Get serious about sales – start at the top


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Over the years we’ve worked with some outstanding companies who had great sales teams. The VP of Sales provided vision and commitment. Sales managers were on their game. The sales reps were skilled, knew what they had to do and did it.

In these companies the sales targets were almost always achieved. Yet senior sales leadership would tell you there was market share left on the table … Accounts that could have been won – opportunities missed and revenue not captured. If you listened carefully almost always the story behind the story was the top management of the company never really got serious about sales.

If you want to move from being good to being the best, top management must get serious about sales. Even a great sales team cannot do it alone.

Recently we can across an interesting research article in a HBR blog that sounded that same note. The authors commented: “CEOs who put sales management at the heart of their agenda have captured astonishing growth — outstripping their peers by 50 to 80 percent in terms of revenue and profitability. However, while CEOs play an active role in driving performance improvement across many parts of the organization sales has traditionally been neglected. That’s a big mistake.”

Let’s take a look at two specifics that require getting serious at the CEO level.

  • Maximize playing time. The ultimate sin is to do what it takes to create a great sales force, and then bog them down in administrative trivia. It’s like hitching triple crown winner Secretariat to a plow. But it happens all the time and the only way to make it go way is top management putting a stop to it.

As the blog noted: Start with removing waste-of-time stuff from front line sales so sales reps can do what they’re supposed to do: sell. They reported in one global manufacturing company, the CEO set up “sales factories” comprised of specialized sales support for functional tasks and “deal coordinators” to help shepherd deals through the system. Sales reps gained 15 percent more time for selling.

Take a moment and image what your best sales reps could do in terms of additional revenue if they had 15% more selling time. The answer is usually worth getting serious about.

If driving sales remains the goal of the sales function versus an organizational commitment, a company can survival and perhaps ever prosper, but they will not be the best they can be. Such commitment can only be achieved if the CEO and the leadership team make it happen.

To get started one should look for opportunities for driving collaboration. The blog introduces an interesting example.

When a major international service provider announced it was leaving the North American market several years ago, the CEO of a competitor instituted a “war room” where top managers from sales, marketing, strategy, and product development could thrash out a coordinated plan for grabbing these new customers. Marketing provided detailed customer analysis and developed tailored proposals that led to crucial wins in the field.

The top management leadership team of any major organization has an unbelievable number of voices demanding their attention. However if you can significantly improve revenue and profit, many of the voices shout a little bit less. Getting serious about sales has a great track record for achieving that goal.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Richard Ruff
For more than 30 years Richard Ruff has worked with the Fortune 1000 to craft sales training programs that make a difference. Working with market leaders Dick has learned that today's great sales force significantly differs from yesterday. So, Sales Momentum offers firms effective sales training programs affordably priced. Dick is the co-author of Parlez-Vous Business, to help sales people have smart business conversations with customers, and the Sales Training Connection.


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