The predictability of commercial success
"My sales organisation does not meet the projections and the results fluctuate up and down. I don't know which switch I should turn for which result."
The eternal dilemma of the commercial director and a relatable story from the field by Bas Hafkenscheid. He's an Associate Partner at Boer & Croon and for 20 years now, he has been meeting with organisations that want to gain a grip on the predictability of commercial results."
“One example is an ambitious financial institution", Bas relates. "As the programme manager, I ran a large commercial excellence programme there. Beforehand, I spoke to the CCO and he said: 'Bas, I can feel the CEO breathing down my neck. We are structurally behind budget. And even if I submit a prediction of the coming results, I won't be able to meet those projections. And I don't know what the problem is and which switches I need to turn. Sales is like a black hole and we all wait and see what comes out every time...' Then with a deep sigh: "There's really not much that's in control."
OPTIMISING THE SALES, MARKETING AND PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT TRIANGLE
"I am trained to quickly get up to speed, to analyse, to find the common thread and to bring structure. What is the core of the problem? What are the operational challenges? Before you can start working on a solution, you need to know the causes behind the problems." This is what this technical business expert is well trained in, having once started his career at one of the big 4 consulting firms.
'Commercial excellence is the optimisation of the Sales, Marketing and Product Innovation triangle. But too often you see in organisations that these three entities operate independently from each other. Within the sales department, people still use the traditional account management model from 15 years ago. The people from product development, they're the techies. They did something great in the past and too often tend to work on new products in isolation. And marketing, those are the people from 'events' who get to do the fun stuff. Where we earn the money, they get to spend it." That's not in keeping with the times, according to the technical business expert.There are all kinds of technological developments and all kinds of trends nowadays that you, as an organisation, have got to deal with. Digital (inbound) marketing for example. That connects seamlessly to sales. And with those same digital tools, you very quickly find out how the market values your new products and services."
Getting an analysis and execution plan right is one thing, but getting the people in the organisation on board is even more important. "You have a limited amount of time to raise your profile as an interim professional. The first step is confrontation. I am always well prepared and can be fairly perceptive. During my introduction to an interim assignment, I ask the team members to fill me in. Tell me how things are going there, what you think about it all and what you think should happen. Often, I'll get stared at with a look that says: "Who do you think you are coming in here and throwing your weight around when you've only been here two minutes?" But the reason I'm here is because things aren't going great. And everyone is actually acutely aware of that." Then: "But I also have to get rid of the impression that I'm going to sort it all out just like that." Therefore, during my second statement, I emphasise that we can only be successful if we work together. This group of individuals has to become a team again and I am taking the lead in that respect." Still, it is quite confronting to discover that sales organisations do not have a clear idea of what an employee really contributes to the results. With sales apps, it is perfectly possible to follow the processes within the sales funnel and measure results. Where you used to do expensive research into brand awareness, there are now plenty of digital measuring tools out there nowadays.
DRIVING PROCESSES AND DATA
Introducing technology into commercial processes and strengthening cooperation in the sales, marketing and innovation triangle are two of the three pillars for boosting effectiveness. Bas's third hobbyhorse is to foster an agile way of thinking and working in a commercial organisation.
"Agile and Lean are often already well established in the operations environment. But there's still an old doorbell stuck on the shop door, so to speak. A lot of organisations are still far too traditional in their commercial activities. Driving processes and data is a crucial factor for success, especially in these times when decentralised working became the norm."
Bas’s motto: 'Minds are like parachutes, they only function when open.' That applies to me and also to the people I work with. Change is only possible if you give it a chance."
THE THREE PILLARS FOR BUSINESS ACCELERATION ACCORDING TO BOER & CROON
- Deploying technology within the commercial processes
- Strengthening the integration between sales, marketing and innovation
- Introducing or strengthening an agile way of thinking and working within a commercial organisation