Profitable Sales Growth - Anthony Alexander Partners

Sometime ago I was referred to a copy of Ram Charan’s book “Profitable Growth Is Everyone’s Business”, a very enlightening read and one that I would highly recommend.  It got me to thinking in specific context of sales and sales teams, and how his concepts can be utilised in improving and achieving profitable sales growth, albeit Charan’s book is clear enough in this context also.

We’ve taken the opportunity to think through how this applies specifically to profitable ‘sales’ growth using some of our experiences and mapping this to Charan’s ‘tools’ to provide a focused overview for those of us in sales management and sales leadership.

Our objective is to provide some clues and suggestions on how to apply this in our controllable environment starting with:

Profitable Sales Growth Is Everyone’s Business

“Every employee wants to be part of a company’s growth agenda, but most don’t know how.” starts Charan.  The common scenario is that sales growth comes down to the sales team, that’s their job right?

As Sales Managers and Sales Leaders we continually push our sales teams to hit sales targets, close deals, build pipeline etc.  In many cases targets may indeed be growth targets but often arbitrarily set by some finance function in some far off head office, with no perceptible strategy or notion on how to achieve this incremental growth, right?  We may receive a bland justification such as “we need to grow by x % this year, so increase each sales persons quota by x+%”.  There is rarely encouragement of a proactive mentality to seek innovative ways to achieve this sales growth.

In contrast, when it comes to cost reductions, management are usually very prescriptive and we expect everyone to participate. Guidance is often provided to what and how to achieve this or incentives are put in place to look for ways to reduce costs.

How often do we encourage or engender total participation in profitable sales growth i.e. real participation to achieve the x % desired?  Yes we may provide some incentives here and there for leads or support of an opportunity, but how often do we seek to motivate an entire organization to focus on sales growth and focus in a proactive and innovative way?  We may have marketing campaigns put in place or some global branding exercise, but this is not true participation.  However, nowhere are sales growth opportunities more visible than via the people that have contact with customers and prospects every day … arguably everyone, not just the sales team.

Now ponder.  How often do we train our receptionists on the things to listen to whilst prospective clients are sitting waiting for a meeting? How often would you ask the receptionist what she may have heard?  When was the last time you encouraged your implementation consultants to seek out leads of a certain type or quality when on a project?  Did you ever consider training and recognizing ‘all’ your staff in basic sales and business development skills (not just your sales people)?  Do you have in place a group wide or company wide incentive to find new incremental opportunities to drive profitable sales growth, maybe in an innovative way?

On occasion we see incentives, sadly it’s rare and often they are ill conceived in nature, still predominantly focused on the ‘sales team’.  We also, unfortunately, regularly see missed opportunities to recognize (and encourage) the efforts of individuals that provide leads or important information on a prospect.  

Sales teams seem to have short term memories - “Where did that lead for the last deal come from?” is not a question we hear asked regularly. Often you are more likely to hear “yes that was a great deal, requiring all my skills as a sales person to convert”.  How valuable might it be to really look into the nature of a lead or prospect and seek leverage that or provide some encouragement to repeat it?

In summary, the point here is to encourage everyone in your organization to take an interest in, and ultimately be rewarded for, seeking out incremental sales growth opportunities.  Our challenge, as sales leaders, is to put in place an environment allowing a change in mind set so that everyone can contribute to the growth agenda of the organization.

Look at ways to reward and encourage innovative lead generation, it does not always have to be financial.  Reward your sales people where they encourage others to find innovative ways to support sales growth.  The best place to start, the best first step, is asking your people what they think and what suggestions they may have, and do this first thing tomorrow morning.  You don’t need to wait for the corporate directive telling you to.

In the next article we will ponder the issue of small steps are as important as large leaps.