Re-Imagine Sales: Strategies to Grow Sales

April 27, 2012 by  Filed under: Sales 

Have you heard the story about the old commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office? In 1899 he suggested that the office be closed because everything that could be invented already had been.

It would be easy to feel the same way about sales-that everything that could be said has been said. We would agree that most of what needs to be said about the history of sales has indeed been said; now it is time to look at the future of sales.

Although what sales is has not changed….. how to sell effectively has to change to match the drastic changes taking place in the social and business environment.

As we talk to sales managers and sales people in all industries it is clear that the traditional way of selling and sales management is quickly becoming obsolete. Research by many organizations indicate that organizations are experiencing higher sales rep turnover than ever before, new sales rep ramp-up times are longer, few leads result into sales meetings, a lower percentage of first meetings result in presentations, Fewer presentations are converting into closed deals. Sales Cycles are becoming longer and quality of sales training is deteriorating. In short, many indicators of sales performance are heading in the wrong direction.

Some firms are, however, overcoming these challenges. They are not the beneficiaries of superior brands, better customer service, large advertising budgets, product exclusivity or rampant customer loyalty. Rather, these firms have isolated specific aspects of the buy-sell equation to focus on and improve. These specific improvements have been preceded by a general (dare we say “cultural”?) shift.

Thomas Stewart, Editor Harvard Business Review in 2009 observed that customers’ buying processes have evolved in a world of ubiquitous, instant, global communication, but companies’ selling processes have for the most part stayed the same.”,

While these challenges look like the old ones that you have always encountered, the truth is that they have become worse in the last few years due to increased competition, target customers being more exposed thus being aware of their options, as well as decision makers becoming too protected from sales people.

You need therefore to appreciate that a significant transformation of how we sell and manage sales need to take place quickly. This transformation has to result from re-thinking sales and sales strategies. To borrow words from Tom Peters I can say we have to Re-imagine Sales.

If last year was hard, this year will be harder and next year even harder. This is because the above factors will have a stronger impact of buying decisions of many organizations will continue to change and in the process changing their buying processes in various ways..

But in this gloomy situation there are organizations and sales teams which will sell better as the environment become harder. Majority of them will do it the traditional way of cutting prices, giving discounts, running sales promotions and advertising more. In most industries these tactics and strategies gives one competitive advantage for a few days as it becomes clear that whatever you try your competitor can do it better.

But some brilliant firms who are in the minority will grow their sales in different ways, ways that don’t reduce their margins or increase unnecessarily their costs of sales. Here are some of the strategies they will use:

1. They will make their sales team more focused in what they are doing so as to increase their sales activities in quantity as well as improve the quality of those activities. They will equip their sales people with skills and techniques that will work in a highly competitive and shrinking economy.

2. They will be keen to recruit the right sales people and throw away the nonsense of hiring sales people is a numbers game.

They will pick the right sales people not on the basis of their past performance in different conditions but on the basis of their potential. These firms will do whatever they can to keep their best performers for longer as the time it will take a new sales person to produce as much as an old one will be longer.

3. They will be keener on coaching their sales teams and demand higher return on investment on any sales training programme through demonstrable improved sales results.

4. They will reduce waste through having a well managed sales process that has clear Key Performance Indicators as well as support systems. A sales process just like a manufacturing process will be used to capture the best raw material of sales (prospects) and process them effectively till they are converted into customers.

These factors have tremendous impact on the buy sell equation and three of them relate to improving the sales person while one is putting in place the right sales process. The competency of the sales person and his behaviors will always affect the quality of sales, the average deal size, the close rate etc. Improving sales people skills and motivating them requires the least amount of investment yet it has the best impact on overall sales growth for most firms.

Remember when the products are the same the price is the same and all other factors are the same people buy the sales person!

Sam Kariuki is business growth strategist, trainer and consultant.

He is the founder of Growth Partners a firm that helps businesses design scalable business models, identify and remove growth constraints and train business owners, entrepreneurs and managers on ways to effectively grow business revenues and profitability through leveraged sales and marketing strategies.

Sam is also a specialist in sales and sales management where he has consulted and trained for various organizations in various industries in East Africa and beyond.
Organizations that have engaged Sam have developed new revenue streams, experienced increased sales, developed professional sales teams and increased returns on their sales and marketing expenditure.
He has contributed articles to various business publications including Business Daily, Marketing Africa, and Selling Power East Africa among others. He is currently authoring a book on Unlocking the SME Potential: Marketing Strategies and Ideas that transform Small Business into Great Businesses.

You can reach him by emailing or visit Linkedin

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