24 December 2006

Hitting the numbers

Sales is unforgiving. An annual target represents a series of quarterly and monthly targets and if one of them is missed by too large a margin then it makes it very difficult to hit the overall target. That means a continuous focus on the pipeline and the business that can be closed in the short term. It also means that sales targets have to be subtle - if the sales person is behind the target after only two months then the annual target may be so far out of reach that it is no longer an incentive.

Salespeople are regarded as short-termist by marketing people because they seem to be obsessed with those monthly targets. If Marketing was rewarded on the same basis, they would be equally driven. This has nothing to do with brains, vision or drive - sales have to be closed. The business has to be serviced as well, but that is a secondary problem. Without a strong focus on what business is closing and when it will be confirmed, the rest of the business wallows.

In a small B2B services company it is as important to make the numbers as it is in any other sector - the difference is that it can be harder to squeeze the client to a close by a specific date. That's a tension, but the balance has to be in favour of retaining the client relationship. If all else fails, people can be drafted in later in the year to work on an account which has been slow to close. Some businesses see that as a disaster, but it isn't - as businesses grow this type of phasing by clients becomes easier to manage, but even in larger organisations it is important to have a very clear eye on maintaining the flow of business.

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