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Today, with changing market conditions and a challenging economic environment, it is more important than ever to understand how to create and sustain a professional and competitive sales organisation. But even in successful businesses, sales is often based on gut feeling and historical developments rather than a systematic approach. Because of inefficiencies, lack of coordination and missing capabilities, many organisations are wasting their opportunities.
The commercial success of an organisation is mainly determined by the effectiveness of its four key areas: strategy, management, information as well as customer relationship. To maximise your commercial capability, you need to have an unbiased look into all four to identify strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats.
An effective sales strategy is the foundation for business success. Most of all, this has to guarantee customers receive an intrinsic benefit based on their individual needs and requirements. First, many companies make the mistake to focus on their products and services rather than customer value. One reason is, real customer challenges are not fully understood. Or businesses do not clearly communicate how their services help to overcome these challenges. Second, your strategy needs to set guidelines for all sales related activities. This needs to happen for every customer segment, sales channel and individual market. Finally, every member of your organisation – not only sales – needs to understand the strategy to guarantee consistency. What is more, even the best strategy needs to be adjusted frequently to reflect changing market conditions.
What is the most important job of your sales management? It needs to make sure, every part of your business acts according to your strategy. First, effective organisation structures and processes are the foundation for reaching your objectives. Think about the interfaces between different departments in your organisation. Do departments sometimes not collaborate effectively or seem to work against each other? Misaligned or even conflicting objectives might be the reason. Every plan and budget needs to include both, management visions and perceptions of teams on the ground to be accurate, realistic and motivating. Once set, your plans need continuous monitoring, analysis of variances and if necessary, adjustment of activities. Also, compensation schemes and incentives need to be in line with overall objectives.
Second, management styles and different personalities of team members can raise issues. In many organisations the best sales person gets promoted to be Sales Director. The business could loose its most successful external player or he may lack vital management skills and still focus on his personal sales activities. A strong manager however is maximising the success of every single team member, optimising the overall result. Finally, think about how you make sure to recruit the right people, help them to develop their skills and build a corporate culture to encourage confidence, responsibility and collaboration.
Do you and your organisation have all the information and insights you need? First, think about your customers, their needs, challenges and strategies. What do they think about your organisation? Do you know how profitable it is to work with them? Second, market insights are equally important to understand dynamics and identify potential opportunities and threats. Third, what do you know about your competitors? They could test new strategies and products in countries you are not yet present. Which could eventually impact your own markets. Fourth, insights on your own internal and external processes could help you identify inefficiencies and thus open opportunities for further improvement. One question is, how to get to all these information and insights. A second, whether all this already exists somewhere within your organisation. But also, how people get access, the moment they need it. Therefore, information systems need to be structured, designed and introduced in a way they contain the right information, in the right quantity and quality. You also have to make sure, everybody is capable and motivated to use them.
How do you guarantee your customer relationship management is efficient and effective? Usually there are many different activities, contact points, links and interfaces with your customers. All of them need to send the right messages, act according to your strategy and positively influence your relationship. First, your sales people, their personality, skills and abilities are vital to your success. Here is one of the main issues: It is more important to have people with the right mind-set and personality than the sales techniques they are using. A good sales person is sociable, optimistic and has high levels of self esteem and empathy. Only if these personal traits are present, it makes sense to develop more specialised sales skills, like social and commercial competence. However too many organisations waste money on courses, teaching sales techniques to the wrong people, rather than giving people roles according to their abilities in the first place.
Second, you need to make sure that all other interactions are well planned, executed and work according to your strategy. Think about conferences and trade fairs and what you want them to achieve. Does your website communicate values and benefits and help customers to engage and interact? Finally, you need to make sure, a systematic and strategic approach to Key Account Management helps gaining additional insights and creating new ideas, products and services.
In summary, all four key areas (strategy, management, information and customer relationship) are equally important. To build and maintain a successful business, you cannot ignore or risk to lack capabilities in any of them. That’s why it is key to identify strengths and weaknesses and understand which are critical. Only after that, you can focus on the most relevant areas of development. You need to prioritise measures to quickly gain first results. Those, with a longer scope should follow, to guarantee enduring progress and sustainable development in the long-run.
We have created a tool to help you on the way. Our Sales Capability Check is based on latest scientific findings and intensive work with numerous organisations in different industries and countries. It equally applies to any business, from smaller organisations to multinationals. It will help you to identify commercial strengths and weaknesses based on all four areas. Even more important it will provide all relevant facts and recommendations to decide, which areas of your business you should develop to maximise your commercial capabilities. Download our free white paper today to get started. Just fill in the form below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to order your copy.
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