For those people who have been reading my work for some time know that in order to achieve peak sales fitness, now and in the long term, I advocate that business and sales leaders and their sales teams need to adopt a Systems approach to sales operational excellence in order to sell better, deliver competitive sales strategies that work, find new uncontested markets and at the same time minimising execution risk on the ground.

My persistence in promoting and advocating for a Systems approach to sales excellence is deliberate on every level because if we want to stay in business and stay relevant adopting systems thinking pays, on every level, and shifts our thinking away from seeing training as the ONLY solution to selling better.

Systems Thinking* recognises there’s a lot more to selling better than just training. However, most leaders’ default setting to improve ‘Sales Fitness’ is to select training as the option of choice.

Sales operations are complex variable systems with many moving parts—they do not follow a straight line; smart companies get this. They recognise that oversimplification is their enemy when it comes to developing and deploying effective sales strategies and functioning sales operations and teams.

However, in a world of soundbites, instant information, and the constant pressure to come up with solutions to someone’s problems, easy answers have the greatest appeal even though these are usually far removed from the best answers – hence sales training and the default choice.

Easy answers lead to the proliferation of the oversimplification of complex issues especially when it comes to running an effective and sales fit team and operation.

Opting for the simple answer, like a 2 day sales training course, to fix a systemic sales issue usually makes matters far worse.

Which is why I thought you might like to do a preliminary assessment of your own sales system by answer the following questions:

Sales Strategy

  1. Has your business or sales strategy stopped delivering the returns it once did?
  2. Is your sales team reacting to market challenges and changes by discounting prices?
  3. Are your sales people reactive or lacking focus, and missing new market opportunities?
  4. Is your brand equity and value proposition losing currency with clients and markets?
  5. Do your sales people and leaders struggle to articulate the value their clients can get?

If you answer ‘Yes’ to any of these 5 questions you will likely need to review and assess your:

Sales Process

  1. Do your sales people have an ad hoc /reactive sales approach with no consistent sales process?
  2. Are other internal teams unaware of what your sales team is trying to achieve with customers?
  3. Do your new sales recruits take too long to get up to speed and earn?
  4. Are you missing the picture of what GOOD sales performance looks like and how to recruit for it?
  5. Are your sales managers managing from behind a desk rather than leading in the field?

If you answer ‘Yes’ to any of these 5 questions you will likely need to:

Sales People

  1. Is your sales productivity stagnating and sales results dropping despite training initiatives?
  2. Are your sales people finding selling harder and, instead making more excuses than sales?
  3. Are your sales people talking product features & benefits instead of business issues & solutions?
  4. Are your sales managers behaving as ‘super sales people’ instead of leading and coaching?
  5. Is your sales team struggling to meet sales targets despite KPIs and lots of ‘sales effort’?

If you answer ‘Yes’ to any of these 5 questions you will likely need to:

These are just some of the many questions that can reveal where in your sales system you need to take action to be able to sell better now and in the long term.

Understand, accounting for and continually working on the interconnectedness of your sales system is key to future success.

Word of advice: Don’t be fooled by short term fixes that promise amazing results over night, they are, unfortunately likely to be all ‘smoke and mirrors’.  

*What is Systems Thinking?

Systems thinking is a holistic approach to analysis that focuses on the way that a system’s constituent parts interrelate and how systems work over time and within the context of larger systems. The systems thinking approach contrasts with traditional analysis, which studies systems by breaking them down into their separate elements. Systems thinking can be used in any area of research and has been applied to the study of medical, environmental, political, economic, human resources, and educational systems, among many others.

According to systems thinking, system behaviour results from the effects of reinforcing and balancing processes. A reinforcing process leads to the increase of some system component. If reinforcement is unchecked by a balancing process, it eventually leads to collapse. A balancing process is one that tends to maintain equilibrium in a particular system.

Systems thinking originated in 1956, when Professor Jay Forrester founded the Systems Dynamic Group at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

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