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The foundations of Sales Excellence: Working In and On Your Business
After 20+ years in the sales development industry I have observed that while there are many excellent sales training programs offered in the market today, they are all centered on the learning of specific skills or sales competencies. True, salespeople absolutely need to learn such sales skills, yet unto itself these will never be enough for the achievement of sales excellence. It seems one critical component is always missing from these programs, and with it a series of foundational skills that have afforded me consistent high-performance throughout my career, and yet remain un-explored in the sales development market.
As someone that stands for Sales Excellence – knowing it can be achieved by anyone, or any team – I know that this critical component missing from today’s current sales equation, is the teaching of skills focused on working strategically with a salespersons entire portfolio of business. Selling a specific opportunity is obviously important but true sales excellence comes when a seller can manage a pipeline of opportunities. Not one opportunity, but many.
If sales excellence is where we’re aiming – by this I mean the repeated achievement of outcomes that are not just profitable but sustainably productive for both clients and the selling company – then salespeople must start by broaden their perspectives to include the working ‘ON’ their business, as well as working ‘IN’ their business.
Working IN their business is what most sellers are familiar with. This is the ability to work individual sales opportunities effectively and move them through the sales process to close (and hopefully “won” state). These are the skills that we always focus on in today’s sales learning programs.
Working ON their business however, is grossly taken for granted, and rarely ever taught. It seems that by providing a CRM, companies then assume their salespeople will instantly know how to “Fill, Evaluate, and Manage” many opportunities concurrently. This mind-set and behavior would be akin to providing a terrific set of golf clubs to someone and assuming they will immediately shoot a great game of golf. Skills and Strategy work together with the tools that you have to support you.
Working ON your business means a salesperson knows how to look holistically at their pipeline of opportunities and make decisions daily about where to put their time and energy. They treat their pipeline as a chess board and each move has a reason; they are therefore consciously and actively managing their pipeline.
By effectively evaluating and managing the flow of business opportunities into and out of your funnel, you set a vision for success. This is because you are managing your (and subsequently part of the business) pipeline as if it was your own business.
When done well, this conscious behavior shifts your perspective and attitudes, and consequently has you utilizing other capabilities to scale your business pipeline. You observe and find ways to maximize performance by leveraging resources (people, technology, tools, research etc.) because you are thinking strategically across many opportunities, not just one.
The true mark of an excellent salesperson is their ability to manage and win many opportunities at a time. Building a scalable and repeatable book of business takes more than just sales skills and competences – it requires a framework and approach, bringing with it new perceptions and attitudes around the sales skill you have. This can only be done when they are working ON their business in addition to working IN their business.