Blame it on the economy or blame it on yourself - but which do you control? Frustration and panic are never useful emotions and not helpful ways to make a business thrive.
But, if you’re in it for the long haul, a slower economy is a great opportunity for you to get your act together in preparation for the next boom. Research has shown that companies who keep the pressure on during a recession come out the other end stronger, with less competition and greater opportunity.
Now’s the time. Asking hard questions about what’s wrong with your company’s sales is likely to turn up several problem areas:
- What worked when the economy was humming isn’t working now. Bad habits, frustration and sales reluctance on the part of your sales staff are turning up in spades. They can’t get away with just taking orders any more. Lack of systems, lack of process, lack of training and lack of accountability all contribute to lack of success.
- Your sales management doesn’t know what they don’t know. Most sales managers are great sales people who got promoted. No training. No basic understanding of how to manage people, set up processes, hire people, etc, etc. Improvement in the skill set of sales managers is the fastest and best way to improve your sales bottom line.
- Your message is inconsistent. Company leaders’ and on-the-street sales talk is out of alignment. Leaders haven’t clearly communicated value propositions that should be taken to market. Sales folks, left without ‘vision life preservers’ are making it up as they go along. Trouble erupts in misaligned customer expectations, internal strife and wasted time, energy and good will.
- You’ve got the wrong people on the bus. Your hiring has been as inconsistent as your sales management. When the unemployment rate was 4%, you hired whoever you could get, which worked when your folks were just taking orders, but it’s starting to show.Coaching and training may help, but now’s the time to take a close look at your sales talent and see if they’re up to the task.
- Your product mix and pricing is off target. Your sales department is not talking to your marketing department, your marketing department is not talking to your customers, your customers are not returning phone calls, and your sales folks just want to cut prices so they can move some product and not feel like losers.It’s time to dig deep and find the sweet spot that will move you forward into the new economy. The only way to do this is to ask the critical questions now, and make the appropriate changes before you lose too much market share.
- You haven’t figured out how to ask for help.Investing in your people and your systems is very daunting. Cash is tight. Consultants seem expensive. You haven’t thought in terms of return on investment in your people, and you haven’t calculated the cost of doing nothing, which may be much, much more costly than you think.
Wasn’t it Albert Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
Real change takes the courage of leadership and visionary thinking. Our economy will never be the same as it was. But the future is bright for leaders and companies ready to embrace new ideas, transparent communication, clarified thinking, and new ways of doing things.
Your sales woes can be solved if you’re willing to step up, make change happen and inject a positive vision, positive action and positive energy into your organization.