Strategy For Growth? Just Need to Increase the Sales Force, Surely!!
In many conversations with business owners, the desire to grow their business is unmistakable. Often this desire, pursued in an unstructured manner, can lead to failing customer expectations as businesses have scaled their sales operations, but not the rest of the organisation, leaving business owners, customers and employees frustrated.
In the pursuit of increased sales business owners should give consideration to the following:
- Is the Market Ready for You?
Business owners need to understand the market place, evaluate the current and expected market demands; the ability of the current business functions as well as the products and services to meet those demands; to evaluate the existing customer portfolio and to prepare the market too.
The sales cycle is probably the last third of the business development cycle. The time and investment to develop a business strategy to which a marketing strategy and sales strategy are aligned is important. Astute businesses will have examined their opportunities and capabilities, explored the market place, understood its readiness and developed the market place before unleashing a scaled sales force.
For some successful businesses, satisfying existing customers with enhanced or complimentary products and services has yielded increased returns and customer loyalty without necessarily deploying a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to expand the sales force.
- Is Your Business Infrastructure Ready?
So the business has scaled its sales force, but not the rest of the organisation. It embarks upon a ‘sell at all costs’ initiative.
The wise business owner will have reflected early in the development of a business strategy for the readiness of the existing business infrastructure. Are the IT, production, distribution, logistics, billing and customer service functions ready to meet even a slight increase in sales? Are the roles and people assigned to the roles adequate to meet the growth? What skills gaps exist in the current talent pool to support increased sales? What training or personnel development in all functions is required to support the growth?
Failure to recognise and scale the rest of the organisation in the face of increased sales can lead to failed customer expectations through missed deadlines through insufficient internal capacity to meet the demands. Alternatively falling quality standards may manifest as businesses deploy shortcuts to avoid missing agreed deadlines. Staff morale can decrease with increasing customer complaints of failed or poor quality deliveries of products and services. Backlogs could grow whilst the organisation attempts to resolve issues by diverting already stretched resources.
- What After the Sale?
Most businesses will forecast sales and revenue over a quarterly basis, broken down further into monthly or 30 day trading periods. Depending upon the nature of the product (consumable or enduring), how will the customer be looked after the initial sale? What investment will be made into ensuring an enduring relationship exists with the customer so at the time of product or contract renewal, the business is the first point of contact for the customer? Or that the business has taken sufficient steps to ensure that the customer’s new requirements are met before they consider going to the wider market.
Before immediately scaling up a sales force for growth, a sound business will have developed or updated a business strategy, one that is flexible, one that is based upon analysis of the current and expected market place, one that facilitates for scaled processes and disciplines to be instilled into the organisation, supported by apt technology, people, training, coaching and stakeholder communication.
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