The prosperous times that Australia enjoyed during the height of the mining boom, when the economy was vibrant and when sales were relatively easy to generate, saw too many companies lose focus on how best to generate sales. These firms seemingly lost their sales ‘mojo’, and now in these more challenging economic times, they are wondering, ‘Where did we go wrong?’

The Australian Institute of Management (AIM) in Melbourne conducted a major survey on the subject, surveying around 1,000 managers and leaders of Australian organisations to determine the extent of the sales culture crisis in this country. Survey participants ranged from CEOs, business-owners, and senior executives to aspiring managers. They were drawn from the broad cross-section of private-sector organisations.

40% of those surveyed said their firm’s overall business performance is in need of significant improvement. Just 14% said their company is doing extremely well.

The survey response data was segmented into two streams: those organisations that are performing strongly in the current economy and those which are not. We found firms that are doing well had superior levels of customer and sales service and support compared with companies that were struggling. For example, pacesetter organisations are six times more likely to say they are performing well in sales management and strategic sales planning than struggling firms.

More than a third (37 per cent) of those surveyed said the sales culture in their organisations was poor to moderate. Given that finding, it wasn’t surprising that sales and customer service was ranked second last (10 per cent), ahead of bottom-placed business etiquette (7 per cent) when it came to advancement. Leadership development was ranked first at 46 per cent ahead of creative thinking and problem-solving (43 per cent) and strategic planning (36 per cent).

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