Selling is an organizational function [for everybody].
It is a core function of every business that shouldn’t be relegated to one particular department or set of people in a company. Selling is a company-wide responsibility.
How Do I Mean?
The first purpose of a business is the creation of a customer through the provision of innovative products/services that meet people’s needs and solves their problems. A business exists to solve people’s problems through the products/services they create and by doing this; they make customers out of people.
Without customers, a company is out of business. And without selling, a company can’t create customers. So if a company must continue to exist, it must never fail in her core responsibility of creating customers.
Such a fundamental responsibility is beyond the scope of only a few sales superstars. It is the collective responsibility of everyone working in the company. It should be everyone’s responsibility to inform the right people [target market] of the company’s capacity to meet their needs and solve their problems. Creating a customer [selling] is not the duty of some people, it is everyone’s responsibility!
Strategic Selling VS Personal Selling
A couple of months ago, I was invited by a client who started business with 7 million naira 8 months prior to when he contacted me. At the time of our meeting, the start up capital had deflected to 2 million naira, that’s 5 million naira gone in just 8 months!
According to him, his sales people were the problem. They simply weren’t performing up to expectations despite his initial investment of a car to facilitate their work. So rather than make sales, they simply were losing money faster than they could ever imagine.
When we got talking, like I always begin every consulting/coaching project, I diagnose the problem by asking several questions. It turned out that these sales people had simply been hired, given a product to sell backed with some product knowledge and left to perform magic.
”What was the underlying idea behind this?” I asked him.
“Simple.” He answered. “During the interview I asked them to sell me anything they could see around them and the two candidates that succeeded in convincing me to buy got the job.”
And so off they went into the market to convince as many people as possible to buy the company’s product. After all, they could sell anything, right? Before long, these same sales superstars that could sell anything failed at selling something. And my dear client became worried!
In the course of my work with entrepreneurs helping them to grow their small businesses, such an experience is very common. They have a product, they hire some sales superstars and the rest as they say is history. When as an entrepreneur, you see selling as the task of a few individuals, rather than an organizational function, then there is problem.
Most entrepreneurs build fragmented organizations, this doesn’t cease to amaze me. Why on earth would you treat your business as a fragmented piece rather than the integrated whole it is? In a recent article, I talked about the need for strategic marketing. I pointed out why it is important for entrepreneurs to go about their marketing from an holistic approach, emphasizing that marketing is not a one off activity but one that requires a great deal of integration.
Selling is a marketing function and like all marketing functions, it needs to be strategically integrated. It is not something you lash out on with a few key people in your organization; it is a thing that must cut across the entire company. Your sales people are only a fraction of your entire marketing function. They are a tiny piece of a much larger whole.
So leaving sales in the hands of the salespeople is like expecting the whole to function with only one part, how possible is that? The fact that your business comprises several individuals performing certain specific functions doesn’t make it any less of an integrated system it is. Just as your body is an integrated system made up of several unique parts, so is a business.
Every department is a part of an integrated system. Every function is a part of a much bigger function. Every individual is a part of a team. In a company, nothing is by itself; everything and anything is attached to something and everything. Whatever affects the whole affects the part and whatever affects the part affects the whole. Nothing is independent, everything is inter-dependent!
So each part must be consciously aligned to serve the primary purpose of a business –creating and satisfying customers. And this is what I refer to as the integrated selling system.
What Is The Integrated Selling System?
The integrated selling system is about creating a customer-centred strategic marketing organization. It is about bringing the whole resources of a business together to create a company where everyone is focused on meeting the needs of the customer and solving their problems.
The integrated selling system is about creating a strategic sales process for your company. It is about putting the customer first; making the customer the boss. It is about placing the customer at the centre of everything everyone does in the organization. It is about collectively working together regardless of individual specialization to define, create, communicate, and deliver value to the customer.
The best way to understand this concept of integrated selling system is to see your business as a play, your workplace as the stage, your workers as actors, yourself as the director and your customers as the audience watching the play. The moment you understand this, you suddenly realize how everyone and everything fits together.
The audience [customer] doesn’t judge the play [business] by the performance of one singular actor [worker] or by the creativity of the director [owner]. To the audience, the outcome of the play is measured by the totality of the experience delivered by the entire crew. To the audience, the whole play is the sum of all its parts. To the audience, what matters most is the satisfaction derived from watching the play. If that satisfaction is hindered by one singular actor, to the audience, the entire play is a failure.
Customers don’t buy in parts; they buy finished products/services as a whole. So they don’t care any less about the individual parts that make up the whole they pay for, they only care about the impact the whole makes in their life. Customers judge the performance of a business and the satisfaction derived from consuming their products/services as a whole and not in parts. To the customer, everything and everyone involved in your company makes an impression.
Your task as an entrepreneur is to decide what that impression will be; negative or positive?
How To Create An Integrated Selling System
[The Strategic Sales Process]
The integrated selling system is how you strategically structure your business to make a positive impression on the customer. And here is how to do that.
Begin With “WHY?”
Why are you in this business?
Why are you doing what you are doing?
Why are you producing or selling what you are selling?
Why should your employees care about what your business does?
Why should the customers care about what your business does?
Beginning with “why” is a question of purpose. To enlist the support and commitment of your people in creating a positive impression on the customer will require much more than their salary. If your people are simply motivated to work because of their pay, then you don’t have a “why” or your “why” is not BIG enough for them to invest their heart into your business.
If there is no other reason why they should be working for you beyond just making the sale, then you’ve only succeeded in employing their body but not their heart nor their soul. And when people work for you with only their body, don’t expect the best from them. Why? Because they are only working for survival. And when survival is the object, business is as usual.
The “why” is the unseen part of the products/services you sell that gives both your people and your target customers a reason to associate with your brand. The “why” is the totality of the experience you are creating for the customer. The “why” is the emotion attached to your business both from your customers and your workers. The “why” is the meaning of your business. The “why” is the foundation on which all other functions derive their meaning. The “why” is what you want your business to be in the eyes of the customer, your workers, your competition and the world in general. The “why” is the essence of your business!
Your people needs to know, why are we here?
The customer needs to know, why are you here?
The world needs to know, why should we care that your business exists?
The integrated selling system is all about finding the “why”, creating it, communicating it and consistently delivering it. The why is that positive impression you must make on the customer. When the “why” is known, everyone and everything begins to make sense. Your people are free to creatively come up with their own ideas to ensure the why is achieved.
Because they see themselves as part of something bigger than you. They see themselves as co-creators of something that isn’t beneficial to only you. They see that the work they are being asked to do MATTERS, not to only to you, but to so many other people out there. They see themselves in the making of greatness. If you are going to raise an army of extraordinary workers, then you’ve got to give them a vision worth dying for!
Get The RIGHT People On Board And The WRONG People Off (The Who?)
When the “why” is clearly defined, the next step to creating an integrated selling system is getting the right people in and the wrong people out. The right people are those passionate about the “why”. How do you identify them?
Simply list out certain character traits you are looking for and select those who naturally exhibit those character traits. The key word here is –naturally exhibit. Meaning it is not something you remind them to do, but what they naturally do.
Assign ROLES And Clarify EXPECTATIONS (The What?)
Let each person function in their core areas of strength. Don’t put round pegs in a square hole. People function best in their areas of natural abilities. Remember, that’s what qualifies them as the right people. This is the assignment of roles, just like an actor is auditioned for a role that best suits their personality.
The second part is clarifying certain expectations demanded from each role assigned. Without clarifying expectations, it will be difficult to evaluate results. Remember, what you are trying to create is an integrated selling system comprising different functional parts collectively producing a definite outcome.
Establish Key PROCESSES For Each Role (The How?)
A system is a system because of its ability to create and recreate definite outcomes with little or no error. In order for your people to repeatedly create the desired outcomes from each role assigned, setup structures and processes through which they are to function.
An established process is a laid out step by step way of carrying out a particular function. Going back to our acting analogy, the script is the process actors must follow to make the play a success. In the world of business, this script is created into processes that your people follow. This is how they do what needs to be done to deliver the “why”.
Equip With NECESSARY Tools
Don’t send your people out into the market to bring in customers when they don’t have the required tools for the task. For every positive impression you want to make on the customer, make available the necessary tools for it. Tools help to facilitate the task of winning the customer. Stop telling your people to improvise, make available the tools for the kind of results you expect them to deliver.
Get OUT Of The Way
This is a very important step in creating an integrated selling system –freedom. People are not machines that you control, they are to be inspired and set free to do the work. Don’t box your people in with unnecessary supervisions, this is why you must assign roles and clarify expectations early enough. People need sufficient freedom to do their best work, so please let them be!
Evaluate, RE-ALIGN And Move On
Freedom doesn’t mean the absence of accountability; it only means the absence of unnecessary supervision. So you need to know how your people are doing. This is where evaluation comes in. Define specific timelines for each role assigned to assess outcomes against set expectations. If there be any mistake or short comings, point them out and re-align your people back on track so they can move on.
No system is without error, so this stage is very crucial. See it as the grease you apply on the engine to keep it working at its best. Never assume nothing will go wrong, something always go wrong. When it does happen, evaluate, re-align and move on.
Conclusion: Who Says Your Gate-man Can’t Sell?
The gate-man is the first person the customer meets at the point of entering into your business premises. The manner of reception is either going to reinforce what your salespeople claim your company is or will further create barriers to making the sale. In a previous unusual article, customer buying process, I mentioned one very important point –sales is never made in an instant!
Before a sale is made, several other factors must be considered by the prospect or target customer. All these factors are not only logical or rational, some are emotional or psychological. All these factors are considered by the customer every time they come in contact with your business. So what does this tell you?
That your salespeople are good at selling doesn’t guarantee that your gate-man won’t ruin the sales. The point is this, everyone must project a uniform image [the why] about the company that cuts across every cadre of the organization. The brand must be consistent whether the customer meets with your gate-man or salesman. Everyone is either eliminating the barriers to making the sale or they are adding more barriers. Period!
How do you approach selling in your business? Is it a fragmented responsibility of a few or the integrated responsibility of all?
From the above steps for creating an integrated selling system, which are you struggling with and why? Also, which have you successfully implemented and what were the outcomes?
Share your views in the comment section below. Can’t wait to hear from you!