Where Will Significant Sales Growth Come From?

CEOs often express to us that they would like their sales leaders “to be more strategic” and bring them ideas on how to grow the business rather than just run the day to day sales operations.  This seems like a reasonable expectation, but when we talk to sales leaders, many are just not wired that way.  They don’t know where to start.  They can see growth coming from adding a rep or two or continuing to add new customers to the mix, but few of them come up with anything that will dramatically increase sales for the company.

Is this because they are bad or lack intelligence?  Of course not.  Strategic thinking is a skill that needs to be learned just like anything else.  Some people gravitate to it naturally and see opportunity and plans all over the place.  Most of us don’t think that way.  One of the exercises that we put sales leaders through is to change the question from “Where can you find sales growth?” to “What would you have to do in order to quadruple the revenue of the company in the next five years?”   When we ask it this way, people’s mindsets change.  They start thinking about finding new markets, changing pricing structure, ramping up marketing, restructuring teams, etc.   In other words, they start thinking more strategically vs. incrementally.   When Netflix started their company, they didn’t ask “How can we deliver VHS Tapes and DVDs better than Blockbuster?”   Instead, they probably asked something like “What would make the movie-renting experience the best for consumers?”

We try to help people think outside the box of how things work today.  Forget about how you go to market today, about how you price your services, how you have your team structured today or even what products/services you have today.  Those things often limit your ability to think big.  Ask yourself some broader questions such as:

  • What does my market need today that nobody is providing?
  • What if we completely changed the way we priced our products/services?
  • What would we have to do if we went global?
  • What are the ways that we could reach a lot more customers?
  • What other industries/markets/verticals could we possibly pursue?

When generating ideas, stop yourself from saying “that’s not possible because…”  That limits creativity.  Instead try to turn the world upside-down and see what shakes out.   Only after you’ve generated ideas should you then go back and start filtering based on what’s possible or not.

This skill requires practice and very few people are good at it.  Go ahead.  Give it try.

If you are interested in this topic, we will covering it during our Sales Leader Alliance meeting on 10/17.  Contact Judd Anderson at janderson@pivotaladvisors.com if you would like to learn more.

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About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and owner of Pivotal Advisors dedicated to improving sales force effectiveness by consulting with CEO’s and sales leaders on the critical elements required for superior performance. Gary is experienced in planning and implementing sales strategies in highly competitive technology markets. He works with sales leaders to identify key areas within sales team for improvement, instruction on the use of technology, and how it helps provide structure for the sales leader to get the most out of his/her team and be more productive within the organization. As a sales leader, Gary's teams had continual growth in year over year's sales and led successful engagements with companies including Microsoft, Symantec, VMWare, Compuware, Sun Microsystems and Electronic Arts.

3 thoughts on “Where Will Significant Sales Growth Come From?

  1. What do you do Mike when you’ve asked those exact questions and you get the yawn or stare. Motivating seems difficult when there is complacency. Time for s shake up?

  2. Great question, Scott. We would obviously need to know a little more about the situation before making a serious recommendation, but I would ask yourself a few questions about the blank stare – Do they know HOW to do what you want them to do? They could be the most motivated people in the world (yawn withstanding) but if they don’t know HOW to go about thinking strategically, then they won’t be able to do it. I would also ask if they have the time or resources to do Strategic work. We ask a lot of our sales leaders and sometimes don’t realize that they are spending 50-60 hours per week just doing the blocking and tackling that we need them to do. Adding on a strategic project may be one too many things for them. If neither of these are true, then you should evaluate whether their role is really supposed to be a strategic one or an execution one. Most companies absolutely need good people who can execute even if they don’t have the strategic thinking component to them.

    Thanks for the comment!


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