Are You Improving Your Selling System? (Or Repeating the Same Old Grind?)
Salespeople are inherently IN the system. Their job is to do the best they can to get prospects to a successful conclusion as effectively as possible.
Sales and marketing managers often view their jobs in a similar way. When they think of improving performance, they think of ways to get more (of the same things) done.
Figure 1 shows contrasts working IN your production system vs working ON your production system.
Manufacturing executives understand this quite well. Sales and marketing executives, and company presidents often don’t realize the difference, unfortunately.
Getting More Sales Output From Less Input
Automation is a great way to get more output from less input, regardless of what you are producing.
Every system has its limits, however.
The fancy control system might balk when changing over to different products. The parts made the new way might not take paint consistently, or might become brittle after the product reaches the customer in some cases.
- Sales and marketing:
Bigger marketing campaigns and more customer “face-time” may not translate into more qualified prospects or revenue. Contact management software may save admin time for some salespeople, but does this translate into better sales?
Systems inherently have interdependencies that limit their productivity. Productivity can be improved only through a better understanding of how the system works.
Working ON the system means learning how the system works, so you can figure out how to get more of the good stuff and less of the bad.
Working ON the Sales and Marketing “System” is Profitable!
Examples of this are everywhere, once you get the hang of it.
Fewer Deals, Higher Quality
One client’s salespeople struggled with a huge sales funnel and a dismal close ratio.
The problem? Management assumed everyone knew what “qualified opportunity” meant. Not so!
The solution? More precision in their qualification criteria produced a 300% increase in close ratio, because salespeople could prioritize more precisely.
Aligning How You Sell To How the Customer Buys
Another client’s salespeople liked to do demonstrations because their systems solved lots of problems for people who used them. Yet they had to “get out the bulldozer” to push most deals further into the future every quarter.
The problem? Executives who paid the freight had different agendas from those using the system!
The solution? A sales process that prioritized interactions with decision makers over end users. More demanding on salespeople for sure, and a thinner sales funnel, as well as a 27% higher close ratio, and 23% reduction in cost of sales.
Gaining Cooperation From Salespeople
A custom plastics company wanted to win “base hit” deals with lots of medium and small-sized customers. Salespeople liked to chase newer, bigger leads, yet were not making plan regularly.
The problem? Salespeople followed up on leads at their own discretion, sometimes dropping small, uninteresting deals in favor of new leads from big, marquis prospects.
The solution? Dispense five to seven leads at a time, and require salespeople to complete the process to a certain point on each in order to earn the right to get more leads. Salespeople started making their numbers regularly, forecast accuracy increased, and profitability of the company increased by more than 3%.
Its Time to Start Improving Your Selling System
You can’t improve "the system" by repeating the same old grind. That is working IN the system, where the ability to improve productivity is limited.
Instead, start by trying to understand your inputs and outputs. Everyone starts without much of a measurement system, but pretty soon it gets easier to measure things and analyze activities and results.
This is what helps you to understand the 20% of causes that produce 80% of the results. That's when you can start working ON the system - rearranging how the system works to maximize results.
Working on the sales and marketing system is the among most profitable work that can be done in a company – far more profitable than just repeating the same old grind!
Michael J Webb
April 7, 2009