The first quarter of 2018 is almost over. As you review what you’ve accomplished, what grade would you give yourself? If you are like many business leaders, you probably started off the year with great ideas about what you wanted to accomplish. You’ve thought about your goals and even have them written down. So here we are, how’d you do?
When you look into the areas that you’re not satisfied with, what were the issues that kept you from reaching your targets? Where are the gaps? The three most common issues I hear include stagnant sales from most of the sales team, pricing challenges and managing the business in a changing environment.
Have a Process
While there is no silver bullet or magic pill to take, having a scalable, repeatable selling process seems to help many in the industry. All will agree that strong referrals lead to new clients in short order and most experienced reps depend on them to generate new business. However, most reps or companies don’t have a systematic way to generate referrals on a regular basis. What happens when there aren’t any referrals? If you and your sales team are open to new ideas, Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler share their thoughts on building a sales process in their book Predictable Revenue, their story of how Ross applied his thinking to help build sales at Salesforce.com. It’s a great read with many takeaways that can easily be transferred to our industry and can help you introduce some new ideas to the sales effort.
There’s no doubt that many companies are facing pricing pressures from their clients. Some clients who have been with them for years and others who are relatively new. Yet, some of your reps enjoy client relationships that allow for reasonable margins. What’s the difference here? Some boil it down to the rep has a “great personal relationship with the client.” While that may be true, there’s usually more to it. That rep has usually risen to the status of trusted advisor. The clients not only like them, but trust them to keep their best interests in mind. If fact, many clients call those reps even when it’s not a project that your company can help them with, just to get their advice.
Who Wants to be Helped
Now, it takes two to tango. The reps must be able to earn that status and the client must want to be helped! While your other reps continue to call on those who may have a need for what you can produce but just don’t really want to be helped, you may be forced to really sharpen the pencil because they/you are not really bringing enough perceived value to the table. The sooner that you address this, the sooner your profits can improve.
Managing a business in this industry has never been more challenging than it is today. The people issues and departmental silos, the technology choices and the ever elusive clients all seem to keep executives laser-focused on their ability to keep their staff energized, execute flawlessly and make the right clients happy. Do that well and most say the profits will come. What frequently happens though, is that the leaders’ most compelling conversations about the business usually take place in front of the bathroom mirror each morning.
Assembling the right talent for your business is a struggle and just because someone helped you get to where you are, they may not be the right person to help you get to where you want to go. They may need additional training or they may need to visit other companies to learn new best practices or they may need to be in a different role. The key point here is if you’ve got a clear picture of where you want to go, don’t settle for the same excuses you’ve heard as to why you can’t do something or that’s not the way we do it here. Don’t settle. Having the right team in place will also give you your best chance to focus your time on working on the business instead of spending your day solving everyone’s problems.
So in a couple of days when the quarter is over and you ask yourself if you’re having fun yet, what will your answer be? If it’s not what you’d like it to be maybe it’s time to take a hard look at your team, your processes and the structure of how you run the business.