In a recent issue of Director magazine, Philip Sadler attributes the UK’s positive economic outlook for the 21st century to the fact that ‘some learning has been going on’.
He is of course, correct to say this, but I fear that UK industry still has much to learn about the noble art (or is it science?) of selling.
Whilst the salaries offered for senior sales and sales management professionals in places such as the Appointments section of the Sunday Times prove that there are exceptions to the rule, I believe that in the UK today, the profession is still widely misunderstood, undervalued and shrouded in hype.
The snapshot which follows is an attempt to separate the reality from the mythology and nonsense.
Consistent success in selling can be distilled down to the planning and on going management of the three elements of sales activity which produce results:
In relation to the company’s marketing policies (and how well have these been articulated throughout the organisation?):
- Which products / services are the best bets for the future, and thus require the most sales emphasis?
- Which customers / potential customers will yield the best results for the future, and which ‘selection criteria’ have been assembled to ensure that the most applicable organisations are targeted for sales attention?
- At what level(s) within the customer’s hierarchy do you need to be selling to be most likely to secure directly a buying decision?
Plan the raw effort required.
- Know the broad stages of your ‘sales cycle’ – from initial appointment-seeking telephone call, to successful conversion.
- Know your ‘success (conversion) rates’ at each stage.
- Use your regularly updated knowledge of both to plan the action needed.
Know your products in hard-edged ‘customer deliverable’ terms.
- Which opportunities do they help your customers to exploit?
- Which threats do they help your customers to offset?
- Be aware of how this varies by customer type.
- Know how your deliverables stack up against those of your key competitors. Plan and execute your questions and overall sales approach around this analysis, and use it as the springboard for selling the real value of what you do for customers, and where applicable, as the justification for resisting price pressure.
It is simple, really, then. Forget the hype and concentrate on carefully planning and managing the three elements of sales activity which will produce your successful sales results of the future.