between your best sales people and critical decision makers… or initiate a program where the executive team will call a few of your sales people each week. Top executives will have the opportunity to pick up ideas or nuances from your sales people that they would not get from a formal meeting or a report – it will allow them to discern customer patterns, while motivating those participating on the calls to become more curious and vigilant.
In turbulent times, the context of Sales changes drastically. With orders dissipating and numbers falling out of control, the wise leader ensures sales is a critical component to the solution, rather than part of the problem. With the right focus and planning, your organization can steer the lifeboat out of rough seas and become better, faster and stronger in the process.
Please engage the discussion and let us know how you keep sales afloat in rough seas. Please feel free to contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.comor by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back next week for the next post on Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.