Every 3 months I seem to spend a little time holding the hands of, and listening to the tales of, hard-bitten, hard-pressed sales teams, sales managers and sales directors complaining of the inevitability of the end of quarter, end of month, end of half, end of year drive to achieve the sales targets arbitrarily set months before.
Of course these targets are invariably driven by the desire of the company to deliver predictable results, driven by the demands of stockbrokers, analysts and traders.
But, whimper my overwrought sales chums, the downside of this for the business is classic, panic, pressure, reduced margins, stress, slippage, poor prioritisation, rushed responses, lower quality, less-than-well-thought-through solutions. No one challenges the assumptions, evidently there are many businesses resigned to it, taking repeated body blows, morale, financial and credibility hits to feed the expectations of the share speculators.
There’s another hidden problem, articulately nicely by a client partner manager I met with recently, he described the process as effectively “training customers to hold out till the very last minute”. Now we’ve long preached the benefits of investing in selling conversations, in building open relationships, recommending that B2B businesses, selling complex stuff, build a serious, honest, pragmatic and (dare I say it) win-win approach to customers.
This periodic and artificial rush to close means that many sales organisations are simply undoing much of their own good work, making it sensible for the customer to play the deadline game, to get the best deal, to take advantage of the vendors need to hit the sales numbers, responding to an embedded set of drivers which bear little relation to the actual financial and organisational well-being of the company.
The irony, we agreed, was that we suspect that these targets make precious little difference to the business-savvy majority of shareholders, the ones looking to invest in a grown-up business are sanguine about ups and downs, it’s the speculators, the fundamentally disloyal investors who drive this game.
We don’t like it, it’s not a team game, it’s a fundamental dichotomy caused by financial drivers which create precisely the wrong behaviours, for all parties.
But, what do you think?