Managing your sales risk

Mike O’Riordan is a Chartered Certified Accountant with a 26-year track record of success in sales and marketing in the IT services industry.  Mike has served on the Board of many major UK corporations including Sperry, Unisys and Acorn Computers.  With that background you can guess he definitely has an opinion about sales!

Paving your way to success?
I have recently employed the services of a landscaping company to take out my swimming pool, design and build a new garden and office. Everything was going well. The 150 tonnes of material were craned over the house the pool was broken up and buried and the courtyard, office and patio were being built.

Suddenly the project was going off course with substandard work on the pointing of the bricks and the laying of the slabs. To such an extent that it is all being taken up and rebuilt. You can imagine the upheaval and increased cost for the supplier not to mention the anger and heat I was generating. The office was erected and was later dismantled, because it was  built completely to the wrong specification. The rebuild is now in process with a new team who have the skills but the project management is still in scarce supply.

I started analysing how this was allowed to happen and it was pure and simple; non- existent project management and people working on the build who lacked the knowledge and skills to finish the job to the standard required. The project manager was too busy to inspect the quality of the work as it was progressing. The project manager, who was also the Managing Director of the company was managing (not) four teams and at the same time was opening a new garden centre for Easter. The end result of this fiasco is an unhappy customer, increased costs of delivery a de-motivated workforce and no references for the future.

This got me thinking about how similar this was in a sales situation where the lack of management and time spent with the salespeople to inspect and understand their skills and capabilities, causes so many sales teams and managers to under perform and fail and not deliver their potential. Some of the salespeople as with my landscapers do not have the skills to perform and deliver the results the company requires. The management as with the Managing Director of the landscaping company are too busy doing other things. With the introduction of flat management structures created in the early eighties it has ensured the hard work of understanding, building and developing successful sales teams is not happening. A quote from Christopher Bartlett of The Harvard Business School supported this when he quoted “De-layering and de-staffing do not by themselves provide durable solutions to performance problems”

As with the Managing Director of the landscaping company the cost and lost business opportunity missed by the sales team is enormous and has a real impact on the profit line.

So why do management allow their salespeople to roam the countryside without being managed with the knowledge that they may not be achieving the standards required by the company…?

There is a better way that can improve the performance of the salespeople and increase profitability of the company and increase the momentum within the sales organisation.

First ask yourself and the sales management team a few questions to find out how well they are paving the way for success:

  • How often do you go out on visits with your sales people?
  • How often have you seen your salespeople present to customers to groups and to new name situations?
  • How well do you know the skill capabilities of the individual sales people and how do you know?
  • Do you know how your salespeople use their time?
  • What are the standards that you expect from your sales people?
  • Do your salespeople know and understand what you expect?
  • What is the added value you give to your salespeople?
  • What records do you keep regarding the performance of the salespeople?
  • How often do you review the performance of the salespeople?
  • Where are the development plans for the sales people?
  • How well do you understand the capabilities and performance of the salespeople?
  • How well do you know what’s happening with the salespeople and their prospects and what’s your evidence?
  • How good is the forecasting of the sales team and how good is your forecasting?
  • How do you measure sales performance?
  • How well do you understand and how do you measure the quality, quantity and direction of sales effort carried out by the sales people?
  • How well do you and your sales people know your products?
  • How well do you and your sales people understand the value of the sales propositions?
  • How good are you and your salespeople at asking the right questions to discover the needs and wants of the customers?
  • How effective and efficient are your salespeople compared to the competition and how do you know?
  • How do your customers rate the quality and capability of your sales team?

Unfortunately in too many situations the management team are unable to truthfully answer the questions in a positive manner thus highlighting big gaps for improvement.

It’s never too late to start so sit down today and prepare an action plan to improve the performance of your people and increase the profitability of your company. If you need extra knowledge and assistance to help you with this process then retain the services of an experienced professional who will show you in a practical hands on manner how to plug the gaps and increase sales performance. Start paving your way to success now.

PS. Do not delay. Every day you postpone action is another day of lost of opportunity and profit. “Only management can change the system” W. Edwards Deming


Posted on

September 4, 2015