Got a shining personality? Industry connections? Great. If you want to know how to succeed in sales, that is a really good start. But it is only a start!
If you don’t have a solid sales strategy and established processes, you won’t get consistent and sustainable results.
I’ve been a sales leadership consultant to organizations around the world for many years. I’ve seen time and again: “People think sales is primarily about knowing people and using relationships, but relationships are built by showing value.” That’s what I had to say in a recent vlogcast, Sales and PR. Selling Isn’t Telling.
What have I learned over the years as a sales leadership consultant? Here are some ideas we discussed.
- What makes an effective sales team, or how do they become one?
- What’s the biggest challenge companies face in sales?
- How can a sales leadership consultant help turn a failing business around?
- How is PR and sales linked?
Without further ado, I hope you find this conversation about sales strategy useful to you in your business. And if you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, reach out anytime.
Or if you prefer… read the highlights below!
(First, some background about me. Why I became a sales leadership consultant in Vancouver)
“The 2000s happened… Salespeople in the tech industry back then really didn’t know how to sell on a business level. They didn’t know how to justify ROI. There was an enormous gap that I chose to take. I introduced sales processes and the importance of creating a business case, and I started supporting people at that stage in sales in the technical industry and the IT industry, so they were able to sell at a business level and up level themselves.”
What makes an effective sales team, or how do they become one?
“First of all, you’ve got to have the right people. Understand what kind of individual you’re looking for, and find the right person for the right focus. Are they doing new business, or are they doing account management? Establishing the growth with an account and wanting new business in a new sector are two very separate functions. Understand what those roles are in alignment with who you are targeting and what you want to achieve.
“Best practice needs to be adapted to your organization and your selling. If you are positioning CRM with your team as an administration and policing thing you’re not going to get any adoption or traction. But if you work with them in a behavioral way and they start to see results, clearly defined metrics and activities, then you’ve validated the work.”
Having the right people in your organization is great, but if they’re in the wrong role or their focus is too broad, you won’t see results. Specialists exist for a reason. Not only does defining roles and responsibilities benefit the company, it benefits the employees. The biggest mistake I see is companies creating hybrid roles in sales and seeing no results. They blame it on poor performance. Most of the time, it’s not. It’s the wrong people in the wrong role
Are the position and the skills you need clearly defined? Then, your employees can contribute effectively as well as develop the skills that allow them to function effectively in the role.
So you’ve got your dream team. What next? Adapting best practice and learning how best to demonstrate results and motivate the team, maintains the success. This ties into being a good manager and leader.
What’s the biggest challenge companies face in sales?
“The biggest issue I see and this is across ALL industries,, is wanting to sell to everybody. It’s about understanding, ‘what am I selling and what is the need?’. Who is my product MOST suited to.I look at it as managing risk, because that defines how large your market is, understanding who your buyer is, and why they would want that.
“The mistake I see businesses and individual salespeople making is what I call a ‘spray gun’ approach: they just sort of fire at everything and hope it hits the right audience. If you’re targeting and you’re being more particular, you can research industries, specific companies, economic and technological challenges, other challenges that are unique to the geography or the sector, and see what you are able to solve.
“Regardless of the geographic location, you’ve got to be culturally aware. You’ve got to realize that certain things don’t apply in different environments, so you can adapt accordingly. Generally speaking the size of your market tells you who wants what you’ve got and who is prepared to pay for it.”
Spamming an easily created list of 100, as opposed to personally reaching out to a list of 20? That might actually yield less results. This applies across sales, marketing and PR. A press release specific to tech wouldn’t be of much interest to a sports or entertainment journalist. But it would and well with a carefully curated list of interested individuals.
You can market a new makeup line to middle-aged men, but it’s unlikely your sales would shoot up. Take the time to establish your buyer, and understand the surrounding economy and culture.
How a sales leadership consultant can help turn a failing business around
As a sales leadership consultant, I’m often giving advice. But I base that advice on experience. I loved having the opportunity to show a real-life case study of how to fix a broken sales process. Here’s what I said.
“There was a company I engaged with a few years ago: their sales were declining, and they didn’t know why. The CEO said “I don’t know what I don’t know, and I need to know what I don’t know.” It was pretty simple at the time — it was a small company, around the 10 million mark, and they had been cruising on a wave. It had been opportunistic. All it was, was they had the wrong people in the wrong seats.
We shifted from outbound strategy to inbound, creating digital strategies, implementing online initiatives, that basically made them look like the front-runner. We also created a system — they didn’t have processes for the simplest things, like how many people they had spoken to, or where they were in the pipeline.
“It was simple to set this up only because the executives were totally committed to making these changes. They weren’t just looking for quick miracle wins. It doesn’t work when people ask for a two week miracle, when the sales cycle is potentially four to six months.”
It isn’t always the processes that are in the way, it’s the mindset. Being opposed or resistant to change, or expecting quick miracles without putting the time in, are often the biggest obstacles to lifting and maintaining sales.
What’s your long-term plan? Consistent and maintainable growth takes regular nurturing and learning. A quick win is a quick win, and doesn’t guarantee future success. Processes and systems ensure that whatever you’re doing to bring in sales, will be repeated and continued.
How is PR and sales linked?
I was being interviewed by the owner of a tech PR agency in Vancouver— so, naturally, we had to cover this topic! But it is timely — I’ve seen many times how having a developed brand can help give a company a sales edge — if they know what to do with it.
“Firstly ask who the target audience of their publication is and leverage that. You’ve already invested, so do your research around the readers. That’s when things like marketing, sales, the integration of it and the digital strategies are so exciting, because now you’re looking at retargeting. What message resonated with the audience? What did I get out of that article and the feedback that I know resonated? Do your retargeting around that message. If it’s a specific topic you can show yourselves as experts in that are and create a webinar, creating a feed that the sales team can then use.
“That’s the beauty of it, in terms of integration of sales, digital marketing strategies and PR. If they’re all done in isolation, the company’s not going to function efficiently and optimally.”
Are you selling your product or service to the right audience? Sales will make or break a company. Need the help of a sales leadership consultant? Feel free to contact me today