It’s the end of the first quarter and many of you are looking at your sales results compared to your sales goals and if the results are poor, blaming your sales strategy. Well, the sales strategy may not be to blame.
Sometimes it’s obvious what went wrong, but sometimes it can be a few factors that contribute to the overall poor results — market predictions, understanding the skill set of your sales team, and understanding the sales cycle of your customer. I have found that the following 3 reasons are why sales strategies sometimes don’t lead to the desired results:
I have seen it time and time again, sales strategies failing at the execution level. The best-laid plans are just that – plans. The real results happen in the execution of those plans. Part of reviewing your execution includes:
Were your expectations too high?
Was your plan too ambitious? If you are ending your first quarter not having met your sales results, your plans could have been too grand. Was what you planned realistic? For example, if you planned for weekly call-out campaigns, your sales team needs to understand if they are to secure an actual sale over the phone or just generate a lead for future sales nurturing. Had you hoped that your sales team would deliver sales, or your marketing team’s campaigns would drive more leads? Adjust your expectations to a realistic level.
Did you have the right resources?
Consider the skill set of your sales team and whether they had the right training to execute the sales strategy. Providing them with a formal on boarding program for each service or product is essential to help them be successful. What about your support team – are there enough order takers or shipper-receivers in place to handle new orders, and what resources are in place to handle from lead to delivery? Every person in the sales cycle is important, but perhaps there was an area that was not covered. If so, adjust the plan to reflect that. You can’t expect great results if you don’t have the infrastructure in place to support the growth.
Who was accountable?
When you created the sales strategy did you share it with your team and hand off tasks to each of them to be accountable for? Did you hold regular meetings with your team to hear of any hurdles and get status updates? Did you hold yourself accountable for ensuring the plan was executed properly? Someone has to take responsibility for ensuring all goes according to plan.
After you’ve conducted a full review of the execution of your plan, you’ll easily see what areas and factors contributed to the failure of your sales strategy. In all likelihood, your plan was good and just needed some adjustments based around its execution. Once the adjustments are made, your sales strategy will help to grow your business.
As a business owner, you may have already set your business expectations in December. If you haven’t, January is a great time to set your expectations, plan how to achieve them, and begin execution.
Like setting a personal New Year’s resolution, we need to be realistic about setting our business expectations. Set them high, but not so high that they are impractical or unreachable but just high enough so your team has to stretch a little to get there. Stretching is good; as long as it is handled with strong leadership and a well thought-out plan.
Setting expectations is one of the basic fundamentals of management; yet, many business owners and CEOs fail to do this very important step effectively. Setting expectations requires planning and communicating your plan to your team.
To create realistic expectations, you’ll need to rely on your previous performance. For example, if you usually have 10% growth, then setting an expectation of 40% growth may not be realistic. Set an expectation that exceeds what you know you can achieve, but also encourages you to stretch to achieve it. If you are starting a new business or going into a new market / selling a new product, then you do not have previous performance results to rely on, but you can do some research to understand how these markets and products usually perform and set an obtainable goal that is not discouraging but high enough to help you get established.
Create a Plan
Once you know what you want to achieve, the next step is to create a plan to achieve this. Break your expectation down into smaller, more manageable parts that have actionable items.
For example, if your goal is to grow your business by 25%, you’ll need to ask yourself:
- Where will I get these new revenues from – existing customers or new customers?
- If it is from existing customers, which ones? How will you get the new business from them e.g. a marketing campaign targeting a new service/product?
- If it is new customers, how are you going to find them and market to them?
- What staff resources do I need to achieve this?
- How can you increase customer knowledge of your new service/product e.g. online advertising, brochures, your website?
Track Your Progress
Whether through Salesforce or other CRM platforms, you’ll need to keep track and monitor your progress towards meeting your expectations. For example, if you are planning on meeting your expectation by obtaining new clients, then you need to see how many new leads are being generated per week/month and how many result in a sale or new client. If there is no progress by the end of the first quarter, then you might want to look at your resources and your methods.
In my 20+ years of providing business advice to hundreds of business owners, I have learned that achieving the “impossible” is usually actually possible with hard work, dedication, and creativity, and setting ourselves up for success involves first creating realistic expectations. Every time I see a business do this, they’ve actually surpassed what once seemed impossible!