There’s a widely held myth that sales people create growth. Entrepreneurs will say, “I need a really good hunter to get our business to the next level.” As if to say, hiring rainmakers will magically solve all their sales problems. It just doesn’t happen.
Before I go further, I will make a disclaimer. Yes, there are rainmakers out there. And yes, there are incredible sales people who can drive growth. But, and this is a big BUT, those individuals are few and far between. They aren’t growing on trees. Finding these rainmakers is a little like gambling. Sometimes you get lucky, but most of the time you don’t. It’s a crapshoot.
Here’s the reality: sales people are capacity. They don’t create demand for your products or services, they manage it. To grow your sales focus on lead generation, and then hire sales people to serve that demand.
Growth starts with leads
Lead generation is a process. It requires consistent, diligent effort to fill your funnel with qualified prospects.
You can generate leads in many ways: cold calling, networking, referrals, tradeshows, advertising, public relations, search engine optimization, pay-per-click campaigns, and more. The options are endless. It’s just about getting your name out there so buyers consider you when they have a need for your product or service.
When an organization relies too heavily on their sales people for lead generation they limit their options. Sales people can cold call and network, but not much else. So think broader. Make lead generation a functional area of your business, and work at growing market awareness and demand for your products and services. The function is known as Demand Creation.
Demand creation is one of the most exciting areas of sales today. It’s that place between sales and marketing that is focused on lead generation. When an organization invests purposefully in lead generation they become far more proactive and purposeful. They develop programs and systems to fill the funnel with qualified leads, and keep their sales force focused on buyers that want their services.
Sales people are not lazy
I hear it time-and-time again, “What am I paying sales people for if I am just feeding them the leads? They’ll just be order takers.” That statement is a cop out, and it’s bullshit.
Complex products and services don’t sell themselves. They require human intervention. They need sales people.
Complex products and services require sales people to facilitate the buying process. Sales people help their customers evaluate the solution, customize and configure the purchase to fit their needs, negotiate the deal and close the transaction. This process requires talented people to bring value to the customers.
When you have a well developed demand creation function you can hire sales people to do what they do best: facilitate the buying process. More importantly, demand creation makes sales far more predictable. You don’t have to guess what your sales people are going to produce, because they are busy working on qualified leads with predictable outcomes. It also dictates the size of your sales force. You hire sales people to serve the demand. The more demand you create, the more sales people you hire. If demand drops off, say for a recession or a market change, you can adjust your staffing requirements predictably.
It may seem counterintuitive, but sales people don’t create growth. They serve it. If you want to grow, focus on demand creation and build volume at the top of your funnel.
I leave this topic open for your input. What do you think?