Winning skippers of the America’s Cup will always credit their crew. Indeed, the racing syndicates know that technology will only take them so far. Strategy in sailing is critical, but it is not everything. Success also depends on the proper handling of the craft and the correct execution of the strategy.

Bob Oliver, president at Lucent Public Safety Systems in Lisle, Illinois, came to appreciate the importance of organizing people. Oliver was a Northwestern grad who became a career senior-level corporate executive. He was tasked with dressing the company up for sale, but the prospects looked bleak.

Oliver brought me in as vice president of sales and marketing. Immediately it became apparent that the challenge at the company was that everybody in sales was trying to sell everything to anybody. As a result, nobody was buying.

The company had multiple product lines that were being sold to entirely different markets. Some products were sold to telephone companies and other products to 911 public-safety answering points (think police departments). Those are entirely different markets that require different selling processes and different types of sales people. As a result the sales people, to quote an old saying, were trying to be jacks of all trades and were masters of none. That is the opposite of setting your sales people up for success.

So we reorganized the company sales department from being a product-centric to a customer-centric one. Which meant sales reps who understood police departments sold market-specific products to those markets and sales people who understood telephone companies sold products to those markets.

The reorganization of the sales department allowed us to develop a deeper understanding of customer needs, which generated increased sales and reduced costs. This also increased the “stickiness” around customer relationships. Furthermore, it allowed us to take a customer-centric approach to our product development efforts, as opposed to our former product-push approach.

People made the difference because we were able to get the right sales people aligned with the right customers. Instead of one sales team we decided we needed three.

In smooth selling nautical terms, different type boats are needed for different type races. And different types of boats require different crews. (In horse racing parlance, the phrase is “different horses for different courses.”)

What were the results? We launched an $8 million call center business. In the two years the company was up for sale we achieved 108 percent and 113 percent of sales plan and I personally secured a professional services contract with a Fortune 100 company valued at $21.3 million over three years.

Smooth Selling Forever enables small and mid-size business leaders to generate significant, predictable, and sustainable sales growth. Based in the science of selling, when applied correctly and managed vigilantly, smooth selling produces revenue results in a systematic fashion.