Want Change? Put a Shark in the Tank!

Bear with me on this as I have to explain…

People hire me to create change, create sales growth, so I’m known as a sales turnaround specialist…

Many people will know I’m hired when a company’s Sales Operating Model is stale and failing to deliver growth. Or when the cost of acquiring new business exceeds 10% ROI. You do measure this don’t you…?

I typically work locally with small to medium sized businesses and occasionally enterprise sales organisations in the East Midlands.

So why am I telling you this? Well, when I walk into an organisation, I won’t be rude but I’m not hired to make friends or pander to your sales people, I’m hired to make a difference and turn your sales opportunities into profitable business and I’m looking for a feeling, those gut feelings that help me identify what’s really going on.

So what are the signs of a poor Sales Operating Model? There can be (not all the time) a huge amount of activity at the top of the sales pipeline, working on projects that may never close, spraying valuable information, giving away free consultancy in the hope that someone will buy from you, but in reality very little actually turns into new business.

I see lot of unsold stock on the shelves. Often the marketing and sales department (the growth department) are under resourced and treated as a necessary evil, under funded, money is tight and the people are stretched. Other signs can be cash flow concerns and infighting between sales people and departments.

This happens when you haven’t got a Shark in the tank!

Here’s and example: back in the 70’s someone came up with the bright idea of catching live fish in the Pacific, putting them into a tanks and flying them across America so they could sell fresh fish to the fancy east coast restaurants and get 5-10 times the price.

They converted planes into flying fish tanks for this purpose. However upon arrival lots of fish were found dead, floating upside down by the time they landed.

The loss was killing the business so they consulted a marine biologist. The biologist looked at the problem and quickly said,  “That’s easy! Put a Shark in the tank. Nothing so large that it will do them harm, but large enough to put some tension in the tank.” And it worked!

If you’re managing a Growth Department (Sales and Marketing team) you need a Shark…

What do Sharks do?

I believe Marketing and Sales should be as one. Marketing ideal clients but driven by a sales focus, not the typical fluffy stuff you see out there…

Sharks have a Sales Operating Model (SOM) the rules of engagement are clearly set out, a common sales language is in place so everyone knows and understands. Sharks should make the internal sell twice as hard as the external sell, the salesperson has to demonstrate the project is profitable and feasible before the company takes on the new business. They can only do this by having a ‘cookie cutter’ – a systematic way of identifying and qualifying opportunities.

You can’t and don’t want to do everything offered. A good sales team may present 20 projects all with varying degrees of profitability, resource and time requirements. However the organisation may only be able to resource 4 to 6 projects at a time. The organisation has to have a system to be able to weight the opportunity and one that free’s up the team to move quickly as time kills sales opportunities. The team needs to quickly identify unprofitable projects and pass these onto the competition instead.

Good SOM’s enable the sales leaders to measure the cost of the sale at each stage of the selling process, especially when pursuing costly bid requests and adapting to changes in the market.

Without a common language the organisation is exposed to ‘woolly’ information and undermines the whole system.

As a sales leader your job is to make the best salespeople work on the best opportunities. If you fail to do this you will fail to generate the desired results.

Shark’s bring clearly defined accountability that includes rewards and consequences, as salespeople easily lapse into bad habits.

Blog written on this topic taken from this video by my mentor Marcus Cauchi and Nick Ayton.

Peter Jones

Peter Jones

Peter Jones is Managing Director of Sandler Training in the East Midlands. Peter works with business owners and MD’s who want to increase their return on investment made in their sales team and business owners who need to improve their business development skills.

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