Every time a sales manager walks out a monthly review meeting with her sales directors, there is a list of actions to be taken. These are mostly agreed actions to address problems they are facing in their portfolio.
Unfortunately, this is how it happens in large and mature corporations as well.Sales Managers hardly opt to use the free hand given to think about the problems in their portfolio, prioritize them and frame the problems so that they can be solved easily.
There are 6 essential elements to consider while framing problems in sales and here they are:
An expression of the impact felt on the business, its severity and communication of sense of urgency as to why this problem needs to be addressed now? For example: Market Share, Revenue Loss,etc
This should be framed as a question for which the answer has to be found down while solving the problem. Creating this statement requires at most care. In fact we may need to reframe the problem statement after some discovery.
Initial statement can be “Why is our market share not improving in west territory?” But after some exploratory exercises with the stakeholders and field visit, this statement can be reframed as “How do we improve the relationship and engagement between company sales managers and channel partners in west territory?” While this reframed statement still addresses the business context of improving the market share, it is a pruned and practical statement that is a reflection of the ground reality.
Once the problem statement is clear, we need to know how we will measure and know if the problem is really solved or not. It’s like a yardstick, so it should be a measurable and quantifiable metric. In this case, we can go for market share, but the problem we are solving is about relationships and engagement between company reps and channel partners. So a better measure of success to consider are – assessment of satisfaction of both parties through a survey or through a number of field visits or the quality of interactions or the action points coming out of their review meetings, etc. There are no right or wrong answers, but consider what best represents the problem and restrict it to one (or at most 2)
It’s very important to limit the boundaries of the problem. As a sales manager you would have a large territory and many products or services in your portfolio, but without prioritizing which ones are important and where the energies have to be diverted, it would be difficult to demonstrate any real impact on ground. Start small and scale up the problem.
Many experts believe it is not right to start with constraints as it limits our thinking and probability of success in a pursuit to solve problems. As Sales Managers, we need to face the reality. By listing down constraints that we anticipate in solving a particular problem, it can be challenged. That is very helpful because sometimes we may perceive something as a constraint, while in reality it is not, and on other occasions, merely stating the constraints will help gartner support from other stakeholders to resolve it.
Whether its a gantt chart or anything other approach, its best to state when the root causes for the problem would be identified, when solutions will be tested and when business results will start flowing in.
By considering these 6 elements, Sales Managers will be able to effectively solve sales problems. It is believed by Japanese that when we understand our problems by deeply digging into it, we may realise the solutions are obvious, or even better, solutions are not needed at all.
Sales Managers can master this skill through practice. Initially they may require some guidance from an expert, but with time they can coach others.