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Navigate Your Company Out of Rough Waters Into Smooth Selling

Have the sales in your business been growing steadily and then suddenly stall? When it comes to sales growth, many small businesses experience a period where it feels like they aren’t moving. They struggle through rough waters and can’t seem to get ahead. It’s frustrating because it seemed like you were sailing along fine with a plan that worked and then suddenly it’s not anymore.

These rough waters or counter currents can be caused by too many opportunities pulling the company in different directions. Or maybe the market changed and became too saturated or a new competitor entered the waters. Whatever caused the wind to drop out of your sails, you missed it.

However, there is a way out to the calm seas of smooth selling again. First, the secret is gaining the knowledge of how other small and mid-size companies have done it, and then adapting and customizing their growth strategies for your business.

“It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage.” — George William Curtis, American author and civil service reformer, 1824-1892

Second, take an internal assessment. Are the right people with the knowledge and expertise ready to take the helm and guide the company into smoother selling waters? Are your sales people effective? Do they have the right skills to meet the customers’ needs? Are your sales managers providing the training, tools and motivation needed to get results? Is the team meeting to share best practices and opportunities for new sales?

Before you can start applying new skills, you need to assess your organization including your role as a business leader. Answer the following dozen questions to the best of your ability.

Test Your Smooth Selling Seaworthiness

Question Yes No I don’t know
Have you traveled with each of your sales reps in the past year to see what they are doing, how they are doing it, and if they are performing as expected?
Does your company hold weekly scheduled team sales meetings and one-to-ones with each member of the sales team?
Does your company have an annual budget for sales skills training?
Does every member of your sales teams have an assigned annual sales quota?
Does your company have a documented sales process and use an automated sales forecasting tool?
Does your company have documented results-based and activity-based sales performance metrics?
Does your company conduct annual sales performance reviews?
Does your company use a CRM system that has been customized to support your sales processes?
Does your sales incentive compensation plan drive the desired sales behavior?
Is your sales organization staffed properly?
Does your company have a sales message that differentiates your company from the competition and minimizes price competition?
Does your company have a detailed sales plan that is understood and is being followed by everyone on the sales team?

Your Selling Seaworthiness Score _____# of Yes Answers

Assessing Your Score

10-12 Yes. Bravo. Well done, Captain. You and your crew are doing a great deal correct. This puts you in the top 10 percent of all companies.

7-9 Yes. Congratulations, but mind the helm. While not smooth selling yet, you are making solid progress. But what are the gaps? This puts you in the better than average group.

4-6 Yes. All hands on deck. Your score is not good, but not unusual. Typically this means you have great opportunities for improvement. Start by plugging the biggest leaks.

1-3 Yes. Ahoy, your boat may be sinking. I wish I could say the only place to go is up. But in truth you could be sinking to the bottom. Take some comfort that about 30 percent of companies are there with you.

The Quest for Smooth Selling

The main message I teach is this: Selling is a science that must be artfully executed. Like any other science, there are scientific sales principles to follow. Much like the field of medicine, there needs to be diagnosis before prescription. The diagnosis, while artfully detected, is based on a body of knowledge. Gather the information you need both externally by looking at how other companies have righted the ship and internally by talking with your sales team and customers to collect the information needed to navigate forward.

After your diagnosis of what is wrong, you can craft a prescription or plan of action to improve. To succeed, there needs to be intense monitoring of the patient to get feedback on what is improving and what still needs to be addressed.

In medicine they call it the vital signs. In sales we call it the sales metrics.

Here is the good news. The dream of creating a smooth-selling system that will generate significant, predictable, and sustainable sales growth is obtainable; however, you must make the effort to get the knowledge of how others have done it and then apply that knowledge by leading your team forward with vision, communication, and constant assessment of the sales metrics.

For more tips on how to implement smooth selling techniques at your company check out my book.

Smooth Selling Forever enables small and mid-size business leaders to generate significant, predictable, and sustainable sales growth. Based in the science of selling, when applied correctly and managed vigilantly, smooth selling produces revenue results in a systematic fashion.

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