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ATD Blog

Growing Talent Development Firms: Accelerating Growth by Sales

Thursday, December 23, 2021
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The last several blog posts written for this site have been devoted to the concept of growth, the strategies used to facilitate it, and how to accelerate it without possible painful results. In my previous post, I identified five accelerated growth strategies: sales team/partner growth, marketing investment, thought leadership, operational excellence, and product line extension. This one will focus on top-line growth as a function of the sales team and partners responsible for generating sales. It will address the approaches and practices needed to ensure continued year-over-year increased and accelerated revenue. It could be argued that at least four of the five above strategies, all but operational excellence, are directly related to top-line growth, but our focus here will be on the sales engine and how it can drive continued success.

As we look at the internal sales engine, at least four factors are responsible for accelerated growth, and each address a primary question.

Planning: What sales strategies must you deploy to accelerate revenue?

While effective execution is key to success, without a plan on which to base it, results will be fluid and unpredictable. A strategic sales plan must include strategies and tactics that not just support and penetrate your existing client base but also generate net-new clients. The former is accomplished when you understand what your clients want and need through continuous communications, the latter through effective contact management. But current and potential customers must be the right customers for your business. This can be best achieved through the development and commitment to a client profile that includes understanding buying behaviors and is segmented according to what you can best offer them. Client profiles enable targeting the right customers with the right solutions at the right time. In addition, the training and development of the sales force around the most appropriate mindsets, skillsets, and toolsets are required for success. Perhaps most important to the plan, however, is identifying key performance indicators that can be measured, tracked, and managed. These may include weekly marketing leads, new logo activity, conversion and velocity, and existing logo renewals, expansion, and churn.

Process: What efficiencies have you put in place can yield more for less?

Once a strategic sales plan has been established, a process must be put in place that delivers on this promise. This includes creating an internal decision-making process that supports sales efforts and developing lead generation tactics of segmentation, content marketing, and search optimization. For new clients, discounting and win-back strategies must be employed. For existing clients, renewal plans, pipeline management, and internal sales training are keys to success. These processes must be put in place for not just field sales and account management but for marketing, sales operations, and training as well.

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Pipeline: What is the process you need to accelerate the most?

Determining a desired client profile is the first step in creating an effective pipeline process. You can’t keep your pipeline filled with prospects who don’t fit your addressable market persona. Once a client profile has been created, a sales plan established, and the processes determined that are needed to execute against them, it is time to develop a pipeline management system that delivers the greatest bang for the buck, which includes being able to match the right buyers with the right solutions. This means keeping the top of the funnel full as well as deleting questionable leads that don’t fit the client profile (whether that involves client size, industry, geography, or so on). Incorporating a staged or phased system that classifies where prospects are in the funnel is the best approach to identifying then closing prospects.

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Partnership: What are you doing to ensure you grasp your customers’ needs?

Long-term customer relationships are evolving from a more transactional interaction to a partnering interaction approach. Staying connected through frequent and relevant communications is one way to achieve this, but it involves more than just adequate messaging. Instead, it requires constant live contact to show interest and commitment to understanding your client’s needs and how you may be able to best address those. It means asking good questions and probing for real answers; it means conducting periodic client forums, surveys, and reviews; and meeting the customer where they are.

Accelerating growth through increasing sales revenue is not the easiest path to success, but it is probably the most direct in that there are known processes and practices that if effectively executed will deliver the intended results. What have you done to implement these four factors in your business? Do you have a sales plan? Have you established repeatable process efficiencies? Do you have a pipeline management system in place? And finally, have you created real partnerships with your clients that result in win-win results?

For more insight, check out my book The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm.

About the Author

Steve Cohen is founder and principal of the Strategic Leadership Collaborative, a private consulting practice focused on business strategy and development. A 40+ year veteran of the talent development industry, largely on the supplier side, he has demonstrated a proven track record for building equity by growing top and bottom-line performance for eight different consulting enterprises in the education and training industry he has either founded and/or led. He has been called on to consult with numerous firms needing strategic planning guidance, business coaching, and board advisory services.

His latest book is The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm.

He can be reached at: 952.942.7291 or [email protected] or at his website: www.strategicleadershipcollaborative.com.

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