Achieve Sales Growth on Purpose, Not by Chance!

It’s the same every year – sales targets go up.  And inevitably the sales that are visible when objectives are set are less – sometimes far less – than the sales required to exceed those targets. Filling the gap between visible and targets requires sales growth.  The big question then becomes how to best achieve sales growth and fill that gap.

Developing a Growth Strategy

 The key is to establish an effective growth strategy and then execute it quickly and effectively – so you can affect sales results this year.  Developing a growth strategy is a four-step process. 

  1. Analyze the threats and opportunities in the market, and your own strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Determine what you will sell to whom based on that analysis.
  3. Analyze the target buyers and your selling assets, including your own sales teams and those of channel partners. 
  4. Based on that analysis, determine how to best sell to those buyers and what roles the various selling assets should play. 

 In formulating your growth strategy, you only have a handful of strategic options:

  • You can sell more of your current offerings to more of the same kinds of customers
  • You can sell new offerings (and upgrades) to the same kinds of customers
  • You can sell your current offerings to new kinds of customers
  • You can sell new offerings to new kinds of customers.

Ultimately your growth strategy will focus on those offerings (products, services, solutions, etc.) and customers that represent the greatest opportunity.  You then decide who will sell those offerings to those customers.  Ideally, you would use the sellers who are best positioned to do that as quickly as possible.  This might mean redeploying your own sellers and enhancing their capabilities, and/or using a partner’s sellers who have better access to those customers.

For example, based on your analysis, you might decide that the best path to growth is:

  • To use partners to sell your current offerings to customers in new market segments.
  • To keep selling your current offerings to new customers of the same kind that you’ve been selling to
  • To sell a recently introduced offering to your existing customers.
  • To sell your current offerings to the new set of customers provided by a recent acquisition, using the acquired sales force.

From Strategy to Execution

Now you have a strategy, let’s turn to execution.  The most common approach that we have seen over the years is to hire the best salespeople, train them on your offerings and turn them loose.  Leadership hopes that enough sales people figure it out fast enough to produce the expected results.  But too often, not enough salespeople sold the new offering, or sold to enough of the new kind of customers to achieve needed sales growth.

Our own experience and the data from sources like CSO Insights suggest that buying and selling has changed.  This “hope and wait” approach just doesn’t seem to work very well these days.  So all too often, big bets on growth don’t pay off as expected.  And too many salespeople don’t figure it out and consequently miss their numbers.

 You of course need the best available sellers who are both willing and able.  That’s necessary but not sufficient to achieve growth.  The missing piece is developing and executing an effective growth strategy at the seller level

Executing your Growth Strategy – One Sales Team at a Time

 Ensuring that more of your existing sellers or teams execute your growth strategy is the best way to achieve growth and affect this year’s sales results.  Sellers need to know what offerings and customers represent their best opportunity for success this year, and the best ways to sell those to those customers.  We find that top salespeople do this, at least intuitively. 

 But to realize sales growth, you need your average sellers to do this effectively – not just your A players.  In fact, this is how you ensure that your average salespeople achieve their sales objectives.  And if you can get them to do that, then you’re growth strategy will be successful and you’ll get the growth you need. 

 We suggest transforming your programs like Strategic Account Management (SAM), Territory Management and Partner Management into platforms for sales growth that focus each seller or sales team on maximizing sales growth in their territory.  In this approach, sellers identify the best opportunities for growth in their territory, develop a plan to achieve that growth, and then work that plan with a regular, disciplined cadence.  Each seller adapts the company’s growth strategy to the realities of their particular territory. 

 Over the years we’ve heard many sales executives say that they don’t want their salespeople wasting time planning.  They just want them to get out there and sell.  And of course that is what they should be doing.  But that begs the question – what do they sell and to whom?  Who do they call on and what do they say? What if too many of your sellers don’t come up with good answers to those questions?  What if they call on the wrong customers or sell the wrong solution or say the wrong things?  

But if your sellers identify and execute on the best opportunities for success in their territories, then you can achieve sales growth on purpose!