Many times business owners tell me that they are quite content with their current sales volume. Or, I’ll read about a company’s rapid rate of growth and subsequent expansion plans. In both instances, I always wonder about a few things.
Is their growth due mostly to:
1) current demand/need for their product/service?; or
2) the incredible expertise of their sales team?; and, if their sellers are really that great, do they understand why?
If product innovation is what drives your success, understanding your target market and business landscape are critical. Since every product has a life cycle it’s inevitable that demand will slow or subside at some point. Think pharmaceuticals. A newly released and highly desired drug can catapult sales to levels never before realized and the sales team really has little or nothing to do with results. These sales are transactional and short-term. Once patents expire and generics become available, sales likely drop off. (Lipitor, for example.) Enter the need for a different type of seller if the original product is still to be manufactured. Enter the need for consistent development of innovative new products to replace revenues.
If your sales team is the driving force behind your success, be sure you understand what makes them ‘tick’, so to speak. Are they transactional (order fillers/takers); consultative (good at longer-term selling); persuasive closers (good at shortening the sales cycle); drivers (good at asking for the order, may offend); or relationship oriented (form connections, but not necessarily at a deep level)? Each type will generate different results for you at differing speeds. If you offer multiple products with varying sales cycles, you need a sales team with varying talents and skills.
You may believe you know your team’s abilities. I offer that what you know is subjective, i.e., witnessed behaviors and actions. The only way to be absolutely certain is to add objectivity. That’s where science comes in. Assess your team to understand their individual strengths and growth opportunities and the amount of effort they’re likely to give. Be sure to use only predictive assessments that indicate whether they’ll succeed in your role, and with your manager, team and culture. There are many tools on the market, the majority describe styles and behaviors but aren’t necessarily tied to a specific outcome. Only a few are actually predictive relative to high performance.
Knowing the inherent talents, beliefs and skills of your top performers will keep you focused when recruiting and hiring. It allows you to have a talent identification plan in place to find the candidate best suited to your needs. Without that information the longer a position remains unfilled, the better all candidates begin to look and hiring mistakes are made.
Your development, training and coaching efforts will also become more focused resulting in fully engaged sales people and that will always lead to growth.
Invest primarily in innovation if products drive your success. Invest primarily in assessing, training and developing if your sales team drives it; their growth will equate to your growth.
When it comes to business development, those that need training are the ones who are already experiencing success. You will always achieve growth more rapidly by developing your mid- and upper-tier producers instead of spending time, energy, money and resources primarily on those in the low-tier.
Sharon Day, President
Sales Activation Group
Strategic, Deliberate Revenue Growth