Great Business Ideas: Developing a sales culture

Great Small Business Ideas to Start: Developing a sales culture

“Putting customers first” is a frequently heard business mantra, but what does it mean and how can it be achieved in practice?

The idea

The argument is simple. If you can get everyone in your organization to view their work from the point of view of the consumer, your business will be more effective and likely to succeed. This sounds obvious but can be hard to achieve. The challenge is to overcome the inertia of previous attitudes and to instill a new sense of energy and a focus on the customer.

In practice

HSBC is a financial services business that since 1992 has achieved a compound annual growth rate of 17 percent. It has become one of the world’s 20 largest corporations, and since 2004 has been striving to achieve organic growth, largely by focusing on current and potential customers (rather than through acquisitions or improving business processes). Shifting the approach of a large, venerable, and long- standing bank that employs over 300,000 people in 80 countries is no mean feat.

Several factors are prominent in its move to a greater sales focus:

  • Proactively manage performance. Get the right people working at their best, and make sure everyone knows that success is determined by the customer. Help individuals to achieve their potential; if you need to change the people you have in the business, do so.
  • Ensure you have the right management information. It informs decision making and shows people the indicators and issues that they need to focus on.
  • Establish a robust sales process. This will ensure the basics are being covered, while emphasizing what matters and providing a framework for action.
  • Value relationships. Relationship management is central to a sales culture because it leads to greater understanding of customers. Thinking of customers in terms of your relationship together takes them from being a statistic to being something that is more significant and valuable.
  • Segment your customers. This leads to greater clarity, insight, and success. This is important in competitive, fast-moving markets, and ensures offers are more likely to appeal because they are matched with the right customers.
  • Avoid complacency and develop an entrepreneurial approach. This is hard to achieve because it relies on the other stages being accomplished first. With the other measures in place, the culture and focus of the business will inevitably change and strengthen.
  • Display strong leadership. This includes the need to communicate, to act as a role model for the values that you believe are important, to inspire trust, and to be personally effective.
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