Last night I joined a conversation on Jim Keenan’s new Talk Shoe program called Sales Smack. (the call was recorded and is still available online). The topic of the show was Is Sales Responsible for Company Growth? Because of prior commitments, I arrived late, and there were some super-sharp sales thought-leaders already deep into the call when I arrived.
The call brought up some great ideas, two worth thinking about and discussing here today.
Who Is Responsible for a Company’s Growth?
Jim’s question is itself provocative. In sales terminology it is a closed question, requiring a “yes” or a “no” answer, in this case one in which opening the question requires a defense of your position. More still, it sets up the idea that if sales isn’t responsible for company growth someone else is. My trouble with this line of thinking is that if only one area of the business is responsible for the company’s growth, then the other segments are not responsible for the company’s growth. This just isn’t true.
Juan Lulli of Patuxent Management staked out the territory that it is the responsibility of the Enterprise to generate growth. I mostly agree. The problem I have with words like Enterprise, Marketing, Sales, and Executive Leadership is that they don’t really mean anything. All of these segments are made up of individuals, each of whom is personally responsible for the company’s growth by playing their part in serving the company’s customers.
Too few companies understand that, regardless of what goods or services they provided, they are really a sales and marketing organization first and foremost.
This brings me to my second point:
When I joined the call, I entered in the middle of a discussion over sales goals and targets being set by executive leadership. The discussion hinged on the idea that goals may be unrealistic and unachievable with existing resources and market realities. Some of the discussion turned to what to do when faced with unrealistic goals and expectations.
Both the problem of engaging the entire organization to be part of the sales team, as well as managing executive leadership’s expectations can all boiled to one simple (but not easy) solution. And, it is something that only we in sales may be able to do: Sell.
It is very easy to believe that the job of acquiring and serving customers belongs to sales. There is no question that we are very protective and territorial about our clients. But to do our best work both acquiring and serving our customers, we need to align the entire organization.This often means that we have to sell the rest of the organization on joining us in our mission, something I have written about here in a post titled Selling Inside vs. Selling Outside. It is our job to sell the members of our teams on doing what is right to serve our customers.
As for executive management and expectations, the answer is the same: Sell. If the established goals can’t be met in the time they have set out, sell them on changing the goal or changing the deadline. If they can’t change the goal or the deadline, sell them on increasing the resources to meet the goals. Executive leadership has the responsibility to execute on their goals. But they also have great control of resource allocation, and they can usually move mountains if they need to in order to reach their goals.
Most in leadership roles are resourceful enough to help you get what you need to succeed, and that is really their primary role. Between you and me . . . most are easily sold.
Yes, We Can!
Fortunately, our training and our role in sales has prepared us for both the challenge of selling our organization on joining us in our effort to sell and create value for our customers and for selling executive leadership. We do so using the very same ideas, tools, techniques, and tactics that we use every day outside of the organization.
We develop relationships. We work to understand individual and collective needs. We help people realize or create a vision of something better. We present ideas, solutions. We demonstrate a return on investment. We build a case. We work the network of influencers and stakeholders within the organization. And then we obtain commitments.
What we do outside the four walls of our company is exactly the same thing we need to do within the four walls. “But wait,” you say. “My job is to sell outside of the company. My job is to bring in new customers.” And indeed you are correct. But serving those customers means orchestrating a team, and that team is made up of members of your company.
There is no doubt that those of us with the ability to influence things for a positive (better) outcome also have the responsibility to do so. Your influence is a force for change in both your organization and your customer’s.
In a perfect world, every employee would understand that what they do is really in some way to serve a customer. That is what organizations with customers are designed to do. Too often, though, little silos and fiefdoms develop. Many of these silos and fiefdoms believe that the responsibility for serving customers and for growth belongs to someone else. It doesn’t.
Growth is always easier when all of the individuals who work for an organization are aligned in acquiring and serving customers.
It is our job in sales to help create that alignment. That extends to selling executive leadership on helping us create that alignment. Selling outside is critical. So is selling inside.
1. Are there areas of your company that are walled off or disengaged from their role and responsibility in creating growth? Can you sell them a better vision?
2. Do you have a campaign to enlist their help and to bring them onto your team? How could you enlist their help?
3. Do you use the same skills and attributes that allow you to succeed outside your organization within the four walls of your organization?
4. Who is your best prospect withing your company? Who is your best prospect within your executive leadership team? What are their buying styles?
5. Do you engage your team long before you and your client need them? Do you develop those relationships so that you can count on them to help you generate growth and help your clients achieve their goals?
6. Are you selling inside?