In today’s tough sales environment where your sales people have become THE differentiator for your company, why undermine their efforts with unrealistic expectations and being reticent about investing in the tools that will help them (and you) be successful? Here are a few areas where I see the need for improvement by senior management in the translation industry.
Are your expectations based on how sales used to be? Throw them out. It’s a brave new world out there in sales. Historical notions about what sales actually is don’t apply anymore. Sales has moved on from smiling and dialling, informing customers about your services and saying “we provide the best quality”. Sales discussions (and success) are largely based on the sales person’s knowledge and understanding of the industry, company and person they are talking to and how they and their company can help the customer achieve business objectives. This is impossible with volume-based, generic sales practices. Specifically I’d like you to consider abandoning these two notions:
More Activity is Better – Sales people need to work hard. Activity is key, but not for its own sake. Thinking that more calls, more emails and well, just “more” will increase sales is misguided. Selling today needs to take the customer into account more than ever before. They are spoiled for choice among competitors who are willing to compete on price. To avoid this its essential to raise the bar beyond strictly quantity of activity (if I call enough people someone is bound to buy or better known as “spray and pray” approach). Activity needs to be smart and focus on what it delivers for the customer (ROI, revenue, market share, compliance, education, merger completion, contract signed, ad infinitum).
Doing more of the wrong things will not yield better results.
I Need Immediate ROI – Sure, a sales person might be able to bring along a few contacts from a previous life, but I would not bank on this. Customers have stronger relationships with account managers and project managers. Sales people are usually constrained by non-compete agreements anyway. Do not expect immediate results. In a world where it takes 10+ calls to even reach a prospect for an initial conversation, immediate results are pie-in-the-sky. Measure activities that generate sales and set goals accordingly within an appropriate time frame. Investigate alternative sales structures, such as inside sales (this is not telemarketing).
Expecting immediate results leads to disappointment and resentment.
Undertooling Your Sales Team
Sales people without proper tools such as a sales process, proper CRM system and marketing support is like sending a soldier into battle without a rifle. Starving your sales team of the tools they need in order to develop and demonstrate their expertise is slowing them down. If you want faster ROI, give them tools to facilitate this. Please consider giving the following tools to your sales team:
A Sales Process – Not having a sales process is akin to sailing a ship without a navigation system. Sales processes help sales people better manage precious sales opportunities, ensuring they are focused on doing the right things at the right time to guide a sale through to closure. Without a process, sales people may waste time pursuing unwinnable opportunities or losing opportunities that their process-savvy competitors manage better.
A phone and a laptop with email is not a sales process.
A Real CRM System – CRM systems have a very specific function: to help sales people effectively manage the multitudes of contacts, opportunities and communications they have with prospects and customers. No sales person can remember every single communication they have had with each and every prospect. It takes many (10+) communications to even speak to a contact for the first time, let alone keep track of all subsequent communications. Managing communications is essential to ensuring follow up happens when it is needed and in the right way. When sales process and CRM are integrated, the benefits are manifold. An awful lot happens before a quote is ever issued. Make it easy for your sales people to manage this. There are many CRM systems out there to suit any budget. Any of these, even free ones, are better than forcing sales activities into a tool that was never meant to manage them. Being web-based, most can integrate reasonably easily via APIs, or csv/xml extracts. Use workflow systems for their intended use (production). Would you make your production staff use a CRM system to manage projects?
Excel Spreadsheets and workflow systems are not a CRM system.
Marketing Support – Marketing support is essential and will have a positive impact on the success of your sales team. It can be used for pro-active lead generation, as well as serving as great back-up for your sales efforts. Most marketing today is done online and is relatively inexpensive in financial terms, but does require a time investment. Just as sales people need to understand and communicate the value or outcomes you deliver in terms of YOUR CUSTOMERS (not you), so does your marketing. Your value must permeate everything you publish, from your website to email campaigns to brochures to case studies to LinkedIn profiles to Twitter posts. Caveat: without good messaging in the first instance and having a plan to deliver it in the second, your sales people will be at a big disadvantage to those who do. Besides, relying solely on cold calling to build your business, even with a good message, is a slow way to sell. Marketing can speed things up.
A good marketing message is not “we delivery quality”.
The right expectations and tools will go a long way to ensuring sales success. Do you want your sales teams to behave like one-armed wallpaper hangers (busy) or having meaningful, timely and useful client discussions that will close business in today’s competitive marketplace?