There’s an old saying that nothing can happen until a sale is made. Certainly sales is not the only area of business that needs to be addressed while working toward building profits, but because of the urgency of today’s economic times, sales are top of mind for CEOs everywhere.
“If you’re trying to make an immediate impact in your company and build momentum toward growth, sales is a perfect place to begin,” says Wes Phillips, Orange Label Art + Advertising.
Smart Business asked Phillips and Rochelle Reiter, agency principals at Orange Label Art + Advertising, to clarify who is responsible for what when a company’s sales are on the line, and how those roles can best prepare their organization for success.
What are the CEO’s responsibilities in regard to sales?
The CEO has a responsibility to 1) drive profit and build value as it relates to the sales function – to ensure the right team is in place and supply support so there can be strong sales at higher margins; 2) ensure that the existing customer base is immune to the activities of competitors; 3) put systems in place for managing ongoing sales to the existing base; and 4) create a selling environment that combats commodity selling.
The first and fourth areas are the places where CEOs can make a difference right now.
How can a CEO evaluate and maximize the sales team’s activities?
The quickest way is to go on a sales call and let the salesperson do all the talking. Listen to what they are saying not only from a content standpoint, but also in terms of delivery. Is he or she confident? How are objections addressed? Spend a full day or week in the field to get a sense of what is going on in the market and what the reps are doing and how it’s resonating, and then go back and retool or refine the script. You may even identify things about the product itself that need improvement.
When you return to the office, consider what is ‘working’ in the field. Define what ‘working’ means, and then create SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goals with and for the team. Put the goals in place and measure them on an ongoing basis. Even if the salespeople are engaged, there may be a gap between what they are achieving and what the objectives are. So be sure the goals are clear and that you’ve communicated them to the entire team.
How can the CEO ensure that the sales team is equipped with the most effective tools and materials?
The first step is to ask them what they need. It might be more traditional tools such as brochures or one-page fliers. Or it might be digital tools, such as e-newsletters — anything that can promote constant contact with customers and prospects. They might need a better database to draw from and for following up with prospect. Maybe they need to be better backed with a solid brand identity, better sales support, or advertising and marketing.
When asked what they need, salespeople will almost always say ‘lower prices.’ That is to be expected, but it’s rarely the thing to be managed first. Keep the focus on what you can do to keep leads warm and how you can equip the team to make contact last longer.
What is the role of the VP of sales or head of the sales department?
It’s up to the CEO to give accountability standards to the VP of sales, who is then responsible for developing the tactics. This person collaborates with salespeople and monitors their activity; identifies and addresses any performance gaps; ensures that salespeople are matched up with the appropriate accounts; ensures the efficiency of the farming cycle and works to improve it; works to increase the number of leads within the existing budget and the number of conversions; identifies purchase and buying trends in the market; and consistently interviews for new salespeople to ensure that the pipeline of talent is never empty.
The VP of sales is also responsible for training, recognition, and keeping the team motivated and productive. He or she should create an environment that is encouraging and that defines and rewards success.
What is the best way to shift the culture toward cultivating sales or new business?
Share new business with the entire team. Celebrate successes. Recognize areas for improvement. Hold brainstorming sessions across departments and ask for ideas to generate sales. Develop incentive programs — not just for salespeople, but for all employees. Make sure the team is generating new sales from the existing base and that your customers know everything you offer. Look at the systems in place in every department and identify ways to streamline them so they don’t get in the way of making sales.
Make it easy to buy from you. The net result will be happier, more loyal customers and your salespeople will have more time to sell.
WES PHILLIPS and ROCHELLE REITER are the agency principals of Orange Label Art + Advertising. Reach them at (949) 631-9900 or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.