by Ken Thoreson, president, Acumen Management Group
Strategic sales management is often a weak link in solution provider companies. Organizations may vary in size and areas of focus, and while every client engagement is unique, some problems are common to many corporate cultures and tend to prevent a company from reaching its full business potential.
By taking a walk through a hypothetical client site, it’s possible to illustrate many of the problems management consultants often encounter. Apply “Law and Order” rules to this scenario: “Although inspired in part by true incidents, the following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.”
Walking into the front office, there are a few chairs, a few outdated vendor awards on the walls and employees pass a visitor without offering a greeting or showing much expression or enthusiasm. This is not a positive indicator for the type of reaction the office evokes from prospects who visit.
Asking for Bill, the president, the consultant is warmly greeted and taken to the back office, where they begin to chat about his business, his vision, his frustrations and the lack of business profitability. The consultants experienced ears hear:
- They just don’t get it.
- They really don’t work hard enough.
- They really don’t know how to sell what we do.
- They don’t seem to care about the business like I do.
Bill is also concerned that his sales manager is focused on functions that have nothing to do with sales.
Bill introduces the consultant to his vice president of professional services. During the first 10 minutes of a 45-minute interview, the consultant hears a lot about how much time the sales engineers have to take to help the salespeople in every engagement and that the sales teams get all the credit. “They never take the time to learn the products.” “If it wasn’t for my team and their expertise we would have no sales.”
When the consultant asks when the VP last held a training session for the sales team, he gets a shrug.
As the consultant conducts interviews with each member of the sales team, either face-to-face or on the phone, he begins to connect the dots between what they’re saying and his meetings with the president and the vice president. The salespeople say things like:
- Management always seems to dominate every opportunity.
- They’re always micro-managing what I do.
- The sales meetings are brutal; everything seems so disorganized.
- Proposals are a joke.
- Management seems to change what we do every 90 days.
- They never seem to know what is going on.
Something else emerges from the recordings of each salesperson. Every representative tells a different story when asked, “Why do people buy from you?”
Assessing your own company
While these scenarios are graphic, these are conversations that sadly, take place among many clients management consultants have served.
Does anything here ring a bell? After reading the previous example, it is an excellent time to assess the morale within the current organization and create a plan for the remaining portion of the year to fix elements in the company that need to operate more effectively.
A few concrete steps can go a long way. The following are a few good ways to start changing company culture and maximize business potential:
- Create an ongoing sales training program.
- Run monthly company meetings for all employees to bring teams together.
- Increase communication and recognize achievement.
- Make sure management meetings are organized to improve the focus on achieving corporate objectives.
- Make “soft” cultural improvements to increase morale and teamwork.
In some cases, the list of projects can be quite long. Take a few each quarter and focus on those topics.
Creating a great organization takes time, vision, energy and a commitment to continuous improvement – which, by the way, is the definition of leadership.
Ken Thoreson “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 17 years, his consulting, advisory and platform services have illuminated, motivated, and rejuvenated the sales efforts for organizations throughout the world. Need more sales management resources? Contact Thoreson at [email protected] or www.AcumenManagement.com.
Ken Thoreson will be speaking on “Building a Culture of High Performance” at the upcoming FSEA-IADD joint conference, April 11-13, Franklin Marriott Cool Springs Hotel, Franklin, Tennessee. For more details on the conference, visit www.fsea-iaddconf.com.