SPIF Tip #27: Does increasing revenue mean the sales department is doing a good job?


At some time,

most companies find themselves in a “rising tide” market. The sales and marketing team is working like crazy and revenues are growing. Things seem to be working as they should be.

Often unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. That’s because most companies’ sales and marketing are in a “Tribal Knowledge” state. It’s not that they are wearing war paint or dancing wildly. It’s that the sales tribe has a different language and priorities than the marketing tribe, or the Chicago district works far differently than the New York district.

You can sense it in how hard everyone must work. Increasingly, growth targets are achieved only because of heroic efforts, or unique circumstances. They have to tackle one crisis after another. It seems like things will come apart at the seams if they keep going as they have been.

Contrast that with the company that can succeed even when the tide in the market is falling.

In that kind of company there is a sense of confidence in making the numbers. They know they’ll take market share, because they’re more organized and focused than their competitors. They’ve thought deeply about the market and know what customers want. They work hard, but are under control. They don’t have to plan on working most weekends.

How do you create this kind of environment?

You don’t do it by forcing yours – or someone else’s – process on your people. Instead, these companies keep the responsibility where it belongs – on the people doing the work. You expect them to set the highest goals they can, and tell you what methods will enable them to achieve and improve on their accomplishments. You hope they’ll keep bringing you more useful information about what customers need. And you support the heck out of them when they are right.

Processes only work when they are useful to the people involved. The language of process enables people to define their best understanding of how to maximize value and minimize waste. Like a boat moving through tide water, challenges lurk beneath the surface in sales. Lots of things can sink the boat, from poorly qualified prospects, ignorance of customer needs, lack of relationships with decision makers, and many other things.

Your sales team must think through all these possibilities and develop countermeasures. It is not easy, for many reasons. First, customers may all seem unique. Your team must find the commonalities. Your salespeople likely have different skills and backgrounds. They need to find common ground. They are often distributed geographically. To help each other learn they need a method for defining terms and aligning their perspectives to their customers. Otherwise, it is easy for the entire company to get confused. Ultimately, many are able to measure the quantity and quality of deal flow with 95% forecast accuracy.

Companies who grow their market share – and their Return on Sales Investment – do so by making work visible and tracing the value to the customer. This enables your company, and your salespeople, to stand out and be preferred, regardless of whether the market tide is rising or falling.

Any company can achieve this kind of performance if their leaders pursue the right values. There are predictable stages of maturity and substantial increases in productivity and profitability for each stage.

My book, Sales Process Excellence illustrates a well-developed method for moving your organization along that journey.

If you’d like to learn a little more about getting your team started along a proper sales process, you might appreciate my article “How to Map Your Sales Process.”

Michael Webb

Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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