Why neglecting investment in sales is so costly for businesses
In this guest article, Bryn Thompson, co-author of Transformational Selling, discusses the role of Sales in a business, and how efficient and continuous training for your sales employees can aid in their ability to perform.
Businesses spend fortunes on software development, manufacturing processes, marketing, and other activities whilst making little to no investment in Sales – especially in human resources rather than just technology. It’s like designing a great car but neglecting to fit it with an engine, which defies logic.
Consequently, sales figures in many businesses are rarely at the level owners, shareholders and investors require. The typical response is to let go of some salespeople, bring in new recruits, and then repeat the cycle.
The issue doesn’t necessarily lie with the sellers. Many are drawn into the profession due to their product or industry knowledge or simply drift into Sales. Few, if any, graduated with a formal education in Sales or experts before entering this challenging role.
Their onboarding often lasts just a few weeks, focusing primarily on the product or service their company offers. There’s limited guidance on how to identify and qualify the best leads, engage prospects, ask the right questions, understand customer challenges and needs, handle objections, pitch or present solutions based on prior conversations, provide valuable insights to achieve their desired outcomes, negotiate effectively to maintain a good margin; and consistently convert a high number of opportunities. And all of that does not even touch upon the intricacies of managing large accounts and dealing with multi-level stakeholders with differing goals and objectives.
While there’s recently been more emphasis towards developing Sales teams, it’s frequently limited to short-term programmes, perhaps at their Annual Conference or kick-off event, or sporadic remote sessions, especially post-pandemic. Training is one of the first areas to be scaled back when a recession bites.
Many sales managers and team leaders land their roles by being the best sellers – this is akin to making your star striker the football team manager overnight: it rarely works as the role demands a different skill set, where being a great coach becomes critical.
So, what’s the solution? In the same way you would expect an accountant, lawyer or manufacturing expert to have spent a long time learning their craft, Sales must be recognised and valued as a profession to attract the best talent.
Businesses should also perceive sales development as a continuous process rather than a series of one-off events. Whilst not everyone agrees with Malcolm Gladwell’s idea of needing ten thousand hours to become an expert, most people would agree that you don’t become a great salesperson in just a few weeks.
Finally, don’t just promote someone into a management or leadership position solely based on their sales achievements. Invest in their coaching and leadership abilities, enabling them to uplift the performance of their charges.
With consistent application of these principles, you will no doubt increase your business performance.