In our book THE SUCCESS CADENCE, Tom Schodorf, Bart Fanelli and I ask these questions:
- How can leaders scale aggressive sales growth consistently?
- How can they achieve rapid, dramatic growth in their company?
- How can they sustain that growth over time?
The aggressive, sustainable growth so many company leaders seek, but few can actually point to, lies in moving yourself and your organization into a growth-driven sales culture. The following three steps are essential preliminaries to that shift.
STEP ONE: MOVE BEYOND A PRODUCT MENTALITY. Moving into a sales culture means doing a special kind of reality check. It means acknowledging that no matter how great our product or service is, no matter how wonderful its design, no matter how far ahead of the curve we may believe it to be, it is not great enough to sell itself. (Or if it does now, it won’t forever.) While some companies have attempted product-led growth with decent results, the reality remains that anything that is sold needs a sales team and any sales team needs both a clear leader and a clear process. We’ve worked with many people over the years who came up through the sales ranks and who have held a variety of positions in different functions in their career, including R&D. The pattern we’ve noticed is that they’ve come to the same conclusion that we have: In the end, if we want to be successful, we all “work” for sales.
STEP TWO: UNDERSTAND WHAT YOUR TRUE PRODUCT IS. We sales leaders sometimes need to change the way we think about our product. For instance: If our company sells software, we may be used to thinking of our product as software. If our company sells engineering services, we may be used to thinking of our product as engineering. If our company sells consulting, we may be used to thinking of our product as consulting. But if we are going to establish true leadership of the sales team, if we are going to scale our company’s growth over time, we need to understand that the physical objects and the services we ask salespeople to sell aren’t really our product. Our people are our product. As sales leaders, we must understand that our product is actually salespeople who are both willing and able to do their job. That’s what we are really being paid to find, develop, and bring into the organization. That’s what we are paid to hold onto. That’s what will determine whether or not our growth curve is scalable. Salespeople who are both willing and able are the ultimate competitive advantage—and finding them, hiring them, and holding onto them must be our top priority.
STEP THREE: COACH SALESPEOPLE TO MOVE “UP AND TO THE RIGHT.” To make what we’re talking about here just a little clearer, consider a fundamental element of the job description of a salesperson who’s responsible for generating new client relationships: prospecting. How many sales leaders have faced the challenge of having a salesperson on staff who clearly understood the problems their product or service solved, who understood how to add value to someone’s day, who was technically able to do the behaviors that would allow them to develop a base of new business opportunities—but who was, for some reason, consistently unwilling to prospect for business at the level the role required? Anyone who has ever led a sales team has had that experience. The big question with such a salesperson is whether we can coach them from the lower-right quadrant to the upper-right quadrant of the Willing and Able Matrix.
If we can’t coach, support, and lead such salespeople in a way that inspires them to move their daily and weekly routine toward “willing and able,” not just in terms of prospecting but in every critical area, then guess what? We’re not supporting an “up and to the right” culture of growth… and we’re not doing our organization, your team, or our own career any favors by keeping the person in a sales role. Not only that—we’re also failing to deliver the product that makes sustainable, scalable growth possible: salespeople who are both willing and able!