Sales Consultant

The bitter business acts as a sales consultant providing sales as a service in the areas of business development, sales strategy; social selling and high level lead generation. Entrepreneurs and early stage companies have no shortage of ideas on products and solutions but may struggle with ramping up sales and customer acquisition. In today’s digital environment — social media, social selling, inbound marketing, lower cost of customer acquisition, driving web traffic —it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what to do to raise the bar on generating sales revenue.

As a hands on sales consultant with real world experience in growing profitable businesses, The Bitter Business can help you plot and implement the paths that will lead to significant increases in sales revenue.

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1 Goal – Help You Improve Sales Revenue

The first step is to get to know the ins and outs of your market sector, quickly grasping the dynamics in the market. Next step is to work with you to uncover the changes and actions required to see sales revenue improvement. Then working hands on, moving from recommendations to implementing the actions and activities to move the dial on sales and marketing.

While I may call myself a sales consultant, my work goes way beyond just providing analysis and plans to help a business improve its sales, I get actively involved with the sales and marketing strategy using the Smarketing approach but never forgetting that at heart I am a person who sells things to other people.

Sales Consulting Approach from “The Bitter Business”

Learn the Product or Service

Apart from quickly immersing myself in the product to market fit, I take the time to get to know the company, its vision and what it wants to achieve. Then it is about acquiring expertise in the product or service while becoming familiar with competitors, market approach, the buyers journey and industry dynamics.

Generating Leads

The whole sales process starts with generating sales leads but to generate leads we need to build awareness and increase the consideration levels (sales pipeline, inbound marketing, proactive selling and social selling). The role of any good sales consultant is to start generating qualified leads. This means using a wide list of resources and skills to know who to target and then draw up a target selection profile including creating a database of people or companies that could potentially be interested in your offering. This work involves using a variety of prospecting tools ranging social networks, LinkedIn groups, business forums, content marketing, and business directories research to good old fashioned sales prospecting.

Lead Nurturing and Sales Appointments

Part of the work of a sales consultant is to nurture leads and secure sales appointments with prospective customers. Part of the service is developing a strong sales pipeline, provide sales forecasting and organising sales meetings. Also during a sales appointment, as a sales consultant I can demonstrate the product and provide any information that the customer asks for regarding the product to bring about a successful sale.

Sales Process

As a sales consultant who has worked for Dell, Oracle, Apple, J2 and many other companies I am experienced in looking at a business sales structure, processes and sales cycle. Part of my remit is to analyse the sales process to see how well it works and then recommend business advice on how to improve aspects like lead generation, close rates and shorter sales cycles. Also part of the role can be to go through the different aspects of a business (sales activities, marketing spend, customer acquisition strategies, cost per lead, sales productivity) to determine how to grow sales and then help the business owner to understand how the sales efforts needs to be improved. Providing auxiliary services, like SEO, inbound marketing, market research and competitor analysis or helping a client business implement an on-line strategy is all part of the services on offer

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Management Skill Set

Whether the sales efforts needs to be office-based spending time to observe the sales performance, working with the management team on strategy or working remotely to drive sales growth from scratch, The Bitter Business has the management skill set and over 30 years sales experience to deliver results. Like any business leader, I have strong people skills and comfortable working directly with business owners. Being highly analytical and quick to spot patterns and errors in a sales process has helped many clients in the past. As a sales consultant I enjoy being creative as I work with so many different types of sales processes from on-line to telesales to enterprise selling. Regardless of the challenge I have the skills to come up with cost effective solutions that are specific to each individual business.

Feel free to connect with me for a chat over a coffee as I am always happy to invest time listening to a business opportunity or challenge.

Sales Leadership

Sales leadership should not be confused with sales management; sales management implies authority to manage the sales team whereas being a sales leader implies team buy-in and commitment from the sales team towards higher business goals.

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In a rapidly changing sales environment, decisive sales leadership can be the difference between a company that thrives and a company that struggles to acquire enough customers to survive.

Sales leadership could be described as “the ability to get a salesperson to do something the sales leader wants done because the salesperson WANTS to do it.”

Here are a few qualities sales leaders have that separate them from just being sales managers.

  1. Sales leadership decisions are based on data

Selling is a numbers game, being a sales leader is part people artist, part data scientist. A successful sales strategy is measured in results – performance against targets. Were the sales results better than last quarter? How fast is the company’s revenue growing? Sales leaders know there cannot be “sales teams higher order needs” if the core sales results are not being delivered. Sales leaders through to sales managers or front line sales supervisors need to be number driven, using the data as proof of leadership effectiveness. Using data for sales and performance analysis allows sales leaders to make decisions for future sales growth or plans.

  1. Sales leaders have vision

The sales management aspect of running a sales team is mostly tactical, at the coal face level, sales leadership is about understand the business mission, the product strategy, the market dynamics, having a vision to where the sales growth can flow from and then putting in place plans and direction. Sales leadership is about taking the time to think strategically. Sales leaders impart there vision while stamping there mark on the culture of the sales organisation. Sales leaders devise sales plans, define, communicate and redefine the sales processes while uncovering sales effectiveness drivers using KPI’s.

  1. Sales leaders are empowering

Sales leadership is about getting the balance right between “Activity based management” and “Results based management”. Strong sales leaders empower their sales managers and sales reps to succeed using results based management. This means that Sales VPs or senior management sets the results and vision; they then empower the sales management and sales teams to execute the agreed sales tactics. Leaders lead and managers manage, this is why sales management is more focused on day-to-day sales execution and coaching the sales teams to sell more effectively. Sales leadership focuses on the data coupled with business mission to map out plans that gets buy-in and commitment from all the sales to the point where the sales team(s) WANTS to follow the sales leader and believe in the vision and strategic direction that the sales leader has communicated.

The effort and dedication to earn the title “sales leader” is high, and the business acumen along with business skills sales leaders must master require time and learning.

The path to sales leadership is no easy walk, and not every sales manager will join the ranks of company sales leader (usually a director or VP title. Why? Well research suggests that the average lifespan of VP sales is about 24 months. Why the short career? Today’s tough business market means the CEO has to deliver growth and change. If the sales leader does not manage the change, the CEO changes sales management.

So to be successful in sales leadership, a person has to have the vision. They take the time to think and plan ahead while executing against targets today. Sales leaders see the big picture. While sales managers know the “What” sales leaders know the “WHY and the “HOW”, sales leaders see opportunities and how to get them. Sales leaders inspire while keeping the sales team on track and on their toes. Sales leaders are tough, they say, “Let’s get moving or get left behind.”

Sales Management

Sales management or being a manager of a sales team could be described as leading people to higher levels of achievement to deliver company growth while implementing the sales process the company uses to target prospects and convert them to paying customers.

The starting point to managing a sales team is not with the sales team but with ourselves whether we are a sales manager or sales director. The reality is that to successfully manage and build a high performing sales team, the sales team needs a high performing sales manager.

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“People tend to follow those who will lead them somewhere”

To manage the sales team to high levels of performance, the sales manager needs at a minimum the following four competencies: (1) general business and market acumen, (2) ability to deliver effective coaching, (3) strong leadership skills and (4) evaluating and communicating individual salesperson performance. Sales managers who build on these core competencies are on the right track to managing the sales team.

In today’s highly competitive market with longer sales cycles and maybe smaller sales values, for a business to successfully sell their products or services, the sales leader needs to have these competencies to effectively manage and lead the sales team. The sales manager responsibilities also extends so that the sales team not only understands the sales objectives but the company’s overall strategic direction. It is about managing the sales team so they want to fully apply themselves to their roles and maximise their selling skills to sell solutions to customers.

Walk the job: As a sales manager, you need to allocate the time to work closely with your team so that you develop an understanding of each person’s motivation, strengths and weaknesses. This walking the job and communication will over time help a sales manager to put the right salesperson in the right sales role (hunter, miner, and farmer) that best suits the requirements of the sales process. A sales manager needs to organise the sales teams so that there is a range of different people bringing a range of different skills and experiences to the business.

Control: A sales manager can only control the outcome if they control what the sales people do! A balanced approach to managing sales people is about mixing activity based management with results based management. This is also known as Task V Individual in management schools. “Activity based management” is about giving the direction and coaching on the sales process and ensuring the associated activities get done. This could be coaching and educating sales people how many calls to make, how many appointments to set, what suspects to call, which products need to be pushed, etc.  The activities or tasks may be set by senior sales management or by the sales manager to assist the sales people to take ownership in managing their own sales business.

Remember that activity based management is not about trying to kill creativity or initiative in the sales process. It should be used to define the sales role expectations so that a sales person can take ownership of their role and clarifies the sales person question of “what do you want me to do?”

The “Results based management” aspect for a sales manager is to focus on the individual sales member’s goals, actions and target results.  It is about giving the sales team ownership and the ability to approach a sales process or task that suits their style. If a sales person likes to make a LinkedIn introduction prior to a sales call, then fine. This is about asking the sales person what their plan is to hit the sales target or what their personal goals are for a given sales period. Don’t be afraid to listen to the sales team’s views or insights on getting the desired results. It gives them freedom and shows you value their input.

If a sales manager gets the balance right between Activity and Results based management, sales teams realise their manager is leading them somewhere (bigger earnings, recognition, promotion, job enjoyment).

The Sales Managers “Playing Lines”.

Sales managers should set playing lines at an individual sales person level, they are at their widest when a sales person is delivering the agreed results, and the playing lines are at their tightest when the results are not there.

Playing lines represents how much scope (weekly rather than daily reports, less drill down on the pipeline or forecasting, reduced focus on the activity etc.) a sales person has earned from the sales manager when they are hitting their targets or results. If the results are there then the sales person enjoys the wider space in which to perform and be successful. The only things outside the playing lines are items such as company policies, human resources issues, unethical behaviour or actions that could affect the sales team. The sales person understands they have a level of autonomy earned from the sales manager due to past performance and can only be retained by continuing to perform.

The flip-side is if the sales results start to suffer or the numbers are not coming in, then the playing lines start to narrow. When the lines narrow, activity based management or task dominates. Now the sales manager needs to work the basics with the sales person bye spending more time challenging approaches or activities. Ask more questions. Deeper drill down into the metrics and status updates. The sales person still has the space to determine their own plan, just not as much. If over time, results are still not achieved and progress is not made then the playing lines will get even tighter to the point of performance management.

The playing lines concept is a great method to have a consistent approach to all sales team members with the ultimate goal of having all your sales team members operating within the widest lines of responsibility.

Quick sales management tip: Want to boost your sales team performance? It may sound simple but get the sales team spending more time selling. Managing a successful sales team requires the ability to get the sales team to spin the plates that matter.

A few more tips for managing a successful sales team.

Become a great sales coach

Create the space to let them do what they do best. Sell!

Give them recognition and constant feedback.

Always remember, in sales management it is not just about the final sales numbers. As any high performing sales manage will testify, you need the business acumen to know that the sales pipeline needs to be constantly filled and kept filling via sales activities, and this requires the competencies of a proper sales manager. In order to maximise the revenue of the sales teams pipeline, the sales manager needs to be able to analyse what actions and activities are working, and what is not then prioritise tasks. A high performing sales manager will always focus on the realities in the sales process of what works for the company and the sales team.

As written about earlier, managing a sales team is a balancing act. Clear guidelines on the “playing lines”, sales role definition and time spent on sales analysis can help sort the “what’s wrong from the “what’s working”. Strive to create the space to let the sales team do what they do best– sell the product. By working on the sales manager’s competencies and focusing on the sales process, a sales manager can enjoy watching the sales team thrive as a result of having earned a widening of the playing lines which will drive bigger revenue streams to contribute to company growth (not to mention your career).

Get the Sales Team Selling

To win more customers and grow, every business needs to focus on getting the sales team selling, they need to get sold on sales actions and sales time not just the company’s sales process. One question any salesperson needs clarification on is “what do you want me to do”. Seems like a easy question for a sales leader to answer,”Go sell”. So what does selling actually mean in your business?, is it revenue, margin, revenue by product line, number of new deals?. Once upon a time selling was easily quantified. In the day of the door to door sales, all a sales person needed was the product to demo and enough streets with enough door bells to ring. Simple numbers game, keep knocking until someone opens, give the sales pitch and close.

Today in the digital era, sales has moved inside, online, blended, push,pull, hunter,miner, gatherer and the systems supporting the sales process have gotten more complicated. First we had contact management with software programs like Goldmine, then came CRM and now Sales Force Automation.Which makes me wonder, has actual selling time got second billing to the sales process?, are sales people more engaged in the sales process and systems than the actual selling itself?. Maybe its time to spend longer fighting for more sales!

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Sales models for many companies have become more complex and less efficient in the quest for data, putting pressure on the rate they can acquire customers, productivity and even shifting the focus point from selling time to process time.

The guiding principle of all sales and marketing teams is to maximise selling time, lead generation and relationship building. That may sound obvious to any sales leader, but it is important to remember that the drive for data and sales insights can collide with the forces of rising complexity in the sales process. In fact, sales teams can over time slip comfortable into being sales processors against being sales winners. Companies must understand and clarify the scope of their sales teams while promoting efficiency throughout the sales process.

There are thousands of ways to kill a sale but only a few ways to win them. Some ways to kill a sale are obvious like not showing up to a meeting prepared, not following up, not listening, not establishing a realtionship, going to proposal too early, not speaking to decision makers… the list goes on. These can be easy to identify and with some training and practice can be overcome.

Then there are the sales killers that hide beneath the surface that many companies and sales managers do not even know exist. These are the sales weaknesses in the sales process (over reporting anyone?) which when combined with a salesperson’s own make-up can act like weights pulling down the sales efforts and results.

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Aligning your selling efforts with sales process takes work. Sometimes companies can be cautious about meddling with the sales force—directors and even owners need to overcome the common fear that disrupting it will hamper revenue or market intelligence. Then, other stake holders from not only sales, marketing and sales support but also other functions, such as finance, must work together to identify and prioritise the expected outputs from the sales engine. Next, successful sales teams transformations require support from the very top: someone has to take the lead, get the senior people from across the company to sit down, share data, and be willing to talk about what’s not working. This leader must override internal concerns, see the big picture, and focus on the best solutions to boost the time spent selling regardless of past practices.
Changing the sales focus and sales teams activities may mean changing the sales talent as successful sales teams refocusing may change how people carry out their roles and the ways other stakeholders interact, from customers to marketing and back offices.

Finally, winning back and protecting selling time for sales people to sell requires vigilance. The growth of multi channels marketing and sales channels in the  B2B and B2C markets can demand non-selling activities into the sales teams day. In addition, old habits chip away at selling time: a salespersons ingrained response when a customer needs a quick answer to something is to drop everything and dive in, even when a well mapped out sales support or customer support mechanism is in place to handle any issue faster and better. The new mantra has to be “A sales teams time is better used to sell.”

An example of refocusing the sales team selling time, was an Internet company who set aggressive targets for sales metrics such as the number of new customer interactions per week. Giving the sales people goals they could not meet without changing their behavior forced them to adopt to the change in sales focus. Success became self-reinforcing: the more they stayed in the business of selling the better they performed.

 In larger companies, viewing sales operations across departments may not be easy, nor is implementing changes that affect the entire sales process. Yet the more sales operations can be streamlined and admin reduced, the more likely customer satisfaction will improve as deals close quickly and sales pipeline grows faster. At these companies, the result can often be millions of Euros in higher revenues and lower sales costs.

Get the right sales people and channel in front of the customer at the right time.

It may not be enough to transform the sales teams by hiring people with the skills and capabilities to sell solutions to target sectors. Companies might have to restructure their sales coverage model, which means defining the sales roles differently. The questions to ask, include how much hunting versus gathering capacity to employ; what the role of sales specialists should be; whether to use one or multiple sales people to serve a segment or customers across different geographies.

When to hunt for new customers and when to mine deeper within current customers is one of the answers that needs to be made explicit to any sales team. Too many sales people often get comfortable serving their current customers, so an obvious initial step is to charge them with becoming more aggressive about mining the largest customers to their full potential. At the same time, however, the life blood of any business is acquiring new customers.

That’s why an effective coverage model needs to be deliberate about who should be hunting and where. Sales managers should meet regularly with hunting sales people to understand and actively refine their target prospects and beach-head plans. Given the degree of sales difficulty and the strategic value of acquiring new customers, sellers should receive a compensation recognition for breaking into new accounts.

Whether hunting,farming or mining, it’s critical to get the mix and sequence of sales skills, sales training and specialists right. Do not ignore a sales stream because there’s no sales expert in-house to cover the area with the skills the target customers considers crucial.

Sales people need to learn and be taught how to orchestrate effective teaming. Like musicians who seamlessly improvise back and forth after they have played together several times, salespeople who get to know and trust one another tend to sell together more effectively.

Sales people need to get sold on selling again,

They need to understand that new customer conversations are a priority, building and expanding relationships is more important that a spreadsheet and get the answer to “what do you want me to do?.

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.