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Opinion: Sales systems set up benchmarks

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A process that works consistently without fail may be harder to come by for a company than the Kansas City Chiefs winning another Super Bowl.

Like the Chiefs, a company needs coaching and has to change its plays to fit the game and the competition for the day.

Prior to 2008, many companies were coasting on an inflated economy, and in turn, many salespeople were not selling, but simply taking orders. The recession and subsequent economic downturn has forced companies to evaluate their current systems, and what most have discovered is that they never even had a system in place.

Having a system in place that benchmarks success and failure for a sales team is imperative to growth.

Think of top athletes in any sport. In order for them to be successful, they must follow a system for training, nutrition and coaching. The same is true for anyone in the selling business, including entrepreneurs, professionals who sell services and bona-fide salespersons.

Has your team been winging it and had a breakout quarter or year, and now you expect salespeople to repeat those same results? How are they going to repeat the same thing without a clear system in place? No one, including each team member, knows exactly what they did to achieve that outcome, and as a result, they won’t be able to do it again.

Recently, my colleague told me about a client he is working with in the Midwest. A couple of years ago this company experienced tremendous growth during our country’s peak in economic stability. But the economy turned in a different direction and, in the wake of the recession, the company quickly realized its superstar sales team was comprised of nothing more than complacent order takers. When the phone stopped ringing and the sales team was forced to be proactive in prospecting, many team members failed. They would not pick up the phone, did not make appointments, and could not grow their pipeline with qualified prospects.

The company had to send its top salespeople back to school to learn how to sell again. Under advisement, the company put a system in place to guide the sales team through the process of prospecting and a system to measure the success and failure of their efforts.
Compensation plans were reconstructed, and the sales team soon started performing at the same level they were performing prior to the recession. This time, they were proactively prospecting.  

A good sales system that is followed thoroughly can help managers identify why members of their sales teams are missing their numbers consistently. Perhaps the goals set forth by the company are not realistic or maybe the person in that sales position is not right for the job.

Accounting, operations, marketing and human resources are all important functions in a company. All of these functions must operate efficiently to be effective, and all must have systems in place to attain their objectives and be successful. In order for these functions to be successful, they must be funded, and the only way to fund these functions in a company is to sell a product or service and generate revenue. Why is it acceptable for your sales team and business development team to wing it? If they are inefficient at their jobs, your company cannot and will not grow no matter the effectiveness of the other functions.

I have witnessed many companies that have been transformed simply by putting a system in place from prospecting to managing salespeople to getting new clients on board. Systems that work can change a business and work culture.

Brett Baker is a managing partner for TrustPoint Management Group in Springfield. He can be reached at brett@trustpointllc.com.
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