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By Brad Barker

“Revenue is a problem, but not our biggest priority right now.”  

We come across this a lot!  

It’s like watching the stereotypical horror movie where your shouting at the protagonist, “Don’t go upstairs!”  

Sometimes as an outsider looking in, it’s easy to think that the problems are obvious, and if only they did it this way, it would fix everything. Sometimes they are, but usually the problems are far more complex.  

As a manager, there are other factors that rate higher at that time, such as cashflow, operations, cultural problems, the skills of the current staff, and resources.  

I recently had a conversation with a business leader as he had reached out to me regarding sales training. The more I got talking to him, the clearer his vision for well-trained sales team became evident. His passion for his team was inspiring, and I was becoming very excited to work with them.

I was whiteboarding different approaches and tactics with him, and discussing individuals, where they fit in and which ones required bespoke attention.  

I followed up with him on our conversation a few days later, and he said, sorry, I have to put everything on hold. My first reaction was to be a deer in the headlights, but I gathered myself quickly.  

My instinct was to explain to him the benefits of moving ahead, and to reiterate our inspiring conversation. But then I paused, and pulled on my training, and I simply asked, “What is going on?”

I assumed he would give me a response that would cause me to not pursue the inspired project any further.  

He said, “I have had a big problem in the operations department, and this has become my biggest problem right now. I am sorry, but I need to put this on hold for now.”  

He went on to explain how it wouldn’t matter how much they sold, if they don’t get operations right, they won’t be able to deliver what has been sold.     

I think to his surprise, I said, “You’re absolutely right!” I think he was taken aback.  

I started asking him about the root of the problems with operations and where it can be changed. We discussed different strategies on how to improve operations and how that would ultimately get the business in a position to grow. The problems were partly process, but primarily cultural.  

This client realised that we understood his business, that we were not there to just sell sales training, or to sell him something. We were there to help his company as a holistically.  

Our first project will be with operations. Our second will be with cultural alignment and our third project will be with the sales team.  

In this horror movie, it turns out that walking up the stairs was the right thing to do – with a little bit of help.   Can you relate to this? What is the biggest issue you need to deal with before improving your sales force and revenue?

Let us know your thoughts.