Whatever industry you’re in there are some very common threads as to why some businesses have not got into their stride and developed any momentum in their growth journey and this is indeed a huge source of frustration which can lead to some questioning the wisdom on their venture.
This is acutely felt when we hear so many stories of businesses seemingly coming out of nowhere and are well on their way along the growth trajectory which begs the question - “why is this not happening to us?”
Don’t be disheartened, many business owners share similar doubts and it’s easy to benchmark ourselves on the basis of what we read without truly scratching the surface. Put it this way, you will mostly hear about the success stories and positive outcomes rather than the ugly truths behind the outcomes which can only distort the reality.
The overriding myth we fall prey to is the narrative of overnight success. The truth is that 99.9% of these businesses will have undergone a long process of development to fine tune their offer before getting on the radar and public consciousness.
Anyway once in the public domain, just what should we be doing to optimise our chance of success? Or to put it another way, what major problems do we need to overcome that get in the way of our growth?
They are generally covered in the following three areas:
- Having little or no sales strategy
- Having too much, too little or no sales process
- Misdirected Assignment of Sales Roles
1. Little or No Sales Strategy
You have invested a lot of time and money in setting up your business and having validated your offer which is generating some revenue so now what? How are you going to ramp up your efforts to increase your customer base and market reach?
What sales and marketing strategies have you put in place to enable? What stage of the business lifecycle do you currently occupy?
One of the biggest obstacles to growth is that many business owners don’t factor their business lifecycle stage into their planning and often adopt strategies that don’t work given their current context. Whether you are a start-up, going through a growth phase, mature and so on, the strategies you adopt will have to reflect the stage you’ve identified as occupying as by opting for the wrong ones can lead to costly mistakes that are completely ineffective and offer little value in terms of insights.
Other key considerations of an effective sales strategy include:
- The Business Vision
- The Business Mission
- The Key Stakeholders including Target Audience
- The Business Purpose
- The Conversion Plan
- The Sales Playbook
- The Customer Success Roadmap
- The Available Resources
This is a useful framework to focus your efforts on to provide direction and track your progress against. Without it the foundations will not be strong enough to support your growth aspirations going forward as it’s very easy to get distracted with other initiatives that delay your progress.
2. Too Much, Too Little or No Sales Structure
Once you’ve worked on your sales strategy how will you execute it? It is surprising the amount of businesses that do not even have a rudimentary system in place to organise their activities let alone track what is working or not working.
The central question here is to identify your objectives and design a process around delivering them. Clearly your requirements will evolve but the key here is to have something in place that you can build on.
The advantages to developing a sales process is that they:
- Provide a scalable structure to grow your business by ensuring consistency of approach
- Are a great way to identify how your route to market channels engage with you so you can map out a process that is designed around them as after all having a process that puts your customer at the centre is the best way to succeed in an ever increasing competitive environment
- Enable tracking of progress so that you can figure out what is working and what is not working. In the case of the latter you can work out what:
- can be modified and implemented with success
- cannot be modified and therefore consign to history
- Empower your sales operations to work efficiently as you implement your learnings and become better at engaging with your customers therefore potentially shortening deal cycles
- Can encourage the development of the right sales habits. You will be able to identify what activities your team are undertaking and use this to strip out the activities that don’t deliver value to your sales conversations. Did you know that most sales professionals are only spending a third of their time actually selling?
The purpose of the sales process is to support the growth of the business and not detract from it as the flipside of not having a process is to become enslaved by it.
All too often over zealous business owners driven by data implement tools to measure KPIs (key performance indicators) and other metrics that can often misfire and can lead to the wrong types of behaviours.
This is where you have to come back to your objective and understand what activities can add to and detract from the sales conversation and then develop the process around what will promote the desired outcomes.
3. Misdirected Assignment of Sales Roles
Finally and all too often an overlooked problem faced by business owners is how to get the best from the resources you have available.
This relates to the resource you allocate to your sales efforts whether that is the systems you adopt, the team you employ, the functions they perform and the structure they fit into.
Again this depends on where you fit in your business lifecycle as the options available will differ.
All too often when starting out you have to be a generalist in terms of the sales roles you undertake as you will not only be responsible for generating leads and converting them, you will also have to ensure that you keep your new customers happy so they keep on coming back.
These roles actually require different skill sets which when you don’t have the luxury of a sales team you have to ensure that whoever is accountable for sales wears each hat with reasonable competence. If you’re at the stage where you can outsource your sales, it is crucial to have an understanding of what and who you are looking for. You only have to go on any freelance sites to understand how many business owners have given this little thought and post three sentence job ads with the expectation of finding a sales superstar that will provide a silver bullet on a shoestring.
Even larger, more established businesses have not always got this figured out, often promoting top sales performers into sales managers with little support or training to help them become effective sales leaders. That’s on the assumption that sales management is a progressive route for them in the first place.
Aside from the specific skills required to meet the demands of the differing sales functions, there’s always the question of how you can leverage technology to support your sales team and business to operate successfully and efficiently.
While technology serves a purpose and can be a great tool in facilitating sales conversations there are many examples where their overzealous adoption can be sussed out in sales platforms and potentially risks the integrity of those conversations. I am sure many of us have examples of this like receiving a message on Linkedin which is clearly a sales “bot” which is no way to begin a relationship with a prospective client. This along with other cynical tactics contribute to why sales people in general are perceived in negative terms.
As with all things in business these key problems do not exist in isolation so any successful enterprise will have to factor in the development of a sales strategy, what process will support it and who will be involved in its implementation in order to take the business to the next level.
Indeed it would be fair to say that many of the businesses that suddenly come on our radar as performing strongly have been working on these very areas long before we knew they existed.
And I want to leave this on the point that it’s not beyond anyone's imagination that this can’t be what you achieve for your business too!
Should you wish to discuss any of the above in relation to your business then please get in touch by clicking here to schedule a conversation.
Thank you for reading.