As a coach for sales managers and executives in a variety of industries, I’ve fielded a diverse selection of questions. During a recent conversation with a Sales Vice President, he said, “I think that it is safe to say that sales superiority is a concern for every company.” Then he asked, “What is the best way to determine whether my sales force is doing what needs to be done and in the most productive way?” He went on to ask, “What is the best way to assess my sales force and create an improvement plan focused on sales superiority?”
We can’t create a forward plan by only looking backward!
Many sales driven organizations are trying to improve their sales forces using outdated wisdom. As an example, sales managers’ perceptions about who they should hire and how the sales person should be managed are frequently based on their experiences and the experiences of their predecessors. When assessing your selling team and creating improvement plans, your experience has obvious value. But to assume that the strategies used to create sales superiority in the past will improve your team today is simply illogical. Why? Because technology, business, people and customers have changed and continue to change!
Things that made us successful in the past will not keep us successful in the future!
If you really want to assess the ability of your sales force and determine your next best steps for creating sales superiority in your marketplace, then you need to start with the most current perspective of your true business and selling situation.
1. Take a step back
Try to gain a clear picture of your current sales force, customers and market opportunities. Forget where you’ve come from and start thinking about where you would like to go. Now ask yourself questions like:
• Who is our demographic target?
• What do they really want from our products and services?
• Which marketing approaches are most effective today?
• Is our marketing and selling cohesive?
• How do customers want to be sold and treated?
• What competencies and behavioral tendencies should our salespeople possess?
• What differentiates us from our competition? What makes us unique?
• Given the business world today, what is still working and what needs to change?
Questions like these will give managers and executives a more current view of their customers, market conditions and selling situation.
Once you feel you have an understanding of your current condition, then it’s time to evaluate your sales group. The steps that follow will help you assess, align and improve your sales force.
2. Ask what your salespeople should be able to do
Rather than simply following the deeply treaded footsteps of the past by coaching and developing salespeople the way it has always been done, consider working outside the historical box. Based on your recent assessment of your customers, marketplace, situation and future goals, what do your salespeople need to do well? The answer to this question will help you determine the competencies, attitudes and behaviors you will hire, coach and develop in your sales force. New marketing approaches and technologies require new skills. Changing customer attitudes necessitate new selling methodologies and strategies. The millennial workforce needs a different kind of manager and coaching. Given your current condition and future expectations, what should your salespeople be able to do?
3. Ask “what is the best selling methodology and process for achieving sales superiority in today’s business climate?”
Customers today are more intelligent, informed, prepared, demanding, time sensitive, and price conscious. And they are deluged with competitive choices. Unlocking your marketplace potential with today’s customers means synchronizing your selling efforts with the customer’s decision process. Examine your current approach. Is it based on the traditional approach that focused on product and process? Or is it based on a more useful customer centric selling model? Attempting to improve salespeople’s abilities using old selling methods can explain why you have not achieved sales superiority as quickly as you hoped.
4. Ask which selling competencies are needed and useful
Once you’ve determined the gap between your sales force’s current selling condition and where you wish to take them, and you’ve determined which selling methodology accommodates customer needs, then you should determine which selling competencies are needed most. Competencies are observable and measureable skills. What customer centric selling skills do your sales people need in order to achieve sales superiority? If you are going to teach, coach, manage and develop your sales force into an elite high-performing sales team, then make sure that the competencies, attitudes and behaviors that you are assessing and coaching support your long-term plan.
Many companies are finding that simply ‘tweaking’ old selling strategies is not enough to dramatically improve market conditions. This is why so many companies have chosen in the last few years to either devote resources to the internal development of new selling processes or to partnering with outsourced experts. Either way, to undertake selling improvements you’ll need a cutting-edge, easily implemented, customer centric selling methodology that combines knowledge of buyer behavior with seller response.
5. Benchmark, measure and evaluate productivity
Now you are ready to start benchmarking, measuring and evaluating salesperson competencies, attitudes, behaviors, activities and results. CRM (customer relationship management) software is designed for benchmarking and measuring results. CRM is effective because the software reviews selling activity and calculates trends and outcomes based on pre-determined KPI’s (key performance indicators).
The process your sales force uses and the coaching resources you use should align with your customer’s expectations. This will enhance their decision making.
6. Plan for improvement
The last recommendation for achieving sales superiority is to develop improvement plans for your sales team and for individuals. Now that your selling process, activity tracking and competency measurements are focused on accelerating customer acquisition and retention, it’s time to create your overall improvement plan. Review each salesperson’s abilities, attitudes and activities. Determine where each salesperson needs help improving their selling outcomes. Work in tandem with other managers and outstanding team members to implement best practices that support your goals. The best results commonly occur by plan. Developmental and improvement plans should be based on today’s information, technologies and best practices to achieve sales superiority in your marketplace.
If you would like help improving the sales superiority of your sales force, feel free to reach out to Learning Outsource Group for advice and coaching. For more than two decades Learning Outsource Group has helped hundreds of sales focused organizations to improve their results in less time while retaining and developing more of their employees. Just remember, at Learning Outsource Group … our business is improving yours!