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Help! I Got Promoted and Need More Sales!

A big promotion can be disorienting, especially if you're suddenly responsible for increasing sales. This Sales Machine reader just got bumped up to GM, and needs our help figuring out what to do next. Here's his email:
Geoffrey, I work in a small manufacturer and distributor with about $12 million in revenue a month. I was just promoted and am now in charge of everything, reporting to the CEO (who owns other companies).

One of my tasks is increasing sales and coming up with a clever marketing campaign. Unfortunately, my true profession and expertise is in operations. With just a splattering of sales and marketing throughout my 33 years experience, I am in a panic.

My first step was to get approval for a marketing consultant, but I still really do not know enough about sales. Do you have an article(s) and / or white paper(s) on how to increase sales, and develop sales plans? Maybe an actual sales plan you could send me?

Happy to help. First, relax and take a deep breath. None of this is difficult stuff and a calm mind is half the battle. Your experience in operations will stand you in good stead as a sales manager, because sales management is, well..., management, and a background in sales is NOT necessary (and can actually be a detriment.)

Second, I STRONGLY recommend that your rethink the idea of hiring a marketing consultant to create a "clever" marketing campaign. It 's HIGHLY unlikely that something "clever" would increase sales. The only exception MIGHT be a lead generation/qualification campaign, but even that would be iffy unless you handle the basics first.

So let's get to the basics.

To increase sales, your first step is to figure out why and how your current and future customers are buying and want to buy... regardless of whether they are currently buying from you.

Once you've figured out how to sell most effectively into your market. you need to look at your sales force and see to what degree they're capable of selling that way. Then you start addressing what you can do to make the sales force more effective, selling to that market. That may involve staffing and training changes. Or it might involve better lead generation and qualification. It depends upon the situation.

The main thing, when writing a sales plan, is to build backwards from how the customer wants to buy. The only way to find this out is to ask a representative sample (not just one or two). This would probably be a better use of the "marketing consultant" than the construction of a marketing campaign.

In fact, the biggest mistake you can make is to spend money on marketing or a sales plan before you understand the market and how to sell into it. Do your homework and lay the groundwork. Then make the kind of sensible changes that will increase sales.

As an operational manager, I'm sure you can now see that this is the only practical approach.

BTW, I lay out the entire process of B2B selling, with a step-by-step, how-to methodology in my soon-to-be-published book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling, available for purchase here.

READERS: Any further suggestions?