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Wisdom from an oracle

US businessman and billionaire Warren Buffett knows a thing or two about investing, and his insights and wise counsel hold true for building highly effective sales teams. Here are some of Buffett’s famous quotes and how we see them in relation to building healthy and prosperous sales cultures.

Wisdom from an oracle
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  • admin
  • July 01, 2015
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“There are no bonus points for complicated investments. The truly big investment idea can usually be explained in a short paragraph.”

A sales strategy should be easily understood by the business development team and the whole business. It should be expressed in simple language and clearly state the purpose of the business and its sales function, including which markets it is focusing on, the way it is going to go to market and what values and governance it will be held accountable to when engaging clients and team members. Go ahead and write a simple paragraph describing your sales strategy. Could your sales team follow it easily?

We have moved away from the obsessive oneeyed focus on reporting on the numbers and results alone (forecasting, pipeline, big data, etc.) at the expense of actually working with our sales teams to get them selling better and having better client interactions, based on value. You cannot coach results, you can only coach activities.

“Buy businesses that can be run by idiots. I try to buy stock in businesses that are so wonderful that an idiot can run them. Because sooner or later, one will.”

Businesses can’t rely on silver-bullet solutions to run and improve sales teams and operations. Instead, we need to start putting in place wellprepared sales operations frameworks and good sales strategies that allow anyone stepping into our sales world to have the best chance of getting out there and selling effectively.

We need to take sales management much more seriously and train sales managers to be effective sales leaders. They need the right resources to make sound decisions around sales strategy, market segmentation, account mapping, sales fi nancials, people selection and development, how they lead and deploy their sales teams, and how they work with the executive team.

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

Businesses need well-prepared, ready-to-go and relevant sales operations frameworks, and effective induction and development programs that actually equip people from the get-go, making it easy for them to learn and earn quickly. We must desist from throwing new recruits in the deep end which, sadly, has been the standard approach to ‘salesperson induction and development’ for what seems like eternity.

“Time will tell. Time is the friend of the wonderful business, the enemy of the mediocre.”

Developing an effective sales team takes time, dedication, leadership and courage in the face of short-termism and fads. For instance, after more than two years of working with the Barrett Consulting Group, using the Sales Essentials Learning Framework, sticking to the regular follow-up sessions with their salespeople and attending the managers’ coaching sessions with us, one of our clients has successfully established a robust sales learning and coaching framework with their sales teams. The sales managers can now implement one-on-one and group coaching in the fi eld and in sales meetings, and successfully facilitate sales workshops.

The retention rate of salespeople has improved and the business’s clients now accept these salespeople as worthy consultants in the fi eld, rather than simply product salespeople (still the standard in their industry). The whole sales team has adopted the core elements of Sales Essentials in their daily work practices, making the sales process, standards and tools a nationwide standard that all teams adhere to. This is leading to increased sales results, better margins, happier clients and salespeople, and a marked competitive edge.

“Bad things aren’t obvious when times are good. After all, you only fi nd out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.”

How many businesses and their sales teams were caught short by the GFC and the many changes that followed in the marketplace? Too many. Why? Because too many were not geared for customercentricity; they did not look ahead at what was changing, nor did they really listen to their clients and what they were wanting. The result? Too many businesses and their sales teams are in a pricing race to the bottom, because they do not know how to sell value instead of product, among other things.

Sales checklist

If more organisations followed Warren Buffettfs wise counsel when building and leading their sales teams, business would be booming. Do you have the following sales elements in place? ¡ Sales strategy with the right market segments supported by the right sales messaging and go-to-market action plan.

--Sales structure with clear levels of accountability, including standards of behaviour and values, so you know how to achieve better sales results.

--Sales processes that can be easily taught and applied in the real world. 

--User-friendly technology that helps people to sell and doesn't tie up staff in excessive administration.

--Sales managers who effectively lead, coach and support staff. 

--Continuous learning environment that encourages regular refl ection and practice, and keeps salespeople up to date.

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