I do dozens of business journals with all kinds of organizations, globally. Many struggle, they do not reach their numbers – at least steadily. Or their markets / customers change, or their competitors change.
They are all well-intentioned, but all too often they approach these challenges the wrong way.
Most of the time, they pledge to keep doing things, they've always done it except a little more.
They increase the pressure on the sellers. They arbitrarily increase the pressure on the activities. Make more calls, send more emails, have more meetings, find more offers.
They can increase pipeline coverage measures – rather than 3 times the coverage, you must have 4 times, 5 times, 6 times. You see the continuous boom of opportunities in the pipeline, but the performance will collapse.
Sometimes it works, at least temporarily. They see the performance increase, but it is rarely sustainable.
They relive the same cycle.
Or they start doing the calculations, adding more sellers, reasoning that the current sellers are at full capacity, so the only way to reach the numbers is to add more people. This works for a while, but over time, selling costs increase faster than revenue generation.
Alternatively, they begin to churn the sellers. Being thinking, "If we get the right people, it will solve our problems." But they have not done the analysis to understand the skills needed and what the "right" really means. Again, this can provide a little bump in the performance, but it's rarely sustainable.
The problem is, at a given moment, to do the same things we have always done at ever increasing volumes. We can not sustain our growth, we can not achieve our goals, our investment in these activities becomes unaffordable.
Still, we remain committed to this strategy and we are committed to failure (although we do not recognize it).
"Madness continues to do the same thing over and over again, waiting for a different result!" (This quote is attributed to Albert Einstein, I'm not sure if it's true, but it's a good quote, no matter who said it.
Some time ago, I had a difficult meeting with a VP of sales. I was brought by the council to help turn around.
Sales VP did not get results. He was trying hard, but doing all the things described above. Costs soared, performance continued to decline.
I had a meeting, saying, "You have to cut sales expenses by 25% …"
He responded, rightly angry, after all that is this "consultant" telling him what to do. "If you force me to do that, you have to reduce your quota by at least 25%." There is no way to reach that figure if I have to reduce the number of people I sell. ! "
Calmly, I replied, "No, you're still on the right track to achieve the business plan, you have to do it by spending 25% less than what you currently spend."
As you can guess, there was a pretty passionate conversation. The VP thought I did not understand the business, the challenges and the way they had always done things. He thought that I was completely unrealistic. He needed to get through all that, get him out of his chest, break down all the problems they're facing. Changes in the market, changes in the competition, greater difficulty in engaging customers. Inevitably, he also began to point out all the internal obstacles that prevented him and his team from succeeding (and there were internal problems).
In the end, I said, "I hear everything you say, but you are still responsible for carrying out the business plan, and you have to reduce the expenses of 25%. "
Frustrated, he replied, "I just can not do it, I have to change everything!"
He had finally found the key to the problem. He could not achieve his goals by doing the same things – he had several years to demonstrate his inability to do so. The only way he could achieve the goals was to change what he and his team did!
Once he recognized that, we could start making progress. We started to explore, what had changed in the market, how were the customers changed, how did the competitors change? What do we need to do differently to achieve the goals?
Finding the answers was not easy. He was a smart guy, he had a good team. They had just been prisoners of their own experience.
But when he's open to rethinking everything, we could start solving the problems.
It took a while, a few iterations. He made some mistakes, but he and the team were learning from them, adjusting their plans.
Over time, the team developed the new formula for success. They changed a lot of what they did – everything was not broken, but there were quite significant changes in their sales process, their engagement strategies and the essential skills to achieve the goals.
It is 18 months later. He and the team have made tremendous progress. They still have some way to go, but they are clearly on track to meet their goals and drive sales growth more profitably.
Sometimes, it takes a major event to force people to rethink what they do and reinvent their processes.
But whether we are individual contributors or we manage large organizations, we must continue to reassess what we do. We can not get married to doing things as we have always done. We must constantly seek to innovate and change – otherwise, in the end, what has always worked does not work anymore.
If we do not necessarily drive changes, top management will find the people who will do it.