"Sales is the lifeblood of every business, but I don't want to talk about it."
We all know this is true, but do we submit to it? Have you ever spent time with a business leader or salesperson and asked them about this? How does that conversation go? After meeting with hundreds (yes, hundreds) of business leaders, the subject of sales performance is one that is quite often, "off limits."
Here are two, very real examples that took place in the last 30 days:
- Speaking with an international CEO and current member of four boards, he advised me not to bring up the word sales with a CEO/President. He went on to say this is the one thing they (leaders) won't want to admit they don't understand or need help with. “Use the word revenue or something else,” he said.
- Another business leader, whom I have worked with in the past and has held the president's position, commented, "I have to admit, in thinking back to my leadership roles, I don't think I would hire you or someone like you to help with sales. It would make me look bad, even though I could have used the help."
Wow! Bet you are surprised to read these comments?
Whenever possible, I ask people this question: If money was not an issue and you had to hire salespeople, of all the salespeople you know, worked with, called on you, or otherwise, what percent would you hire? What would be your answer? The common answer is either 5 or 10 percent followed by, "actually, it would be a lot less than that." It is said about 5 percent of those interviewed, have a sales profile. Think about these two points.
Let's turn this around for a moment. I have been in leadership positions and can identify with the ego portion of the role. Like anyone else, I don't know everything including corporate finance. Sure, I understand basics, but nothing like a corporate financial officer. So when it comes time for a major investment or expenditure, should I make the decision on my own? Would you? Of course not. We would seek advice from the CFO or appropriate person.
So why is sales different? I submit because it is assumed everyone knows how to sell. After all, how hard can that be? All one has to do is talk, right? Be honest. It's not that easy. Therein lies the opportunity. So many organizations (and your competitors) are in the same situation as you.
To help you differentiate yourself and take the lead, I offer the following suggestions:
- Be open-minded: NONE of us knows everything. That's why we have employees, team and trusted advisors — to help. Don't we hire them to make us better?
- Perform a self-evaluation of your sales process & performance in private.
- Conduct an internal sales evaluation of your sales team. This is a 5 question, 5-minute evaluation administered by you, live, so you can observe the reactions of the group.
- Talk openly with your team and consider next steps.
- If applicable, seek assistance and don’t submit to the, “they don’t know my business” mentality.
- Support everyone involved. We all want direction and to be led.
These 6 steps are a great start to talking about your organization’s lifeline, sales. If you don’t, you might be talking to someone else about a new job.
Chuck Kitchen is an experienced industrial B2B manufacturing and distribution leader. As Principal of Business Betterments, he helps organizations improve their sales performance and bottom line. He can be reached at chuck@businessbetterments or 612-412-1341.