Marc Benioff knows a thing or two about sales. He visits and meets with thousands of sales executives every year in his role as Chairman & CEO of salesforce.com. In the foreword of the book Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World’s Sales Leaders, Benioff is surprised that there isn’t more rigorous research in the field of sales. Incredibly, he says, “MBA students can graduate without ever attending a class in sales.”
A team of global leaders from McKinsey’s Sales & Marketing practice led comprehensive research and interviews with more than 120 of today’s most successful sales leaders across a wide range of industries. The results led to Sales Growth, one of the first comprehensive books on the discipline of sales management.
Read this book and you’ll learn about five strategies that the world’s best sales practitioners use to create growth in any market.
Strategy #1: Find Growth Before Your Competitors Do
The first way to find growth before your competitors do is to look 10 quarters ahead to find out what the market will want.
There’s a well-known quote by Wayne Gretzky, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.” In order to do this well, you’ll need to “surf the trends” and see where your market is heading. Of course, you will need to invest in the appropriate resources in order to take advantage of the demand when it hits.
You should be looking at technological, political, geographical, and regulatory trends. For instance, cloud computing is estimated to be worth $65-$85 billion by 2015, so one opportunity would be to target small businesses with a pay-as-you-go model for online software.
The second thing you can do to find growth before your competitors is to “mine growth beneath the surface.”
In essence, this is all about turning on the microscope to find small pockets of growth that collectively deliver real impact. For instance, a European telecommunications company broke down its 15 traditional sales regions into 500 micro-markets. This exercise made it very clear that it was under-investing in areas that were prime candidates for significant growth, and over-investing in areas where its returns would be much lower.
However, if you want to start analyzing your markets in this sort of microscopic detail, your sales force will need assistance from other teams, including marketing, and even customer service in order to execute effectively. For instance, your marketing team might need to transfer some of its spend to markets where there is more growth opportunity.
The third thing you can do is to “find growth in big data.”
Making the most of big data means doing much more than analyzing the information contained in your CRM. It includes looking at data from your company, your suppliers, partners, and even your customers’ social media accounts.
When you start looking at all the sources of data in your decision making process, you find growth potential in unexpected places. For instance, a marketing executive at Google noticed that the colour of the links in the Gmail ads was different from the colour of ads on the Google search engine. The company tested 40 different shades of blue to see which link colour would generate the most revenue. The results were staggering. The winning blue collar added $200 million in revenue to Google’s coffers.