Grow Your Company’s Revenue in a Weak Economy
In times of weak economic conditions, many executives wonder where growth will come from to support their goals of business survival and expansion. The short answer is that companies need to change: how they sell, to whom they sell to, what they sell, how much they sell, who does which selling activities, and how they spend their efforts.
To make transformations in these areas, it’s important to uncover data-driven strategies and target the areas where improvement will make the most significant difference.
No two companies are alike, and no two sales organizations are equally built or enabled.
Because companies are all different, it’s important to ask the four critical questions outlined below. The answers can help you build a roadmap to positioning your company for growth.
1. Do we have the right team that allows for growth?
The recent pandemic has brought a radical disruption in how buyers buy and, notably, how sellers sell. Over the past six months, new buying behaviors have become entrenched that will likely continue in a post-COVID world. Unfortunately, sellers have been slow to adapt to the new realities of virtual meetings, digital engagement and social selling. Many sellers lack even rudimentary remote-work skills relating to how to conduct proper virtual meetings, let alone how to adapt their engagement practices to new platforms and buying processes.
How aligned is your sales team to your buyers’ purchase process? Do your sellers have the buyer-centric sales competencies to successfully serve today’s buyers and convert qualified opportunities into revenue at each stage of the sales cycle? What can your company do to close any skill gaps to align your existing team with the buying process of today?
More broadly, are your sales roles fit for meeting your buyers where they are today? Many traditional sales models in mature industries were built around on-site, face-to-face support for technical needs. Today, many technical issues can be resolved virtually… and many can even be resolved with a simple web search.
Think about the areas where your sales team needs to support your customers. Is it transactional pricing and quoting? Or is it more consultative? The most critical sales functions may be served by sales resources that look and work much differently than in the past.
2. Are our sellers expected to grow?
This seems like a silly question, but it’s really not . Once you align your sales to your customers’ buying process and have sellers with the right skills and competencies for the right role, it’s time to examine your sales culture.
What do you expect your sales team to deliver in terms of new account generation, existing account growth and account retention? If you have clear, objective goals for your sales team in these areas, how accountable are your sellers to fulfill them?
Digging deeper, do your managers expect and coach your team to achieve these results? Clear sales goals should be consistent and visible to all levels of a sales team to ensure accountability. On top of that, as sales models evolve, it’s important to reexamine compensation and incentive models. Does your sales compensation structure promote growth? Or do your sellers reach a point where they can reliably earn the income they need without confronting the friction of new business development?
3. Does our team know where the growth opportunities are?
If your revenue goals are clear and consistent throughout your organization (and reflected in your compensation plans), next it’s time to make sure that your team knows where to find growth.
Not all end-markets or customers are equally valuable. SPARXiQ’s transactional data shows that the profitability and growth-rate variation of diverse customers and end-markets commonly varies by over 40 percent from top-quintile to bottom-quintile verticals. Their growth rates, revenue stability, and resistance to competitor disintermediation/disruption vary dramatically, yet reps continue their milk-run call patterns that produce a roulette wheel of revenue, profitability and growth.
Without clear insights into relative attractiveness of customers and market segments, reps are flying blind in their territory and call planning. Once you understand the dynamics of growth in your business, through studying your sales data, it’s critical to integrate prescriptive insights into daily workflow that guide sales activities for maximum impact.
Sellers need to know how to prioritize their conversations each day to focus on the sales opportunities with the highest expected value. If they don’t, they’re prone to persist as indiscriminate order takers rather than become strategic market makers. Be sure that new business opportunities and account management plans are approached with data-driven insights in mind. Selling the right solutions to the right customers makes revenue growth more of a sure thing than a numbers game.
4. Do our sellers’ daily activities align with growth strategies?
We mentioned the drivers of growth, new account generation, existing account growth, and account retention. If we have the right sellers in the right roles with clear growth expectations and guidance on where to spend efforts, we’ve solved most of the revenue puzzle. The last mile is now ensuring that you have sales and account management processes that translate strategies into daily activities.
Does each seller have the daily activity planning to align their capabilities with the optimized pursuit of market opportunities? Are they spending enough time prospecting to support new business goals while still serving existing accounts? When our sellers pull out of their figurative driveway in the morning, do they know whether to turn left or to turn right? If so, how do they know? Are they reactive or proactive? Informed or instinctual?
Evaluate your team’s sales activities to ensure there is a balance between prospecting, opportunity management, and account management. This should align with the three previous points about staffing and competencies, accountability, and guidance. When there is misalignment, it’s up to front-line managers to coach territory planning and time management to achieve a better balance.
Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste
When we break down the dynamics of growth in industrial B2B verticals with whom we work closely, we see that the combined effects of the variables inside our control – the alignment of well-aligned sellers pursuing best-fit opportunities – dwarfs the negative impacts of a challenging economy.
These are the levers that accelerate profitability and growth, irrespective of the economic environment:
- Sales talent selection and development
- Sales process engineering
- Strategic opportunity selection
Never let a good crisis go to waste. For years, companies have been lulled by a consistently (if slowly) growing economy, while continuing to kick the can down the road on sales force effectiveness. They’ve settled for the antiquated, lone-cowboy sales processes, data-blind approaches to talent selection and development, the indiscriminate opportunity selection, and unstructured workflows that will lead to success. As Warren Buffett says, “It’s not until the tide goes out that you see who’s been swimming naked”. Now many of these companies are looking in the mirror and are unsettled by what they see.
On the other side, elite industrial B2B manufacturers and distributors are investing their efforts right now into engineering the sales system, aligning talent, and pursuing strategic market segmentation that will predictably drive profitable growth now and in the years to come. They are assembling the modern system, analytics/tools, training and technology to fuel superior growth. They are accelerating the pivots they knew they had to make. These are the companies who will look back fondly on the events (economic crisis) that forced them to embrace the future.
If you’d like to explore your own sales growth opportunities, we’d be happy to discuss them with you. Feel free to contact us.