Tuning Up Your Sales Force
By Lee B. Salz
if your sales organization is up to snuff? Here are twelve keys to
help ensure that your team is focused on the right things every day.
cars today tell the driver when it is time to perform maintenance.
Even better, some tell the driver that maintenance is needed in
1,000 miles with updates along the way. It would be great if as a
business executive or small business owner, you had this kind of
technology at your fingertips. Unfortunately, managing a sales
organization will always be a manual effort. Sure, CRMs and contact
managers help, but there is no technology that replaces the
leadership associated with sales management. Not sure where to dig
into your sales organization? Here are twelve areas that will show
just how game ready you are.
Business Objective. In your capacity, I’ll bet you can cite
the objectives of the business easy as pie, but do the key members
of the sales team know them? Better yet, do they know the current
one(s)? Business objectives change. It is important that those
affected by the change are in the know. The business objectives
serve as the foundation of the company’s sales architecture® which
is the overall selling system framework. If the foundation changes
without reviewing the selling framework, there is a high risk of not
achieving the objective. It is the equivalent of constructing a
building with the wrong materials, or worse, in the wrong place.
Differentiation. Some argue that differentiation is the job
of the marketing team. I see this as a shared responsibility between
sales and marketing. The bottom line is whether or not your company
is successful winning business at your desired prices. George Carlin
has a great line on this. “If you nail together two things that have
never been nailed together before, someone will buy it!” The target
for differentiation is always moving. What is unique today is passé
tomorrow. However, sales people can differentiate themselves above
and beyond the product by being a valued resource to their clients.
This is critical in a competitive or commodity marketplace. One of
my favorite questions to ask sales people is why someone should buy
from them. The goal is to see what value they see that they bring to
Ideal Client Profile. Hopefully, you already have one of
these. This is the document that clearly defines the attributes of
your ideal client. Think in terms of size, buying circumstance,
budget, buying habits, etc. This is a profile which each member of
the sales team should memorize and be held accountable for knowing.
Their pursuit of new business should be aligned with this profile.
As the objectives of the business change, this profile may change.
Be sure that it still meets the needs of the business.
Messaging Consistency. You spend time and money investing in a
new campaign. Your sales people position the company using this new
message, but the print material and website still convey the old
information. Not good! The outbound message to the market must be
consistent. If the sales people say it, the corporate presentation
should reinforce it. The printed collateral material and website
should help position the message. In essence, the entire approach
should be aligned.
Intellectual Capital. What is that, you say? These are your
referenceable clients. Other than your employees, they are your most
valuable asset. This asset is critical for your sales team to help
them win business. How are you growing your portfolio of
referenceable clients? How are you ensuring that your largest client
is not over-utilized by the sales team for these purposes? Do you
have clients who can speak to everything your firm does, coming from
multiple buying circumstances (newbie, veteran, etc)? The use of
references can serve as a key competitive advantage for your sales
team. It is important that the portfolio be ever-growing and
Sales Performance. How are the members of the team performing
relative to their assigned goal? While you may be tempted to measure
only revenue performance relative to quota, this is not always the
best approach for longer-term buying processes. In those
circumstances, review of performance in the buying process itself is
an important area for study. That said, the rule of thumb is to look
to upgrade the bottom 20% of the sales team. Recruiting is an
ongoing initiative of any healthy sales organization.
Pipeline Analysis. There are various opinions on how large a
sales pipeline should be to ensure it yields enough to meet the
business objective. The challenge is that a strict quantitative
value minimizes the importance of a qualitative one. I’ve seen sales
people with a pipeline of twice their goal finish the year at 150%
of quota. I’ve also seen sales people with a pipeline of five times
their annual goal miss the target. Quantitative studies aside, the
best approach is to conduct formal, periodic pipeline reviews so
that you and your executive team can dig into the pipeline to see
what prospects are real. Quality supersedes quantity. Pipeline
reviews are very helpful for executive teams with respect to
learning of market trends and competitive intelligence.
Ideal Sales Person Profile. Hopefully, you have one of these
too. This tool defines the attributes of the ideal sales person for
your firm. You need this if you are going to upgrade the bottom 20%
of your sales team. This profile changes, however, as the business
changes and matures. Think in terms of the Blackberry®. About seven
years ago, their sales people had to create demand in a minimally
competitive market. Today, the Blackberry® is a staple in business,
but buyers have product choices outside of the Blackberry brand. The
skill set required to be successful in their business initially is
very different than today. Don’t have a profile? See my article
titled “The Sales Marriage” to learn how to formulate your ideal
sales person profile.
Revenue Accelerator Program (RAP). Again, you are probably
asking yourself what this term means. I could have just written “new
hire training.” That doesn’t convey the importance of getting sales
people to a productive level as quickly as possible. Every time a
sales person is hired in your company, there is a cost to the
business. Thus, the development of a program that is focused on
reducing the time for a sales person to generate revenue is
critical. To effectively formulate your RAP, ask yourself what the
sales person needs to know to effectively sell your product and when
do they need to know this information. Some err by using the fire
hose approach. “Teach them everything in their first week and tell
them to go sell!” The fundamental question is, how quickly is there
a return on the investment for this hire?
Skill Development. Many think that sales talent is born; not
developed. Oh, if that were only the case. Companies need to invest
in their sales team development just as professional sports teams
practice their craft every single day. Sales is a profession, one of
the few professions in which ongoing training is not required to
continue to perform in the role. However, it is critical to success.
One of the biggest disconnects between executives and sales people
is when the sales team is criticized for not “selling the value.”
When the executives are asked when and how they trained the sales
team on demonstrating this value, a blank look appears on their
faces. Sales people will perform based on how they are trained and
how they are compensated.
Compensation. Does your compensation plan drive the sales
behaviors you feel assist in meeting the business objective? It all
comes back to the business objective. The blessing and curse of
sales people is that they use their compensation plan as a job
description. If you pay them for doing one thing, but expect
another, you will be disappointed. This is also a very sensitive
area. The plan must change as the business objective changes.
However, if the plan changes too frequently, the sales team will
grow distrustful and look to leave. Approach this with true
Metrics. The beauty of sales is that just about everything can
be measured. Some like sales for that very reason. It is incumbent
on the executive team to create metrics with desired goals such that
every aspect of the company’s sales architecture can be measured and
analyzed. This is a great way to use your CRM. They are designed to
track what needs to be measured. I suggest analyzing performance of
team members, product lines, and the sales organization in total.
Who sells the most of what product? Who sells the highest margin
deals? What product is not selling as expected? Which sales person
has the shortest buying cycle? Which sales person has the longest
of these twelve areas will ensure that your sales organization is
finely tuned and ready to conquer the selling world.
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