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Evaluating Your Sales Infrastructure

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Infrastructure refers to the physical and organizational structure needed to hold something up. A building, a creative firm or any entity without infrastructure is just a blob.

Salespeople need infrastructure, too.

A business development person attempting to sell in an infrastructure-less environment is essentially operating unsupported by the firm, with the burden of success placed squarely on his or her shoulders and the leadership team typically taking little responsibility for the lack of infrastructure and results.

Sales infrastructure consists of:

  • A differentiated positioning
  • An overarching point of view on the firm’s area of focus
  • Intellectual property in the form of codified processes for how the firm does what it does
  • Formalized diagnostic processes and their derivative selling tools
  • Formal, written business development policies and procedures
  • A formal understanding of how much money the firm expects its clients to spend with it

Answer these eight questions below and I’ll predict how well your firm does at business development.

Sales Infrastructure Assessment

1.  We are seen as meaningfully different by prospective clients as proven by the behavioural concessions we routinely ask for and are granted in the buying cycle. We ask to be treated differently and usually are.

    Yes / No

2.  Our area of focus – a combination of what we do and for whom we do it – is articulated in writing and regularly communicated to our team members, clients and prospects. All agree that our focus separates us from all but a small number of other firms.

    Yes / No

3.  We drive inbound enquiries and build the reputation of the firm by regularly publishing 3,000 or more words per month of thought leadership on our area of focus, framed by a strong point of view.

    Yes / No

4.  When our articles, speeches, webcasts and other forms of thought leadership are compared to those of our few competitors, our clients and prospects can easily identify our content based on a point of view and strong voice that is unique to us.

    Yes / No

5.  Our expert knowledge is manifested in codified processes on how we understand and solve our clients problems. New employees are formally trained on these processes and everyone in the firm can identify the individual that owns responsibility for developing, codifying and communicating these processes.

    Yes / No

6.  We share written descriptions of existing diagnostic processes with clients without having to customize the documents to their situation. These documents serve as standing proposals for the first diagnostic phase of many of our engagements.

    Yes / No

7.  We have written policies and procedures on new business development which identify our ideal clients and detail what we will and will not do to earn new business.

    Yes / No

8.  We have established a minimum level of engagement (MLOE) that we routinely share with prospective clients as a means of communicating our minimum financial expectations around any engagement.

    Yes / No

 

My Predictions Based on Your Responses

If you answered an honest and hearty yes to six or more of these eight questions I can confidently predict that your firm does very well at winning new business. I can make this prediction without knowing anything about the individual skills of the person or people doing the selling. That’s because through strong infrastructure you have eliminated the requirement for superior selling skills. You’re also likely to have reduced compensation associated with business development, driven your cost of sale down and rid yourself of many sleepless nights.

If you answered yes three or less times I predict that your firm struggles with new business (the fewer yeses the greater the struggle), again, without knowing anything about the individual skills of your people.

If yours is one of the rare firms that has built little sales infrastructure yet excels at new business it’s because of someone’s individual skills. Pay that person well and do whatever you can to keep hold of them. Once they’re gone so is your success at adding new clients, unless you succeed in finding a magical replacement or you use the time between now and then to build the missing infrastructure.

When selling is hard it’s usually because the hard work to make selling easier hasn’t been done. Responsibility for this rests with the firm’s leadership team and not with the people on the front lines, whose skills are usually good enough to succeed in any firm with strong sales infrastructure.

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