The effectiveness of the sales team in generating net new business remains an ongoing concern for most sales leaders and CEOs that I hear from. It’s not because they don’t want new business, for many it’s that they are busy being the account manager with the customers they have. In some cases, I see the relationships being intense as the work can be very complicated. In other instances, I see the sales rep as an extension of the customer service team. Based on the structure of the company today, this may be the way they have to operate. This is their current state. What could their future state be, and what impact on the business might that have? Let’s explore.
While the overall revenue for the industry isn’t breaking any wild growth records, there still seems to be a redistribution of the work. As many firms are experiencing serious growth, others remain flat, or in decline. And certainly, there are some shades of gray. So based on this, companies should position themselves to go after the clients where they can demonstrate a clear competitive advantage over the competition.
One way to get past the “I’m too busy to call on anyone new” syndrome begins with eliminating waste. Waste can be defined by the non-value-added touches or steps that are taken to process the work and communicate with the customers. Much of this occurs because the management information system either hasn’t been fully deployed, or optimized, along with a lack of segmentation or productizing the work. Every job is treated as a one-off. From the sales rep to the estimator through to customer service, the repetitive steps they take can be mind boggling. Full disclosure, for some companies it’s these issues, plus just being short staffed.
Using a simple process mapping, or value stream exercise, define the steps and touches in your current state of processing and managing the work you have. What can be segmented or perhaps automated? In fact, identify the ways that you can enhance your customers’ experience with you. From automating some of the acknowledgements that should be sent when a job comes in, ships, etc., all the way to improving the timeliness and accuracy of your invoicing process. For example, work on a process that gets at least 60-70% of your invoices out the day the job ships or at worst, the next day. Create a “fast lane” for entering jobs that fit a certain parameter. These improvements can have a positive impact on all your client facing team members – as well as your customers.
Minimizing or eliminating these non, value-added activities can dramatically alter the amount of time and work that faces your client teams. With more time available, you can move to a targeted, systematic approach to new business development. Make it so your team has a chance of being successful and take you to your future state. Take the randomness out of your biz dev process. Build your sales plan to identify the markets that you can have an advantage in and depending on the available resources (both internal and external), create an approach that works for your team and the culture of your organization. Identify the steps that will work within your market, and with your team to successfully attract, and connect with those prospects that you can help. Create sales goals that may make folks queasy each morning. Those butterflies can help your team perform to their best ability and minimize complacency. You may also find and awaken collaborative effort in removing obstacles that stand in their way of achieving those targets. They’ll want to succeed.
Note, creating an on-purpose sales effort may not be for everybody. Some will say it’s too hard, and many will say, “but you don’t understand….” You do understand. You’ll need to continually remind people that the goal is to improve the business and win your share of the market re-distribution.
Eliminating waste is one way to free the customer service and sales reps to give good, proactive service. Your sales team will have the time to look for new business opportunities within your current clients, as well as new, targeted clients. Maybe it’s addition through subtraction that will help you to get to your future state. Keep at it and don’t stop learning.
Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.com, LinkedIn or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in Printing Impressions.