Never Stop Selling
The question: "When should a growing company slow down its sales function and focus solely on delivery?"
The answer: "Never!"
When fast growth is the focus of your company, the only constant is that you will always, and I mean always, need more sales. It doesn't matter how full the sales pipeline looks, you need more sales. It doesn't matter that you have no idea how you're going to deliver the order you just took, you need more sales. And it doesn't matter that you're booked for the next year, you need more sales.
To understand why you must keep selling in the face of certain income, I will introduce you to "Murphy's Law" of Sales which states that "whatever business can be lost, will be lost!" Customers will change their mind, cancel orders, and in some cases just go out of business altogether.
There are numerous snags that can stop your sale before it hits accounts receivable and unfortunately most are beyond your control. The good news is you can protect yourself against this uncertainty by filling the sales pipeline at all times, no matter how good things get.
Enlarge the Pipeline
A great way to protect your sales future is to increase the expectations of your sales pipeline. If you think you need to put $1 million in the pipeline try moving that number to $2 million. I'm not suggesting that another million dollars worth of sales are going to magically appear just because you updated your Excel spreadsheet. Instead I'm suggesting that you raise the bar on your projections so that you can absorb the inevitability of losing sales along the way. It's far better to be over prepared.
Spread the responsibility
Because small companies typically cannot afford to hire several salespeople they often rely upon the founder or another single person to do the job for the entire company. The problem with this approach is that there is too much reliance on one person to feed the entire organization. Sometimes people run into a cold streak, get distracted, or just aren't the right fit at the right time. Any one of these factors can cripple your sales pipeline.
Instead of relying on an individual to bear the company's entire sales load, spread the responsibility across all members of the organization. A great way to do this is by giving other people in the company an opportunity to participate in the sale process as well. Allow others to help prepare presentations, give them responsibility for "up-selling" existing customers and ask them to use their professional networks to identify new opportunities.
When you're hot, stay hot
Another mistake growing companies tend to make is celebrating their victories and resting in the spoils of sales. You've just won that huge account and now you don't have to sell for six months while you rake in the dough, right? Wrong! The worst thing a company can do when it's hot is to stop selling.
The confidence and positive energy behind a big win is a force you cannot possibly replicate with bonuses, company meetings or sales team pep rallies. Harness the positive momentum from big sales to make more phone calls, setup more meetings, and close more deals. It's much easier to call that next client after you've made a big sale than when you're on month three of a cold streak.
Keep your sales team in sales, not delivery
Now your winning sales team is landing customers left and right and it's time to start delivering on the promises they made over those expensive dinners. Since the customer naturally expects the sales team to be along for the delivery, your top salesman should be along for the ride, right? Wrong again.
The sales team is there to sell, not deliver. And any time that they spend servicing your existing customers is time they aren't spending finding the next customers. As soon as the shoe salesman becomes the cobbler he's doing the wrong job. Get your sales team right back into the field as quickly as possible and let the people in your organization responsible for delivery service your customers.
Watch the Horizon
It's easy to get distracted today with a big win and all the obligations that come with delivery. All of a sudden you need to worry about staffing, office space, equipment and of course satisfying that customer you just spent all your time wooing.
While you don't want to miss delivery, you simply can't afford to lose sight of the next sale on the horizon, which means it's time to pick up the phone, schedule a meeting, and close that next sale. The only thing more important than your last sale is your next sale!