ABC Blog: Sales – Is it just a department?

MANY BUSINESS OWNERS UNDERSTAND the need for growth – whether this takes the form of a marketing campaign to promote the business, the hiring of a new employee, or a targeted sales campaign to win fresh clients and win new customers.

Some companies have evolved to the point where they have a given department for a specific function, such as HR or ‘Human Resources’. And we would have quite a defined idea of what we would approach someone in HR for.

Similarly, a finance department might include your payroll administrator, and your marketing department might include an in-house graphics designer for pamphlets, leaflets, flyers and web content.

Other ‘departments’ might include production, manufacturing, IT support, general business administration and even in some cases a customer service or complaints department.

Sales, on the other hand, cannot be described as just another department.

This is simply because sales is the ‘lifeblood’ of any business.

My focus is chiefly on the Irish SME space, but some of the key concepts extend beyond small to medium sized enterprises in western Europe!

From the HR administrator to the CEO, everyone in your company is a potential sales ambassador, and ought to be able to tell their family and friends who we are, what we do, who our key clients are and what need is met by our services and products.

Absolutely everyone – even the software developers!

Without sales, the payroll administrator, the graphics designer and the business owner don’t get paid!

So who takes responsibility?

Who is responsible for sales in your business?

It might be worth reconsidering or redefining the role of your sales team within the overall context of the company.

Some organisations have a Sales director, whose purpose would include to train, hire and manage a team of sales professionals.

But oft times this can mean sales departments get lost in meaningless talk of targets, goals, crm, admin and kpis etc and they forget to focus their time and attention on the main priority – the customers!

Some organisations have inside sales, outbound sales, account managers, telemarketing and remote field sales reps. There are various ways in which sales can be made, processed and delivered. Indeed, prospecting for new business can take the form of many varied activities – see below.

In the modern era, human skills such as rapport building, listening, empathy, attunement and brevity (a much recommended read on this is by Dan Pink “To Sell is Human”) are on the decline. Technology has inserted itself as a key player in the process of getting leads, creating opportunities, and making sales. Particularly if your best sales person is your website!

Many business owners can invest huge sums of time and energy in SEO (search engine optimisation) google adwords, and writing blogs. All to ensure that your website is making sales.

The recent push for inbound marketing in order to let your clients come to you, makes complete sense, but when I hear that “Cold calling is dead” it makes me chuckle, because a well-timed, professional, polite and well-researched sales call can lead to huge opportunities and sales exceeding monthly and quarterly targets for revenues and GP.

In fact, I was advised a couple of years ago that one cold call I made ultimately led to over €100,000 of business with a client. Now a lot of work had to be done by my colleagues in between the initial cold call and business closed, but still, that’s not a bad referral, is it?

So depending on the nature of the business, it might be worth sitting down with all of your staff, and asking each and every one of them for a lead. I often found that the person emptying the bins and cleaning the toilets, at least as knowledgeable as the managing director, when it came to finding out about what was going on!

A great story told by a fellow sales professional, when he visited a client of mine a couple of years ago, went along the lines that the company owner got chatting to the receptionist and found out that her brother owned a large company who became a prospective client with whom vast sums of business were ultimately transacted – and all because he stopped to ask about her and her family. “Word of Mouth” is king!

The more leads you have, the more opportunities can be created. The more opportunities you have, the better the chance of closing more business.

If sales is regarded as the lifeblood of your business, and not just a department, prospecting for great leads can happen anywhere and great leads can be found almost anywhere! What else is possible?

Thanks for taking a minute to read the Ashley Business blog, feel free to like, share etc on social media platforms in order to help me become extremely rich and famous.

Wishing you all a happy and prosperous end of summer. The All-Ireland finals are upon us, and ‘Back to School’ is looming on the horizon. As they say in Ireland, summer – it was our favourite day of the year!

God Bless

Carl J Ashley

August 2019