Taking your business from surviving to thriving

Taking your business from surviving to thriving

Over the past few years, businesses have been in survival mode. Executives have had their hands full just keeping their businesses afloat while dealing with the pandemic, labor issues, supply chain issues, rising interest rates, the recession and more. As a leader, your job is not simply to maintain the status quo. To thrive, an organization must grow.

In my new book Growth Leader, I outline strategies for leaders to drive top- and bottom-line results. Here are three critical lessons for successfully leading growth.

1. Don’t neglect the sales experience in your customer experience.

Leaders recognize that customer experience is a point of differentiation for their company and build strategies for growth that factor CX into their plans. Unfortunately, most CX efforts focus on what happens after a prospect becomes a customer, completely neglecting what comes first: the sales experience. The sales experience is the first stage of the race to win and keep customers, and if your company doesn’t win it, your prospects will have a customer experience with your competitor.

Research on B2B transactions shows that up to 25% of your customer’s decision criteria is based on the sales experience. The sales experience is the most valuable decision factor for customers after the quality of the products and services you offer. So when your offering looks similar or the same as your competitors in the eyes of prospects, it is the sales experience that will differentiate your company and tip the scales in your favor.

Leaders should focus on designing a value-based sales experience, not just pitching products or presenting skills. Use your organizational knowledge and expertise to help clients think differently about their circumstances and needs and how best to address them. Focus your sales organization on helping customers recognize issues they haven’t identified as priorities, or the implications of challenges they haven’t considered. Help prospects see answers to their problems by using your solutions in ways they never thought of before. The value built into this type of partnership delivers a sales experience that customers are willing to pay for. They will vote for you with their dollars.

2. Eliminate the stigma of sales.

One of the main reasons why organizations fail to utilize sales experience is the presence of sales stigma: the negative perceptions and stereotypes associated with the sales profession. Most executives have functional backgrounds in finance, operations, technical areas, or sometimes marketing. Very rarely come from sales. While the role of sales has evolved dramatically since the early days of the U.S. Census, when sales jobs were relegated to “huckster” or “salesman,” the stigma persists. This affects the characteristics we typically look for in sales professionals, overemphasizing traits like an extroverted personality or aggressiveness, which are counterproductive in complex solution selling. It also affects how sales teams are developed and managed to open or close, without sufficient attention to consultative practices.

This has a limiting effect on how a business acquires new customers, expands its business with existing ones and builds customer loyalty. These outdated stereotypes and negative perceptions still influence dozens of critical decisions made by CEOs and executives about the sales function: the kind of people we recruit, how we manage them, how we pay them, how we develop them, and how we communicate with them. . .

Since beliefs shape behavior, stigma and counterproductive beliefs about sales must be addressed to drive growth. Creating a high-performance sales culture requires leaders to prioritize strategic perspective, technical or functional expertise, and intellect in recruiting sales professionals, as these are the skills most valued by customers. Leaders must also recognize the sophistication required to sell consulting solutions and invest strategically in coaching and management. Above all, leaders must separate the sales organization’s purpose from the results they achieve. Revenue and profit are often the primary objectives pursued in sales. But these metrics are the result of creating a valuable sales process for your customers, which provides a great sales force.

3. Align your sales organization with your strategy.

Every sales call determines the success or failure of your go-to-market strategy. In research Growth Leadermany CEOs said that the sales organization is always naturally farther from the C-suite than other functions, but the sales function is also the closest to the market. If you accept the inherent distance between sales and leadership, you also accept a large and costly distance between leadership and customers.

It’s up to executives to get more strategically involved with their sales organization. My research shows that most sales teams have little understanding of their company’s strategy – a 4.2 on a scale of 1-10. This is a big risk for growth objectives, since the sales team is the execution of your strategy. This execution happens hundreds, even thousands of times a day. It’s either a massive accumulation of victories or death by a thousand cuts.

Spend time with your sales leaders and frontline salespeople to make sure they understand your strategy and what it means to implement that strategy in the field. Be clear about the right type of business to pursue and the type of business to get away from. Help them understand the connections between your new products, services and capabilities, and the results and outcomes you believe your solutions will produce for them. Reinforce that the role of the sales organization is not just to produce numbers – but to create a valuable sales experience for customers. Do it well and the numbers will come.

If your business relies on a sales organization to connect with your customers, then growth and sales are inextricably linked. One of the predictable failures for companies is the disconnect between leadership, strategy and sales. Address these three critical topics with your sales organization and you’ll be on your way to growth, not just standing still.

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