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Posted: January 30, 2011

Secrets of sales success

Here's what works and what doesn't

Larry Turner

Our company, Roundhouse Advisors, hosts CEO Roundtable discussions on a regular basis, and the topic of a recent meeting was "Sales: What's working and what's not." We had six business leaders in a variety of industries discuss the subject. Three main areas came up repeatedly:

Activity
Those businesses that experienced growth over the past couple of years all had one thing in common: they had not stopped marketing or being proactive in growing their business. Some of the areas they found to be helpful included regular visits of their top current accounts, the senior leaders joined their sales staff on sales calls, and continuing externally focused marketing programs to fill the sales pipeline. The companies that were most productive developed campaigns around their activity to provide focus and structure to measure results of their activities.

The companies that had experienced a difficult time growing sales had retreated from business development activity during the recession. Taking an approach of preserving capital in a difficult economy and manage the recession through cost cutting. These business leaders found they needed to start growing revenues, but were finding it difficult to get the activity started.

Marketing and sales activities provide a presence in your market, fill the pipeline, and have a cumulative effect. It takes a significant investment in time to get activities moving. Starting investment after taking "time off" can be like starting all over again.

Hiring & managing sales staff
Those business leaders that did not have sales staff indicated that they are interested in hiring, but are looking for sales staff interested in a highly variable compensation plan. A highly variable compensation plan provides a very low base salary and high commission rate. This type of plan can be very lucrative for a sales executive that performs at high levels, but it can be difficult to find sales people interested in this type of plan. The benefit to the company is a low investment in the sales person during their ramp-up period.

Those successfully managing a sales team in their business had a common approach to their success. They communicated expectations and held their sales team accountable for meeting those expectations. The most common expectations were expressed in sales revenue, but those that were success also managed activity. Activity based expectations provides a framework for the company and sales person to be successful by managing those things that need to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.

Integrated approach
An integrated approach to growing sales allowed business leaders to develop a number of activities that worked together and provided increased number of prospects in their pipeline. Too often, business owners look at any activity as good activity, but without a plan, the one off program many times becomes a wasted effort.

Take a hard look at your target market and identify who you serve, where they hang out, what they read and understand how to reach them. By understanding your ideal client you can develop an approach that will include a wide range of tools to reach your prospects. These tools may include direct mail, personal contacts, networking, internet marketing, email campaigns, and in many cases a combination of all these areas.

Get started
The important area discussed in the roundtable meeting was to get started. Spend some concentrated effort with your sales and marketing team and/or management team to start planning your efforts. Get some help if you are not sure how to get started. The help could be a close business associate that you respect or a business coach/consultant. The help should be from someone not involved with the day-to-day activity in your business. You will be amazed how much is uncovered through a process of questions and answers with someone not as intimately involved with your business.

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Larry Turner is CEO of Roundhouse Advisors, Inc. and has over 25 years experience growing, starting up, repositioning, and revitalizing organizations. Roundhouse Advisors is a consulting practice focused on helping businesses increase enterprise value by managing pain, growth and owner exits. Larry is a consultant, public speaker, and the author of two books "Owner Exit Planning: Leave On Your Own Terms" and "Mapping Your Recovery: Grow sales in difficult times". For additional information visit www.RoundhouseAdvisors.com

"Mapping Your Recovery: Grow sales in difficult times" provides additional information on areas that can positively impact your company www.roundhouseadvisors.com/growsalesbook

 

Larry Turner is CEO of Roundhouse Advisors, Inc. and has over 25 years experience growing, starting up, repositioning, and revitalizing organizations.  Roundhouse Advisors is a consulting practice focused on helping businesses increase enterprise value by managing pain, growth and owner exits.  Larry is a consultant, public speaker, and the author of “Owner Exit Planning: Leave On Your Own Terms." For additional information visit www.RoundhouseAdvisors.com

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Readers Respond

Great Article Larry! I'm always amazed at the companies who STOP building business in a downturn. This is counter-intuitive - the companies who sold HARDER are way ahead of their competition as we recover! Thank you! By Kimberly on 2011 02 01

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