You know that in order to grow your business, you need to drive sales up. Everything else runs south of sales. You can have a great plan, a great business model, great people, great products and services. But if you can’t scale up sales, everything else is irrelevant.
The problem, of course, is that most small businesses don’t have any kind of sales organization in place that even has the capacity to scale.
Now, your business may be different but a typical small business has a founder who is the primary sales person and maybe one or two other people doing sales. Nothing is systematized. There’s rarely a great sales plan or sales process in place. Almost all of sales are done by relationships (usually with the owner/founder) and whatever the sales person thinks will land the account or get the deal across the line.
While that’s sufficient to get a business off the ground, it’s also what keeps most stuck. There’s only so much revenue that one or two sales people can generate. And when the whole sales process relies upon them and their relationships and their personal style, that is, by definition, unscalable. In other words, one of the primary reasons why most small businesses remain small is because they haven’t developed a scalable sales organization that can rapidly ratchet up revenue.
So, how can you turn that around? Well, here at Wired To Grow, we believe there are three keys to building a great sales organization. If you apply these three keys to your small business, you’ll be able to begin the process of scaling up your sales, which will then help you to scale up your business. We refer to these as the 3 Ps of Sales (People, Process, and Performance).
Key #1 – Select the Right People
The first person you need in any great sales organization is a great sales manager—and therein lies the first problem. Most business owners and entrepreneurs are terrible sales managers. Sales people close deals. Sales managers build sales people. The difference between the two is dramatic. Sales people are driven by immediate rewards (they want to hunt, kill and collect the cash as fast as possible). Sales managers are driven by the long-term development of people, which is also why their compensation is structured completely differently.
Sales people are compensated primarily by closing deals (where frequently 50-100% of their compensation is commission-based). Sales managers, on the other hand, are compensated primarily by salary with a smaller variable compensation component (often in the 10-25% category).
So, what do you think happens when an owner wears the hat of the CEO, the sales person and the sales manager? Exactly. Nothing good. No one is great at all three. Why? Because all three are full-time jobs. Which means that sales suffers (as well as the organization). Systems aren’t created (or optimized). Training rarely, if ever, happens. And nothing is scalable. In other words, finding the right person to be the sales manager as fast as possible is critical. And if you as an owner have to function in the sales manager position for a period of time, you have to give up being the primary sales person and start functioning like a sales manager vs. a sales person.
The second person you need to get right on your team is your sales person (which could and should be multiple sales people). The problem for most small businesses with picking sales people almost always begins with their hiring process (which is rarely systematized and optimized). Typically, business owners hire someone they know or someone from their church who needs a job or a friend of a friend who’s out of work, etc. And not only is the interview very casual, the on boarding and training are even worse, which is why most small businesses I’ve seen often have to let go of their current sales people and hire a higher level of sales person if they want to scale up.
Note: apart from hiring people they know who need a job, the second most common mistake I observe with hiring sales people in small businesses, is hiring sales people from large organizations thinking that they can lead their company to the promised land (“Hey, they worked in sales for Marriott or IBM or Lockheed Martin etc. They know more than me. They’ll help us scale up.”). Sorry. It rarely works that way. Better to hire one or two levels beyond where you’re at than going to the big leagues (i.e. if you have a team of ten, it’s better to hire someone from a company of 20-50 employees than one from a Fortune 500 or even a company with 100 employees. Those transitions are rarely successful, though often tried).
The third person who needs to be a part of your sales organization, is your sales support person. For example, if everything in your company runs south of sales, do you really want your sales person entering data into your CRM or Pipeline software? Do you really want them qualifying leads so they’re frequently wasting time with unqualified prospects? Or do you really want them going back and forth with people to schedule meetings? No! You want your sales people spending their time building relationships and having conversations with people that can result in dollars flowing into your organization. That’s just smart.
So, as you look at your sales organization, do you have the right people in place? Do you have a great sales manager? Some great sales people? And then a great sales support team or person?
If not, you now know what you need to do.
Key #2 – Develop the Right Processes
As I mentioned above, one of the typical problems with most small business sales organizations is that they rarely have a systematized process for how they do sales. Everything is a one off or is dependent on the person who’s trying to sell in that moment. Just ask yourself, “If I asked someone on our team to lay our our sales process, could they draw it out?” And then, would their diagram and yours be the same?
When I’ve asked people who’ve been leading companies for five, ten, fifteen, twenty years or more to lay out their sales process, the vast majority of them can’t (let alone their people). That’s shocking.
If you remember, we started today’s conversation be asserting that everything flows south of sales. If someone doesn’t sell something, everything and everybody else is irrelevant. You would think then that if something was this important, it would be one of the first things to systematize and then optimize.
Here at Wired to Grow, we use a simple seven step sales process.
- Lead Generation
- Lead Qualification
- Appointment Set
- Meeting Preparation
Pretty simple. You can easily adapt that overall process to your business and change the language. Then the hard work begins.
For example, how will you determine what a qualified lead is? How will you score it? How will you distribute inbound leads? How will you set the appointment? Who will set the appointment? What research needs to be done before the meeting? Who will do it? What is the sales conversation process? How will you answer the objections that prospects might raise? What are the steps in your follow up sequence? Who will create your win plans? How will you stay on top of your pipeline? Etc.
Once you get your sales process systematized, then you’ll want to focus on your sales collateral. What additional support will your sales people need to help convince your ideal prospects that you and your company are the best solution for what ails them?
And then finally, you’ll want to make sure you have all the right technology in place to support your sales processes from you CRM to your pipeline tools to your sales dashboards to your sales support technologies (like demos).
So, when you look at your sales organization, do you have your entire sales process systematized so that you can easily onboard a new sales person and make them successful in short order or not?
If not, you now know what you need to do.
Key #3 – Ensure the Right Performance
If you have all the right people and all the right processes in place, there’s still no guarantee you’re going to get the results you want unless you put in place a series of systems to ensure you get the right performance from your people and processes.
From our perspective, there are five components you need in place to ensure your sales people and sales processes produce the kinds of results you want. The first is sales training. Simply put, great sales people are built. The typical approach of hiring a sales person and assuming they can figure it out on their own is foolishness. As an owner, you need to make sure your sales people are regularly getting sales training. Sometimes this is didactic (like a sales manager teaching from the front of the room) whereas other times it’s in real-time in front of a prospect and then afterwards during the debrief. But whatever the format, it needs to be there on a weekly or at least monthly basis.
Secondly, the right performance is about accountability. And thirdly it’s about sales meetings, which is often where a lot of the sales accountability takes place. Every week, at a minimum, you and your sales team ought to be meeting to review your metrics, discuss your sales pipeline and commit to a win plan for the week.
Finally, the last two parts of ensuring the right performance from you sales people are incentives and strategy. To get the right performance from your sales organization, someone needs to be working continually on your sales strategy. Likewise, someone ought to regularly be thinking through what incentives can get the best/optimal performance from your sales team.
Remember, great sales people love the hunt. They’re driven by the short-term. So having something continually thinking about how to motivate your sales people to go after more sales at a more rapid rate and for more money, is always wise.
So, there you have it. The three keys to building a great sales organization. They’re not difficult to remember (after all, they’re only three words and they all begin with P).
- People – Select the Right People
- Process – Develop the Right Processes
- Performance – Ensure the Right Performance
If you want to build a more scalable version of your business, you now have the basic framework to make that happen. And if you’d like to go much deeper on this subject, these are the kinds of conversations we regularly have in the WTG Coaching Club. If you’re interested, just contact us and we’ll have a short conversation to see if we’re a great fit and if we can help you get where you want to go faster.
To your accelerated success!