Many a times, the sales of a firm starts off from the founder’s personal contacts and then expands into newer territories. As firms grow and expand, there is need to diversify and derisk customer base, both in terms of revenue from a particular segment and percentage of contribution from a the top few customers. However, most companies find this desired state alluding, for many reasons. Sales structure, team reporting, carving of markets and sales measurements are the major roadblocks that hold back the company’s sales achievement. Many firms do not get the required ROI despite hiring more direct sales people, training them, and arming them with heavy technology & gadgets.
How do you get your sales engine firing and deliver the expected results? Start with the basics of your sales strategy, what is the product or service, what would be the best channel to sell, is push or pull the right approach, commercial policies etc. Once your sales strategy is clear, evaluate the structure to see whether it is aligned to deliver the results. Do not just follow the herd by putting more direct costly sales resources, often a good combination of low cost back end and high touch direct sales force is not only useful but cost effective. Identify systems that cane be deployed without much hoopla!. You do not need Bazooka’s to kill a fly. Do not buy overkill sales systems if you can keep your process simple and stupid. Importantly, your systems must be able to allocate activities to resources, make them own and drive outcomes. Systems that require less monitoring and less control always work best. Keep away the bureaucratic multi-report systems, they are just too much of file pushing, but no juice at the end of tunnel.
The size and structure of the sales team is also important. The right account and territory assignments, the type of sales resources that you have, their effectiveness, the number of each type of resource, coverage of territory are issues to be kept in mind here. Most companies make a cardinal mistake of allocating geographic regions interspersed with named accounts. This is a classical “falling between two stools” folly that one must avoid. Follow a simple principle – either geographic or account wise dedication, and stick to it for some time. Intelligent sales managers often rotate sales resources between the geographies to break the monotony and avoid the “familiarity breeds contempt” effect.
Most crucial, but often got wrong, is the issue of talent. Account mining is different from opening, hence characteristics of KAM is different from hunter. Having the right mix of hunters and harvesters is key to effective sales management. Recruitment and selection of the right candidates, putting in place appropriate development and training plans for their sustained success is also a key component. There also has to be clarity on the sales culture that one needs to build and strengthen. If you want to create a group of interdependent collaborative sales teams, ensure the mining and acquisitions teams appreciate this aspect and are culturally attuned to this joint outcomes. Do not fall into the trap of aligning culture using incentives, it seldom works, especially in sales. When high standards, clarity, transparency, teamwork and commitment are part of the culture and are followed diligently and imbibed in our systems, success is closer then imagined.
Finally sales can be only effective if it is fortified as a continuous and learning system. Systems to gather competitive intelligence, sales support, performance management, rewards & recognition and IT systems such as CRM, KM, BI etc., are all typical support systems that need to be aligned. Hence, building a high performance sales organization is not just about hiring more sales people, or using technology. It is about putting in place all the inter-dependant components in the system that will fire in unison. While the above list is by no means exhaustive, they are just some of the inter-dependencies that need to be built and aligned to have a reliable, consistent and effective sales organization.