It’s been the most hectic, reactive, fear based selling environment I’ve ever been a part of. With customer inventories up, revenues down, capital expenditures being cut, and organizations constantly restructuring getting a handle on revenue is difficult. It’s hard for companies to know what their customers are going to buy. Consistency is the biggest victim in this crazy market. When consistency goes, management does something funny. They get in the way.
When management can’t get a clear picture on what is going to happen, when forecasts are missed, when deals unexpectedly fall out of the pipeline, when they are behind on their numbers, management becomes control freaks. We over react and begin demanding revenue and booking reports. We demand weekly, pipeline updates. We ask for pipeline and account reviews. We schedule emergency expense updates. When things get inconsistent we look to regain control and blow apart the process already in place. Ironically, this just makes things more inconsistent. Especially for the people in the trenches, because they now spend more time reporting than doing their jobs. When this happens, management is just getting in the way.
Times like this are hard. I get it. Knowing what revenues is going to be are critical. Understanding the expenses to revenue ratio is critical. But if you want to get back to consistency. If you want to accelerate sales. Don’t get in the way, stay out of the way. Give your sales team as much time to sell as possible.
Note to management; get out of the way. Sales becomes increasingly difficult in lean times. More customer facing time is required. Deals take longer. Creativity is required. More effort is needed. Customers demand more, take more time to decide, have more cumbersome decision processes and are less inclined to take risk. Selling in this environment requires far more effort than normal. Taking your sales team out of their routine, giving them more internal reporting work, and focusing them on anything but selling is making the problem worse. As managers we need to report what is going to happen. We have to have as clear a view as possible into where the business is going. Grabbing control, and spinning the team into a tizzy isn’t the way to do it.
If things get inconsistent, if new, or more information is needed then change the existing processes. Don’t add to them. Even though customers and forecasting is inconsistent it doesn’t mean you have to be. Keep the sales team in front of the customer. Give them as much extra time as you can. Implement the processes you need. Get rid of the ones that no longer give you what you need and then . . . get out of the way. Your team has selling to do.