A credible organization consistently performs and grows according to a plan. Such an organization will invariably be a system of three systems:
- A system of delivery
- A system of sales
- A system of growth.
It is not uncommon for an early stage organization to be good at delivery and good at growth but stuck at square-one when it comes to its system of selling. Leaders of such organizations often find themselves consumed with delivery and with never enough time to develop and drive a system that generates new sales opportunities.
Interest and competence in sales starts at the very top of an organization. It is in everyone’s best interest for a top executive to own the challenge to determine how to systematically create demand for what the organization offers. Once a leader figures out how to sell, the method can be routinized and taught to others to execute, manage, and scale.
If no one on the leadership team happens to have passion and skills for selling, their instinct is often to contract out the sales problem, or to hire a rainmaker, or to get better at writing proposals. Such approaches rarely pay off. Selling is not a side-job and great proposals are not enough.
Any top executive can systematically generate opportunities to deliver more value if s/he:
For Current Client Development:
- Assigns someone to pull together intelligence on who to speak with about what in a current client organization to cultivate new opportunities to deliver great value.
- Conducts Client Development Reviews to assess, govern, and guide sales efforts on the most promising current clients and then follow through on the best ideas.
- Turns what works into methods and systems to systematically extend and expand opportunities in other current clients.
For Lead Generation:
- Develops a way to present the best examples of value delivered to current and past clients that you want to do again for new clients in a high-quality form such as a blog, a publishable article, and a slide presentation.
- Does research to identify named individuals, not just organizations or positions, in targeted organizations who would be insane not to become customers.
- Finds or develops a forum in which to present the high-quality presentation and invite the targeted individuals to attend a workshop in which a top existing or past client describes the value they received. Follow up with attendees who ask questions and contribute to group discussion to cultivate interest.
Top leaders need to make sales a priority for everyone. Develop and aggressively use a language and orientation towards sales in meetings, hallway conversations, performance goals, performance assessments, promotion criteria, position descriptions, hiring criteria, and employee training. In so doing it works well to think about sales competence in terms of mechanics and process.
Mechanics refers to skills and behaviors professional sales personnel use to cultivate prospects to close. For example carefully chosen words in a conversation can be used to elicit expressions of need that can then be fulfilled through a sale. Sales skills training along these lines was developed and formalized by work Xerox did in the 1960’s and ‘70s that today can be accessed via methods and tools known, for example, as:
Other tips and techniques have been formalized by sales masters such as:
- Zig Zigler
- Dale Carnegie in: How to Win Friends and Influence People
- Jeffrey Gitomer in: Little Black Book of Connections
Process refers to a systematic approach to launch and manage campaigns that cultivate demand for an offering across stakeholders in a single targeted organization over a period of time (usually many months and even years). Examples of such methods include:
Further developed sales processes are described in IntelliVen Posts in the Sales Category including especially:
It is also a good idea to connect in to a continuous stream of sales advice such as the Weekly sales letter from Clarity Advantage and to conduct sales training. Keep in mind that any sales training is better than none and whichever you go with will need to be tweaked and adapted for you. Take what works and turn it into system that you monitor, teach, evolve, and use.
Every once and a while a big new sale may come out of nowhere but such events are rare and cannot be counted on to build a reliable demand creation system. Neither can the problem be contracted out to a third party or solved by writing better proposals or hiring another rainmaker, though all of these may be good things to do.
Sales is a broad and deep area of functional competence that requires its own leadership, language, systems, and processes. One among the top team must have or develop sales as a primary focus in order to figure out the pattern of proactive selling, build the sales system, and drive and guide that system to scale.
The one so assigned need not start from scratch as a great deal of material on the subject is easily accessed. Go after it all and decide what and how to share with the organization that which has the best chance to generate the most lift the soonest. Learn from and institutionalize what works and drive to scale.