‘Building Sales Engines’, was the title of a programme I developed a few years back to try and distil and share what I had learnt over a period of ten years working with countless young companies, on the challenge of building sustainable sales organisations.
While no two of these companies were the same they had all travelled a similar road. The founders were typically engineers, scientists or technologists of one sort or another. Each had formed their business idea in an industry where they had spotted an opportunity. A new process or product had been invented, proven and taken to market.
In the early years the founders had done the selling, utilising their specialist knowledge, passion and industry network to build a customer base and profitable businesses. As these businesses grew the founders had less and less time to find new customers and growth plateaued.
Nearly all decided it was time to bring in a ‘big hitter’ sales person. Usually recruited from a large established industry supplier with a strong brand, products and a large customer base. Attracting such a person was seen as something of a feather in the cap of the young company and was certainly a milestone in the company’s history.
Compensation packages often included equity participation. The founders breathed sighs of relief, confident that their businesses would soon return to rapid growth and they wouldn’t have to do the selling anymore.
It never worked. But failure was placed at the door of the hired gun and bad leaver clauses invoked to recover the promised equity stake (if they had been smart enough to include bad leaver clauses!). The logic for blaming the sales person was – 'its not the proposition, we know that because we can sell it'.
Some blame of course belonged with the sales person. Years of success at brand names in the industry had convinced the sales person that they were just that ‘sales people’. But truth be told they were account reps with established customer relationships, marketing and technical support, sales operations systems etc etc. None of this exists in a young company. And the founders' passion, which carried them past such obstacles, is very very hard to pass on to a hired gun slinger.
But the young company founders did not put all of this together. They persuaded themselves that they had made a bad hire and all that was needed was to search more carefully and find the right person.
That never worked either.
The first step these engineers took towards understanding how to manage sales was to recognise that sales is just another business process which can be deconstructed, analysed and systemically improved. In other words, they already had exactly the right skills to be their own sales directors.
This logic was always resisted. Many technically minded people are natural introverts and mistrust the stereotypically extroverted sales personality. But they also fear that selling is a black art, mastered by these irritating and untrustworthy extroverts, who must therefore be tolerated and cajoled.
And so the need for a structured development programme was identified. In future blogs I’ll dive into each of the core elements of the programme. Here’s the programme content:
1. DRIVE SALES GROWTH NOW
2. SELLING YOUR VALUE
3. DEMAND GENERATION AND LEAD MANAGEMENT
4. STAYING ON TOP OF DEALS
5. ADVANCED SALES TECHNIQUES
6. BUILDING AND MANAGING A SALES TEAM
7. ORGANISING THE SALES TEAM
8. DEVELOPING AND MANAGING SALES CHANNELS
9. ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT
10. HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PRESENTATIONS
Let me know if a particular topic is of immediate interest and I'll address that in my next blog.