How well tuned is your sales 'engine'?

Organisations manage their production process to within an inch of its life - quite right too. However do they also manage the process that produces new business with quite the same precision? If we think of the sales operation as a business generation 'engine', perhaps we can identify where appropriate fine tuning could lead to significant improvements in sales.

There are a number of key components that are part of any business generation 'engine':

  • Existing customer relationships - these are the ‘supply line’ of most sales opportunities that enter your 'engine'. Strong customer relationships will be the source of many more winnable sales opportunities than poor or average customer relationships.

  • The clarity of your value proposition coupled with the confidence with which your salespeople can articulate this in business value terms. This is the ‘spark’ that will ‘catalyse’ the right sales conversations with the right people at the right time and, as a result, help ‘propel’ opportunities through the sales pipeline.

  • The capabilities of salespeople - this is what enables sales organisations to ‘convert’ their sales opportunities into money. Strong selling capability will convert more opportunities and thereby ‘generate’ more money for your business.

  • Evaluation and tracking of progress - the more rigorous and accurate the qualification and opportunity tracking process is, the more likely you are to identify potential ‘blockages’ and ‘fault lines’ quickly enough to minimise their negative impact on the sales process.

It is important to recognise that all organisations have a business generation engine. The key is whether it is a highly tuned, efficient model or one that might be a little rusty and clunky. So here are a few questions to ask that might reveal where you could usefully tune your own sales 'engine':

  • Relationships: How strong are your existing customer relationships? Do you proactively manage them or do they rely too much on the ‘schmooze’/entertainment budget? Are they strong enough that:

    • Your customers will allow you to challenge their thinking?

    • Your stakeholders will reveal important financial data?

    • Key stakeholders will open up about personal risks or concerns?

  • Value proposition: How well do you articulate your value proposition?

    • Do your value statements vary by customer type and by stakeholder type?

    • How compellingly differentiated are they?

    • How good are your salespeople at really understanding your points of difference over the competition and the business value this might constitute for the customer?

  • Capabilities within the team: How skilled are your salespeople?

    • Can they build a robust business case for what they are selling?

    • Are they commercially savvy enough to talk about business value (as opposed to price) at senior levels?

    • How good are their questioning skills? Their negotiation skills? Do any of them start negotiating too quickly? Do sales managers often get asked to sanction discounts?

  • Tracking of progress with sales opportunities:

    • How confident are you in the accuracy of qualification and/or forecasting?

    • How often are deals delayed for some reason and close later than expected (if at all)?

    • How good are sales managers at spotting potential roadblocks and addressing them in time to make a difference?

These of course only scratch the surface however are a good starting point in ensuring your ‘business generation engine‘ is running as efficiently and effectively as it could be.