There are all kinds of interesting discussions we get involved in re the Art and Science of Sales. Ponder this for a second as you think about the strategy, structure, processes and tools that exist within your Sales organization. What would happen if your Finance department operated in a similar way to your Sales organization?

Less than half the companies in the world can even define how they sell their goods and services and within that number you have the good, the bad and the ugly. Do you have a defined and documented Sales Strategy? Do you have a structure that enables your strategy and how you sell? Do you have the the right type of resources and skills to execute your strategy? Are they appropriately trained to do the job that is being asked of them? Do they have the tools they need to do their job? These questions are as true for Sales Management as they are for Sales Reps.

Finance is a profession that has clear rules (GAAP, IFRS, etc.) and we have all seen what happens when Financial Governance is left in the hands of artists. Within Corporations, Finance is more science than art because of clear rules, process, structure and tools that have been put in place to ensure the business operates to a specific set of standards. Those standards are critical for consistency. I have been part of organizations where Finance may have struggled in certain areas and I saw the drama that is created whether it was around Cash Flow, Receivables or Budgeting. That said, Finance in general terms is a mile ahead of Sales and cannot operate in a similar way to most Sales organizations or the consequences would be disastrous.

Lets view this as an opportunity for the profession and for most Sales organizations to materially raise the bar on the some the foundational elements that I referenced above. To be clear, this is not about sucking the art or innovation out of Sales. It is quite the opposite. To innovate and differentiate in your Sales Strategy and how you sell, you need to know where you are!! In absence of understanding the dynamics of the current state, any changes that get made would be classified as “guessing”. Finance types, who are more analytical by nature, do not respond well to guessing. Thus, they don’t. Innovation comes from understanding. Sales organizations often rely on individual experience, gut feel and other factors to manage/run the business. This is marginally acceptable when times are good and markets are growing because the rocks at the bottom of the lake are hidden by high water.

In the worlds that most of us live in, organic growth is a requirement and in the absence of strategy, the right structure, skilled resources, process and tools, then we get DRAMA. We have all seen it (lived it, felt it) and that will be the subject of the next blog.

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June 25, 2013

IFRS and the various GAAP's were developed from many lessons learned. The reports defined within will show a company's growth, but many of the other figures have little meaning without the context of other firms' financial reports. For example, working capital ratio. > 1 means you have more than you owe, which is good, right? But we know that 1.1 is actually really low, and we know this from experience looking at other financial reports. There are acceptable ratios for different industries based on the context of all the other firms in the same industry. Quick ratio is a better indicator of a firm's ability to pay their current liabilities but has even less meaning without context.

Without established reporting standards for sales, or other contexts, what would be the starting point? Would it be as simple as gauging win rates when specific strategies are put in to place? The health of the economy will always be a factor for sales. Can this be factored in using financial reports from competitors?

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Sales Without Drama