When talking with small companies (and some not so small ones) It never ceases to amaze me how little concentrated effort goes into Sales. What is even more surprising is the fact that this also occurs in organizations with reasonable earnings. So I have come to soundly believe that mediocrity will indeed ambush excellence nine times out of ten. This, I feel is a factor contributing to the deep… hole many companies have found themselves in during the past four years or so. If you are getting along, why rock the boat. “We’re in the green”, “We’re not out to dominate the market”, “We don’t expect miracles”, are common answers from people asked (pre-downturn) why they are not pushing for more sales. “What do you expect in these conditions”, “Can’t you see what’s going on out there?”, “There’s no growth left”, are but a few sales reps’ responses to the question “Why aren’t you selling more?”. Put the managers giving the first set of answers in the same company with the sales people giving the second set and you might as well call it a day and go home before the debt becomes unserviceable. Entrepreneurs are those alive go-getters. The when-the-going- gets-tough guys. The “we’re doing OK” guys are simply not entrepreneurs. Like I said, excellence has very slim survival chances in a mediocrity infested environment.
The first thing you notice is the total absence of planning. More specifically there is no sales plan. No matter whether there is one, two, ten or a hundred sales reps in the company you need to have a sales plan. The company’s revenue and profit is built up from the bottom, sales territory by sales territory. It depends on all sales people delivering on target. Admittedly, most companies do have sales targets. They are handed out in a top down fashion without any attention to what are supposed to be the constituent parts. Someone upstairs decides on the figure and then the sales force is expected to miraculously deliver it. Then once a quarter there is some sort of sales review where sales people are chewed out over their results and the target is upped to cover the gap. Come on, guys!
Sales management is a rather complex and specialized discipline. However, you don’t have to be a guru or have thousands in software to be able to put together a serviceable sales plan. For a company already selling something, it’s a matter of going territory by territory and then customer by customer. What is their performance? What is their potential? Are they splitting with your competitors? Are they growing, shrinking, going belly up? Are you selling them everything you can? Do you know everything they need? Once your sales people put your customers under the microscope, then they can make informed decisions about what sort of revenue they can pin on them for the next period. Some will be up, others will be down, a few may be lost. The result should show where you stand in relation to the target (which has been shared across the sales territories depending on their potential. People then know how much new business they need to drum up to make target.
Find a way that works for your company, but get a sales plan in place. Otherwise you are just taking pot shots in the dark. And more often than not they miss.