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More Sales Bol**cks

Friday, July 31st, 2020

Growing a sales team is a challenge that every business must overcome if it is to progress past the level of sales that the founder can sustain. Unfortunately, this challenge proves too much for many businesses.

These businesses are marked by a succession of people with the title “salesperson” who arrive full of hope and leave some months later under a cloud having failed to deliver.

Two businesses that I work with have overcome this challenge however – and are growing fast. I thought it would be useful to try to learn from any similarities in their approach. They are in entirely different sectors – one selling software (transactional up to complex solutions sales) and the other a builders’ merchant (almost entirely transactional sales). Both sectors are highly competitive, which makes their performance even more impressive.

The things they have in common are:

  • They are both run by people who did not found the business. One was brought in to take over as MD and the other progressed internally from a junior sales role.
  • They both use internal telesales teams supported by field sales as their primary sales method.
  • They both include a mix of account and new business sales in everyone’s target. The account element has a strong propensity to buy in each case – license renewals and essential materials respectively.
  • They both hire people from outsde their industry and often people who do not have a sales background. One hired the chap who ran the sandwich van on the industrial estate where they are located.
  • They both see the social and competitive elements of working in a sales team in a single room as being important.
  • They both manage using numbers, and salespeople have clear targets linked to their remuneration.
  • They are both willing to use the stick as well as the carrot to motivate salespeople; they are both quick to dismiss under-performers.
  • They both have established and well-understood sales processes.
  • They both have simple competitive strategies and they have processes and systems to deliver consistently on this.
  • Marketing is a low priority in one business and moderately sophisticated in the other.

This is hardly a scientific analysis and I dare say it is riddled with my own assumptions and prejudices. However, my conclusion is that what is working for these guys today would have worked for them fifty years ago:

  • Their competitive positioning is something that is easily understood by sales and customers
  • They see sales as an engine, not some deep relationship with loyal customers
  • They are organised and have efficient systems and processes
  • They manage using numbers, targets and reviews
  • They hire for attitude and quickly shed those who don’t work out

The problem is, achieveing this sales success is much harder work than blowing thousands on building social media followings or talking bollocks about “the new marketing”.

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