• Anita Nielsen

What is Sales First?

(Adapted from original post for The Savo Group)


It's not a new catchphrase. It is an organizational strategy to drive growth. Sales First is a way for companies to think and behave with a relentless focus on, and deep devotion to, sales force success. A Sales First company, then, is a company that has developed a culture where everyone thinks and behaves in a manner that ultimately promotes sales and, thus, growth. In a sales first organization, revenue growth is the key business objective. There’s an understanding that the single most effective way to achieve growth is to empower the sales force and invest in optimizing sales productivity.


Now, before you start calling foul on behalf of marketing, or product, or operations, and asking why they aren’t First, hear me out. Sales is the single organization within a company whose success is inextricably linked to everyone’s success, not to mention the company’s overall health. Forgive me for maybe being too obvious, but if sellers aren’t selling there won’t be a company for very long. Sales pros are the first and, sometimes, only touch point from a client’s perspective. Revenue doesn’t exist without sales. Looking at it this way, sales is literally first.



Business isn’t about playing favorites

Now, I don’t mean to imply that sales is betterthan other organizations in a company. Rather, sales is the part of the company that ensures everyone else has the chance (read: funding) to do their best work.

(I’ll speak in more detail about the linkage of sales success with various business units such as product and marketing in another post in this series.)

Also, for those of you who keep repeating “customer first” in your head as you read this, let me explain something. Sales first and customer first are not mutually exclusive. Most people can agree placing the “customer first” is table stakes at this point. What company doesn’t claim “customer first” as one of their mantras?

Sales First companies, in a way, take the concept of “customer first” to another level. These savvy companies have realized that it is not enough to treat their customers as First. Sales First companies have the will, ways, and means to help make their customers First from the perspective of their customers, i.e., Sales First companies turn their customers into Sales First companies, creating a trickle down of value that never diminishes. Sales First is about enriching your sales force so they can guide customers to sell more and gain relevance in their respective industries.



Customer first is a company-centric mantra; whereas putting sales first can help customers become First in their competitive landscape

Clearly, Sales First is reliant on the seller/customer interactions and relationship. In order for an organization to be Sales First, its sales team must primarily serve as customer advocates. Think about the best experience you’ve had with a company – I bet, despite all the great interactions with customer support and marketing, the experience that stands out most is the time when you felt your sales rep had your back.

These sales pros don’t stop at being trusted advisors, or solution developers, or business objective aligners, etc. While important, these roles aren’t enough by themselves to differentiate and inspire customer trust and loyalty.

When a sales pro is a customer advocate, he or she adopts their customer’s plight. These sales professionals genuinely feel they own a piece of the customer’s destiny, and are committed to making them succeed. Customer advocates know their client’s business well enough to help them uncover every way the product/service they are selling can deliver positive business impact. A sales force of customer advocates means your customers, individuals and whole businesses, will experience levels of success and service that inspire extraordinary business results. Is there a competitive differentiator greater than that?



Sales First is not for the faint of heart

In a market where buyers are doing extensive research to determine what they plan to buy before ever engaging a sales rep, customer advocacy is a way to not only stay relevant, but to become invaluable.

A Sales First company understands, and values, the sales pro’s role as customer advocate and aligns the entire organization to support them in building this relationship with clients. Sales first companies think in terms of sales empowerment and enhanced productivity. As such, Sales First companies hold every internal organization accountable for successful sales outcomes and insist each group maintains a value proposition to Sales. Every group is expected to be an indirect profit center, in this regard.

In reality, if your sales pros are unable, or unwilling, to be customer advocates, then Sales First just won’t work. Organizations can’t afford to rally with heart, mind and wallet, behind a sales force that doesn’t exhibit this level of commitment to clients.

Sales First means more than just investing in people, processes and tools to help sales professionals be successful. It means creating a culture where everyone in the organization is invested in helping sales drive revenues and growth.


Are you ready to be a sales first company?

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