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Doing more of something that does not work is not logical; doing different things that work is not rocket science, deciding on what to do is key.

There is no one answer to today’s sales challenges; there are no magic bullets and no miraculous remedies, what there is, is a lot of hard work and many questions. Stepping back and taking stock of the position you find yourself in is the first step to improvement.

Opposite is a list of challenges your business may be facing, it is not a complete list; if your challenge is within the list then we have a foundation to start from, however; if your sales challenge is not listed, but you require better results from your sales opportunities let’s talk and work out where we need to start.

Start-up businesses; entrepreneurs the unforeseen challenge

For the entrepreneurs starting up a new venture, survival depends on someone buying the product or idea; therefore someone has to sell it to the prospect. In the early days, this role normally falls to the entrepreneurs; it is quite normal to find that they do not have any background in sales. History has shown many times over that having the best idea does not guarantee success.

New recruits and those already established in a sales role

For companies investing in the development of existing sales personnel or recruits to the sales role whether it is an internal or external sales position, for those engaged in sales generation activities the cost is higher than many other roles within a company. Even higher if results don’t follow, despite living in our hi-tech, app-driven, screen watching world the technology does necessarily prepare the younger generation for a sales role and for the older generations learning to use companies internal applications as well as achieve the sales goals can be stressful.

Those joining a company taking on a sales role having had a career in other areas of business, the challenge of a sales role can seem daunting at first. Support & encouragement is an integral part of building performance; it takes time to develop in a sales role. Time & patience is not always in abundance in many companies, therefore contracting the role out to a mentor has great merit and is the logical approach to improving quality and performance in the team.

Sales Management Role

A sales managing role is littered with trip hazards, and pitfalls; stuck in the middle pulled in all directions mistakes are made and difficult to correct, supporting the transition with a mentor is an asset not always considered.

For newly promoted sales managers the challenge is on in the majority of cases, they have been promoted into the role based on their success in a sales role. So it can be accepted that they can do the job better than most of those they are now managing. However, that is not the job they are now doing, passing the mantle to others has consequences jumping in and taking over when things don’t go to plan is not on the table.

Management is also about leadership; leaders require an understanding of what motivates the individuals in their charge; listening takes on a new direction, empathy and understanding become watchwords.

The cost of failure for a new sales manager is catastrophic for them personally, but the impact will cascade through the entire team. Change is never comfortable, disruption in a sales team costs money.

Difficulties in a sales team often manifest in resignation letters, when a member of a team resigns sighting issues in the line manager this should be considered as an acknowledgement that they have decided to sack their line manager rather than seek a resolve.

Outbound v Inbound: Areas to consider for development of your organisation

Because of the growth in technology, it has changed the way we do business in recent years, in nearly all marketplaces the reality is that companies need to focus on the creating of more inbound enquiries. Doing the same old things of the past but more of will not work. The battle between cold calling, social media, advertising, telesales, free tasters etc. will continue for many years undoubtedly without a clear winner. Doing more of everything but better is key.

With many companies committing to social media activities with little understanding, but still hoping for success; some achieve little and some near zero, keeping the focus on the company in social media is not easy. Drawing on the individuals as a resource within the company to magnify the visibility is a wise choice all to often overlooked.

Articles and features talking about creating a brand or improving your brand are commonplace, in an age when most potential customers only engage in a purchase enquiry at 50% through the sales cycle or even higher. Companies own employees can help grow the social selling footprint, but great care of the content is imperative.

2019 reality has hit, today’s buyers are just as likely to check out the people they are about to do business with, the moral ‘If you would not like your mother to read it don’t post it’. The impact of the statement “People buy from people they like” now goes a lot further than previously perceived.

With the growth in thinking in 2016 a new need emerged into the marketplace requiring salespeople to have an individual brand, no longer is it just about the company. Our risk-averse culture now seen in most organisations has resulted in the reality that “transparency is king”. With the power of the internet, everything is visible, today’s social feed networks mean that stakeholders and buyers are just likely to look up the salesperson’s profile on Linked In, Facebook, Twitter etc.

The magnifying of the electronic footprint is not about having the best Website or Facebook page, Instagram or Pinterest Pin, the companies employees and client feedback all play a part in creating a difference. All participants in a company have a role to play in the success.

Getting a foothold in a company has become about proving yourself. The once strong army of gatekeepers defending your engagement with the prospect has all but vanished. Yet getting to talk and secure an order from a potential customer has become significantly harder, if you do get through the sales cycle it is taking longer to conclude. With buyers performing a number of checks before they are willing to commit to a purchase.

A companies electronic profile, as well as the salesperson’s electronic footprint, feedback score ratings, client recommendations all play a role in creating trust, “No one wants to be the first.” Should you or your company be found wanting in any of these areas the future business potential may go cold.

Today’s sales challenges

Sales engagement techniques are a learnt process often with a script element as part of the structure very effective in years past however like all things the world has changed. Today’s buyers are more educated, techniques from the 1980’s, 1990’s, 2000 or even as recently as 2010 designed to control or close a sale will no longer work, use of such techniques may result in negativity towards the salesperson and the company.

Rolling out your technical product specification simply will not win you the business if the prospect does not see a value; then WHY do they need it.” Finding out the need means asking questions if your salespeople are not comfortable in asking questions then the results will always be poor.

Today’s B2B buyer has become more risk-averse resulting in them placing 50% or more of their orders with the same trusted suppliers. “Better the devil you know” Has become a business position adopted by many. Trust is an essential element that needs to be conveyed by the company and its employees. The message needs to be universal and clear. “ We all need to sing from the same hymn sheet”.

Group buying

Seeking to establish the customers; “Means, Motive and Authority,” in many cases is no longer as cut and dried as in the past, the salesperson may now find themselves confronted with a group buying decision with each member being a stakeholder in the decision-making process based on their individual needs, values and required outcome. Achieving success in a group buying process requires new learning for many salespeople, balancing each’s needs and wishes through the sales cycle with the cycle nearly always having a longer timeline often distracts and frustrates the sales professional.

Getting an edge on the competition

Due to the wealth of information now freely available to today’s buyers; sales engagement often starts at the point when the buyer is already 50% to 80% through the buying cycle. The salesperson is now engaging much later than even ten or five years ago resulting in the reality that many decisions are in place before the first contact is instigated.

The time to influence and deal with sales challenges is in the early part of the sales process, sharing information & knowledge, customer satisfaction experience and case studies are a good way to build confidence in your products, services and company while defending against the competition.

The percentage of people working in sales roles within the B2C having a natural talent for sales is often seen as less than those working in the B2B. Even if a salesperson has a natural aptitude to selling it is no guarantee of success. Supporting those with a natural flair as well as those that don’t is the logical choice. Investing in your sales team is important, the investment is not just about valuing the potential in each of them but also about investing in the company’s future.

Separating you from the others

With the majority of marketplaces being in a mature state, competition is permanently present, with the price being the deciding factor in many cases. Defining the difference between the product or service from company A, or company B, C, D or E are becoming increasingly harder to find.

With the growth of the internet, the level of knowledge that is freely available to the prospect is increasing daily; companies are more open to sharing information on their products and people that make up the company. The About US tab has grown in depth over recent years and often goes beyond names and positions to reveal a level of education, personality and interests held. This transition offers not only the company the opportunity to strengthen its brand, but uses its employees to magnify the brand depth and volume.

Referrals have always carried a high value due to offering the opportunity to transact business free from competitors; in an age when every company now has five times as many competitors than ten years or even five years ago finding potential new business outside of inbound enquiries offers immense potential.

Marketing & sales departments; combined or individual

For most of the last decade, the talk has been about merging the sales & marketing departments into one. A common name for the merger is the creation of a revenue department. The debate on whether one type of activity is better in creating opportunities than the next will run for decades. What has become clear is that many do not work as well as they did in the past.

Marketing departments by nature and history are a difficult commodity to evaluate for their success; often the only measure is the size of the budget that is agreed by senior management. Sales departments are results driven, the measure is constant, with each salesperson, each sales manager and right up to the sales director only being as good as last week, last month or last years results.

Understandably when you take the two positions into account, it is reasonable that marketing people are hesitant to join in the constant pressure applied to a sales department. Regardless of this fact there is proof that a combining of the two departments can leverage success.

CRM performance

For the vast majority of companies doing a mix of all types of lead generation is the only way to achieve sustainable numbers, whether by referrals, cold calling, websites, social media, promotional offer flyers, advertisements etc. This diversity of mix is in itself causing problems within CRMs, with pipelines becoming cluttered with unclear or confused customer opportunities being listed in the numbers, challenging the why and details of entries in a CRM can be met with suspicion and resistance, regardless of any resistance the improved clarity of information will achieve better results.

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