Sales management vital in small business | Sunday Observer

Sales management vital in small business

14 March, 2021

A successful and sustainable business depends predominantly on one singularly important factor, and that is sales. To make a business go forward, revenue generated by the sale of products of the business is compulsory. It does not matter how good and how different the products are, if customers do not buy them, the business will sink. For a typical small or medium-sized business, sales management is the key to success. 

In Sri Lanka, the importance given by entrepreneurs of small and often even medium-sized businesses is mediocre. Most of them think that sales management is a task for only larger organisations. This misconception usually lessens the enthusiasm of such entrepreneurs to confer required significance to sales management function. Another erroneous belief is that most of them assume that sales management is a costly affair and often they think that the owner himself can perform the function of sales management. 

Selling is a complicated process. It›s more than merely exchanging money for products. The selling process spreads across all other functions from beginning to end. Irrespective of all the other factors, the success of a business solely depends on the buyers. Hence, even before the business commences, the entrepreneurs must pay maximum attention to formulate an effective sales strategy. 

Sales management is an all-encompassing term that includes hiring, training, and managing a team. Due to the nature of the profession, managing a team of salesmen, often working independently, whether it is small or large, is an intricate task even for a seasoned manager. This is the reason why the owner must not personally attempt to handle the sales team. 

However, entrepreneurs typically with their strong, daring personal characteristics presume that they can manage any function in their respective organisations. This is another misconception. Sales function must be managed by an expert with experience.    

Let us analyse why sales management is important to a small business. Regardless of the size of the team, whether it is big or small, sales team members with their different personalities, selling styles, abilities, and skills, have to be managed and individual assessments made to draw the best and most effective performance.  

Sustaining the business

Without guidelines, procedures, and processes, the team can feel disoriented. If they do not share information and adhere to a common system, the confusion created can unsettle the function.  Through such confusion, the whole sales process will be inefficient and ineffective. An ineffective sales function will deprive the organisation of revenue and profits needed to sustain the business.

On the other hand, a good sales management effort benefits the clientele. When the sales team engages itself regularly with customers, the interaction results in the exchange of information. Customers discuss their needs and the salesman offers viable, reasonable, and justifiable solutions to fulfill that need. Customers typically trust a good salesman and hence, the organisation he or she works for. A good sales manager encourages, motivates, and monitors his team members to create a lasting relationship.  The sales manager also assures the consistency of each salesperson to maintain relationships.   

For a small business entity, prioritising sales management function can act as a launchpad for broader success. This is the reason why small and medium-sized business owners must pay attention to the function. This process can refine both short-term and long-term goals that obviously were well thought out by the entrepreneur at the start of the business. Establishing standardised procedures and processes keeps the entire staff focused more closely on the bigger picture.  

Marketing brings together the business and customers while sales is the actual function where the buyer physically pays for the product. Therefore, marketing is an important supporting function where the customers become aware of the product, the company, and also the availability of the product in the market. Marketing is critical to make buyers aware of the existence of the company and its products. 

Unlike the pre-internet era where marketing was excessively expensive, the current digital platforms, particularly social media, can give a very high exposure at comparatively low costs. Today, companies can reach an enormous number of customers through e-marketing and social media. Therefore, small businesses can strongly and effectively compete with big players on market visibility and produce results with smaller budgets.   

Strategies

There are two distinctive groups a small company can sell to. They are existing customers and prospective customers. Exiting customers are those who have already purchased from the company. Hence, they have an understanding of the company and its products and after-sales services. Reaching them is relatively easy as already the company possesses their contact details.  

However, communicating with them in personal channels such as e-mails, text messages, or telephone calls makes the message more personal, thus definitely much more effective. Therefore, strategies for existing clientele should be managed separately through a sales management process to derive the best outcome. 

Making a sale to existing customers is always a lot less expensive than finding a new customer.  Therefore, keeping a continuously close relationship with them is one of the most vital tasks of a business. Furthermore, happy existing customers also are the best brand ambassadors for the business who make a strong referral group. This effort must be systematic and needs separate input, making a specific sales management drive is essential for an organisation. 

On the contrary, prospective customers are more difficult to find. Companies spend a huge amount of effort, time, and money to generate leads. Winning over new customers is a whole new process that needs meticulous planning and carefully strategised action. 

Commencing from the lead generation (also called prospecting), until the funds are collected from the customer after the closure of a deal, several important steps have to be followed. Therefore, even a small business operation needs skilled salesmen to go through the selling process in order to be successful. Arbitrary handling of prospective customers by unskilled employees is a waste. 

The owner of the business must have a fair idea of how to manage the sales process. As discussed, most of the Si Lankan small business owners are either not aware or ignorant of the importance of having a small but skilled and trained sales team. As a business consultant, I have always recommended my clients recruit at least a single person to manage sales at the beginning of the business. In my opinion, a successful sales process has an extreme weight on the success or failure of the business.

Costs justifiable

Small business entrepreneurs must realise that whatever the cost involved in the sales process is justifiable. Therefore, after the target market is identified and how to reach them, the company has to go through a series of moves to complete the sale. Setting appointments, preparing material and presentations, preparing to overcome possible objections are some of the important actions. If these moves are not followed professionally, any business can lose sustainability in the long run. 

As a rule, the process begins with ‹onboarding› where the company searches and hires the right sales personnel and builds a team gradually when progressing. Secondly, they must be trained adequately on both selling skills and sales knowledge before throwing into the deep end. 

A common mistake of many small enterprises is that they send salespeople out to sell without giving them basic training. When they are ready to move out to reach customers, they must be given clear goals to achieve. Finally, they must be adequately motivated through financial incentives such as commissions and non-financial benefits such as recognition, to bring in revenue consistently.

Having an effective sales operation is imperative to a business, regardless of  size.  The sales operation predominantly engages the sales team of the organisation: who they are and their work ethics, knowledge, skills, and experience matters even to the smallest of businesses.  

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