Update Your Sales Leadership Strategy
Is it an understatement to say that sales leadership is only about leading the sales team and managing the process? Let’s add, creating goals for client development. And don’t forget, helping the sales team to be successful in a changing marketplace. There are also two other areas that should be included in the list. The first is to lead the sales organization to meet the defined revenue and profit goals of the company. The second is to work with the reps to identify profitable markets and accounts within the sales territories. Let’s focus on these two responsibilities.
Companies in the printing and graphic communications business structure their sales leadership roles in different ways. The role is often dependent upon the size of the organization and the structure of the sales team. The sales leader can be a full-time, experienced manager or a senior sales rep with a book of business that splits their time accordingly. Sometimes it’s the owner of the business who fulfills those duties. In some cases, there is no sales leader at all. It is important to define how these roles are staffed, because they include different amounts of time available to work either on the business or in the business.
Let’s start with the objective of leading the sales organization to meet the defined revenue and profit goals of the company. Having a defined sales forecasting process is where this all begins. There are four key parts of the sales forecast. The first is to create a projection for existing customers with existing business. The second includes projections for new business from existing customers. The third area is new business from new customers. The fourth area is attrition. Face it, some customers are going to go away, or just reduce their print spend with you. Probably nothing that you did wrong, it just happens. Sometimes not accounting for attrition can make the difference between making your numbers or not.
You might even add a fifth area. These would be your inactive accounts. Client’s who you have sold to in the past, but they have not bought from you in over 18 months. There could be a number of different reasons for this—they were not a good fit, or you just stopped calling on them. Things change, it might not be a bad idea to take another look at that list.
Sales forecasting is part art and part science, and can be simple or complex. An important element in forecasting is to know your customers business as best as you can. What trends have you seen, what can you anticipate from them, what new product or services launches are they talking about—you get the picture. Other important factors are knowing where you stand on the supplier list. Are you the top supplier, or the 6th person on a five-person team. Being close to the top affords you the growth opportunities. If you are towards the bottom, you end up getting what’s left over.
In order to reach their revenue targets, the sales leader and the sales team need to be on their ‘A’ game. There are a few best practices that all sales team can use to increase their level of success. One area is to understand how your customers want to buy, and just as important, why do they buy from you. The more you know about these two points, the more you’re able to validate that your sales proposition, and overall sales strategy will be relevant. It is also important to differentiate your strategy between existing customers and prospects. In one case you are looking for both retention and growth, in the other you are asking them to change their buying habits.
The role of the sales leader is to be available to learn, teach and coach the team on what is being effective for the company. They should be able to identify and articulate the best practices for overall sales strategy. What’s working for your business? There are 1 million ways to sell and position yourself with customers. The question remains, what works well for your business and how well are you leveraging that throughout your overall sales efforts?
As the sales leader meets with each individual sales rep to discuss their progress, receiving and giving feedback on how well the strategy is working is a key element to continually improving on the company’s strategy. For example, you may find that the strategy is working well with existing accounts, but your new business development efforts have stalled. Learn from what’s going on, make adjustments, and continue the effort. This feedback is important to share with the senior management team, all in the name of transparency and continuous improvement.
As the business climate continues to change, the number of profitable markets and accounts can sometimes seem scarce. While the company should expect and encourage market feedback from the team, leaving this task solely to the sales reps is not a recommended strategy. The overall direction for what markets and types of accounts with which the company can be successful should come from reviewing past success as well as new opportunities. The business has been staffed and equipped to do certain things, for certain types of customers, with certain levels of expectations. It’s important that the sales team sells to the company’s strengths. For many shops, it can be very difficult trying to be all things to all people.
The sales leader should take the time to evaluate what types of accounts the company does well. Learn what they look like, what markets are they in, what size organizations they are, who’s involved in the buying process, and what types of services they provide for them. And perhaps even more important, identify what types of problems they are solving for these customers.
Aggregate and share this information with the team. Overlay these findings to the goals and vision for the business to confirm alignment with the approach. Collaborate with marketing so that brand awareness and lead generation can be focused on the right types of accounts. This is a process that never ends. This continual loop will make the strategy better and better over time. Keeping and winning new business is hard. It’s even harder if you’re not sure what it is you’re after or if your efforts are scattered.
Please add your thoughts and comments below.
Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic advice, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.com, LinkedIn or email at email@example.com.
Mike Philie leverages his 28 years of direct industry experience in sales, sales management and executive leadership to share what’s working for companies today and how to safely transform your business. Since 2007, he has been providing consulting services to privately held printing and mailing companies across North America.
Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the graphic communications industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion, and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach.