To be clear, there is no doubt in my mind that the key to growing your business is increasing your sales. More sales means more revenue, which encourages growth. However, there is an important word in there that every business owner and management team should really be aware of when they are looking to grow their sales. I didn’t say more revenue ‘is’ growth or ‘causes’ growth, I specifically said ‘encourages’ growth. There is a direct line between bringing in more sales, increasing revenue, and expanding, that much is clear, but sustained growth is not just about more orders. In fact, unless you have prepared for them properly, increased sales may not be the magic bullet solution you expected. They could lead to problems and, actually - in some extreme cases - be the catalyst of the opposite effect of what you wanted.
I know it seems counterintuitive to question the idea that sales may not be the key to a more successful business, but I have seen quite a few companies that have learned the truth about that the hard way. They will throw their resources at more salespeople, product promotions, setting targets and pushing the team to sell and so on, and often that will work. The orders come rolling in. Well for a while anyway, then things start to strain at the seams and it all gets problematic.
The bottom line is that unless you have a handle on the likely practicalities of your expected increase in sales, you could find that those orders vanish pretty quickly. For you to grow, you need your whole sales process to be able to scale with the increase. So, when I am asked how to increase sales, I will start by asking a few pertinent questions about what that means to the business. These are usually around:
Unless you are fully aware of where your customers start and end in your sales process you are storing up trouble for later. The ‘sale’ is not just the moment the customer commits to the purchase. Without understanding the customer journey right from initial interest through completion, you cannot fully grasp what is needed to increase sales in the first place. In short, you will lack context and without it, you are using guesswork.
This is a common problem. The sales team go ahead and do great things. Sales pour in and it is only then that you realise your sales processes are not able to fulfil the new demand or, worse still, inefficient and fractured.
Well of course they are, I mean they are selling already, aren’t they? Well, that may well be the case but are they ready to support that push for sales growth? Again, it isn’t unusual for cracks to start to appear as the volumes increase or for a lack of the right skills to be an obstacle to your expansion plans. Sales training is usually needed before and during the growth process.
Asking your salespeople to bring you more orders is fine, but they then look to your strategy to give them a framework in which to work. A strategy is much more than just a group of methods of increasing sales. It should encompass the whole process from marketing through to after-sales. It is about customer service, the journey, the shipping, and handling of orders, how your company and sales team will deal with and measure the growth and much more. The more focused and comprehensive it is, the more likely it is that your growth plans are going to succeed.
The truth is that if you have a well-trained sales team, it will increase sales. The sad additional truth is that this can be a very short-lived success if orders aren’t fulfilled, customer service doesn’t happen, there is no strategy to cater for the growth and the sales processes can’t cope. Not only will those orders tail off very quickly, but that great sales team you have will lose faith and probably move on.
If you want to expand by increasing your sales, then you need to make sure that you can accommodate that growth throughout the business. As proof of how important this is, some heavyweight names have hit the news over the last few years due to sales strategy issues. Tesla saw an increase in customer complaints about defects in their cars when they expanded rapidly only to overwhelm their quality control. Nike and H&M both ended up shedding stock at heavy discounts when they failed to accurately predict their growth and ended up with too much on the shelves. Even the mighty McDonalds grew too quickly in the early 2000s and, as a result, the increasing quality control issues caused by the rapid expansion impacted on their newly increased sales.
So, while you may well be in famous company if you give yourself problems by not growing your sales the right way, it’s probably not a club you want to belong to.
Let's chat about what your sales look like now, where you want to be, what we can do to make sure you get there… and then stay there.