Is the current economic situation extraordinary, an aberration that will quickly revert to pre-summer 2008? Or is this current reality a more permanent change, a business landscape that is going to be around for some time? The reason this is more than just interesting speculation is because the way a salesforce approaches this issue significantly affects business performance.
Sales organisations who think this situation is temporary approach any new way of working with, at best, trepidation, and at worst, almost open hostility.
The most common example is around business development. Sales forces that were used to the business coming to them now have to go out and find that business. This means prospecting. However, management driven prospecting, with imposed activity targets on an unwilling salesforce is not going to deliver much of a business uplift.
In this top-down environment salespeople invest their mental energies in either complaining about what they are being asked to do or trying to ‘game’ the new system, so it becomes a tick box exercise, the whole enterprise feeling remedial and negative.
With this organisational perspective management often come across as apologetic, asking salespeople to do business development, so salespeople feel encouraged to ‘misunderstand’ their role, thinking either marketing should be doing it or they should be left alone to get on with ‘selling’.
The fundamental mind-set that informs this approach is one that says, business development is only being asked to be done because of external factors (the economy), when things improve,(as they will any day soon – constantly repeated) we can go back to being successful.
Sales organisations that approach the current situation more positively do a lot better. Firstly they don’t see the current position as temporary they see what is going now as being here for the foreseeable future. Secondly, they don’t view the challenges that these market conditions throw up as being negative, they see them as being part of the job. Thirdly, front-line salespeople and managers see what is required the same way, there is no need for activity target imposition because everybody agrees with what needs to be done.
Put these three issues together and you have a sales response that is owned by the whole sales organisation.
What is your sales organisation’s credit crunch mind-set?