How To Get The Most From Your Sales Resource
As I visit companies for the first time, I am used to being confronted with a sales function that is not performing as the owners would like. It’s often the management that need to address their approach to see an improvement -not the sales team. Simple, but effective changes to their process can have a significantly positive impact on the results.
Use the right technology
When I ask owners of Small-Medium Businesses (SMB’s) “Where do you keep records of your customer and prospect sales activity?”, the word ‘spreadsheet’ is muttered to me far too often. Cost is no longer an acceptable excuse for not investing in technology. Particularly with all the cloud-based free Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems that are now available.
CRM systems can help you be much more efficient in scheduling calls, creating email campaigns, trend analysis and many other elements. These can help your sales staff be much more productive – and accountable, as visibility increases and more importantly, the valuable data gathered stays with you. Not in the heads or the devices of your sales staff. Investors value businesses with active and well controlled CRM systems more than those that don’t have them!
Give Clear Direction
I don’t share the idea that salespeople should have a manager constantly hovering over their shoulder. As with most staff, it’s important that they get a clear set of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) they will be measured against. These should then be reviewed monthly, to ensure they are doing the right amount of the right things. With the use of CRM reports, it should be easy to analyse – with the sales staff – whether they are hitting the right number of calls, meetings and proposals to hit their targets. More importantly, it will help to pinpoint areas for focus at the next review.
I’ve also always found it healthy to publish performance statistics for everyone to view. It encourages transparency and introduces a degree of competition.
Make Incentives Work
Another challenge I often encounter is the way in which sales staff are incentivised. I subscribe to the view that the majority of good sales people are primarily money-driven. It’s therefore, most effective to address that characteristic with your incentive scheme. Several of my clients have benefitted from introducing a tiered commission scheme, which rewards consistency of performance. Every business’ needs differ and as a result, there is no ‘silver bullet’. But a well thought-through scheme will get the most out of the top sales staff. It’s a good idea to ask an experienced sales person to stress test it for loopholes though , as they will find them if they’re there!
Refresh their knowledge
I used to refer to sales training as a metaphoric ‘sheep dip’ – in and out in a day with a bit of luck and back to the grindstone. However, I once came across a great sales trainer, who broke his training into bite-sized chunks that he delivered every quarter over the course of a year. It became very clear that the lessons learned actually stuck with the teams much longer. The key is to keep it regular and review the progress from the previous session before moving on.
Finally, recognise your sales staff when they achieve. Celebrate successes – even small ones – with the team. Motivation may come from within, but it’s important to create a happy and fun environment where sales staff feel valued for their contribution. Obviously the flip side of this is that you need to be decisive with poor performers. If your reviews and coaching don’t help them, make a decision and act on it for the betterment of the rest. Refreshing the sales ‘gene pool’ is sometimes necessary and tells everyone that you won’t carry passengers.