Regardless of a company's size or industry, the top goal of its sales teams tends to be similar across the board: bring in more revenue this year than they did the previous one. But while the goal is simple enough, those results don't typically come easily.
Growth tends to be on the shortlist of a company's general goals regardless of how prosperous it has been. Tata Technologies, a firm that specializes in outsourcing engineering services, was already generating a sizable revenue stream in 2012 before it instituted a plan to transform its sales organization from the bottom up. The company's sales force at the time (consisting of 150 to 200 salespeople across North America, Europe, Asia, and South America) was bringing in more than $300 million in revenue and, with close to 2,000 clients, had an established customer base to work with worldwide.
But "as any good company, [Tata Technologies wanted] to grow, so [it] can remain relevant and enduring as a force within the industry," says Chris Weitzel, vice president of demand generation at Tata Technologies. The company introduced what it called "The Seven Pillars of Sales Transformation." The hope was to triple its revenue to $1 billion by 2017—a goal that, while not yet realized, remains in play.
To get there, the company had to refresh its strategy. Executives kept in mind a saying that the CEO was fond of repeating: "What got us here won't get us there"—meaning that to reach that next level, the organization really had to think strategically about growth. For Tata Technologies, this meant putting customer demands first, then moving inward toward the company's people, processes, and technologies.
Though Tata Technologies is a business-to-business (B2B) outfit, there is much to be gleaned from its approach regardless of whom you are selling to. As Jim Dickie, managing partner at CSO Insights (recently acquired by MHI Global), suggests, the art of selling is much like cooking: While all chefs add their personal touches to recipes, there are certain techniques they should not have to relearn each time they step into the kitchen.
What follows are the universal takeaways from Tata Technologies' story, ones that can help bring sales one step closer to a shared science.
1. FOCUS ON THE RIGHT CUSTOMERS
The first step Tata Technologies took was to evaluate its offerings and determine what it needed to develop a stronger relationship with each account. To do so, the company had to make sure it was catering to the areas most in demand by customers.
In addition, Tata Technologies had to determine exactly what type of customer it was looking for. Once it could identify a particular fit, everything else would be much easier to put into place. "When you're trying to do a transformation like this and focus the company on what it needs to do to succeed, it really all begins with the customers [you] want to serve," Weitzel says.
Tata Technologies determined that the most fruitful areas were the automotive, aerospace, and industrial machinery industries. Likewise, the company was able to identify regions that were on the way up—among them Eastern Europe, which was showing growth in product development. "Refining the list of top manufacturers to work with and being really disciplined about what companies we were going to pursue is extremely difficult, but ultimately it makes all the difference," Weitzel says.
Since, at its core, Tata Technologies was in the business of helping companies improve their products, a great amount of trust was required between both parties. For Tata Technologies, it made the most sense to take on a partnership model that would emphasize collaboration toward common goals. Tata Technologies decided to work with only those organizations that embraced those terms, and that promised to grow with the company. With these guidelines in place, Tata Technologies was able to pare down its list of existing customers and prospects to 97 ideal companies worldwide.