Mastering Outside-In® Selling Habits

August 17th, 2011

This is a play on the incredible book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish. As Verne is to running a company, I hope to be to understanding sales in a customer centered selling organization.
Growing a company is an incredibly complicated undertaking. Growth takes a good idea where a market exists. It takes money, a leader, planning and a business strategy. Eventually it takes employees and culture. However all of these things are not enough. I have worked with many, many organizations that have all these things — yet they do not know how to sell anything. They try, they hire sales people, attempt to market and they sell some things. But they are frustrated and challenged and they struggle to figure out how to improve their selling habits.
I have some observations and ideas but a word of warning: words are easy, but implementation? Not so much. In the early days of any business, the business sells to everyone. Then you make more sales based on good service. If you have some customers and you treat them well, they will buy more. You can grow for a month, a quarter, or even a year by taking an existing cadre of customers and asking how else you can help. This supports the known premise that it is easier, cheaper, better, to keep a customer (and in this case grow with them) than it is to procure another.
But companies (your clients) decline, are bought out or outgrow you all the time. Your sales strategy, through excellent service keeps producing but not at the level you planned. You’re off forecast. Now what? This is where companies begin to add professional sales to their business model and strategy. And professional sales has a lot of complexities and selling habits to get it right:

  1. Leadership sells. They are the best in the company and compete for everything.
  2. Leadership is not ready to manage a sales force. Time, routine, planning are not in place and it takes time.
  3. Expectations are high. A sales force will come and go. But high activity targets for calls and meetings often create real frustration.
  4. Sales forecasts are unrealistic. The company expects the sales person to hit a revenue target very quickly. And they have too. There is no other way to justify the return on the payroll.
  5. Marketing role — do you have the tools and resources necessary to support sales?
  6. Poor targeting and lead generation — imagine starting off with the wrong potential targets for your service and all of your sales efforts over weeks, months, even years are directed to the wrong people? Happens everywhere…
  7. Lack of respect for defining a sales operating philosophy. How will you differentiate? Just go make more sales calls is the mantra!
  8. The natural tension between sales and service. We are different types. Yes, we are one team, it just takes time and effort for a team to find its way.
  9. Speaking of team and balance, it is difficult to shift from a service company, to one with a sales voice.
  10. Hire and ignore. Entrepreneurs do this everyday in areas of their business they don’t understand with no no source for training and little regard for knowledge building.
  11. Sales pipeline is often confused with sales wins.
  12. CRM: selling without a CRM means there is no process for managing prospect interactions. Selling with one means there are a lot of rules and administration to establish and keep up with.

We understand each complexity on its own, but the true complexity is that they all must run as one. To grow, formalizing sales and marketing is a reality. And it is habit of Outside-In® companies.

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