SchoolGennie an ERP based Startup, like hundreds of other startups in India, closed down last year. A team of young entrepreneurs ventured out into unknown territories of entrepreneurship, with the only dream to make it ‘Big’ in the business world. They had everything needed for the success, a well-researched product, and market demand, founding team, a small team of experienced development/sales professionals, office space and enough funds to run the operation. Yet it closed down within a year. When it had all the ingredients in place for initial success, why did it have to “Quit”?
SchoolGennie was struggling with “Growth Issues”. However, unlike most startups that close down every year, SchoolGennie did realize it was failing to get the sales engine to generate inquiries and crack the market.
- As a remedy, founding team engaged themselves with the Sales Operation but no Sales numbers or Revenues got registered on the chart.
- The founding team realised that they do not hold any Sales Background and needed professional help to steer Sales Operation effectively.
- They hired Trainees as well as experienced Sales Professionals to do the Job effectively; organized Sales Training in a hope to produce results but it backfired.
SchoolGennie did figure out all of its problems, tested all combination of solutions and still failed to lift the Sales Operation “off the ground”. What do you think was the real culprit behind this classic failure? Well, it was “Sales Function treated as a break-fix mechanism than a front-runner strategy”. For entrepreneurs, priorities are always
- Product Development and
- Setting up Marketing function
They really hope that the product is so well designed that it is going to “Sell like hot cakes” but when fate meets destiny, their focus turns to Sales. That’s when they try out different permutations and combinations of Sales strategy, hiring fresher & experienced sales professionals, organizing training, investing in sophisticated sales tools but the situation remains unchanged because Sales Operation doesn’t exist in “Silos”.
Sales engine need every of its part (Strategy, Objective, Model, Process, Salesforce and training) synchronized. It’s not just one thing that you can fix at a time and it will shower money on you. So, what are those key Sales Strategy components that should be synchronized for sales success?
Sales Strategy vs. Objective
Does your Sales Team target a broader market segment, for example, Automobile Market Segment or Educational Institutions? Focusing on a larger market segment is not a right strategy for Sales success or garnering more revenues; it is actually the right strategy for failure. While drafting your Sales Strategy, do not consider broader market segments; instead broke it down into the smaller segment and build your Sales Objective on top of it.
Sales Objective is that ‘Lynchpin’ of your Strategy that gives you the laser focus. In a market segment, evaluate your options:
- Should you directly sell to End Customer or Channel Partners or both?
- Should you start with your referral network on building a new network?
- Should you target corporates or mid-size businesses or both?
- Should you start with local market, domestic or international market?
- Should you enter into “No Competitor Zone”, Single competitor Zone or multiple competitor zones?
- Who would be the decision maker and should you target decision makers or should you reach out to influencers or users?
Note: A decision maker is a person who signs the check whereas Influencers are the users of the product. In case of a CRM product, CEO will be the decision whereas Sales Manager/Leader will be the influencer.
Sales Activities vs. Skills
Does your Sales Force possess the right skills needed for the Job? A dressmaker cannot replace a doctor on an operation table. Or, an ironsmith cannot replace a soldier in a war. Sales is not just about talking to the customer and explaining the product.
To set up a Sales Engine which can produce revenues, it is imperative to have right people on the job. Consider the “Sales Objective” that you have selected and evaluate below challenges before you even hunt for the right sales skills:
- How tough is it to finding Decision Makers in the selected segment?
- How tough is it to connect with Decision Makers?
- How tough is it to engaging Decision Makers into the conversation?
- Is the product easy to explain or in other words, is selling involve having elaborated conversations with the customers?
- Does selling involve delivering Presentations, conducting product trials, holding meetings?
- Does selling involve holding hard negotiations, preparing proposals, cross-sell or upselling of other products/services?
- What about customer trust? Will it be easy to gain prospect trust in my sales process or will it demand high level of skills establishing trust with the prospect?
After reviewing these responses, draw a list of proper skills (Communication, Sales Prospecting, Qualification, Presentation, Negotiations, and Upsell & Cross-Sell etc.) that sales team should possess.
These inputs will help you decide, do you need hunters – who can just go out, find decision makers and fix appointments for you or do you need farmers who can engage people into the conversation and walk them through the sales process? Or, you simply need order takers for your Sales Process.
Sales Productivity vs. Effectiveness
Is your Sales Operation running effectively or in other words, is your team performing activities that will convert into Sales and money? In the majority of startups, Sales activities are left to the mercy of the salespeople. This is a big mistake that any organization can make.
In the majority of the cases, Sales People spend 60% of their productivity focusing on an unproductive/administrative task that will never produce any results. Tasks such as Creating Databases, Researching on accounts, CRM documentations, Reports creation are to name a few. Surprisingly, the majority of the limited ‘Golden Hours’ [i.e. best time to contact customers] are lost in unproductive tasks.
Owner/Manager are required to identify key sales activities and ensure that their team is spending maximum time on productive tasks such as reaching out to customers, talking to customers, giving demos/trials that convert into real money.
Sales Skills vs. Training
Is hiring Fresher without any professional training will make them succeed in bringing revenues? Or is hiring experienced Sales Professionals without a professional transitioned sales training, a guarantee for gaining success, when it comes to making better revenues? Ask this, can you drive in the USA without any practice, just with the driving experience of Indian Roads/Rules?
- Every Playfield has its own mud run. One Playfield experience is no guarantee for success. Your product is different, your market is different, and your sales process and its sales challenges are different. Hiring experienced Sales Professionals without a proper transition Sales Training or investing in on any random Sales Training as a formality is no guarantee for success.
- Your Sales Trainer should know where your sales team is hitting the roadblocks. Are they failing to find leads, are they failing to reach to decision makers, are they failing to engage decision makers in the conversation, are they failing to explain the product to him, are they failing to win his trust and confidence?
Unless you know the real problem, you will never be able to fix it. Hence, it is quite crucial to arrange regular sales training for your team from firms that deliver skill specific training and not just general ‘Sales Motivation’ Gyan.
Your sales strategy may have failed to product good revenues for one or more of these reasons just like SchoolGennie. If you are open-minded enough to take an honest look at what’s going on and plan it well, you can make changes that will lead to better results in the future.
About the Author
Amit Sharma – heads Dishah Strategic Solutions – a Business Strategy and Sales Consulting company. He is a business strategist, Sales Consultant, international trainer and speaker. His recent book on Sales Strategy –“Sales Decoded” is among the best seller books on Amazon.