Running a winning sales organization is far from easy. However, you can get there – provided you’re willing to adhere to the six essential tips we’ve compiled below.
Tip #1: Integrate sales and marketing. Many companies are not entirely happy with their marketing efforts. The main complaint, among sales and marketing personnel alike, is that there’s a deep disconnect between marketing and sales.
In the most egregious cases, there’s a near total disagreement about basic issues, like the intended market and the target customer. The only way to prevent stovepipes and infighting is to combine market and sales into a single organization – and then make them responsible for each other’s success.
Tip #2: Define your ideal sales lead. You can’t measure how well marketing is generating leads unless you have a clear definition of what constitutes a good lead.
In most cases, a good lead will entail much more than just basic contact information. Ideally, a sales lead should identify a decision-maker inside a company that’s part of your target market. In addition, the lead should provide enough information about the decision-maker, and the decision-maker’s firm, for the sales rep to get a foothold into the sales opportunity.
Tip #3: Measure demand-creation effectiveness. Studies have shown that about nine out of 10 sales leads aren’t ever acted upon. To make matters worse, even the 10 percent of leads that are followed up, frequently don’t end up closing. Frequently the “conversion rate” is so small that it’s impossible to make an accurate forecast based upon the number of leads that were generated during the quarter.
Therefore, if you want your forecasting to be more predictable, you need to monitor your demand-creation activities, find out which ones result in leads that close, and then tune the demand-creation process in order to constantly improve the quality of the leads.
Tip #4: Systematize your demand-creation activities. Demand creation should never be an ad- hoc improvisation based upon whatever product you want to sell today. Demand creation should be part of an integrated process that constantly creates leads and which has a measurable effect upon sales effectiveness.
To make this happen, demand- creation activities should be broad enough to help sales achieve their goals over the long term, and yet specific enough to be tied to short-term results. Turning demand creation into a system that continually produces leads – regardless of what products are currently being sold – is far more economical and effective in the long run than crafting a short- term, tactical campaign every time you need a short-term boost in sales.
Tip #5: Prototype your product launches. All too often a company will launch a new product line with only a theory – often generated by non-sales “experts” – about how that product can be most effectively sold.
Rather than commit your entire organization to a sales push that might be flawed, launch products initially with a small sales team in a limited market area. Have them gather experience selling the product, and figure out what works, and what doesn’t. Tune your sales approach and marketing materials appropriately before you roll out the company-wide campaign.
Tip #6: Re-deploy to sell solutions. An unintended consequence of the Internet is that customers can always find products at the lowest price, turning most products into replaceable commodities. If you want your company to enjoy high margins, you’ll need to move to a “trusted advisor” (aka “consultative”) sales model. This will entail retraining your sales team – especially the reps who were successful selling products – so that they have a very clear conception of the difference between a product and a solution and can translate what your company has to offer into the solution that will help the customer.