2018 Sales Looking Grim!

As 2017 has been widely stretching its arms and exhaling a low yawn, I’ve been being pondering what the new year will bring. A lot of great Sales Directors will be wondering something similar, looking forward to what their pipeline has in store – or will they? Having tackled most of the C-Suite in my previous articles, it was high time that I looked at this lucrative newcomer to the top table and it seemed that the answer to the previous question was a resounding “No” – 89% of respondents from an initial 331 Sales Directors that I reached out to weighed in to say as much.

I wasn’t satisfied with simply asking Sales Directors their feelings on their 2018 climates though so I delved further into their world by asking my network what they feel are the key characteristics that push them to the top of the food chain; what makes a great Sales Director? To get the ball rolling, I presented those asked with an extract from What You Can Learn From The Top Sales Leaders (Forbes, July 2017) which outlined the following categories as crucial in order for an individual to get the best from sales:

  • Being helpful: The best sales leaders are never that pushy because they would much rather spend the time selling to people they can help.

  • Acting like a consultant: The best salespeople make an effort to understand their prospect’s business and industry before making any suggestions. It’s all about relating and building trust.

  • Understanding your impact: Good sales people don’t just understand their industry and its context, they ask great follow up questions to close any gaps in information.

  • Being deliberate with your time: The average salesperson only spends two hours per day on revenue-generating activities while the highest performing sales people spend six hours per day on these tasks. Sales leaders are deliberate with their time.

  • Sales leaders aren’t going to waste time on a prospect who doesn’t seem like a good fit. Salespeople who are a little more pessimistic tend to question the credibility of buyers which means they’re a lot less likely to waste time on unqualified leads.

  • 44% of sales professionals give up after one follow-up even though most sales require multiple. The best sales people know when it’s time to let things rest.

I can say from the feedback that I received that the Sales Directors found “Acting like a consultant” to be their top quality in separating the wheat from the chaff with 61% in favour of this. The closest contender to this option was “Being helpful”, but the numbers showed that this option paled in comparison – only 17% of respondents espousing that this, in their opinion, was the most important quality in making a great Sales Director.

Another idea which cropped up as missing from the original article was the idea of “Knowing the rules of the game” where a few respondents explained it was important to “Understand what your limits are” so as to make “Each interaction valuable” in a job where everyone is “Time poor”.

To conclude: it seems that the best Sales Directors are those that are willing to push for the best outcome for both themselves and the customer, but are willing to take a hint if they realise that the potential sale isn’t there. That may seem a reductive point at first glance, but I’ve always thought this idea to be the art of business to a tee and there’s never enough times you can remind yourself of that idea. All I hope in the meantime is that these C-Suiters are in for a lovely Christmas and a happier 2018 than they expect when the new year rolls around. Having said that, I must chuckle that one response I received whilst conducting research for this article did leave me with this beauty: “I’ve never met a sales manager yet who is happy with their pipeline – they always want more!”