Silver Bullets Won’t Fix Your Sales Force

March 18, 2013

It certainly is easy to look at your sales force and pick out one or two things you would like to improve.  But when we do this, it is too easy to go to a “one-dimensional” solution.  Instead, the authors of this article ask us to focus on ways to really build and grow a complex and evolving sales force that will succeed. Enjoy! — Kathy Dean, CEO, TeneoTalent, Inc.

by Andris A. Zoltners, PK Sinha, and Sally E. Lorimer

When it comes to enhancing sales force productivity and performance, it’s tempting to look for silver bullets. Is customer retention declining? Okay, let’s roll out a new sales training program that teaches salespeople how to be more customer-focused. Is sales growth lagging? Let’s implement a more aggressive incentive plan to motivate the sales force. Is sales productivity decreasing? Let’s build a Big Data solution that enables salespeople to glean insights so they can sell smarter.

One-dimensional solutions like these are rarely enough to create permanent improvements in sales force effectiveness. A sales force is complex, with many moving parts and interdependencies. Achieving sales force excellence, or addressing a sales opportunity or challenge (such as revitalizing growth or enhancing customer retention), typically requires improving upon a mixture of several sales force effectiveness drivers.

Instead of simplistic, one-note fixes, smart managers consider broader improvement plans, such as these:

  • Set a cohesive sales strategy that focuses sales effort on the right customer segments with a compelling value proposition.
  • Design a high-impact sales process for communicating and delivering value to customers.
  • Size the sales organization at a profitable investment level that provides ideal customer coverage.
  • Define a sales structure and sales roles that enable effectiveness (high sales for the effort) as well as efficiency (low cost for the effort).
  • Assign accounts to salespeople to enable good customer coverage and give all salespeople a fair chance to succeed.
  • Hire sales talent by identifying and attracting salespeople with the characteristics (innate capabilities and values) that drive success.
  • Train and coach that talent to continually develop the competencies (learned skills and knowledge) that salespeople need to add value for customers.
  • Provide data, tools and resources for enhancing sales force insight about customers and supporting the sales process.
  • Offer incentive compensation and recognition programs that encourage salespeople to work hard in pursuit of personal goals that align with company goals.
  • Set sales force goals that are challenging, fair, and well-understood by the sales force.
  • Manage performance by engaging a team of first line sales managers who can effectively direct sales activity and keep the sales force on course.
  • Create and sustain a sales culture of accountability, achievement and ethics.



Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: