“Selling is a science that must be artfully executed” is the message Craig Lowder is spreading to companies with stalled growth.
“Like any other science, there are scientific sales principles to follow,” says Lowder, author of the new book: “Smooth Selling Forever: Charting Your Company’s Course for Predictable and Sustainable Sales Growth” (Indie Books International, 2016).
Lowder is a sales-effectiveness expert with a 30-year track record of helping owners of small and mid-size companies achieve their sales goals. As president of MainSpring Sales Group, Lowder has worked with over 50 companies and increased first-year annual sales from 22 to 142 percent.
“Over the past three decades I have studied dozens and dozens of small to mid-size companies where the selling was not smooth,” says Lowder. “Patterns began to emerge as to why sales were not growing as expected.”
Based on Lowder’s research, the following list of reasons is provided in reverse rank order, from number 12 to number one:
12. No annual performance reviews. An annual performance review forces a manager to sit down and evaluate performance.
11. Over reliance on sales team to generate leads. Having sales reps fend for themselves when it comes to finding leads is an ineffective approach.
10. Limited, ineffective sales skills training; sales mentoring is non-existent. A sales leader should travel with each sales rep regularly–at least monthly–to determine their competency.
9. Compensation plan doesn’t incent desired behavior. What gets rewarded gets done. The comp plan should provide the right activity- and results-based incentives.
8. No customer relationship management (CRM) system. A first step is to determine the proper application of CRM for the team.
7. Sales message doesn’t differentiate from the competition. The company’s sales message must distinguish the company from the competition by communicating unique value.
6. Sales team is not staffed properly. The sales team must be led by a sales manager who is focused on building highly effective sales reps versus securing individual sales to achieve significant and sustainable results.
5. No short-term and/or long-term sales pipeline and forecasting tool. A sales pipeline and forecasting tool provides a bottom-up view for use by the company to forecast future sales, align costs with expected revenues, and accurately predict cash flow.
4. No weekly scheduled sales meetings for the group and one-to-one. These meetings should be a learning experience designed to share success stories, what’s working and what’s not working, as well as to identify and resolve issues that are getting in the way of making sales.
3. Sales metrics are not clearly defined. Attention must be paid to how a company is keeping score of sales activities and results.
2. No defined sales processes. Each step of a company’s sales processes must be clearly stated and documented. This creates a common language and understanding of sales success. It is vitally important to define checkpoints for each step in the sales process.
1. No detailed sales plan that is understood by the entire sales team. The number one reason holding companies back from smooth selling is the lack of a sales plan understood by all.
“Overall, the smooth selling systems described in the book help reduce stress for business leaders,” says Lowder, who also has worked for three Fortune 100 companies: Monsanto, Lucent, and CenturyLink. “When owners have a sales team they can count on, they can focus their attention on other areas of the business. When sales leaders have a sales team they can count on, they can produce more predictable and sustainable sales results.”