Truth, the most difficult hires you will make are sales and business development hires!
Truth, it is more costly to make a sales hiring mistake than any other hire mistake.
Truth, there are many types of selling environments and what works for one customer sale may not work well at all for another type of customer sale.
Truth, selling value is not a cliché it is a necessity even if you are selling a $300/year subscription to a Software as a Service application, value is important to the buyer.
False: there is no science to selling. YES, much of sales is a science! Sales is very metric driven if done well. Navigating complex political environments of decision making today require more knowledge of people, personalities, roles, committees, processes and motivations. Building a sales cycle plan that many times looks like an engineering flow chart helps to build repeatable successes and makes it easier to make better hires.
False, marketing is about branding and sales is about revenue. The company, as a whole, needs to be centered around revenue growth and customers. That does not mean that you forgo brand initiatives to build company awareness and brand recognition or forgo research and development or taking the time to build products to the delight of a customer segment (ensuring you have created something people need, want or will buy). It takes the whole company to hug the sales effort for any sales efforts to be successful. And if there is not INTENT focus on driving revenue in all of the company’s departmental efforts then driving revenue will not happen as quickly or successfully as you desire.
False, you do not need creativity and innovation in sales. There is an art to sales. You need to be highly creative and innovative as a sales team and as sales individuals, having the artist eye when you engage with potential customers is very important. You see those things that are not obvious or visible.
Leading revenue growth is a great challenge as you must navigate your own company while you are helping your teams navigate a sale for potential customers. Customers seek input, they need sales teams to be business savvy. If you are not investing in the growth of your sales team you may miss an opportunity for sales people to greatly impact solution creation for customers. Customers know what they need but they do not know what they do not know. What can you and your sales team do to help them with strong solution recommendations to drive their businesses forward.
6 tips to help you take your sales team and sales effort to the next level:
- Build a customer map: – know how your target customers buy, when they buy, what it takes for them to buy. What is the internal process for a customer to buy products like yours from companies that may be similar.If you sell to different segments, you need this map per segment as each has it’s own unique buying criteria. Hospitals buy very differently than growth companies and enterprises. Government buys very differently that all of these. Know each of your segments buying processes, budget cycles and criteria for buying.
- Hire the character traits that make up good sales people: Don’t get lured into believe that sales people are individual contributors and not real team players. The best of the best sales people integrate into the company as a whole, work with all layers and levels of their company bringing feedback into the teams to help make a big impact on future growth. And yes, they CLOSE business!!! They know how and WHEN to ask for the orders.
- Create repeatable processes: Sales process is just that… a process by which you go for getting a lead to closing a deal! There is a process by which you get new customers and there is a different process by which you upgrade customers to higher end products or more services. Know this process for your company, build it so you can create repeatable processes for sales. This helps the forecasting become more accurate. You cannot easily plan growth without accurate forecasting capabilities.
- Define the sales characteristics you need in the individual and what characteristics would fill out the sales team: There are different types of sales people to match to a. what you are selling b. how customers buy. Is your product low cost and you need to sell a lot of your product? Is it more a transactional sell where the benefits are clear? Or does your product compete with a lot of products and you need someone better at building value in the mind of the customers, building relationships that are long lasting so you have an opportunity to sell larger or more costly products over time and grow the accounts to be long term customers. Products sold into hospitals, large enterprise and governments are far more strategic and require a different set of skills than selling pay per click advertising.
- Rally the company around the sales team: think of this as the company infrastructure is the slingshot contraption and the rock is the sales team. If the contraption is not build strongly the rock flies nowhere! Marketing drives sales, operations can help and hurt sales. Everything from how the products are delivered can hinder a sales effort. Think about how everything touches the customer and help the sales team understand what each department’s role is with their sales efforts and vice versa. Even more importantly, have each person in the company know how they impact the sales effort.
- Product first or Customer Feedback First… every product that you build can benefit from any potential customer inputs and feedback. This is the most strategic thing a company can do is to engage your customers or future customers in what you want to create. Make them a part of a community or your community to learn, gain insights and to give back to them before you try to sell then something. Lack of doing so will only delay sales and revenue growth. Build a process to include your customers in your product and services innovation plans. It will expedite revenue growth on any sales efforts once the products are formally launched.