In today’s unique business environment there are two questions that should be occupying all business peoples’ minds.
- What is going to happen?
- What should I change in my business in the light of what is going to happen?
These seem impossible questions, the kind of questions that you need crystal ball reading abilities to answer.
What Is Going To Happen?
- Consumer spending is not going to return to the unsustainable levels of 2007, as per capita debt reduces and saving increases.
- House prices will continue to fall as a function of the economy rebalancing.
- Consumer confidence will not return until the fear of redundancy recedes.
- The banks will only move as fast as the government forces them too.
- Things will improve.
- How quickly liquidity will return to the banking system.
- Whether the government will have to fully nationalise the banks and if they do whether they then will be as dynamic and bold as will be required.
- Future unknown forces yet to materialise. Bad ones like the Madoff scandal and (potentially) good ones like Barack Obama’s first 100 days.
- Our own government’s handling of the crises.
- When things start to improve (green shoots yet anyone?).
Which brings us to the second question
What Should I Change In My Business In The Light Of What Is Going To Happen?
You cannot predict the future only prepare for it as best you can. You will have read the operational, obvious (but still important) business checklists around what you should do. Click Here for a selection.
The first requirement is that you have done all that is needed, ready for what is to come, as best as you can predict.
The second is to try to be as adaptive as possible, no sacred cows, no red lines, but constantly applying a pragmatic view of what you might need to do.
What you are seeking are not solutions but options. The organisations most likely to survive are the ones with options. Seek options not solutions.
To help with your thought processes it might be worth revisiting Peter Drucker’s Theory Of Business and look at the following
- The specific purpose of the organisation.
- Assumptions about the environment of the organisation.
- The core competencies needed to accomplish the organisation’s purpose.
Taken together, these assumptions define what an organisation gets paid for, what results it considers meaningful, and what it must excel at to maintain its competitive position.
The actions and decisions you take in the next 6-9 months will determine whether you control the destiny of your organisation.
Never has the need to focus on the sales fundamentals been so critical. However, the challenge for many organisations is their sales teams have lost the habit of being pro-active and resilient.
The good years since 2000 have meant many sales people (and their sales managers) have forgotten how to sell in difficult times, not having a sufficiently competitive mind-set, nor their sales skills sufficiently developed to work under real pressure. Put simply, in a contracting market if you can’t take business from competitors you’re toast.
The major trap sales managers fall into in trying to uplift the performance of their teams in this context, is that the whole process seems remedial and temporary.
Remedial in the sense, we’re only having to do these things because things are difficult, and we perhaps have not been doing what we should. This negative mind-set is toxic to the process of improving performance. Sales people have to feel positive about what they are doing, their job is to motivate customers to buy, so the idea that this is something (like prospecting) they don’t really wish to be doing creates a self fulfilling prophesy of failure.
The other killer is the notion that these ways of working are temporary. ‘We will soon be able to go back to the nicer ways of the business finding us, and us then responding wonderfully well’.
The best sales teams are hungry for business, positive in approach, and see business development activity as being hard wired into their activities. Consequently they perform better in difficult times.
When you have addressed the mind-set issues you can focus on the key success drivers.
Successful selling is all about having the right activity profile, focusing on the cause and effect between what they do and the results they achieve. The quality and amounts of activity are critical to get right and the complex interdependency between the two needs to be fully understood. We all know price and volume are not optimised at the same point, well neither are the quality and quantity of sales activity.
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Every sales team, every salesperson, will have a sales target. Fewer will have a sales strategy. A sales target is a number or set of numbers, usually larger than the one set before and comes with a ringing exhortation from senior management to help it achieve take off.
What salespeople then do is think (worry? panic?) about how they are going to deliver these increases, hoping that a combination of price inflation and demand will get them there. In the current climate they will be very lucky to have either helping them towards their target. Quite the reverse in fact, with prices under real pressure and demand ranging from patchy to dreadful, its going to be down to what they proactively implement.
A sales strategy covers much wider ground, focusing as much on how something is achieved as much as what you are trying to do. This doesn’t mean it has to be a complex process or a doorstep of a document, but it does examine the robustness of the figures, because a good sales strategy will test the underpinning assumptions.
The development of a sales strategy creates focus around the required activities and actions that are needed to deliver the desired numbers. Done well, it then gives you the ability to flex the identified key variables to create different outcomes. This allows for possible ‘pinch points’ to be identified that may need additional focus.
We are often asked “Can you construct a sales strategy without having a coherent or clear corporate strategy?”. Well yes. At its simplest, what you are doing is planning how to deliver whatever corporate objectives the sales function has set.
The context for strategic development is more effective when you have a corporate framework to work within. The best strategies are ones that go through the iterative process of ‘top down’ direction meeting ‘bottom up’ market intelligence, synthesized to create something owned by all levels of management and the front-line sales team.
In partnership with Structured Training, SalesPathways have designed a one-day programme How To Create And Implement An Effective Sales Strategy. This up-to-date, practical course really shows you how to put together your sales strategy, providing the tools and templates to help organise your ideas and focus on all the key success drivers.
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