According to the newspaper headlines, the recession is over. Yet many companies are still experiencing sluggish revenue growth and finding it difficult to expand their market share
While it may be true that economic conditions remain challenging, and competitors never relinquish market share easily, now is the time to make a move and bring your company out of the slump.
The sales team often appears to have ticked all the sales and marketing boxes, and invested in new technology, such as CRM, and implemented customer management plans to improve the customer experience and better understand customer needs. Yet the expected year on year growth remains elusive.
So what next? Executive teams need to ask themselves one fundamental question. “Are we maximising the return on our sales force investment”? In order to address this question it is necessary to revisit some of the basics.
“Our recent experience has identified a number of trends which are often worth deeper investigation. These include an over-reliance on new technology and processes to improve sales force productivity and effectiveness; performance and incentive structures that do not sufficiently reward sales top performers; staff with the wrong competencies, insufficient training or basically the wrong attitudes; and missing or incomplete steps in the sales value chain preventing the most valuable current and potential customers from being effectively targeted.”
None of the above is anything new or mind-blowing, and yet is it often incredibly difficult to get right. There is no simple answer as to why this may be, however one of the reasons may be that the focus is often on quantity of activities rather than quality.
Put another way, the focus is on process and not content. So for example, the sales person will go through a pre-defined process, but how effective are they at building a relationship with the client and understanding their needs? Or, the prescribed number of sales calls take place, but are they with the clients with the most potential value?.
So what can companies do to improve their returns? A good first step is to focus on the sales staff, and honestly answer a few questions from the perspective of content and not process:
– Do we have exactly the right people for our products and markets?
– Is the majority of the sales force passionate and knowledgeable about our values, our products and our customer’s needs?
– Have the staff members with the best potential been given the best training and coaching to build the necessary competencies to be effective?
– Have we deployed new tools with a comprehensive change management approach to ensure adoption?
– Do we have best of breed incentives schemes, which have been effectively established, that promote the correct behaviours for us and our customers?
– Do we have the best quality, most appropriate and timely MIS to support the sales process from prospecting through to contracting?
For companies that are struggling to achieve growth, the answer to many of these questions is often “no” or a partial “Yes”.
“The bottom line is this. You will only be maximising your sales force investment when you can provide a confident “YES” to each question. Spending more time ticking the sales improvement boxes, such as IT investments, MIS etc, will provide diminishing returns unless the quality of each activity is assessed and improved”
In order to achieve the growth that many companies desire, it is necessary for them to address the basics, focus on quality and get this right, in order to maximise that vital aspect of any business – the sales force.