The Case of the … “Missing Sales”

It was a cold and gloomy day in late February when the telephone rang. I was in my office finalizing my latest case and was expecting to take a much needed break from my work. I took the call and as fate would have it, it was another case of…“the missing sales”. The manager on the line had just discovered….missing sales from his P&L. He was frantic, confused and in fear of loosing his job. We had to act fast. I quickly jotted down his name and address and set up a meeting for the next day.

Later that evening, I wondered what the manager would be like. Would he be clueless as to what had happened? What role did he play? How was he possibly responsible? Then, I thought about the others in his office. How many were there? What kind of training did they have? What was their background? What had they been doing the last month and a half? Where was the problem? What were the clues?

I realized quickly that I would need… just the facts. I needed to take a look at their (dundun-dadun)… activity. I needed to know exactly what had been going on over the last month and a half.

So, you did your planning in fourth quarter of 2022. You may have had your annual kick-off meeting. Everyone was motivated and had a fresh perspective for the upcoming year. You thought everything was in place and you had great hopes for 2023. Until today, you realize that YOU have a case of…“the missing sales”.

Is your business beginning to read like a mystery novel?

Problems that run the sphere from getting the appointment, low margins, lack of orders, tough competition, national accounts, … and oh yea, the economy gets the blame too. Sure it’s tough, I’m not disputing that but what have you changed? Are you still doing it the same way or with the same people? What have you done to adapt to the market? What have you done to solve the mystery of finding…“the missing sales”?

Sales is sales – it doesn’t matter if you’re selling paperclips or airplanes. Sure supply and demand will always play a role but, you see, here’s what I think the problem is (I may be wrong but I doubt it) I think that when things we’re going pretty good and business was easy, we got a little lazy. How many of you have done the following?

Hired someone, (anyone) just to fill an open position
Lowered your expectations
Quit monitoring the activity because in the past you didn’t need to
Accepted what your sales people tell you
Or, simply waiting for something good to happen…like a miracle

The sales are still out there, they’re not missing! It just requires SKILL to find them. When competition is fierce you’ve got to keep improving and tweaking your service and the skills of your staff. They have to have the tools, knowledge and let’s don’t forget – the ability to use them.

So what to do, where to look, the clues, the clues? Well first, I’ll assume you have the right person for the job of sales (because that’s a completely different topic). Now, go back to the basics of what you know will generate the result. Dust off those expectations, reports and goals and implement daily activity goals that must be met. At this moment, it will get tough for you – but hold their feet to the fire. Start managing – daily. The reason why I say daily, we may have some bad habits out there and you have to keep in mind that it takes 30 days to make or break a habit. So plan on an extensive 30-day management plan with your staff and, the success of your plan will depend on your commitment to see it through.

Second, train, practice and drill on a weekly if not daily basis. Teach them the consultative sales approach. Selling is a process not a one-time “happy call”. Their role needs to progress from being a relationship builder to being that of a business consultant. A consultant helps to solve your customers’ business problems.

Providing added value now means understanding your customer’s business, their industry, and their competitive environment. It means discovering how your service can play a strategic role in their business, and being able to communicate credibly with their top executives. It means finding out their buying behaviors, anticipating those behaviors, and responding strategically. It requires understanding how the customer uses your service over time and establishing relationships between and within the client and your service. By becoming a consultant they support the business goals of the customer while providing imaginative ideas and solutions.

The other factor required of the successful salesperson today is that of a strategist. The salesperson must provide a benefit to your service. They must be able to select profitable opportunities and demonstrate business value to the most influential people within an account. They must be able to communicate solutions to the top level. This means the ability to manage communications in a different way. And this is what creates sales effectiveness.

Fourth, change YOUR attitude and your team’s attitude will change. If you think you can’t – you can’t. So, if you think business is bad it will be. If your team is defeated maybe it’s because they’re reflecting your opinion. Remember, you set the pace so be careful what you think, say and do.

The last thing is to take ACTION! Activity generates activity. So, get going and FIND THOSE…”MISSING SALES”!

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