Are your revenues limited by a permanent glass ceiling?

Sales, sales and more sales.

Sales, and the art of selling, are a crucial part of more or less every business. But while most are after that step-change increase in revenues, very few know how to make it happen.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that many organisations that I come across are not sales led. And that’s a problem.

What does that mean and why does this happen?

In order to answer this question you need to look at the issue from two perspectives, i.e. being ‘too’ sales led is just as bad as not being sales led at all. I’ve seen both and, in my view, not being sales led enough is way easier to fix. Here’s why.

Sales Led -v- Not?

Picture these two scenarios;

Business A makes decent revenues and turns a small profit. They look at their immediate competitors and see that over time many of them have grown four-fold when compared to their business. How is that possible? What do they have that we don’t? This business makes its revenues through the interactions of the senior execs and by farming its existing customers. It has no dedicated sales function. It is services and relationships driven. It is not sales led.

Business B is very different. It has a large sales team and a strong lead generation ‘engine’. The business culture is driven by their sales mentality (and there are lots of BMW’s in the car park). For a long time revenues continued to increase at a significant rate but over the last couple of years they have just plateaued. Customers are unhappy and the Sales Team is frustrated. Why? This business is an example of an organisation that is too sales led. All the focus is on the sales process and not enough attention is being paid to product/service quality and relationship management.

Can you see the problem?

Revenue glass ceilings can be created in a number of ways and in fixing one problem you can easily create a multitude of others, leaving you no further forward.

The fact is that neither of these scenarios are anywhere near optimal if you want to scale and grow your business. Clearly, the key here is to have a reasonable balance of both. Let’s look at each of them in turn.

Horses for Courses

For Business A, not having some form of dedicated sales function is a problem. It doesn’t matter why this function doesn’t currently exist, just that it needs to. An open-minded approach to having full-time sales staff (properly backed up by strategic marketing) will, over time, change the emphasis of the business from one that is heavily dependent upon existing customers to one that can diversify into new arenas and new opportunities.

Business B’s issues are a thornier problem to fix. A lot of time, money and effort will have been spent getting the sales and marketing platform into a position where it can add real value and growth to the business. However, if there are deeper seated issues with either product or service quality and/or customer support and retention then these problems clearly need to be focused on or sales will continue to decline. These should take centre stage, even if it means trimming down the sales effort in order to find capital to invest in solving them.

Find the right Balance

My advice is this; don’t spend time obsessing about others (other than perhaps with the occasional glance) when you have a balance to address in terms of your own operational strategy. Make sure that you’re giving yourself the best opportunity to grow by having a clear and achievable sales strategy that doesn’t literally consume the rest of the organisation in terms of culture or focus. And this includes customer service and retention.

All glass ceilings are meant to be broken and never be put off by what seems to be a plateau. With a few subtle changes and a different mindset about what being sales led means to your business, you can find that step change that you’ve been looking for and push on through.

Just make sure you look out for broken glass along the way 😉



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