Tune-Up Sales Operations to Scale Your Business

by: Dan Zanetti

Your business is blessed with a product that enjoys strong customer demand. You have a sales team that really knows how to sell. Assuming you have a properly designed sales incentive program, what else do you need to do? Here are some thoughts on implementing sales operations processes that will help you scale your business.

Product Lead-Time Reduction

Let’s start with product lead-time reduction. When it seems that your sales team could sell 100% of what you can’t currently supply, then you need to focus on lead-time reduction! In addition, keeping your sales team informed of current product lead-times, the reasons for delays and planned recovery will make their job of managing customer expectations much easier.

Sales Automation and Forecasting

You also need to have automation tools in place to support your sales people. On-line, easy to use sales forecasting, opportunity tracking and case management tools are essential to any high-performance business. You may be sceptical of the benefits of automation (“what’s wrong with Excel?”), but having common customer knowledge readily available for the rest of your organization to use is a very powerful asset.

Take case management for instance. A Chief Commercial Officer I once worked for used to tell sales personnel that their customer issues didn’t exist unless they were in their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system (in this case Salesforce.com).  He knew that creating visibility to issues led to their prompt and sustainable resolution.

Sales forecasting is often a bugaboo for sales people, yet they are the ones best positioned to provide this and the entire organization needs to accept this. Again, a properly implemented CRM can be a boon here. Throughout my career, I have often been surprised by how many sales people never had sales and operations planning (S&OP) explained to them. Once they understand the ties to long term capacity planning, it is amazing how consistently the CRM is used, and how much better their forecasting becomes!

Competitive Insight and Customer Focus

Salespeople can be a great source of competitive information and you need to tap into that. Having them actively report back on pricing trends, evolving customer needs for product/service enhancements and the traction of competitor’s offerings can help guide your product development and marketing efforts.

Finally, driving strong customer focus throughout your organization will help both your sales team and your customers.  When everyone can link their activities to how it benefits the customer, they better understand how to help ensure business success.  Ensure your sales people facilitate regular, structured customer engagement with the staff in your organization resposible for product development and service delivery. This can be via face to face meetings with customers or the creation of customer focus teams. Such activity will strengthen the customer relationship, provide development for employees and ultimately increase customer satisfaction.

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