Big does not always last forever. Some companies fall off the SBI 100 list of the world’s largest sales forces. This is typically related to declining revenues, resulting in fewer sales reps on the payroll.
One common reason? A poor sales strategy. When leaders run around putting out fires, focusing only on sales execution, their company is in danger of going from big to not-so-big.
Look at Bemis Company, a $4.1 billion global supplier of flexible packaging. In 2015, Bemis’s sales declined by 6.3 percent year over year. Bemis had previously been ranked in the Fortune 500 and other lists identifying the largest firms, including the SBI 100. However, in 2014 the organization made a strategic decision to focus on innovation efforts and commercialize new products across all segments. It appears the sales team did not sell the new products enough to stay on these lists.
Launching a new product presents additional requirements for sales leaders. They need to answer questions such as: How will sales achieve new product revenue goals relative to the competition? How will they fill the sales funnel with enough opportunities to make the number? Do customers for these new products buy in the same way? Does the company have the talent in place to sell these new products? How do sales leaders ensure the new product revenue does not replace the company’s current revenue stream?
How do they incentivize sellers to focus on these new products?
Bemis may well be in the process of aligning sales to its new strategic focus. If they accomplish that, the company is likely to regain its standing. We appreciate that making the SBI 100 list and staying on it are two different things.