THE 7 – S FORMULA FOR SALES SUCCESS “ Great organizations are built on the foundation of the sales function”
There are no shortcuts to success. Or so goes the old adage. In modern era, success is the result of excellent execution by the sales organization, whose task it is to achieve the set growth targets. Marketing can generate consumer pull, production can produce a better product and customer service can deliver improved service, but it is the sales organization that has to deliver over the last mile by ensuring proper distribution, merchandising correctly, and ensuring the availability and visibility of products to the final customer. Strong organizations are built on the foundation of strong sales teams.
1. Shared goals : Goals, unless shared and accepted by everyone in the team, do not become the goals of the team. They tend to remain the goal of the leader at best. To ensure that goals become shared goals, it is essential that they are discussed sufficiently and agreed upon by the entire team. Merely explaining the new goals would not bring in the necessary commitment among members since goals are just the “what” of what we want to achieve. Therefore, we have to explain “How” to achieve the goals. Without being clear on the “how” part of achieving goals, one cannot expect the team to deliver on the “what” bit.
Best and smart The key to sales strategy is choice. In today’s scenario, no one has the luxury to try several methods. Making the right choice is thus the essence of good strategy. Even when the goals are decided, we need to ensure they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding and Time bound).
Specific “ We need to beat the competition” or “Have better visibility”. Setting specific targets like the number of units to be sold, the number of customers to be acquired, the sales value to be achieved, and the number of outlets to be covered helps the team work towards those targets.
Measurable When progress is measured, we stay on track, reach our target dates and experience joy on enjoyment of the target. The measures could simply be weekly break-up of attainment against targets for the team to be able to understand their progress and improve on it further.
Achievable Any goal, even if it is shared but felt to be unachievable by the team, will not become a reality. The belief that it is achievable is critical. Half the battle is won if the target or goal is believed by the team to be “achievable”. To ensure that this belief is established among team members, the “How to achieve” framework has to be logical and acceptable to the team. Further, we cannot achieve any of our goals overnight. At the same time, we need to ensure that a goal challenges the potential of the team members – it should be something that the entire team has to strive for – otherwise the team might not take the goals seriously.
Rewarding People do not work only for a regular salary. Sales teams specially need to now the rewards for achieving their goals. Unless we are able to explain the “What is in it for me ?”, it is difficult to get conviction and motivation among sales team members.
Time bound Our motivation to achieve goals rides high what a clear timeframe exists, both in the short-term and the long term. In the process, it enabled them to achieve the goals one by one. Goals are the foundations for the success of sales teams. When the foundation is strong, all the other factors can be built on the foundation to make the organization’s objectives a reality. To achieve the goals that are agreed upon and shared amongst team members, we need other aspects of the framework. Let us discuss them here.
Strategy “ Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory; tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”. Strategy can best be defined as a choice made from the alternatives available to execute or accomplish the goal. A strategy is chosen way of achieving an objective.
Need for Focus In decorative paints, we had over 20 categories to sell but we chose to focus on washable distempers in the first year. In the same way, we chose the Hyderabad market to focus on instead of the entire state. We attempted to dominate this market and the product category and it worked very well as our consistent efforts and focus made the product presence higher and consumer pull better. Our choice of product helped as it already had some favourable points compared to the competition and our focus helped it to take off further. contd…p/2
“ In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.” That bit of wisdom is anonymous. In strategising, evaluating alternatives and choosing responsibly calls for thorough knowledge. In business, we need to have detailed local level knowledge of the market, the competition, product preference, distributors, retailers and customers before making a choice. And, of course, one also needs a realistic assessment of our own local conditions on all these issues before identifying the two or three factors that are most critical for the success of the chosen strategy.
Speed When all else is equal, speed in reaching the customer and markets with products, services and innovation makes all the difference in the drive for success. When the race gets hard to run; it means you just can’t take the pace. When al is equal, speed in reaching the customer and markets with new products, services, innovations, schemes, or promotion makes all the difference between a successful sales team and a failed one. The faster we run or act, the sooner we reach our goals. In today’s tough and competitive world, staying ahead of the rest is essential for anyone to survive, leave alone succeed. However, this does not mean that our actions should be hasty which could result in costly mistakes. “Doing more things faster is no substitute for doing the right thing.”
The Right Pace Speed or pace in executing what has been decided upon, without compromising on quality, is what make the difference between long-term success and failure. Sales teams can also apply pace and introduce new schemes and promotions before the competition enters. But what if we are late ? Nothing is lost, really. Our ability to react innovatively and immediately to competition will decide our fate in many markets and product categories.
Skills, sharpening the saw If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I would spend six hours sharpening my axe. Sharpening the axe is similar to sharpening our minds and developing our skills continuously to succeed in sales. To succeed in sales, several important skills are necessary. Some of them are :
Conceptual skills the ability to see the market trend and take the right route to achieving larger market share. Planning skills the ability to plan meticulously to achieve goals. Communication skills the ability to communicate and impress customers (dealers, franchisees, distributors, retailers etc.) and consumers on the product or service
Problem solving skills the ability to successfully solve problems that arise from time to time, to the satisfaction of every one and within the time line. Creative thinking skills the ability to think differently and arrive a variety of Solutions for a given problem : novel, yet practical and useful solutions. Persuasive skills the ability to persevere and pursue a task and achieve it using persuasion.
Decision-making skills The ability to take decisions quickly and appropriately at all times. Inter-personal management skills the ability to work with others and make them accept us as a team member or team leader. Motivating skills the ability to motivate customers, consumers, colleagues and subordinates, to behave as per our expectations.
Leadership skills the ability to set goals with a vision and get commitment from others in the team, and finally achieve the goals along with them.
Skill-building We need to develop each of the above skills if we wish to emerge a leader in sales and to make our teams successful. Rushing to manage the market or launch a product or service without developing your skill-sets does not necessarily bring success. Preparing and sharpening your skills before attempting to sell your product or service is the big difference you can make in executing tasks effectively
Systems Management works in the system; leadership works on the system. A system is a set of “how-to” guidelines for achieving specific tasks, developed over a period of time. We can accomplish far more if we learn the system and follow it than by trying to learn everything ourselves (by trial and error). Strong systems in a sales organization enable teams to take off instantly as they provide a platform for the team to perform and improve consistently.
Putting in a system Stretch targets make seemingly impossible goals exciting. It brings out the best in sales teams. Boundry less people have the capacity to improve everything. The accompanying matrix (see Chart 1) illustrates the need to have a system in sales. To achieve success in the short-term, one can operate even by whims and fancies with some tactical moves. But to achieve success in the long-term and sustain it it is essential to have adequate systems in the set-up. Systems should form the basis of working. While one can improve on systems using creativity and imagination, the lack of proper systems can result in the set-up successful only in the short term.
Chart 1 : Sales matrix Have talent No Yes Yes Consistent and Maximum Have a Improving results results System No results Erratic and No unpredictable results
Great sales talent ensures short-term gains. But for sustained result one needs great systems. It ensures goals are achieved even if the circumstances change.
Stretch Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimension. The distance between a winner and the runner-up in any race is not in miles but in milliseconds. We need to run that extra mile or reduce that extra millisecond to reach the winning post. Stretching in every effort will make a big difference to sales success.
Service The key differentiating factor for a highly successful organization today is the service orientation displayed by the entire organization – especially the sales team. Companies that operate with a superior service orientation to customers enjoy loyalty and long-term association. Without delivering a good service, no organization can succeed in the long run with customers.
Service dimension A sales team needs to service all its clientele well – from dealers and retailers to distributors, franchisees, wholesalers, sales associates and direct customers – in order to establish strong relationships, which in turn help them to sustain success. In addition, the sales team also needs to service and support other functions related to sales, namely production, customer service, quality, planning, marketing, distribution/logistics, finance, collection, R&D etc, to provide seamless service to customers.