Are You Actually Selling or Just Taking Orders?
I recently worked with an SME client to identify why there was a lack of sales in the pipeline (we’ll call them Company X ). It would be rude to actually name them plus X is more engaging and less pretentious than “confidential.”
X’s revenues were lower than usual and they had no real idea as to why. Everyone in the company was "busy" (aren’t we all?) and there was no obvious sick-leave issue. So, I asked to see a copy of their 90-day rolling sales forecast, which took them a while to locate (an issue all of its own).
The numbers were flat at best and had very little detail as to product mix, action-plans required to close the deal (commonly known as a win-strategy) or risk/probability weighting.
So I then asked for their previous 90-day sales report and asked a few basic questions:
Customers and Sales Data
"How did you win that piece of business?” I asked them.
“I'm not really sure, we just received a Purchase Order”, so I asked to see a copy of the proposal or quotation – there wasn’t one (getting warmer, I thought).
“OK, so how did they know what to order and how did they know much it would cost them?” They didn’t know that either (getting warmer still).
“Ok,” I said, looking for any crumb of comfort, “when was the last time you met this customer, discussed anything in relation to their strategy, your pricing, product updates, updates to your business, strategic direction etc.?”
Same, quizzical expression. The answer was that, whilst they phoned the customer "every now and again" they last actually went to visit them back in 2016 (yep, nearly 5-years ago) “for a meeting” but there were no meeting notes in their CRM system, nor actions arising from that meeting.
Worse, it turns out the client had been sending them orders based on a proposal document issued at the back end of 2013 by a sales person that was no longer at the company and that the customer had not even met Company X's new sales person!
The Salesperson looked embarrassed...and so they should have been.
No Sales People
I suggested to the customer that they weren’t actually selling, they were simply taking orders…an uncomfortable conversation to have with a customer you really like but an important one nevertheless.
The customer looked a little uncomfortable, so I gently moved the conversation forward by asking them a few more questions:
Who is responsible for selling in the company? (Just the formal sales force? Rookie error)
Who are your Top 10 most profitable customers? (Most people could tell you their Top 10 by revenue but fewer know their Top 10 in order of profitability)
Who do your executives have dinner with?
When was the last time you “pitched” your offer to a new prospect?
Do you have written account strategies for your top 3 growth clients?
X didn't get to this place overnight, so they won't be getting to marvel-lous sales performance overnight either.
The Truth Hurts
Here is a cold hard fact:
Unless you pro-actively get out there selling, your company will likely die a slow, painful death.
Sales is a basic instinct. But doing sales well is anything but basic.
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