I bet when your business was launched, it didn’t include an experienced Head of Sales out of the gate. A visionary leader with a strong technical competence probably got things started, then a finance person was quickly brought on board to keep the books in check and the leader in line. The next hire was possibly a warehouse person to make sure the shipments made it out on time, and finally a receptionist who doubled as Head of HR and maybe the Office Manager, too. Does this story sound familiar?
The Small Business Story
As a sales leader, I’ve met with many small business owners who fit this scenario. The CEO created an innovative product, or a new service, and started the business based on instinct and initial market response. He or she followed the bread crumbs to success, filling additional pieces of the puzzle as things hummed along.
But the truth is, for many small businesses, that hum turns into a tired sputter. Then the engine dies. Forbes estimates that eight out of 10 small businesses fail. And while the vast majority of small businesses cite cash flow as an issue, many fail because they don’t have the right team in place and because they don’t communicate a clear value proposition – i.e., no sales organization.
What I often find is that salespeople were hired mid-launch to drum up new business, but a minimal focus was applied to developing an actual sales organization founded on best-in-class practice in processes, tools and people. The mantra to sales was simply, “Go with God, come back with money.” If this story matches your company’s launch into the marketplace, I say, “let’s rewind to fast-forward.”
Back to the Sales Future
Normally, companies reject looking or going backwards. The mentality is always to think and move forward. But in this case, making the investment in time and resources to re-build a structural weakness is the right move.
So how do you re-build a department from scratch after years of business? How do you erase bad sales habits and instill new, good habits? How do you identify best practices? And where do you turn to build the sales processes necessary for execution and accountability? By focusing on the basics of SSPP: Strategy, Structure, Process and People, in that order.
- Take a half-day with your leadership team and draw out your Sales Strategy, connecting the dots that aren’t connected today. Answer questions like, “What do we do?”, “How do we do it”, and very importantly, “What aren’t we going to do?”
- From these answers, ensure that you have a structure that allows the company to execute against your market and customer strategy.
- Next, design sales processes that align the sales organization with other departments of the company to create transparency and accountability.
- Finally, be honest with yourself and evaluate your sales team using data, even if it’s manually generated. Moving forward may require shifting some people into new roles or a soft exit.
It’s not too late to rewind your sales organization and take a Mulligan. Embrace the SSPP process, learn from your past, and you can fast-forward into a brighter sales future.
Michael Wills is the founder of Top Line Solutions, powered by Sales Xceleration. He specializes in Outsourced Sales Leadership, focusing on revenue growth and sales organization for small and medium-sized businesses. Connect with Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org
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