5 Tips to Develop Your Sales Team in 2014

 In Executive Strategy, Musings, Trends

 

There is a such a focus in the business world on tech-trends– such as big data, analytics, and BYOD– that not much page space has been given to how this tech can be used to help one of the most important roles in your enterprise, sales. The sales role is extremely important, but often maligned. When revenue is down it is sales that is on the chopping block. PlazaBridge Group feels that there is a better way. Follow these 5 tips to forge your sales team into the revenue generators you want them to be.

Utilize win-loss analysis to gain intelligence from your sales processes

A win-loss analysis protocol is low-hanging fruit, it takes little more than initiative and an idea of the questions to which you seek answers. This can be established internally by sales leaders, or contracted out to independent consultants as a professional service. A win-loss analysis is intended to be an objective interview stakeholders after the conclusion of a deal, whatever the outcome.[1] Internally, you will want to interview the sales rep, their manager, and the business line leader. While externally, you will want to interview, at least, the primary contact of the buying/non-buying company. Less than half of companies that are considered as “laggard” by Aberdeen Research conduct this type of sales performance feedback review.[2] The truth is, no matter how good your sales reps are, no one has a perfect record. Implementing a win-loss analysis can help you divine what factors contribute to a successful sale versus an unsuccessful one. This is why it is important that you convert the data that you collect into a qualitative form, so that you can begin mining the intelligence that you gather to help streamline your sales processes.

  • Reduce roadblocks that sales reps run into that impede selling
  • Develop sales workflows based on win-scenarios
  • Facilitate internal communications and access to sales assets
  • Reduce 11th hour friction as the close of a sale approaches
  • Allow sales managers to conduct regular and informed account strategy reviews

Embrace the “Weconomics” of collective wisdom

One of the main benefits that we have learned since the rise of social media, the idea of collective action as a stepping stone to success. This trend of “wecomics”[3] carries the potential of teams to its ultimate conclusion. There are few who would oppose openly advertising the win of closing a major deal, though sharing the specific tactics used are often cards kept closer to the chest. The “weconomics” of collective wisdom necessitates that these tactics be shared internally in the sense of building “best practices” to help the entire sales team replicate this particular success iteratively.

While many have embraced the idea of collecting the successes from industry leaders in the form of “best practices,” companies have yet to be as equally bold to collectively share failures and generate a “worst practices” list of what-not-to-do. While there is still a sense of competition among team members, this concept is easier to implement inside the organization than it is to implement it outside, among competitors. That is why a certain amount of anonymity is required to foster an environment where sharing mistakes can be done without any loss of face. It is good for the continual development of the sales team to analyze every loss thoroughly, examining every angle so that the wisdom derived can be folded into the ongoing sales development process.

5 Tips to Develop Your Sales Team in 2014

Establish knowledge management techniques to increase selling time

All of the technology available to companies have created an unprecedented opportunity to curate the company’s collected knowledge. The direct benefit of these knowledge management efforts will be your sales reps. It seems that this would be common sense, however, only 52% of lagging companies provide access to this type of knowledge base.[4]

The first step is to create a centralized repository for all content generated for the company. It is extremely important to make sure that this content is tagged thoroughly with meta-data, so that a user has the ability to search the database in a granular fashion to find specific content quickly. Examples of the most successful proposals and presentations must also be highlighter so that sales reps can model their own after these winning sales assets. You will want to make this repository accessible to your CRM system either through API or bank it directly into your CRM (if it has that sort of capability). An enterprise level of integration cannot be overstated, all departments touch now in ways they never did before, especially sales and marketing, and sales and business/competitive intelligence.

The second step will be to capture live information and facilitate proactive knowledge transfer. If a sales manager instructs and employee on a particular technique to get better results with a customer, there must be a way for this impromptu training to be captured into the system so that it may be accessed later by any team member.[5] This will allow sales team members to log into the knowledge base and undertake self-directed training from historical wins and losses, individualized training based on immediate needs, and generalized overviews that every sales rep needs to know. This type of proactive training will take a large burden off of sales management as sales development is on the fly. Top companies will often take the intelligence they capture, and combined it with the data generated by their win-loss analysis and create playbooks so that sales reps have winning strategies right at their fingertips.[6]

Properly training your sales team is a long-term investment for your company

The traditional image of the sales rep is changing, though some of the skills that have been traditionally beneficial in the field will still be relevant. Your best sellers are going to be confident go-getters. With no more real “doors” to knock on, many sellers are in an existential crisis: How does a seller build a relationship with the customer? That is perhaps a blog for another day, but the end goal of that sales rep/customer relationship must be one where the rep provides value to the customer. This process is partially intuitive, partially informed by analytics, and wholly born of the will to challenge. Learning on the fly is how the best sales leaders win so many contracts, but this is born out of a symbiotic relationship with the company. Sales reps must be allowed to learn in many different ways, including on the job and in the classroom.

Many sales managers feel that training, though necessary, is a big sink with revenues pouring down the drain as if from an open tap. A sales rep’s territory is viewed as “underperforming” until closed deals start rolling in.[7] The main problem with this estimation is it does not consider the long view, only the short term. Companies that do not develop their sales teams, in initial onboarding programs, and continually throughout their time with the company, often pay for it in the long run. 73% Best-in-Class companies responded to Aberdeen Group that they have implemented formal sales onboarding programs, investing in their sales teams has paid off with over 80% of their sales reps consistently meeting quota.[8] In contrast, companies that do not see the need to train their sales reps thoroughly, or give them the appropriate tools, only have 15% of their reps meet quota consistently. Companies who have this scenario in place often have a high turn-over of sales personnel, and many sales managers consider sales reps to be infinitely replaceable. This is a costly line of thinking, with the average cost of replacing a sales rep is roughly 30,000 dollars, and hiring and on-boarding processes for new reps takes on average 7.3 months.[9]

The use of a win-loss analysis, establishment of a knowledge base, playbooks, and fostering a collective wisdom between your sales team will supplement your company’s onboarding process. These will allow the sales rep to continue their education on their own pace, facilitated by direction from management, as well as immediate need for the current project. Companies that provide these tools allow their team members to be able to know the right conversations to have, presentations to use, products to evangelize, and ultimately close more deals.

Require a quota, but provide the tools needed to help sales team members meet it

Quotas are always going to be the ultimate unit of measure for sales performance, but there must be other points of measure in the process. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods of measure in an individual sales representative’s role in a failed sale is necessary to pinpoint where the sale went wrong. Despite missing quota, the fall through could have been on the customer end completely without any complicity of the sales representative. It is this reasoning which has brought 67% of leading companies to the use of “balanced scorecard” methodologies, which consider behavior, among other things, as a criteria in sales rep performance. [10] This alleviates a bit of the Sword of Damocles hanging over sales reps heads, and free them up to try more innovative, and engaging tactics without the fear that another loss will spell their doom.

A sales rep’s monetary security is already tied to her success; 57% of the rep’s salary is base, while 43% comes from commission or other sources.[11] A question lingers in every sales rep’s mind of how they are performing. Many companies who are savvy to this preoccupying thought in their reps minds will provide access to different tools and apps that allow a rep to check the status of their performance in real-time. This allows the rep to keep on track with quotas, but allowing them to see potential commission payouts will serve as incentive, inciting them to make that number larger.

A sales rep is hungry, and is preeminently concerned with meeting their quota and making up the gap in their base salary. They are still employees, however, with a desire to be praised for a job well done. Many Best-In-Class companies reported that, though overwhelmingly a primary concern, the concern for monetary compensation dropped. Now, a close second is the desire for “internal recognition for positive performance.”[12] Such a simple act of appreciation, but many sales management mindsets may screw and twist around its absurdity. Coffee is for closers, after all.


[1] Ostrow, Peter. “You Win Some, You Lose Some: How Best-In-Class Sales Leaders Learn as They Go.” Aberdeen Group. 2014.

[2] See Citation 1

[3] Spangler, Teresa, et al. “CEO Guide: 17 Innovative Trends Potentially Changing the Course of Your Business.” PlazaBridge Group. 2014

[4] See Citation 1

[5] See Citation 1

[6] See Citation 1

[7] See Citation 1

[8] See Citation 1

[9] See Citation 1

[10] See Citation 1

[11] See Citation 1

[12] See Citation 1

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