For anyone who wants to achieve greatness, looking at how the experts do it is a sure way to achieve success. If I wanted to become a world-class boxer, I might study Muhammad Ali’s or Rocky Marciano’s boxing techniques. If I wanted to become a great actor, I’d watch every one of Morgan Freeman’s and Joaquin Phoenix’s movies (okay, I do that anyway). If I wanted to become a successful investor, I’d chat with Warren Buffett.
The same concept applies to companies who want to achieve success. Look at those businesses with high growth trajectories. Take a forward-looking view at the mindset of sales leaders and how they use the resources available to them.
When it comes to sales, you should be asking, “How are these companies handling their sales? What are they doing right, and how can we emulate them?”
Adjusting to Change
All successful businesses need to adjust quickly to change. This is especially important with sales, where outside factors can quickly change consumer behavior, as evidenced by the recent coronavirus pandemics and the worldwide lockdowns that occurred to contain it.
Though no planning or training could have prepared any organization fully, those that could quickly adjust to their salespeople working remotely work had an advantage. Companies like Microsoft and Apple both continued to operate and function almost without skipping a beat, with the digital backbones of both companies proving an advantage. Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform proved a necessary tool for many other businesses, whereas Apple’s online sales skyrocketed to
Businesses must show a willingness to take risks and wait for revenue to materialize. According to a 2016 study by McKinsey, over half of the fastest-growing companies look ahead by at least a year, with 10 percent of them looking three years or more into the future. Putting resources to prepare to take advantage of such change also matters, with 45 percent investing over six percent of their sales budget to support goals a year or more away.
This commitment to future growth is exactly what fuels it.
Invest in People
Just like businesses seek growth opportunities, so do the people who work for you. That’s why supporting employee growth will also help grow your business. Investing in people plays a huge part in companies’ growth potential.
Yet building sales capability involves more than just implementing training programs. Understanding customer needs and how it affects sales performance requires that executives actually pay attention. In a 2018 study, McKinsey found that of senior managers at top-performing companies:
- 46% chose topics regarding skills training
- 54% actively designed training programs
- 60% were directly involved in sales training
So, for CMOs and other company officers, getting involved in training can help motivate your sales team.
Invest in Technology
While people are important, technology can make your salespeople more productive. Tech can make selling simpler. Imagine a time before e-mails or social media, or cell phones.
Accounting software such as FreshBooks or QuickBooks are essential to start with.
Even the Girl Scouts are using technology to sell their cookies. An iPhone app utilizing GPS technology points to the nearest location where their cookies are being sold, and some Girl Scouts are even using a separate app to allow them to accept credit cards.
Consider a digital tool like eOriginal SmartSign, which allows people to sign documents digitally, negating the need for in-person sales, while also streamlining the whole sales process. Data released recently from SalesLevers – a Yorkshire consulting firm – shows sales visits in the UK averaging £110 per visit, so for a typical salesperson making an average of ten sales visits weekly, savings would be over £4400 monthly. Such applications enable sales staff to concentrate on what they do best: selling.
Quite simply, using technology effectively bolsters sales.
To understand and support your marketing efforts, you also need to look at the data and, in conjunction with technology, there’s never been an easier time to use data to grow sales. While the analytical methods used by businesses have been around for decades, they’ve become much more accessible for businesses. With abundant data and inexpensive technology, there’s never been a better time to use analytics to increase sales.
Analytics takes much of the guesswork out of selling. On the cutting edge of this are companies like Lattice Engines, which turned AI and machine learning into a tool to easily predict which prospects are most likely to buy. Lattice’s predictive marketing analytics tools fuel sales growth by allowing sales teams to focus on those customers most likely to buy.
Knowing what your target audience wants, and focusing on marketing tactics to reach that audience, will allow you to reach more customers.
Outsourcing Your Sales
Outsourcing your sales team can also dramatically improve your sales. When younger, I worked for a few different telemarketing companies, to which businesses outsourced a portion of their sales and marketing. I understand how well outsourcing sales can work.
Companies that focus solely on sales know how to sell and concentrate all their training on that alone. They’re specialists. It only makes sense to call a plumber when your toilet backs up, so why not call on a company whose specialty is sales?
According to a 2019 report by research firm TOPO, it takes 3-6 months to train salespeople to effectively sell a product. As the report noted that those involved with in-house direct sales tend to only have peak productivity of 16 months, effectively and quickly training salespeople is a high priority.
Keep your core business in-house, and hire experts for those aspects of your business that aren’t your core functions.