Wednesday, February 6, 2013

You Can't Manage Sales

Sales Manager:  Hi Nancy.  Numbers are looking weak right now.  What I need are more sales.
Salesperson:  Well, I can't force the prospect into buying.  I'm working on it.
Sales Manager:  Nancy, it's already the 15th of the month, and your nowhere near your monthly number.
Salesperson:  I know.  I'm working on it.
Sales Manager:  Maybe you can call up your prospects and put some more pressure on them.
Salesperson:  Are you freaking kidding me?

What a ridiculous conversation.  Unfortunately, it's happening right now, in sales organizations all over the world.  

A sale, is the OUTPUT of a process.  You cannot control the output of anything by simply pushing.  If you're building something on an assembly line, does the supervisor go the end of the line, and try to get more products to come OFF of it?  Of course not.  That's absurd.  To manage output, you must change all the things that happen BEFORE you get to the end.  A sale is end output of a sales process.  Any company or manager that thinks putting "pressure" on the sales team to SELL MORE STUFF, is kidding themselves (and is poorly managing).

Let's say your SALES PROCESS looks something like this:

1. Prospect & Market - Create/obtain leads
2. Meet with the prospect - identify goals and opportunities
3. Develop a solution/proposal
4. Present your solution/proposal
5. Negotiate/Modify
6. Close

YOU CAN'T CONTROL #6.  You can, however, control other things in the process that will help you accelerate #6.    If you have a bad month or quarter, it's not because you weren't focused now.  It's because you didn't have enough sales activity a while back (depends on your sales cycle time frames).

This is the reason for the "roller-coaster" effect typically seen by salespeople everywhere.  You work on sales activity for a few months, things break loose - then you slow down activity to deal with the sale.  After your "high-point" in the cycle, you dip back down to poor performance because you slowed sales activity.

If you're a sales manager - never tell a salesperson or a sales team that you need more sales.  You know you can't manage sales.  You can only manage the activities that go into the process.  By the time you're measuring sales bookings - it's too late. Measure sales activity and ask your team to focus on that!