12 Keys to Tuning Up Your Sales Force
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12 Keys to Tuning Up Your Sales Force
by: Lee B. Salz
Not sure 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.
Many 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
- 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 their clientele.
- 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 well-managed.
- 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 circumspection.
- 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 buying cycle?
Review of these twelve areas will ensure that your sales organization is
finely tuned and ready to conquer the selling world.
Lee B. Salz is a sales management guru who helps companies hire the right
sales people, on-board them, and focus their sales activity using his sales
architecture® methodology. He is the President of
Sales Architects, the C.E.O.
of Business Expert Webinars and author of “Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales
Manager.” Lee is an online columnist for
Sales and Marketing Management
Magazine, a print columnist for SalesforceXP Magazine, and the host of the
Internet radio show, “Secrets of Business Gurus.” Look for Lee's new book in
February 2009 titled, "The Sales Marriage” where he shares the secrets to hiring
the right sales people. He is a passionate, dynamic speaker and a business
consultant. Lee can be reached at
lsalz@SalesArchitecture.com or 763.416.4321.
Keywords: sales, sales management, sales training, sales consulting, hiring,
recruiting, keynote speaking
Contributor: Lee B. Salz
Published here on: 23-Nov-07
Keys To Tuning Up Your Sales Force.doc