To broaden sales participation, the CEO must remove barriers

As a principal in charge of the largest division of a 130 person firm, a first step in implementing a highly efficient sales program was to make sure everyone knew the latest sales methods and spoke a common sales language. Since operations and finance managers were a potential barrier to broaden sales, all senior managers went through an extensive sales training program. Still, many operations managers forbid their project managers and staff engineers/architects/scientists from even going to professional associations frequented by our clients, much less actively pursuing opportunities. They felt the benefit did not out-weigh the risks to their job status. They saw it detracted from their key performance metric, the billability of their team. Their experience was that their raises and bonuses were most influenced by billability.

After all, how does an operations and finance person control billability? They control short term billability by keeping staff on projects and away from overhead activities. They control billability longer term by hiring or firing to meet needs. But everyone hates to fire staff. After some training, each operations and finance person understood the many stages of sales as represented using a sales funnel graphic. But, they did not see how time was spent when all sales related time was charged to one big overhead charge code. That is when each stage started being measured and trended.

The change occurred because the CEO, who also went through the sales training, made it clear that sales was everyone’s responsibilities. Thus, the meeting agendas were re-prioritized and each stage of the sales funnel was measured and every manager then knew who was doing what at each level of sales. And, everyone could see how each was contributing to new revenue. For operations people, the easiest way to meet billability goals is to predictably and consistently have new business landing on their team. And operations managers love their job when there is a lot of work to distribute. Barrier removed, problem solved.

Has anyone invested in sales training but a year later there was little to show for it? Why? Leave your comment here and also join the conversation on Twitter or LinkedIn.