For me, sales is the most interesting and rewarding career available. It is a career which necessitates constant growth - personal and financial. The opportunity to generate uncapped incomes is alluring. You don’t need formal qualifications or skills. But, some personal attributes are essential and one of the main attributes is having a strong sense of ‘responsibility’.
We've all heard the excuses:
"the leads are no good"
"the customers aren't right"
"the product isn't right"
"the price is too high"
To be great at sales- and I mean for the long haul- you need to have an innate sense of responsibility. This responsibility transcends metrics. We all have KPI's and targets and they are necessary so management have something to gauge performance by, but the truly great take responsibility for results - lessening the need to external motivators.
Recently, I put on a couple of new hires for our organisation. They're young, slick, up beat, really positive guys that had done sales before - foundational sales - door knocking, event promotions and even some consultative sales experience. Trouble was, after two weeks of taking these guys out, running through in-house training and generally showing them the ropes, they didn't take one action outside "work hours" to learn their stuff. So when it came down to seeing their first appointment, they delayed, reappointed the meeting and didn't know where their presentation folders were. These guys have come a long way since, however, when I think back to that time, they did not take responsibility for their role, their purpose or their future. And you know what - IT WAS MY FAULT.
In my experience KPI's and monthly targets are not the aim, however, they are incredibly useful for tracking trends and market conditions. If the metrics are achievable they will be achieved (and in most cases smashed) by being truly responsible. If you are good at sales and not meeting target then the product may not be suited to your style (you don't believe in or understand the product) or you simply do not have the necessary skills - then you need to own that too!
Truly great salespeople understand that their role is to grow the business. There is no business which does not need revenue to exist. In my opinion, if a company is not growing it is about to move backwards if not already. As a salesperson, it's my responsibility to grow revenue. This revenue is required to pay every employee in the business. Without revenue (sales) the people in administration, accounts, operations, IT, warehousing and every other department don't get paid.
Don't get me wrong, being a team player is important. You gotta stay humble. It is impossible to perform at my peak unless I have a great team to support the sales process. Everyone in the organisation needs to be performing well for the business to be truly efficient. But it is my responsibility to make sure we all get paid.
Revenue needs customers - and as the salesperson, customer expectations are shaped by me. The deliverable's, the manner and the time in which they are delivered is negotiated with me. And you guessed it, becomes my responsibility- not physically delivering- but if I set unrealistic time limits, or made promises which can not be met, then that is my responsibility. I need to ensure that the terms of the deal are communicated effectively across all departments. The last thing we want for our customer is a disconnect between what was expected and what was delivered by the organisation. This typically leads to customer dissatisfaction and can damage potential to generate future sales and the reputation of the organisation.
Truly great salespeople also understand that, from time to time, deliverable's need to be negotiated the whole way through the organisation. Sometimes existing products are not enough to close a deal - this can mean thinking on your feet. It may involve creating value propositions which currently do not exist in the usual offerings. If this happens, the salesperson needs to take responsibility for the deal and make sure these 'special requirements' happen. Sure management may knock the deal back, but generally, if what was negotiated was achievable and viable, management will support the deal.
By truly owning the role, I have come to learn that it is my responsibility;
to make sure that the product offerings match customer needs and wants
that deliverable's are made on time and as promised
that new opportunities are generated
that existing customers are engaged
that revenue targets are met and where possible exceeded
Now I can already hear some people in the background suggesting that; product offerings; customer engagement and opportunities is marketing's role. Sure, if you work for an organisation which has a great marketing department then yeah you will be getting qualified leads that are ready to be closed. You may also be making great money, exceeding targets and KPI's and taking responsibility for meeting targets. But....and here is the But, if you were to take greater responsibility for more of the process and do more than the minimum requirement, your income will reach levels you didn't think were possible.
Too many good sales people relax into comfortable positions. They know how to build rapport; ask questions and uncover needs and wants; tailor product offerings to suit those customer needs and wants; build value; and close deals. They just never take full responsibility for growth. This happens when you are ensuring that the customers are truly satisfied, by engaging existing customers and generating new opportunities. If sales people were more proactive in these areas, they would be working with marketing to put new offerings together. The better marketing and sales work together the more effective targeting becomes and the results will follow.
We all love the freedom that sales can create, but with freedom comes responsibility. If you have been in your sales role for sometime and are meeting current targets and KPI's comfortably, it may be time for a new challenge. Rather than looking for the next opportunity (in a new role with another company), look at what you can do where you are. Maybe start by setting a new goal for your income - something big, REALLY BIG and then working out how you are going to sell enough to hit that goal. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THAT GOAL.