Back-to-School Sales Lessons for a Tough Economy

Posted by Jack Derby on Aug 17, 2012 10:22:00 AM

Editor’s note – One in an occasional series of articles on sales and sales management in a difficult economy. Jack Derby is CEO of Derby Management in Boston and lead presenter at the AIM Sales Management Boot Camp September 30-October 2.

College kids are headed to campus this week, and younger students will be back in their classrooms the last week of August. It’s all part of a harsh trend toward less summer, more school and shorter vacations.

It reminds us that the normal cycles of business, like the rhythms of the school year, are changing rapidly amid the unknowns of this shaky economy.

For me, August and September are all about "back to school" planning. Tufts, where I'm a marketing professor, begins September 6, and MIT, where I teach business planning, holds its first class on September 10, which means that my content gets read, researched, rebuilt and recreated during most of August. It's a process I look forward to every summer as I read mountains of data and reports regarding sales and marketing effectiveness.

What are the back-to-school lessons for business people looking to increase sales revenue in Q4 and 2013?

Today, as a result of the economic morass, we know that decision makers are more and more choosing to check the "No Decision Now" box. We know from our recent field research that...

  • Sales win rates have sunk from over 50 percent five years ago to the mid 40 percent range in the first half of 2012. That means your reps are working a lot harder.
  • “No Decision” rates have grown for under 20 percent 18 months ago to more than 25 percent, which says that a quarter of your sales reps’ time doesn’t pay off.
  • In 2012, 90 percent of companies raised their revenue targets, many by more than 20 percent, which will require even more sales rep effort as the year draws to a close.
  • More than 60 percent of companies need a minimum of six months to ramp up new reps. Most of the remaining 40 percent need even more time.

Given that it’s back to school season, where do you go to learn how to cope with these trends and turn them to your advantage?

I am currently working with Associated Industries of Massachusetts to put the final touches on our fall Sales Management Boot Camp September 30-October 2 at the MIT Endicott House in Dedham. No better way, we think for you to refresh yourself with your own "Back To School" immersion - even if it is just for two days - to prepare yourself for strategizing and tactical planning for your Sales organization for what's going to be a tough year ahead.

Topics: Business Center, Sales Management

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