If you ask any entrepreneur what is the most important activity in his or her company, you are likely to be perceived as being dim-witted. For what could be more crucial than sales? Now, take the case of a business that is humming along, one that enjoys dominant market share and where sales targets are met as a matter of routine. Where does the sales process go from there? Improving sales effectiveness is as big a challenge as cracking a new market. When the market reaches steady state and there is no more share to be won from competitors, enhancing the sales process can bring valuable results. Let us examine some of the key issues related to sales effectiveness.
Sales effectiveness is measurable. There are several tell-tale indicators that can give you vital clues to how your sales team is really performing. The incidence of closing a deal is one (see Close the Deal by Sandler Sales Institute for more details); the average length of the sales cycle is another wholesale pipes. Revenue generated per salesperson is a third. Compare such data over the years – a stagnant or declining trend may indicate a need to shore up sales effectiveness within your firm.
Selling is also a process. Much as any “star” salesperson may like to think otherwise, selling is not a sublime skill that one has to be born with. Sure, some traits are necessary and others good to have; however, almost everyone can be trained to become a better salesperson. This underscores the need to have a well laid out system in place. To begin with, everyone must have a clear understanding of the target market and prime customer segments. The members of the sales team must familiarized with a standardized sales method including use of appropriate language, preferred selling approach and so on. Not only does this improve the effectiveness of each individual, it creates a consistent and professional image for the company as a whole. Let us also emphasize that the prescribed sales process needs to be reviewed and refined every once in a while. If there is a new aspect to ideal selling behavior, it must be “packaged” and implemented across the organization.
Are your people geared up? Enhancing sales effectiveness is a pipe dream if the right people aren’t in place. The HR and sales think-tank must evolve a “success profile” of the ideal candidate for a position in sales. This needs to be followed up by continued efforts to develop and manage the salespeople throughout their career. Roles must be clearly defined, training needs must be met, senior sales managers must coach and mentor their subordinates and a fair system of rewards and incentives must be implemented.
What is the company’s sales philosophy? You need to dig deep to answer this one. Start by examining whether the sales model is aligned with the company’s larger go-to-market strategy. Take a look at whether the sales, marketing and support functions work together as a well oiled unit, or pull in different directions. The sales effectiveness of a team that opts out of low value segments to focus on a high value one will be much higher than that of a team that does not.
The objective of sales effectiveness improvement initiatives is to enhance the performance of the sales team, by teaching them to do the right thing at the right time. Easier said than done, it may need large scale and long term commitment from the organization as a whole.