When it’s about effectiveness and operational efficiency. Not much of a punchline I grant you.

There is a reality that sales organisations need to grasp. I hear so often from sales leaders and salespeople that their targets are challenging and constantly growing year on year. I’ve repeatedly heard executives stand up and say “We’re going to grow the business by 20%”, when they are asked how, the answers are usually around selling more –

  • “sell on value, not on price” – that’s usually reaction to margin pressure,
  • “do more with less” – people have left, we’ve not replaced them, deal with it, or,
  • “our customers must want our new product/service, go sell that”.

Just examine for a moment what “Grow revenue by 20%” actually means. Are you going to put prices up across the board by 20%? Probably not. Are you going to scale the sales force by 25%? Probably not. So how are you going to do it then? What is the documented plan to get to this 20% growth in top line revenue?

There is a truth here and it’s time. 20% is one working day a week. If you make the presumption (however crass) that salespeople’s time is fully utilised right now, what we need to do is find them a working day a week. This means they are going to have to stop doing some things to fit in this new sales activity – how do we decide what to stop?

In a perfect world salespeople would only focus on revenue generating, sales activity. I recognise there are other things we do – right now I’m typing this for example, but we need to minimise the amount of this we do in any given time period and identify non-sales related work that we can simply hand over. Resolving customer service issues, invoicing, technical issues, faults etc, however important, are not our area of expertise, but we do them and call it “Account Management”. We’ve sold the client on us, our reputation, we may even have sold them single point of contact (!!) and we don’t want to be made liars.

This is ultimately destructive – it’s leeching extremely valuable sales time from our working week and exerting drag on our performance. You’ll be pleased to hear there’s another way – it’s about sales force efficiency and ratios. It’s about measurable behaviours and process.

You can get time back though. Consider your win ratio right now from prospect to closed order. Do you have any idea what that ratio is? 1:10? 1:100? If you can get a handle on that you’ve got something to measure. When you can measure something you can manage it – you can manage qualification, the willingness to no-bid where it’s appropriate, to not chase pipe dreams – those opportunities that have a big number attached so suddenly are ‘Strategic’.

Compound up the time and costs saved of one sensible no-bid decision early in the process. What’s that worth to your business? How much efficiency could you derive? How many other wins could you achieve in the same period with the busy work and high probability losses qualified out?