Article

Getting in the Sales Growth Groove

 Sales growth metrics improving

The perfect sales growth trend line is an elusive goal for many organizations. That steady upward climb in revenue year-over-year requires tenacious leadership, a strong sense of values throughout the company, and constant evaluation of priorities.

Steady growth increases profits and creates jobs, but growth that’s too fast or too slow puts the business’s future in jeopardy. Insufficient growth could mean downsizing, and making the emotionally-charged decisions of how to handle layoffs. On the other side of the coin, too much growth too quickly has its own set of challenges. A business that’s an overnight success needs leaders who are prepared to shift into high gear quickly, and start implementing changes almost immediately.

We’re going to talk about what it takes to get into the right groove with your sales growth, and how you can handle the challenges that arise when that trend line is tilting too far either direction.

The Full Spectrum Impacts of Sales

For any company struggling with low sales, we probably don’t need to spell out the issues that arise from that challenge, but for the sake of identifying solutions, let’s look at some of the impacts of low sales:

  • Revenue goals aren’t met, since sufficient growth can’t happen from current clients alone.
  • Prices have to be increased for current clients, which often results in them shopping around to find a different solution. If they do stick around, client satisfaction rates will suffer, meaning less of that coveted customer advocacy that brings in new business.
  • Downsizing may become unavoidable, and layoffs are an all-around morale killer.
  • If sales can’t be improved and the company is not enacting changes that bring numbers back up, eventually it’ll lead to closing doors.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, fast-growing businesses experience problems that include:

  • Balancing the business’s needs with employees’ needs
  • Keeping customers satisfied with the products/services
  • Cash flow management as investments are made
  • Maintaining a focused company culture as more employees are hired
  • Attracting and retaining top talent
  • Leaders facing burnout, as they struggle to keep up with increased demands on the business
Fortunately, there are solutions that address each of these challenges and move your business back into a steady growth state, and they don’t require completely separate tactics and systems to implement. They all stem from building an organization that is focused on learning; developing people to be prepared for new challenges, embracing change, and moving past both fear and complacency.

When you focus on developing your people, you can get ahead of the issues surrounding sales growth, and start seeing the positive impacts again – new jobs being added, increased profits, and the wider reach of the organization’s mission and vision.

Training the Team Beyond the Basics

When sales are down, it’s tempting to take your focus away from development and just keep pushing people to do more. But just doing more often results in spinning wheels that aren’t moving the company anywhere. That’s because working smart is just as important as working hard – and how to people get smarter? They learn!

When your teams are focused on learning the multitude of skills that will help them become more effective at their jobs, the results affecting sales are plentiful. High quality sales training translates to:

  • More reps hitting and exceeding quota – more revenue
  • Higher win rates – higher morale and motivation
  • Being able to align solutions to customer needs – higher customer satisfaction
  • Less turnover on the sales team – reduced turnover costs and better culture
  • Managers becoming coaches – employee satisfaction with career development

Training on how to use a CRM, what processes to use, and what products/services are offered all seems pretty straightforward, but a high quality sales training program that is expected to improve results needs to go far beyond that – especially for sales managers.

The 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study from CSO Insights found data that shows “Training services that are well-established and centered around products and processes are ranked as more effective compared to those services that have to be designed with customers at the core.”

This means that typically where sales training programs fall short isn’t with keeping reps updated on changes to the company’s products or services, or how to use new systems. It’s with the soft skills that allow reps to better relate to customers, listen to their needs, and find solutions that leave them highly satisfied with your company.

Some of the soft skills that your sales and customer service reps need to constantly be aware of include active listening, influencing others, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence. When your customer-facing teams value developing these skills, they’ll not only create higher customer satisfaction, but they’ll create brand advocates.

When you have customers who are highly satisfied with their interactions with your company, another way to boost sales is by ensuring your team is effective at cross-selling and upselling. Marketing Metrics says “The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5 to 20%. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70%.”

Training employees on skills like active listening helps them to read between the lines and address needs the customer hasn’t specifically voiced. This is especially crucial in the finance industry, since dealing with multiple financial institutions can be a huge hassle. If your customers are happy with the services they’re getting with an auto loan, and now they’re considering options for a mortgage, they’re likely to stick with who they know, rather than going for a lower rate at the expense of good service and reliability.

Providing training that covers a range of topics can help organizations in any industry boost low sales. The Go Solution, a service provider of home telecommunications, security, and insurance products, recognized their need for quick, easily accessible sales training content for their team. After implementing BizLibrary’s online training solutions, their salespeople were able to find content that helped them immensely on calls, resulting in a 7% increase in close rates. Having this content available also satisfied their employees’ desire for training and development opportunities, and costly employee turnover rates decreased by 87%.

The companies that gain an advantage over their competition and continually see steady sales growth are those that can go beyond being customer-focused, to being people-focused. They make their highest priority serving people, not just customers. That means understanding how investing in employees’ development solves a wide array of issues, not just low sales growth.

Looking at the issues of fast-growing businesses, it becomes obvious that a focus on employee development will also overcome many of those challenges. Leaders can’t handle rapid growth on their own – trying to is exactly what leads to burnout! They need people who are prepared to step into positions of more responsibility. They need to build teams that value strong relationships at work. They need people who are constantly learning how to work smarter. Most of all, they need to prepare managers to look beyond the day-to-day, leading and coaching their teams through any challenge that arises.

Managers Make All the Difference

Do you have the right people in sales management positions?

Just because someone was a great salesperson doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll make a great manager. You should put someone in a management position only after carefully analyzing their motivations, traits, and skills. Don’t promote or hire simply because they’re skilled at selling, do it because they show qualities of good leadership.

Having poor management of the sales team will directly and dramatically impact the team’s ability to stay motivated, and their likelihood to stay with the company. If they feel their manager is a hindrance to their performance or not helping them grow, they will find a company who invests more in building a strong management team.

The 2016 CSO Insights study found that 6% of study participants didn’t offer training services for salespeople, while 18.4% didn’t offer training for sales managers. Through their study results, they concluded that “the frontline sales manager’s role is often poorly defined and enabled, even though an investment in a single sales manager can positively impact the performance of many salespeople.”

CSO Insights compared organizations with annual investments in sales manager training of $500-$2500 per manager, versus $2500+ per manager. They found that with a higher investment in training, “…win rates could be increased by 9% up to 50.5% as compared to the average win rate of 46.2%. Revenue plan attainment could be increased by 18.4% up to 106.7% as compared to the average revenue attainment of 90.1%.”

If you’re looking to get leadership buy-in for a training program, placing a strong emphasis on training sales managers is the easiest way to show impact on revenue and prove potential ROI.

Sales is an area where professionals have to constantly look toward the future in order to beat out the competition. The rate at which products, technology, and businesses evolve means that growing in the market and keeping sales high requires having a curious, investigative mindset and constantly learning about customers’ changing motivations.

Allied Mineral Products has recognized that to stay competitive in the manufacturing industry, they need to build a learning culture where sales and service representatives have training and development available all the time. Their focus on a variety of topics in change management, sales cycles, communication skills, and performance excellence has helped them build a more successful business that stays ahead of the market.

Whether sales in your organization is creeping along too slowly to keep up with the company’s needs, or exploding too quickly and causing other issues to crop up, your people are always going to be the answer. Developing managers to be leaders and coaches, and training everyone on those all-important soft skills can help you prepare for any challenge and see the way through it toward success.

View our free on-demand webinar to learn how your sales managers can become the coaches your teams need:

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Krista researches, analyzes, and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. She looks at the industry shifts and trends that matter to L&D and HR professionals, and helps them understand how to create better training programs that grow their employees and their business.