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The Vital Role of the Sales Function in Tough Market Conditions

Times remain tough for many businesses and, as they feel the pressure, reducing costs has been one of the first considerations for owners and managers. Discussions with and work within many small to medium size businesses clearly shows us that the sales performance of their business is coming under real scrutiny.

On the back of this increased intensity from the business stakeholders the front line sales team are feeling the heat in a way that many salespeople have not felt for some time and, to be honest, pressure that a great number have not felt at all in their sales career so far. Why is this? In the last few years, with markets expanding and order books being largely filled, salespeople have not needed to demonstrate their selling skills greatly. In many cases the orders would have materialised without them and they have therefore become the proverbial \'order taker\' and fallen into that mould.

Right now how many business owners are hearing lines like:-

  • 'It's really tough out there'
  • 'There is very little business about'
  • 'We're too expensive'

and many other very plausible reasons why orders are not coming in.

The truth is somewhere in between. Yes, the market is tough, but there is business about and the unpalatable reality is that in many cases salespeople are being 'outsold'.

So how do you ensure that your salespeople are at the forefront of their industry and that your products and/ or services are being sold in the most influential manner?

Step One

ASSESS WHERE YOU ARE NOW IN SALES COMPETENCE TERMS

In our broad experience of managing many salespeople and teams you can categorise any salesteam into four types:

  • The Traveller
  • The Sales Representative
  • The Sales Consultant
  • The Key Resource

The experienced Sales Manager can tell exactly where specific sales individuals sit within this categorisation by simply working with them and watching their behaviour in front of customers. The 'traveller' for example is the archetypal 'order taker' and almost always secures orders on a relationship basis. The Sales Representative just can't stop talking about their products. Both types are massively short of what's required in today's market. By assessing (honestly) where your people are against this template you will have gone some way to determining your chances of success in selling because, have no doubt, that if your competitors possess more 'Consultants' and 'Key Resources' than you then you will surely be outsold.

Step Two

DETERMINE YOUR ACTION PLAN

Depending how your assessment 'pans out' you are faced with some choices:-

  • Leave things how they are
  • Develop your existing team to a higher performance level via training
  • Recruit/ bring in the right talent

Option one is only an option if all is well – if options two and three are your routes determine who will carry out the actions required.

Step Three

IMPLEMENT YOUR PLAN AND DON'T WAIVER

Make sure you stick to your plan and execute it in full. You will undoubtedly face some resistance and will have doubts along the way but remember without change that 'if you carry on doing the same things – you get the same results'. Trust in your judgement or get some independent and objective help to support your implementation

More information on sales developement is available free in our Business Community programme.

To arrange for a no obligation with one of our expert team please contact us.

David Turner

© Tinderbox Limited 2011

Sales Training & Sales Growth

Business Development

Business Management

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Who we have worked with: Hallmark Cards, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, Rolls Royce, Sunseeker, Mattel, MicroSoft, Argos, Auto Glym, P&G, Ferranti, FloGas, Lloyds TSB

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