How’s this for a headline:
“Sales performance in Australian businesses rated very poor to average, AIM survey finds.”
In Yolanda Redup’s article on Smartcompany.com.au – “Australian businesses are struggling to boost their sales performance, hampered by a lack of focus on customer service skills, a new survey has found.”
In this recent survey of 966 business professionals, the Australian Institute of Management uncovered some fascinating statistics self reported, on their perception of performance in the area of sales.
Some numbers from the report …
- 40% of businesses felt their business’s overall performance was in need of significant improvement
- Of this 40%, almost 75% of business owners believed their company’s sales performance was very poor to average.
But of chief executives responding to this question, a whopping 88% thought the sales performance was very poor to average. This highlights a huge gap in expectations and the perception of sales performance in business leaders compared to their managers on the shop floor. And it probably highlights a lack of skills of the managers concerned.
“Only 54% of team leaders, supervisors and frontline managers reported their sales performance was very poor to average, leading to the conclusion that the message that sales need to be lifted isn’t filtering down from the top level decision-makers.”
“Only” 54% thinking that their sales performance is very poor to average is a crisis situation! Stating that another way… More than half of those guiding the sales team know they could be performing better.
That “better performance” is directly related to profit for the business. Profit not being made. Margins not being achieved. Salespeople not making the sales they could be.
According to chief executive of the Victorian branch of AIM, Tony Gleeson, in the blog on Smartcompany, these businesses have difficulty communicating the aims of the company.
“They have difficulty communicating goals and even communicating the culture of the organisation to staff, as well as the way an organisation wants to react with customers and potential clients,” he says.
“Some businesses are all about selling and want their staff to get the sale and get out, while others want their staff to develop ongoing relationships with customers, but these varying strategies aren’t being understood.”
Now this is really interesting. Get this:-
“Despite the dismissal of sales performance of many businesses, only 10% of respondents ranked sales and customer service skills as important to advance their careers.”
“Gleeson says this reflects the stigma around the word “sales” and the fact it’s not being valued highly in organisations.
“A lot of people see sales as a dirty word and it’s not where they want to go in their career, but everyone sells,” he says.
“Sales is all about relationships… but it’s not valued highly by those outside of sales teams. In organisations where the chief executive takes a leadership role that helps drive a sales culture, but sales is so often misinterpreted.”
Out of the list of 11 skills, sales and customer service came in second last, with business etiquette the only skill to be rated less important. Topping the list of skills was leadership development with 46%, followed by creative thinking and problem solving.
The survey found only 38% of chief executives in Australian companies had sales management experience.
Gleeson says to have a good sales environment, it needs to be approached methodically with strategic plan, and everyone needs a good understanding of products and knowledge of the differences between selling, promotion and knowledge sharing.
“You need to embed a sales culture and reinforce it throughout the entire organisation… In some organisations where a CEO takes a leadership role that helps drive the culture,” he says.
“Often, the number one key person is the receptionist. The receptionist should know the products, what the business is providing and who the best people are to talk to.”
Businesses with sales managers were also found to have better sales performance than those without one.”
But wait – there is a glimmer of hope in this at least:
“Almost three quarters of the companies without a sales manager considered their sales management record as poor to moderate, whereas 65% of firms with a sales manager said they were doing well or extremely well.”
Smartcompany goes on to say according to Mr Gleeson, for small businesses, having a sales manager is crucial to the direction of the company.
“Someone needs to be the manager who can push the strategy and educate the other staff. Someone needs to be the leader or else you end up focusing on something the organisation doesn’t want,” he says.
So much for the article and survey.
What are the takeaways for you at home in your business?
Whether you are in Australia, or the UK or anywhere else the chances are that these problems of sales stagnation could be part of your local scene.
Stating the conclusion of the article in a different way and more simple terms – when your sales results are not up to scratch and your managers know it, you have the ‘tail wagging the dog’, within the business. That’s not just poor sales technique – that’s pitiful management.
Take Action To Solve This Problem
- Start with an objective review of your current processes.
- Designate a Sales Manager. If you have a small business where you do everything you now have another ‘hat’ to wear. And all those hats need to be on a chart showing the hierarchy of the organisation.
- Make customer service everybody’s priority.
- Define the culture you want to express in your business. Are you just after sales or do you want to build relationships with customers? Align purpose with all employees
- Work on identifying what you as the owner or manager of the business want to achieve and have the capacity to do so.
- Identify the strengths and weakness as well as the threats and opportunities that are currently present that are in the way of making more sales now.
- Use the findings from this analysis to assist you to set functional and well-formed objectives for the business to reach.
- Working out what the vision is you have for the business is a vital step before you can bring anyone else on to accept your vision and help you bring it to life.
Finally, invest in sales training. For you the owner manager, then get help to develop a method for your employees that takes into account the other values of the business and the business issues that relate to your sales productivity. That is to say, you need a training program implemented which is custom-tailored to your business.
These few things in this list – are actually a lot of work. Get help.