Sales talent is not enough
by Philip Belcher, CEO, LSE Consulting
“Get sales people that can open doors, create leads and close them and we will improve sales!” How often have I heard that?
Sure, talented sales people are essential. All sales people must have the required attributes, skills and knowledge if they are going to satisfy their need to achieve targets whether the targets are their own or those set by their employers.
Definitely, training must be regularly undertaken to adopt the next great ‘sales technique’ or some other skill that will enhance their personal performance. It may even be necessary to do some outdoor team building like ‘hang off ropes’ with their support team members to learn teamwork which engenders team spirit that will translate into greater collaboration and sales effectiveness.
Certainly product knowledge must be honed and effective strategic positioning is essential. There is no use cleverly selling products and/or services when better knowledge would have qualified the fact that a competitor will win on sheer features/benefits alone. Selling without appropriate stategy will lead to ruin by being “out sold” which means that the sales person was badly positioned and doomed to lose against a stronger or more agile, better positioned competitor.
But these pursuits alone won’t get ahead of the pack today. Execution is a mandatory component of selling in today’s sophisitcated market. To win with great sales talent and effective team work, industry leading processes and systems are imperative.
The true ‘super star’ sales people are highly organised. They know what their pipeline quota coverage is for the next quarter. They understand their customers’ business, those customers’ needs, how their offering addresses those needs, where to prospect, how to convert leads into opportunities, where their opportunities are at in the ‘sales funnel’, where to best focus and how to effectively engage their resources to ensure that they not only close the “High” probability deals, but what they have to do to ensure new opportunities are generated. They see that the “Low” and “Medium” deals are progressed (or relegated) and that they have sufficient “Pipeline” to make their number next quarter and beyond.
The ‘super stars’ know that consistent over-achievement requires an appropriate Pipeline management method that relies on customer input to define where the opportunity is at in the pipeline and a system that allows efficient recording and analysis of the pipeline as well as easily capturing/displaying progress, results and KPI’s.
As per the typical sales cycle shown, the target market segment is selected, prospecting is carried out and leads produced. The leads are qualified and the opportunities identified. Customers are systematically dealt with to match their needs with the offerings until sales are closed and they become existing customers who are being primarily dealt with by other areas of the organization as well as forming part of the prospecting activity. High achieving sales people are methodical about how they progress through these ‘stages’. Lower achievers will use a far less productive ‘hit and miss’ approach with little docomentation or use of a system.
Whilst this process has the potential to be effective, it has the potential to provide poor outcomes due to failing to adhere to a suitable method and ineffective/non existant management due to the lack of availability of a system that contains essential information with easily obtained automated reports and/or dashboards.
Enter the properly implemented, integrated Pipeline Management Method and the under pinning Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that is tailored to suit the particular sales organization and its approach to the market.
As indicated in the adjacent diagram, the CRM underpins the approach to the market and is tailored to include the Pipeline Management Method. Ideally the CRM will hold details of all Prospects as well as Existing customers, have the Pipeline Management Method built in, will offer access to the pricelist, quote templates, customer letter templates, be the repository of all customer interaction and be the source of reference for all customer contacts and transactions etc. It will allow reporting and analysis of customers, the pipeline and the activities that are being undertaken to pursue ongoing sales for the organization. The sophisticated systems enable interaction by the customer to ascertain progress with orders, self update of their details etc.
There are various Pipeline Management Methods and CRM Systems available. Each have their particular strengths and weaknesses depending on the cirumstances of the Sales Organization. Whether the organization has one person who is responsbible for selling, even if that is not their sole function, or if they have an international sales force, it must have a well implemented and managed Pipeline Management Method that is underpinned by an effective CRM System.
Having outstanding sales people is only one ‘lead indicator’ of sales success. If the sales team do not have the appropriate methods with supporting systems and effective management overview they will perform something like a highly trained marathoner entering a long distance cycling event without a bicycle. Yes, they will be very fit, but they won’t be able to compete with the competitors who are also very fit – and have a bike!
If you would like to discuss how your organization could improve its sales through effective Pipeline Management and the implementation of a tailored CRM system or any other business enhancement, why not contact LSE Consulting?