The members of the Vistage Peer Advisory Boards I chair and the clients of Tafaro & Associates consist mainly of small technology and service related firms. Sales growth is a critical initiative I focus on with members and clients because it is a leading indicator of future performance, and represents an important metric for value accretion. Being more practical, without sales growth there is no business.
That being said, I find that the sales practices employed today by many small organizations are too expensive and too unpredictable resulting in a failure to meet growth objectives. One of the main reasons for this is that selling is considered just the job of the “sales force” and marketing the job of the “marketing department.” This is a view that has to change! Successful organizations treat branding through lead generation to revenue recognition as a single, unified process in which sales, marketing strategy, tactics and technologies are aligned within the organization. This results in a full organizational commitment to winning new business and maintaining the highest degree of customer satisfaction.
Much of the work we do with Vistage members and clients is to build the foundations necessary to create this unified process along with the metrics and measurements to ensure they remain aligned and provide remediation when necessary. This is a team effort and includes all key members of the organization.
The marketing foundation starts with a message architecture which is the recommended structure for a differentiated message to be used to engage prospects from the awareness phase through the sales process to decision. The message architecture is the driver of the content strategy. Once this is established we build a marketing operations plan which is the tactical plan to engage the marketplace, respond to prospect and client interest and the metrics to measure marketing effectiveness.
The sales foundation begins with the development of a sales process, a planned system of repeatable selling steps that sales professionals will be required to perform in order to improve the quality, speed, and efficiency of the actions they can control – thereby influencing end results. We then build the metrics that are measured and evaluated through each phase of the process. These include productivity factors such as “win-rates” and “time to closure.” By understanding how the organization complies with targeted productivity factors we can accurately forecast new business, determine what is needed in the sales pipeline to meet sales objectives and evaluate each salesperson’s performance in order to identify deficiencies that require remediation.
This is capped with a complete training program for the all employees who are engaged in the selling and customer retention process. Our clients now have the foundation, information, tools, and skills necessary to effectively compete in our ever-changing marketplace – and distinct competitive advantage.