March 5, 2013

Selling to Your Sales Team !

India is the land of Micro Small & medium enterprises [MSME] and such firms face unique functional challenges to succeed in the domestic & global market. Particularly the task of organizing a powerful sales & marketing team is tremendous. Although several SME players would insist that finding cheap credit & trained workforce are far more serious than getting new orders. Well entrepreneurship is a challenge in itself and majority of SMEs are generally young firms that don’t have long experience & critical knowledge of the market garnered through years of operations I the market. However some firms fail to scale up with time due to many factors despite their efforts and vision. And majority of the times such firms show a distinct common strand of not having a powerful Sales & Marketing team to propel it to grow faster than the competition & demand in the market.
Many SMEs that have regional & national sales operations are straddled with teams that were relevant 20 years ago. Majority of such sales & marketing teams are full of people who have no formal business education and also have not been trained regularly on the job. Such teams function in a bureaucratic manner and lack creativity essential for real success in the market. You would be surprised to know that many sales professionals lack knowledge about size of market, nature of competition & consumer profile despite years of reasonably satisfactory performance. Well in a rapidly growing market it possible to sell with little or no effort but mature markets can only be dominated by a strategic approach.  
Few years ago I was hired by an established SME to rejuvenate & reengineer their sales team. The said company has been led by a technocrat engaged in manufacturing of capital equipment for high speed packaging machines catering to the need of other firms. The capital equipment they make were generally sourced from abroad at a premium & only limited domestic competition was there for them to take on. Therefore there was a ready market of export substitution at an Indian cost to the entrepreneurs.

Their commission based sales & service team had national presence and it recently had become the major bottleneck in achieving higher sales numbers to help the firm acquire critical size in the market. The promoters also enjoyed close relationship at top level in customer organizations. Business selling is a team sport and the seller has to satisfy large team at the customer firm consisting of cost & finance guys to operators. Another company engaged in manufacture of faucets, showers & bath fittings had virtually no control over the sales agent responsible for half the market. In India majority of firms involved b2b segment lack direct control over distribution network or the customers.

Several SMEs are in awe of the power & hold of their sales people on the market. Many firms are held hostage by the Sales & Marketing teams which lead to negative impact on the top line & strategic growth of such firms. There is need to create & train the sales teams to face the challenges of the contemporary market scenario in India. SMEs need to audit their sales team periodically and organize them based on their objectives such as nature of the competition, product handled, type of market and demand structure in the market.

The top management must keep two paces ahead of their sales force to get the desired results. Technical sales team must have trained sales professionals so that quality cold calling result in communicating the brand of selling firm. Sales professionals, like leaders, are made not born and regular training & nurture keep them in fighting fit condition. Sales training must be factored in the plan and be taken as ongoing activity rather than periodic break from selling routine. Healthy sales & marketing team attract customers, credit and effective team mates for other functions too as they are the external & internal ambassadors of the firm. 

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