I see many sales leaders struggling to establish reliable sales forecasts for the coming year. This is a very difficult exercise that leaves all managers and sales leaders with headaches.
However, you can improve the quality of your forecasts and avoid some very common mistakes.
When business leaders implement a transformation program for their sales force, they inevitably encounter resistance within their organization.
First of all, a certain amount of resistance to change from the sales team is a common occurrence. However, if they are closely monitored and held accountable for their actions, this resistance should disappear after a few weeks.
Sales transformation is more than a trend or a buzzword, it is an inevitable shift dictated by the conditions of the economy, changes in behaviors, and expectations. Sales have changed much more in the last 5 years than in the previous 25 years!
Among the conditions that require companies to transform themselves is the predominance of the web and the access to information everywhere and at all times.
Today, sales reps no longer hold the information that decision-makers are looking for and that is why we are contacting them much later in the buying process. Comparing different suppliers has become child's play and competition is now worldwide for many products and services.
Since joining Prima Ressource, I've had the opportunity to greatly expand my knowledge and skills in sales management. It allowed me to discover some things I would have loved to know when I was in a sales manager position, that would have completely changed the way I acted in that role.
Among all that I have learned, there is one fundamental component that caught my attention and that would have made all the difference: the importance of using specific sales assessment tools such as Objective Management Group's assessments. These are tools that make a huge difference in sales coaching and that would have made me a much better sales manager than I have been.
In general, companies are often looking for growth flows. Indeed, most are looking to grow faster by generating more revenue and profit.
The problem I often encounter when I work with business leaders is that they feel blocked and limited in their growth. They claim that the market is saturated and that they no longer know where to seek growth. However, when I ask them what their market shares are, many of them have no idea. That's why I recommend conducting a market study to better understand your situation and identify growth opportunities. But this study will only tell you where you can look for growth. However, there is no guarantee that your sales force will know what to do and how to bring you the sales opportunities identified in the study.
So, what can you do about it?
Business leaders and owners constantly have to make decisions in their lives and for their company. Decisions made on the business side can have impacts on the private life and vice-versa.
As human beings, we put in place our own tactics to help us in our decision-making and we build our own process to improve our ability to make better decisions. At the level of business leaders, the consequences of poor decisions or lack of decisions can go very far.
Moreover, when business problems become significant enough, it is usually because they have not been solved when they were still controllable. This is often the consequence of several missed opportunities to make "small" decisions.
In many companies and across multiple industries, representatives face enormous pressure to quickly provide their price and present their offer even before having a real conversation with their potential customer. Unfortunately for them, many tend to actually provide these prices, which represents a significant error in their sales process. Thereafter, they often find themselves stuck in a conversation that focuses only on the price and they immediately enter into a negotiation process with their prospect.
Thus, the question is: Is negotiation a step in the sales process? My answer to this question is mitigated. However, as a general rule, if a consultative sales approach is followed and in particular, the baseline selling methodology, a representative should never have to negotiate during the sales process.
In this type of approach, negotiating is not part of an effective sales process. However, if a negotiation is to take place, the time at which it takes place is a determining factor for the profitability of the sale.
There is one thing that Sales and Marketing departments agree on: referrals are the best lead source for a business, whether in a B2B or B2C context. The good things about referrals are that they have a positive impact on the closing ratio, the length of the sales cycle, and the average customer lifetime value.
Although most of us know how powerful referrals are, only very few sales teams incorporate an “asking for referral” stage in their sales process. What’s the problem with that? There are several actually! Some salespeople will waste a considerable amount of time prospecting only to add a few new opportunities in their sales pipeline, others will not prospect at all and will act as farmers or account managers when in fact they should hunt. In both cases, this is a sure way to fall short of expectations and miss the numbers! According to Edelman Trust Barometer, 84% of B2B decision makers start the buying process with a referral. Knowing that, you may want to reconsider how you want to leverage referrals.
I often talk about consultative selling and the fact that it is the sales approach that elite sellers systematically use. We help sales leaders implement consultative selling within their companies to increase profitability and accelerate growth.
On the other hand, I talk less often about transactional sales. Very often, in my mandates, I find that B2B sales forces approach sales in a transactional way when a consultative method is required in order to achieve their objectives. But in rare cases, the opposite situation occurs and representatives work too hard on simple sales.
A few years ago, I had an interview with the vice-presidents of a large company in order to get my first position as a salesperson. It was an intimidating experience since I had never worked in sales before and the questions they asked were very technical. Fortunately, I had prepared myself properly.
Nevertheless, when one of them asked me if I had any experience in the sales industry, I knew very well that the time I spent preparing for the interview wasn't going to help me answer that question.