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Are You Sales Ready?

At last year's OutsourceWorld conference in NY (now called the Global Sourcing Forum+Expo, New York City, November 11-12, 2009) 3forward colleague Dan Hudson and I were shocked by the lack of sales readiness demonstrated by so many providers. (For the details read last fall's blog post titled OutsourceWorld 2008 – Emerging Providers Missed A Great Opportunity).

What was surprising was that such a large number of companies would spend the money they had on attendance fees, sales resources, travel, displays and collateral – just to look, sound and sell like everyone else. Which in most cases wasn't saying too much.

3forward has completed many custom sales readiness engagements and now even offer a one-day workshop on the subject.    The progression of sales mistakes we saw then, and continue uncovering in our workshops, often follows this path.  First, companies start by assuming that with what they consider competitive offerings and a web site, sales will simply happen. When that fails, they buy a list and try telemarketing. That doesn't work so they engage a rain maker. Still no results, so they bite the bullet and hire a sales rep. Six months later they fire the rep (if they haven't resigned already). By then one to two years have been lost and the pipeline is still meaningless.

Contributing to this cycle of poor results is a very common misconception held by too many leadership teams; the idea that selling is all Art and Rolodex. (Unfortunately this myth is often perpetuated by sales leaders themselves). While those elements rarely hurt results, they are not the best practices of high performance sales teams. In fact, basing hiring or strategy on just these qualities can be disastrous for emerging or mid-sized companies with little margin for error.

With so many organizations now in annual planning mode we decided to republish 3forward's sales readiness checklist to assist those in 2010 sales strategy sessions. We are also glad to talk with anyone facing a particularly challenging sales question so feel free to shoot us a note.

3forward's Sales Readiness Checklist

  1. Carefully choose the segments where you can best compete and serve.  If you are selling in the US for example, realize we are a multi-trillion dollar diverse economy, not a single, mass market of big companies.
  2. Think strategically about your sales model, i.e. direct, indirect, channels, reps, agents, etc.  Worthwhile results will not simply "happen" because you hope for them.
  3. Identify innovative and creative approaches to positioning yourself relative to your competition.
  4. Be unique in communicating your value proposition and the benefits your solutions provide.
  5. Sales requires investment.  No one who truly adds value to your marketing and sales process works just for contingency fees.
  6. Buyers are looking for process improvements and innovation from outsourcing relationships, not just cost cutting.  Identify your innovation examples during your presentations.
  7. Stop worrying about whether a slow economy is good or bad for outsourcing.  Your own decisions and actions determine your success far more than the latest stock market headlines or buyer surveys.
  8. Do not ignore your existing customers in your efforts to grow your revenues.  Remember, they are your competitor's prospect!
  9. Consider in-direct selling relationships and channels (alliances, partnering, sub-contracting) as an alternative sales model.  Many companies miss this as an opportunity to grow.
  10. Define a sales process for your company and follow it faithfully.

Have a comment, need help or want an outside opinion, we are glad to discuss your particular situation.  Let us hear from you!

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