No matter how complex your organization is, business success has always relied on a simple concept: Sell products or services that make more money than you spend. No matter how many moving parts exist, how many currencies you operate in, or how complicated the sales process, it all comes down to a simple concept: Your business can’t survive if you can’t make money.
Knowing this, you can’t make money if you can’t sell or market your products and services effectively.
However, the word ‘effectively’ is the operative term in the statement, and it’s often the dividing line between businesses who thrive and those who struggle to survive. Finding and retaining a sales staff who is effective, loyal, and efficient has never been easy, and it might be even harder to find success whenever this decade-long period of economic growth starts to lose momentum.
Are Your Results Golden… Or Gilded?
Anyone can sell in a time of plenty, but attributing this success completely to your sales team’s abilities is dangerous. At least that’s what a recent annual report from sales strategy organization Miller Heiman group had to say.
The study, titled World-Class Sales Practices Report, All That Glitters Is Not Gold, found that despite respondents noticing increased revenue plan and quota attainment, they also saw win rates were thinning (up 2%) and customer retention and relationships were dropping in the last two years—down 3% and 4%.
“Sales organizations are succeeding, not through increased efficiency or effectiveness, but rather through increasing investments and size to take advantage of the market opportunity.
While this yields success in the short-term, it promises vulnerabilities should economic growth falter. Sales leaders should take an introspective and holistic look at their organizations in order to shore them up for future success.”
It only takes a small dent for reality to set in, and for your organization’s resiliency to be tested. Knowing this, there are ways to overcome these challenges, align your sales with other lines of business, and develop a strategy that succeeds in both bull and bear markets.
Transforming and Empowering Your Sales Organization
To make this happen, you need to understand and address the potential flaws in your sales process, aligning your business, and helping sales staff increase their efficiency.
There are many ways to approach this. From training and coaching of sales staff to enhanced messaging to to a renewed commitment to connecting your sales team with marketing and support, empowering your staff requires a top down commitment. But where do you start?
Break Down Barriers
You’ve probably heard the term ‘alignment’ so much that it’s starting to sound like white noise. But… It wouldn’t be mentioned so often if it wasn’t a problem. Often, when someone mentions alignment, they are talking about the mental barriers that exist between two ego-driven departments.
However, like the quote-to-cash process, the problem isn’t just the mindset, it’s the workflows (or lack thereof). Leaving data siloed and forcing your sales team to rely on a trickle of emails or a poorly updated system is incredibly inefficient.
From there, it’s more emails in order to run a credit check and look if you have available inventory or billable hours—before you can even build a quote. In order to develop a successful sales process, your salespeople need information ready for them when and where they need it.
This requires you to break down barriers between software and allow information to flow freely through your organization, no matter how many offices you have or even if your sales staff is en route to the customer’s location.
Keep Your Sales Staff Selling
The report went on to highlight an interesting fact: sellers spend less than one-third of their time selling. While some of this may be spent in transit and other time might be spent setting themselves up for a successful sales call, too much of this time is spent doing things that are less valuable to your organization. Paperwork, digging through emails, hand-writing correspondence to leads—all things that take a lot of time and fail to generate as much value.
It’s incredibly easy for your sales staff to get caught up in the tedium of manual processes, ultimately losing focus on what they need to do.
Driving productivity in the sales organization requires a commitment to efficiency-oriented tools and practices. This starts with forecasting and call planning, but also requires you to facilitate the non-value creating processes that exist.
Does your outside sales staff have to return to the office to update the CRM or fill out mileage and expenses? Are they waiting on an email from the warehouse? These are problems.
By enabling your sales staff with real-time access to data wherever they are, you can maximize productivity and empower them to sell more.
Improving Your Customer Experience
In addition to making it easier for your sales team to sell, you can’t ignore the other part of the equation—customer retention and relationships. One of the more dangerous trends in the report, the increasing levels of churn paints a dangerous picture, and it’s an area in which you need to stop the bleed.
As it costs more to find new customers than it does to keep the ones you have and referrals are the gold standard of leads, it’s necessary to look beyond your sales staff to what happens after the sale. Are customers experiencing issues with your support staff? Do they want an easier experience to purchase products?
Creating a positive support experience starts by breaking down silos, but goes beyond that. You need to be where your customers want you to be.
Whether that means having their information readily available when they call in to reduce wait time or delivering information and ordering capabilities to your customers through a knowledgebase or customer portal, your ability to deliver post-sale support is critical.
One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is by improving your CRM experience. Support staff needs the same 360-degree view at their fingertips as sales staff. Paired with billing integration, you can keep repeat revenue flowing into your firm and create satisfied customers.
Helping Your Sales Staff Thrive: It Starts with ERP-CRM Integration
There are many ways to deliver a superior sales experience and grow your revenue, but it all starts with the right information in the right hands. As a leading provider of ERP and CRM implementation who has the skills to deliver a unified ERP-CRM experience in Acumatica or integrate this cloud ERP solution with Salesforce and more, we can help.