The big prize in sales is to generate sustainable organic growth that makes a significant contribution to the value of the business. This value will be recognised by potential investors, suppliers, partners and customers.
The big challenge is this significant sustainable growth needs to be achieved in a rapidly and radically changing business environment. “We see four main drivers for sales change and that’s why we founded SalesLevers,” says SalesLevers managing director Richard Higham.
“The world that sellers operate in is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). Secondly, companies need to achieve high growth in low-growth economies. Thirdly, buyers are behaving very differently from even a few years ago. And fourthly, sales innovation is dynamic and demanding. It is not good enough to be an analogue sales organisation in a digital buying world.
To flourish in this changing sales world needs a coherent approach. All too often the approach to sales performance has been piecemeal. A huge investment in customer relationship management (CRM) may have sought to drive changes that were not supported by the compensation system. Key account plans were introduced that ran counter to coverage models and sales structures.
Although new roles have emerged to try and integrate the different aspects of sales performance management and sales enablement, there is a significant opportunity to bring together the disparate aspects of sales performance. Individual solutions can add to the sales result. Integrated solutions multiply the sales result.
An integrated approach to sales performance will have five steps or advances:
As medics say, treatment without diagnosis is malpractice. Make sure you have an accurate picture of the “as is”. This might mean analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the current approach to strategic accounts. It might mean gaining a true picture of where individuals spend their time or the capabilities of the top quartile of sellers compared to the “mighty middle”. Good diagnosis at the start will help prioritise time and money and ensure a positive impact on company value.
There is a temptation to rush straight into investing in a CRM or sending everyone on a course. The vital second advance is to formulate well. This might involve reformulating a compensation plan to align sales activities with sales strategy. It might involve reworking the coverage model to rebalance field sales with inside sales or move from territory structures to industry segments. It might be a case of planning to move from one-off product sales to recurring income. “Changing your sales approach to increase recurring income is one of the best ways to increase the value of your business,” says SalesLevers chairman and business value expert Martin Allison.
The third advance is to develop people. Historically, training was seen as the panacea for all sales problems. It still has a vital role to play, but it only works when integrated into the other four advances. It also only works when it takes into account the new methodologies available from “serious games”, remote learning and just-in-time modules.
It’s a well-documented truism that most training is wasted. The answer lies in continuous, disciplined, imaginative reinforcement, drawing in the fast-moving world of sales enablement. As Charlie Newby, SalesLevers commercial director, puts it: “The first three steps drive change, but this fourth step of “reinforce” is what embeds change and creates return on investment.”
The vital fifth step is to stand back and measure the changes and then plan forward for a changing future. We started with data and we finished with data. Measurement is difficult, but it is essential. What we measure and the way we measure it needs to change in a changing sales world. We then need to plan for that changing future. Frequent recalibration will play an increasing part in setting and executing emergent sales strategies.
Bringing these five steps together creates a coherent, considered and commercial roadmap for sustained sales performance improvement.
To find out more about diagnosing your sales situation, formulating new ways of working, developing your people, reinforcing change or recalibrating for a changing future, please visit www.saleslevers.com