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Sales, the Enterprise, and the Four Truths  

 

Michael R. Nyden, Business Essentials and Associates, LLC, August 2005

 There exists, perhaps most especially in small businesses, a tendency to “pass the buck” when business goals aren’t achieved.  Operating groups within a company build “virtual brick walls” in an effort to insulate themselves from company results. 

“We’d have done better if IT had only given us the tool(s) we wanted.” 

“Marketing doesn’t have any idea of who our customer is.”

“Management isn’t supportive of our effort.”

And of course, the perennial fall-back position, “Sales dropped the ball.”

Most organizations and departments, at one time or another, express similar sentiments, especially during difficult times.  And at such times, it can be tough, but necessary, to take a hard look at real inhibitors, not only to turn a trend toward meeting goals, but typically, to raise morale as well.

Years ago, a very astute man observed that the first requirement of any business is to sell something.  Regardless of the industry, if a company’s product isn’t sold, the doors are already beginning to close.

The reasons for inability to sell may be manifold, and in some instances, have nothing to do with the sales effort;

bulletInability to manufacture/produce (lack of raw materials, poor manufacturing techniques, etc.),
bulletInability to meet quality standards,
bulletInability to meet commitments,
bulletInability to identify customers,
bulletInability to “connect” with clients. 

The list is probably long, much longer than these few illustrations.  Additionally, salespeople may be inexperienced, poorly trained, in the “wrong” position, or focused on the wrong activities.  Many people want to hit the home run, but we all know that most games are won with singles and doubles.

Regardless of the reason(s) for sales’ shortcomings, the effect on the entire organization can be debilitating, especially in these ultra-competitive times.

The outgrowth of these observations generates a line of reasoning which suggests that, regardless of the present state of the company or desired future state, a process must be established to analyze success inhibitors, with the outgrowth of the process providing an increase in sales.

The Four Truths:

bullet

Sales is the lifeblood of every company.

bullet

Inhibitors to success (especially inhibitors to sales) must be identified and eliminated.  (The enterprise must analyze, identify, and take corrective action to deal with anything that negatively impacts sales.)

bullet

Corporate Strategy must yield tactics.

bullet

Metrics must be established to determine that tactics are achieving the corporate goals.

Initiating a regular plan for executives to review inhibitors is the first step toward future success.  In many cases, resources, including budget, are redirected in the short term, to assure that the Sales Department has all it needs to perform.  Often times, marketing needs additional resource(s) to more effectively reach prospective customers.  On other occasions, customer service limitations impact future and/or repeat business, or IT needs help in implementing the new technology.

Once a plan is developed specific to the company, the prospect of achieving sales goals and corporate goals is much more likely, especially if undertaken concurrent with a good Sales Effectiveness Training program.

Plan development generally begins with management undertaking a frank discussion of the present state of the company.  Appropriate questions to be asked might include;

bullet

Are Sales at acceptable levels? (measured against some benchmark)

bullet

Are inhibitors to sales a result of the sales function, or some other function?

bullet

What is the impact of low morale on the sales force, and the company as a whole (Often overlooked, but inherent within Truth 2)?

Most would characterize these questions as obvious.  Is the company reaching sales at target/plan?  If not it should be obvious that the company must do something.  Of course, the ninety percent (90%) of companies that fail must have taken appropriate corrective action.  Or not.

The simple fact is that most companies will acknowledge a problem only at face value, do little to identify any underlying causes, take inappropriate corrective action, and ultimately succeed or fail despite, and not as a result of, their actions.

Point C (as noted), the impact of low morale, can be especially troublesome for a company.  If the adage “nothing breeds success like success” is true, then conversely, isn’t it true that low morale breeds even lower morale?  The impact within an organization of low morale, poor attitude, poor work ethic, etc., is almost impossible to quantify, and yet in many organizations, almost palpable.  It is incumbent on Management to acknowledge low morale as a problem affecting Sales (The Lifeblood of the Company), and do something about it.  This means taking a hard look a whether management itself, through action or inaction, contributes to the morale problem.  The difference between management and leadership may be the critical element between enabling a good sales environment, or assuring failure, with loss of valuable sales and middle management talent. The willingness to take the initial hard look is the most difficult step.

While this management introspection should typically take place behind closed doors, it is usually worthwhile to have a genuine Human Resource expert, with appropriate bona fides, in attendance.

The outgrowth of this inspection should be development of a plan, a call to action, including goals that are achievable through completion of tasks that are do-able.  The plan should include accommodation for both quantitative and subjective measurements of success, and importantly, should identify periods for accomplishment and review/reassessment.

Together then, the understanding of the problem, and the (several) elements of its composition, have been established, with a plan specified to eliminate the problem.

Make no mistake, the task is demanding, testing, challenging.  It is for this reason that consideration should be given to engaging an experienced consultant familiar with the types of problems mentioned, and certainly, one with a background and expertise in the breadth of issues the company is facing.

The Four Truths then, even if unacknowledged, can be the stepping-stones for the success of the company.  Conversely, especially if unacknowledged, they yield the beginnings of the company’s epitaph.  The manner in which the Truths are approached, the perspective with which they are acknowledged, and the decisions and plans that are the outgrowth of their consideration, will determine which.

I encourage consideration of the Truths by reflecting against the situation at your present company, and situations at past employers.  Discover the truth of each situation, both positive and/or negative, where the approach (or lack of approach) yielded results that were, without intervention, almost certain.  Your conclusions are guaranteed to be revealing.

As a wise man once said, “Something seen can’t be unseen.  Something known, can’t be unknown.”

The choice for each of us in business, is what to do, how to use, “What we now see” and ”What we now know.”

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