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Rikki don't lose (sight of) that number

Navigating Sales through the morass

The essential guide to IT transformation

Workshop The “number” is the most important word in any sales person’s vocabulary. It means the target, the total amount of closed business that needs to be achieved, whether in a month, a quarter or a year. Once that period is ended, the reset button is pressed and the cycle starts again.

Anyone who has been at the sharp end of sales will know that however good the back-end systems and support processes, or however compelling the product, achieving the number boils down to two things: firstly, deciding which of the many leads, prospects and accounts in front of them are likely to convert into sales; and secondly, working through the steps that lead to conversion.

Although simple in principle, in practice the challenge can be complicated by distractions. The sales process is like a giant funnel that must constantly be filled with new leads and opportunities.

Effort can be wasted in chasing after less lucrative, or indeed, non-existent, business. Sales meetings, admin and office politics can all take up time better spent in the field, closing deals or prospecting for new ones.

The role of technology cannot be overstated, but it is not just a question of providing sales administration systems.

Yes, it is important to log customer details and have access to product information. Equally, the ability to generate reports helps managers and staff to set up realistic targets and forecasts, and to build a picture of past success to guide future development.

But there is always more that can be done with IT systems – more information that could be captured and analysed, more integration, more power at the organisation’s fingertips.

"A Tower of Babel effect can also kick in"

However, if systems become too complex they can become yet another set of distractions. As information capture becomes more onerous it can get in the way of doing the job.

A Tower of Babel effect can also kick in when large quantities of information require a more complex degree of terminology and decision-making – strategy setting, management and reporting by territory for example.

When this happens, it is important not to forget the fundamentals. The basic elements at the core of sales activity should remain at the forefront.

Sales people’s jobs – to prospect, qualify and close deals – remains the same whatever other variables might change, from the regions they work in to the products they pitch.

In systems terms this becomes a question of ensuring the right information is easily visible, and that data can be logged with minimal overhead.

That doesn’t mean that all other information is redundant, or even secondary. Today’s information repositories offer an Aladdin’s Cave of potential, but it is not for the sales person to use up precious time picking through the glittering nuggets of data and making sense of them.

Anything that distracts from the number should be seen as a hindrance not just to sales staff but to the business as a whole. ®

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