Today is not business as usual. Many markets are still flat. Are you holding your breath and hoping? This is not the right strategy. What is left to do? You have reviewed each and every expense line; renegotiated with suppliers and your bank; cut back where you can; and generally focused inwardly. The highest impact activity that you have left is to SELL.
And if you are doing these three things: selling the same thing, to the same people, the same way that you did 12 months ago, I would be surprised if your sales aren't down. Now is the time, more than ever, to take a critical look at your current sales playbook.
Leadership today must be focused on the confidence, courage and conviction to face the brutal facts and ask these high impact questions. Do I have the right sales people? Do I have the right sales strategies? Do I have the right sales training and development program? Your answers to these questions will lead you to high impact actions that can reverse declining revenues.
1. Right People (selling the same way?)
Casey Coffman (CEO of the Coffman Group) recommends that you use this “window of opportunity” to trim fat, hire, and retool a best in class sales force. Take advantage of being able to make changes that in good times you wouldn't be able to make, where in these times you must.
The key point is that change is required. And the high impact action here is to stay objective about your people and teams.
Top performing companies always have an “A” team. If you carry “C” players on your team, especially today, it is unlikely that you will ever rise to the top. If you have been hanging on to your marginal performers, now is the time to make the hard decision and to free them. Ask yourself: “Would I enthusiastically hire this person today?” If you cannot answer “yes,” you most likely do not have an “A” player.
Replace the salespeople who won't be able to step up and aggressively hunt for new opportunities. Good ones are out there and you must make the commitment to settle for nothing less. Now, is the time to create your “A” team. Hire great salespeople.
2. Right Strategies (selling the same thing, to the same people?)
Now is the time to seek new approaches, new systems, new strategies, and new tactics.
Dave Kurlan (CEO of OMG) emphasizes diversification. There is money out there and it is being spent. The question is whether your target customers are the ones doing the spending. This is a great time to move laterally into new markets.
For example, let's assume you sell trade show exhibits to small and medium sized businesses. The small size businesses not only don't have any money but they aren't even participating in shows. The mediums have money but aren't spending it on upgrades to their look. You can wait it out or you can target a new market segment by moving up to larger companies than your traditional sweet spot, or you can target specific industries that haven't been impacted as negatively, like food or health care.
Can you expand your reach or change your target customer? Can you expand your sand box with new markets or new categories? Consider increasing the size of your geographic boundaries. This may involve going somewhere where your product is still in demand.
3. Right Training and Development (selling the same way?)
Many companies today have cut back on training and development. This again is not the right strategy–it is the equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. Shift your thinking six months out. Put pressure on your sales process and the development of your “right” sales people.
Develop new sales processes, competencies, strategies and tactics for the tough times. Selling is not the same as it once was. You can no longer count on success from glorified order taking and account management. Got a sales force? You must make it strong enough and effective enough to succeed in these times; not wait for a return to the good times. We may not see those times again. Invest in sales training and development now!
In conclusion, can you improve your sales playbook? Gather your leadership team and brainstorm how to shift your organization from selling the same thing, to the same people, the same way; to improving revenues by having the right salespeople, strategies, and training. Remember: strategy is about choices – what you decide to do – or decide NOT to do – will carry consequences.
Contact David Paul Carter at 267-908-3180 for resources and help in improving your sales playbook.