During my most recent sales management seminar, a program I conduct four times per year, I was struck again by the common lack of structure I see in sales organizations. Nearly every company I have worked with in my career has a very clear operational plan for production, delivery and installation services. Very few have an operational plan for the sales team.
If you want to differentiate yourself from your competition, then develop an operational sales plan. This plan is essentially made up of three components: people, processes and metrics.
Hire for Attitude
Southwest Airlines is an organization that has consistently been able to find the best people. The reason for its success has been the mantra, “Hire for attitude. Train for skill.” This is a formula that works and can work for you.
The ideal sales candidate is not necessarily the one that is predicted by psychologists and personality profiles. Most people believe that the best sales candidate is a flamboyant character that easily communicates with people. It is possible that that the best candidate is an introvert and someone that that is highly organized. If you doubt this, ask yourself if you would rather do business with a schmoozer or a detail-oriented person that gets the job done right for you.
I assert that the ideal salesperson is conscientious with an eye for detail. Moreover, besides being anxious for financial growth, the best salespeople I have ever worked with demonstrate a desire for personal growth. Additionally, you should be seeking someone that possesses an inspired attitude for teamwork, decision-making, leadership, math skills and more. If you do not have these foundational traits in your performers, then you will find it is difficult to create a sustainable program of sales excellence.
Build a System
If there were one singular flaw to be observed in sales organizations, it would be that sales success relies on individual performers instead of a sales system. Yet you know that the success of any great organization requires a systematic approach that can be repeated by the person you insert into the sales role.
Consider the revolutionary system imparted by Bill Walsh in the 1980s. As the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, he instituted the West Coast offense. The purpose of his system was to create a method by which performers of very specific talents can fit into the program and create sustainable success. His “system” was so successful that it has been emulated repeatedly and revolutionized and entire sport.
Organizations and sales leaders that fail to establish a selling system within their companies create no expectations. A selling system is more than a sales process for closing the deal. It is a process of discovery, client proposals, scheduling and follow up. These are the process upon which a client can depend and a salesperson can focus his or her efforts. No system equals no long-term management plan.
What Gets Measured Gets Done
The final component of every sales system must include tangible measurements of behaviors and activities. This is vastly different than sales results. Any manager can criticize past performance, but Monday morning quarterbacking is not great leadership. Great sales management leadership requires you to establish metrics that enable you to predict future sales results.
You already use past data to create future planning decisions. Your 2010 budget is an assemblage of data from past experiences - items such as fuel costs, leases, insurance, hourly wages. A sales planning budget should be no different and should include data about past sales performance, including sales activity, closing ratios, database development and the like.
The bottom line is that your business success is function of the top line minus costs. To manage that top line, you must create a selling system you can depend on. The system has three simple components. When all three are in place, then you have the makings of a business that will do more than survive. Even in these challenging times, a well-structured sales organization will thrive.
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