Do You Manage Sales Strategy or Sales Activity?

Mar 29, 2019, Written by Jim Miley

As we head into the first turn of 2019 and our first quarter results transition to second quarter objectives, let’s talk sales. 

Healthy sales growth just makes a lot of things better.  When sales are booming, you can steam roll other issues with the brute strength of cash making strong sales performance is a great remedy for many business ills. 

If you’re not enjoying the luxury of having more sales dollars than you could have hoped for, consider a review of your approach to sales management. 

Drive Business Over Busy-ness

Working with sales managers and sales teams over the past 20 plus years has reinforced the importance of distinguishing between business and “busy-ness.” 

I’ve found many managers, leaders, owners and the like get their fundamentals tied up in knots; consequently, sales priorities end up being rabbit trails.  The whirlwind of their overall workload coupled to the desire to drive “something” leads them to grab hold of tangible actions easily within their reach even when they’re not sure where the actions lead. 

Popular management tools like a CRM, Channel Resource Management, system make tangible and measurable tasks all the easier to identify and delegate.  I can drive the number of calls a salesperson makes, the number of proposals they generate, average dollars / proposal, open proposal value, proposal close rate, etc, etc, etc…  Busy, busy, busy…. Busy-ness. 

Often while managers drive busy-ness, they also drive their own frustration and performance problems in the sales staff.  Busy-ness does not in itself directly correlate to effective sales growth but it can make everyone question why nothing is working.  The fundamentals of Sales Strategy must be solidly in place before a bunch of activity is likely to produce healthy revenue. 

“Many will say it’s a numbers game… we know that ‘x’ number of calls produces ‘y’ number of proposals so we can focus on improving the close ratio of ‘z’ and voila’, we hit our sales target?  Simple, just do that.  It’s clear and measurable so you can manage / control the whole process.        

All sales opportunity is not created equal and overemphasizing the “numbers game” may lead your sales staff to focus their energy into executing task lists or worse, pencil whipping systems to satisfy reporting requirements.  In contrast I want my sales team thinking and focused on how they can maximize business opportunities. 

A major problem I see arise often is that business leaders pursue a sales process at the expense of executing effective sales strategy. 

The result can be a lot of data, reports and busy-ness when what we want are sales revenues to fuel our business. 

Sales Strategy First – Then Execution

I believe the vast majority of business professionals sincerely want to be successful; they want to deliver results; they want their manager to be pleased with their work. 

So why is “sales performance” a chronic concern for business owners?  Why is it so hard to develop a strong sales person who executes and delivers results consistently? 

I also believe too many business leaders struggle to recognize problems with the cart while they whip the horse.  We must properly develop the cart of your sales strategy so that your sales team will effectively and consistently execute. 

Your sales strategy is an evergreen, living body of work.  The market, environment and competitors are constantly changing; so, your sales strategy must adapt. 

Developing effective sales strategy takes good collaboration between the business owners, sales managers/staff and marketing if you have committed marketing resources.  Too often business owners and leaders leave the burden of developing and adjusting sales strategy completely up to the sales manager or even the sales people.  Some Sales Managers feel it is their job to develop and maintain sales strategy which is fine; but they can’t do it in a vacuum and it must be effective.

Building and maintaining a robust, effective sales strategy will help the “horses” pull your cart at the speed and direction you plan for.  When your selling strategies are solid, your efforts to manage sales activities will be more effective and actually helpful to the sales team. 

Your sales strategy should be a road map that clarifies how a sales person should approach their prospective customers to maximize success.  Success being mutually beneficial to both your company and the customer.  A good sales strategy will highlight the solutions and value we deliver to the customer; it will outline key stake holders in our customer organizations and illuminate the best path for sales to navigate in the customer environment. 

Managing your Sales Strategy before you try to manage a lot of sales activity is a wise investment.  It is tempting to reach for the things that give you a sense of control like driving selling activities or populating CRM systems but building and maintaining the foundation of your Sales Strategy will pay larger dividends. 

The specifics of a good Sales Strategy will vary by business, industry or market.  Whatever your business,  your sales team should have a clear understanding of a rock solid sales strategy to give them the knowledge and confidence in execution. 

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Jim Miley

As a Business Coach, Jim brings a broad background of operational and sales management skills and expertise to help small business owners grow their business and reach their highest potential. He has 30 years of field-proven professional experience.

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