Why is sales orientation so important?
Companies that are organized on a production-oriented basis are generally highly efficient in manufacturing. Often, large-scale production, for example in the automotive supply industry, promotes a focus on efficient production. Activities that go beyond production, especially marketing and sales, wither away. With cost accounting usually transparent, margins shrink, as do investment opportunities and the flexibility to enter new sales markets. This increases the often one-sided dependence on high-volume customers.
When it comes to creating profitable growth, the decisive key lies in sales. Sales operates close to the market and should have the best knowledge of customer needs and trends in the market. Without this valuable information, companies would operate from within and possibly miss the market. Because immediate feedback from the relevant target markets is so important, companies should be sales-oriented.
What are the requirements for sales-oriented work?
First of all, it must be ensured that sales actually works close to the customer. Personal presence with buying customers and with target customers is the starting point of any sales-oriented organization. Three conditions must be met for this to happen:
- It is very important that a corporate strategy exists that supports a sales orientation. The corporate strategy should indicate the fundamental orientation of the company, into which all marketing and sales activities can be integrated.
- Sales must have sufficient capacity to develop and maintain customer relationships. This is not just about maintaining current supplier relationships; rather, it is about developing the customer relationship from a technical consultation to a strategic exchange to a long-term partnership.
- The acting sales staff must have the professional, the personal and the academic potential to engage in sophisticated dialogs and to build valuable key account relationships, and they must use this potential. To be liked by target customers, account managers must be perceived by their customers as experts who always bring interesting information to customer conversations and keep customers thinking.
- The organization behind account managers must function securely enough so that account managers can fully concentrate on their strength on the customer front and rely on the subsequent process steps. For this to work, there must be effective and efficient communication between sales and operations, and a service mindset must be established in operations. This service mindset requires both suitable, sales-oriented processes and a suitable organizational form in the company.
Which employees does a sales-oriented company need?
Account managers in a sales-oriented company must meet special requirements:
- Beyond their technical product knowledge, they must also have strong key account management skills to develop resilient, personal relationships with key influencers and high-level decision makers at high-potential target customers.
- In the enterprise, account managers must fulfill a role as leaders followed by the business. Account managers must develop this role through orientation and clear communication. This includes reliable information on concrete sales potential, complete and clear functional requirements or specifications of product inquiries, and meaningful delivery schedules. But they must also be supported by sales-oriented processes, a sales-oriented organization and a management that is committed to sales-oriented work throughout the company.
The entire operation needs to understand itself in a sales support role. What does this mean? All areas and departments in operations should view sales as their internal customers.
- Accordingly, the primary goal of operations should be to meet the needs of sales in a timely, cost-effective, and qualitatively appropriate manner.
- In addition, operations should support customer acquisition with technical, logistical, and/or financial expertise. Account managers who can rely on sound and coordinated technical input from their operations experts are preferred by customers.
To fulfill both objectives, both suitable processes and a sales-oriented understanding of operational functions are required. Service orientation should therefore be promoted and demanded in every operational function.
Internal sales service
In many companies, the internal sales department is purely a reactive quotation and order processing department and has little to do with customer service or sales support. Often this is due to scarce resources in the internal sales department, but often it is due to a conscious decision to restrict it to administrative processing.
In addition to administrative activities, the internal sales team could be involved in the acquisition process. For example, preparatory work could be carried out in the internal sales department to relieve account managers. Here counts
- the search for relevant, high-potential target customers,
- researching contact data
- and initial telephone contacts with appointments for account managers.
In this sales support role, the inside sales team works for their internal customers: The Account Managers. In addition, sales work in the narrower sense can also be performed from the internal sales force, for example:
- to win back customers who have left,
- but also service conversations with buying customers
- and the organization of newsletters sent to customers.
In any case, interest in sales and the necessary qualifications must be built up for sales support by the internal sales force. if necessary, organizational development in the internal sales force is necessary for this step.
What characterizes sales-oriented processes?
Coordinated sales support must be established throughout the entire company. Sales can only be successful if the processes in the company are designed with sales in mind.
- A Innovation process is intended to ensure that product development initiatives should basically be initiated by the market, if possible in consultation with customers. Ideas generated within the company should not be fleshed out without lead customers who participate in product development and signal a certain commitment to then buy the product. In any case, the sales department, together with the management and with the involvement of the operational functions “purchasing” and “production”, releases defined phases (stage gates) in the product development process. This concentrates available resources on development work for marketable and feasible products.
- An effective acquisition process is designed to continuously nourish the flow of relevant and attractive orders. Elements of this acquisition process along the “AIDA” phases are
- that the presence and perception of the company as an attractive supplier in relevant target markets is ensured (“attract”),
- that the company is included by high-potential target customers as a supplier or even partner (“interest”),
- that customers address interesting inquiries to the company (“desire”),
- and that customers actually buy (“action”).
- An effective customer retention process should ensure that high-potential customers are retained and penetrated.
- All operational processes are designed to ensure that every activity contributes to customer value.
- In the typically multi-stage operational processes, internal customer-supplier relationships are clearly identified and the capabilities (capabilities, capacities, schedules) of internal suppliers at the interfaces are aligned with the expectations of internal customers.
- Companies are paid for the benefits that customers perceive. All activities that neither directly nor indirectly contribute to customer benefits unnecessarily consume scarce resources (waste) and are therefore eliminated without replacement. The approach of an uncompromising sales orientation therefore contributes to efficient processes.
- A product costing process should ensure that all affected areas are involved in the costing process.
- A process for work preparation should promote the selection of product specifications in coordination with customers in such a way that they contribute to the standardization of input materials and operations.
- A monitoring system should show the sales department at any time whether the operational processes relating to product development projects and customer orders are in the “green zone” and which corrective measures have been initiated. The sales department should not have to actively cooperate.
- With the sales orientation, a sales controlling process also becomes important. This involves regular, business-related sparring sessions between a controller and the account managers,
- in which the strategic relevance of the engagements in the target markets is critically examined,
- the business model is sharpened,
- key projects are examined at an early stage in terms of opportunities and risks, and gross profits achieved (tops and flops) are discussed
- and corrective measures are crystallized and decided upon.
- In a sales-oriented organization, product management results from the requirements of the target customers, not from the operational functions. The product management process must be adapted accordingly. Listings and de-listings are made in consultation with customers.
- While decisions for replacement investments are predominantly shaped by the operational functions, decisions for expansion investments in sales-oriented organizations are made on the basis of resilient customer projects or proven market demand.
Despite all sales orientation, it must of course be possible to implement customer and sales requirements economically. To this end, clear agreements are made in sales-oriented companies, e.g., what minimum print run is possible or in which phase changes to orders may still be made free of charge. Such agreements ensure a professional, cooperative relationship with customers.
In the event of conflicts over deadlines or resources, a sales-oriented organization decides as far as possible in such a way that the greatest customer benefit or the least damage is caused to customers, naturally also within the framework of fundamental economic agreements with customers.
Once the processes are in place, it is worth taking a look at the organizational structure, which should provide the best possible support for the sales-oriented processes. Capacity adjustments may be required, and the organizational structure may also need to be restructured to a certain extent so that it can accommodate the processes. In a sales-oriented organization, the impetus for activities comes from the market via the processes rather than via functional instructions.
The task of managers, even more so than in traditional companies, is to give employees orientation, to promote the path to a sales-oriented way of working, and to provide the necessary conditions for this.
What support do account managers need?
The better the account managers are supported, the more effective the company will be in sales. This can initiate a spiral of profitable growth. Various forms of support are recommended.
Business unit account managers regularly need background information about their target markets (market volume, market development, technologies and current challenges). This information helps them to be received as interesting interlocutors.
Such information can be taken from professional articles published in industry-specific journals and/or available from industry associations. It can also be filtered through regular intensive Internet-based research. Account managers generally obtain information out of their own interest. But an ongoing, systematic literature search is time-consuming. In sales-oriented companies, account managers are regularly “fed” selected information. This preliminary work can be done by the internal sales department as a service for the account managers.
Public Relations (PR)
Customers want to work with well and successfully managed companies. The more positive the image of the company is in the relevant public, the easier it is for the account manager to enter the customer’s mind.
Professional PR work can contribute to such a positive image. PR management does not necessarily mean hiring employees for PR work. Depending on the size of the reasonable PR contingent, good external PR professionals can be hired for this work, keeping the organization flexible.
Marketing is essential in a business world of information overload. Through a suitable marketing strategy and targeted implementation of appropriate online and offline marketing measures, a company can be better found and perceived by its target customers.
The more clearly and successfully a brand is positioned, the greater the willingness of customers to pay for it. A successful brand “speaks for itself”. Account managers no longer have to explain so much. If they are supported by professional, accompanying marketing, they find it easier to sell their products with value.
A good marketing package also includes appropriate online and offline advertising that reaches target customers without much wastage, is appealing in terms of content and conveys the desired marketing message.
A good marketing agency can provide ongoing support for the marketing work.
Technical sales support
As in a commercial bank, the account manager is the central point of contact for customers. If the discussion in acquisition talks exceeds the account manager’s expected technical knowledge, it looks professional if he/she brings the customer together with a technical expert in the company.
To efficiently provide technical sales support, this service should be predefined as modular as possible. Modules include the following:
- the technical possibilities and limits of the manufacturing steps (feasibility),
- all possible combinations of manufacturing steps
- and examples of relevant products that have already been implemented.
Conceivable product development steps should, of course, be worked out in personal dialog.
It is advisable to define a time allotment for this technical sales support in order to be able to plan the capacities for it.
Logistical distribution support
With increasing attention to working capital optimization, logistics concepts are becoming more relevant. Logistics can cause some business relationships to fail; however, logistics can also enable business relationships. Logistical sales support can consist of developing and agreeing on a mode with customers to combine customer demand quantities with production lot sizes in a practical manner (call-off plans, consignment warehouses, etc.).
In sales-oriented companies, logistics experts are on hand to discuss and clarify such logistical optimization issues.
What is important on the way to becoming a sales-oriented company?
The transition from a production-oriented company to a sales-oriented company requires a paradigm shift in the entire organization. On the way to a sales-oriented company, the commitment of the management is of primary importance. If the management does not stand behind this intended change, the project will most likely fail.
This means that the word “project” has already been used. The changeover will not happen by itself, but must be tightly managed and competently accompanied as a project. Every employee in the company must be aware of the specific contribution he or she is expected to make.
The operational processes must be converted to a sales-oriented approach with the involvement of those affected. The changeover to a sales-oriented way of working requires sales-oriented processes and a sales-oriented organizational structure.
Communication must be sales-oriented. Skills and capacities must be adapted throughout the company to a sales-oriented way of working. This may require bold personnel decisions and adjustments to the product range.
The effort involved in the changeover is worthwhile. But it can only be done completely or not at all.