Cause and Effect – Changing the Sales Forecast
Question: If your sales team is performing, hitting target, producing the margins, do you still analyse the sales figures, KPI’s, and associated metrics or do you say a silent ‘thank you’ prayer and cross your fingers that the good fortune continues?
I’m not here to praise or chastise – your answer to the above is between you and your conscience.
Instead, let’s use this opportunity to think about sales performance improvement.
Regardless of your sales teams performance now – sales performance improvement is something that you are likely to review on a regular basis. Sales Performance Improvement can mean many things to different people – maybe to you it’s about efficiencies, introducing lean, agile sales processes, or maximising cross sell and up sell opportunities, improving the quality of the sales pipeline, retaining competitive advantage or simply adopting a more aggressive pricing policy….
Before any (small or large) improvement can be made in the sales performance – you need to know where you are, this doesn’t mean just the numbers either.
Measuring is the fundamental process that allows the need for change to be identified, invoking sales performance improvement, yet how often do we question what we actually measure?
One successful MD I met said he only measured 5 things – if they were ok, then he left well alone.
A current CEO client in an aggressively expanding company has a fantastic philosophy of measuring everything – he wanted to analyse every single bit of the customer experience to find out what they could do better… and he did. Did it pay off?
You decide… they GREW during the recession, in profit, employee numbers, clients, turnover. You might consider that they were blocking any leakage points whilst their competitors were still trying to figure out where the leaks were coming from…
I did say Sales Performance Improvement isn’t always about the numbers, you might also want to consider:
1. Are the needs and the expectations of the customers being met? Taking care to understand why they are being met by your product and service and not by your competitors as well as understanding how they are being met
Why? You need to know what you are doing well before changing anything
2. Are you selling to a stable customer base? Could they buy more? Having got them into purchasing mode with your organisation, what can you do to protect them from your competitor attack? What monkeys can you take from their back to make it easier from them to buy from you, buy more, buy regularly, refer you, rave about you?
Why? This is an important issue – firstly, sales acquisition costs to this group will be much lower than finding new prospects, and secondly, looking after and retaining this client bank means your company can grow over time as opposed to merely working hard to stand still.
3. How much do you understand about the customer base? How are they likely to perform in the future? Will this customer base die off? What else can you innovate/develop to ensure they remain engaged? What is the rate of growth of this market? Should you be proactively trying to source prospects of a similar profile? What engagement strategy should you use?
Why? – it’s vital to know the long term value of the current client base.
4. Is the company strategy being adhered to? Are the desired markets/products/services being taken up at the desired rate? Are customers being acquired at the appropriate rate? Can the company continue to grow at this rate? Should pricing be used to manage the internal resource more effectively?
Why? Bit of a mixed bag this one, but vital in order to establish where any improvements need to be made. Should the change focus on the operational or strategic areas of the business and the business plan? What needs to change in order to adhere to the longer term company strategy? This question often indicates the starting point for any Sales Performance Improvement.
Worthwhile measuring? Your call entirely… At some point, however great your sales figures are, improvements will need to be made – your organisation will want better quality sales, faster sales cycles, more sales at higher margins – fail to continually review and improve or risk falling victim to your competitor’s growth.
Additionally ongoing review and measurement will allow you to:
- Understand where additional sales and margin could come from – refining strategies, improving operational efficiencies, redefining pricing
- Protect your market and market share
- Provide direct feedback to R and D about what they need to do to help you stay ahead of the curve
- It can pull the company together with a series of common sales related goals Resources can be deployed in the most relevant places.
Interesting point – very few companies will use price to manage demand – therefore taking risks on several fronts, often at the cost of diminishing profits…more on this later.
If you wish to discuss any of the points raised here, please call Carol on 0779 002 1885 or email firstname.lastname@example.org