Firms in the Market Research industry are, by nature, operationally-focused. You manage your businesses around delivering services to clients, almost always one project at a time. Virtually everyone on staff is there to contribute to the projects. It’s what you do and who you are. New clients come to you as a result of the good work you do and word of mouth.
Then you make the decision to become more ‘proactive’ with your sales effort. Maybe you bring in a full-time sales rep… or designate a couple of your senior staff as “seller-doers.” Either way, the chances of success with your new sales efforts are dramatically enhanced if you can help to create a ‘sales culture’ within your organization. Without it, you’re likely to stir up rumor, speculation and a lot of resentment.
Here are some tips on how to build that sales culture:
- Talk about sales… a lot. Mention it in group meetings. Talk about it in 1-on-1 conversations. It’s the role of the ‘Sales Manager’ (regardless of what your actual title is) to help the entire company get comfortable with the concept of ‘sales.’ And the more you talk about it, the more commonplace it becomes, the more it becomes recognized as just another part of the company – as standard operating procedure.
- Note: It’s OK to use the word “sales” in conversation. I have worked with a couple of large firms where the employees were actually forbidden from using the ‘s’ word in conversation. Silly, but true.
- Make sure ‘sales’ has a seat at the table… literally. Most firms have a weekly senior staff meeting, usually on Monday mornings. It’s where project and financial activities are reviewed for all management. ‘Sales’ need to be part of that weekly conversation, as well. Talk about big wins from the previous week. Outline important presentations planned for the coming week. Share the pipeline and forecasts. Again, the more this happens, the more it is recognized as a ‘normal’ part of the company.
- Encourage cross-pollination. Invite a Project Manager to participate in your weekly sales meeting to discuss what’s happening in Operations and to hear, first-hand, from your sales team. Or even invite them to travel with one of your reps. Likewise, if you bring in a full-time sales rep from the outside, arrange for them to sit in on an Operations meeting or shadow one of your PMs for a day. The more Sales and Operations understand each other’s roles, the less friction there will be.
- Recognize & celebrate success… publicly. Did one of your reps just book the first project from a new client? Well, don’t just acknowledge that during a sales meeting, call them out in front of the entire company! When you share good news – often – you reinforce for the Operations team (again, most of your staff), that this rep is “out there building the business to make us all more successful.” Do that enough times, and before you know it, the Operations folks are hi-fiving the sales reps, too!
Asking someone to sell for an MR firm is hard enough. But to do it for a firm where the majority of the employees don’t want them there or understand why they’re there… is an untenable situation. And let’s be clear, making the change to embrace a sales culture is a difficult thing. So, give it time and stick with it. Be consistent and persistent in helping to create the sales culture. And as your new sales team starts has success over time, the rest of your organization will come to understand the impact and value of a dedicated sales effort. Good luck!