Five unsustainable myths about a company's sales

18 July 2019
INCAE Executive Education

Assuming that all the commercial activity of companies entails high costs, but the logical question should be only one: is it worth it? Does the entire sales force generate enough value?

The problem is that this question usually lacks answers in the directive instances when faced with the reality of the work of commercial teams. Many CEOs believe they know what pre-sales, autosales, or telesales agents or teams spend their time on. Their decisions, then, are often wrong and cause serious damage to the business.

An extensive investigation by Pablo Foncillas Díaz-Plaja, published in the magazine Harvard Deusto Business & Technology, put the focus on the responsibility of managers. "In such a competitive market context and with increasingly narrow margins in most categories, we must know perfectly what is the reality we face. There are no shortcuts for this, ”concludes Foncillas. Although it is believed that there are, no.

The commercial forces must be remote-controlled battalions with absolute precision from the Directorate of the companies, with total clarity of objectives, says the researcher. It never hurts a director's effort to go to the field, for accompanying the distribution team or chatting in depth with the salespeople. Thus, the table will be more complete and can be integrated into the operational plan in logistics, operations or marketing. 

And so, above all, these 5 biggest myths about sales could be dismantled sooner rather than later:

Myth 1. Pulling averages is enough to make good decisions.

True: It is very risky to extract means for managerial action. For example, it is not true that sales representatives in the same industry obtain similar results in the volume of contacts made in a working day. And it is not because the degree of dispersion within the same industry is enormous. The vital thing is to pay attention to the sales histogram and not to the averages.

Myth 2. Different business roles behave similarly to each other.

True: It is not true that a commercial agent proceeds in the same way as a preventer, or that a self-sale acts in the same way as a teleshopping. If the data is very similar, it is likely that something in the sales strategy is poorly designed. Each role must have well differentiated and previously established activity objectives. 

Myth 3. All emerging and mature markets are, after all, the same

True: Neither emerging markets nor developed markets have similarities between them, much less in terms of the number of contacts made or hours worked. It is surprising to see how, in Latin American countries, working hours are longer, and, therefore, a greater number of contacts are made
per day. 

Myth 4. The same industry works in the same way, regardless of the country 

True: It is not true, since the same industry, in different geography, has nothing to do with another. Why is the success rate for business visits in Asia much lower than in other markets? Knowing the reasons is key. Do they rest more? Only if we delve into the causes will we be in a better position to solve any problem, since, depending on whether it is one situation or another, the decisions to be made will be radically different.

Myth 5. Salespeople spend most of their time selling

In reality, most salespeople are only between 20% and 45% of their time at the point of sale, and of that percentage, the time they spend with a customer represents between 9% and 25%, so, strictly speaking, sellers do not spend their time selling.


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