A global evaluation involving more than a million sales people has revealed that meaningful economic growth in New Zealand and Australia is being held back by a lack of sales and sales management skills.

The evaluation, conducted by Objective Management Group, surveyed hundreds of companies to determine how well prepared they are for growth.

CEO of Australasian sales consultancy SalesStar, Mr Grant Holland, said less than half of the companies surveyed have the necessary skills for growth.

Following on from the global evaluation, follow up seminars were conducted with more than 80 CEOs from Melbourne and Auckland, whose companies turn over between $20 to $100 million dollars annually.

“One hundred per cent of the CEOs were confident of growth in the next one to three years, compared to earlier in the year when they were more ‘ho hum’ in their expectations. However, almost all were less than 40 per cent ready and at least half of them conceded that they do not have the internal sales skills, leadership, systems and processes to make it happen,” said Holland.

Ben Marris, CEO of NZ Leaders said the results did not surprise him, speculating that the sales function doesn’t appear to have the respect in New Zealand that it does in other countries.

“The key issue is that New Zealander’s are leaving a lot of money on the table, which is really holding them back from growth.”

Marris said there is a trend for businesses to invest time into understanding new technology rather than investing in improving their sales functions.

Results from the sales effectiveness evaluation revealed that just 24 per cent of sales people globally and only 25 per cent of sales people in Australasia have effective sales closing skills.

Mr Holland said “we’re not talking about start-ups but about mature companies that just don’t know how to sell in the new environment. A worrying number of companies lack a sales strategy, strong leadership and a well-planned and executed sales process.

“When we looked at the number of sales people and sales managers that have an effective sales process, only three per cent of sales people and four per cent of managers have one in place. This makes it impossible to track progress or to hold people accountable to the right activities that drive growth.

“As a result, only six percent of those in sales positions are presenting quotes and proposals at appropriate times. The result is wasted time, irritated customers and low conversions,” he said.

Ben Burnstone, Business Strategist from Advisory Works agreed that New Zealand Businesses are generally not effective at sales, due to lack of process. “We definitely need to see better consistency across the sales team. Ideally you’d want everyone to follow the same process for sales.”

His advice to business is that it is much better to work on sales effectiveness through developing a robust sales process. “Interestingly, working on this does not need to cost anything – whereas generating leads generally costs money.”

Mr Holland thinks it is important companies take immediate steps to ensure they are geared up for growth and sales success. He recommends mapping out a step-by-step sales process which takes account of the buyer’s decision-making journey and that coaching is essential.

“Research and experience tells us that coaching is the single most important function for your sales managers and 96 per cent of sales people are coachable. Yet, despite this, sales managers across Australasia have just 44 per cent of the skills to coach effectively and spend little or no time doing it. As a result they will continually struggle to develop A-players in their team.

Burnstone agrees. “The best businesses seek outside assistance to constantly improve. If you can move from 25 to 50% conversion you can double your growth and that’s the real opportunity for New Zealand,” he said.

In SalesStar’s experience, Holland said that companies which up-skilled in business development, and put in place the right systems and processes for growth, recorded growth percentages well above thirty percent within 12 months. “Ultimately what this means is that significant growth won’t happen by accident. Expecting growth and actually achieving it, is the difference between leadership skills and the lack of them,” he said.

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