It takes Motivation, Synergy, Bandwidth and Support
Several months back I had the opportunity to write about the qualities of exceptional sales professionals, but I feel I may have done an injustice by providing only a small part of the whole sales equation. While the sales professional is important, they are only the beginning of a powerful sales organization.
At networking functions I have spoken to many business owners and directors who struggle to generate top-notch performance from their sales teams. I typically ask where they feel business development activities are falling short. Responses are varied, but replacement of sales professionals is consistently a consideration. In my experience, personnel changes are rarely a solution unless significant skillset deficiencies exist with the sales professional. The typical problem is the support system of the sales engine.
To begin, I will define what I mean by a “sales engine.” A sales engine is the sales professional, all support systems, and personnel, which may have a synergistic effect in driving sales. Sales, from a very basic standpoint, is an applied productivity system. Energy, in the form of applied effort, is applied to the sales engine and the resulting productivity is sales revenue. This process is commonly referred to as a pipeline or funnel, but these terms are somewhat inaccurate. Literal pipelines and funnels are very efficient at moving volume; (i.e. energy in is approximately equivalent to energy out). The sales process is an engine because there is significant loss from energy in to energy out.
Automobile engines, for example, lose performance through heat, noise, and friction; these conditions are generally uncontrollable. However, engines also lose performance through mechanical issues and a lack on maintenance; these two items are controllable. Therefore, the formula for sales is applied energy, less process loss, equals sales revenue. The process loss represents a set of controllable and uncontrollable variables much like the engine. It will be impossible to detail all possible issues, however I have detailed some of the most significant below.
Motivation – Every sales profession will have a specific amount of energy without any employer infusion. Many employers notice a very high level of productivity from new sales professionals and then a gradual drop-off of performance over time. Motivation can be changed in a number of ways including compensation changes, new business offerings, and new networking opportunities. Sales must be dynamic and multi-faceted. If the same methods are used repeatedly both production and motivation will suffer. The top sales organization in the world are status quo disrupters; they strive to keep their sales teams engaged by constantly providing “new” in whatever form that may manifest.
Synergy – This point is especially important for the owners/operators of small businesses. These small organizations must be greater than the sum of their individual parts. Engage employees at all levels within the company with sale activities. A company’s greatest resource is current employees. Current employees understand the value their employer provides and where their products/services are valuable. However, these employees, unless compelled or motivated, are unlikely to proactively produce these leads. Also providing basic sales training to non-sales employees who interface with customers is a powerful tool. A simple referral request can generate significant new opportunities.
Bandwidth – Sales employees are often overtime-exempt positions. As a result, many employers will require additional tasks (paperwork, reporting, etc.) to be completed outside of business/selling hours. The additional task can represent a significant value to the employer, but the law of diminished return is in effect. At some transition point, the sales employee will find a way to complete the work during selling hours. If completed during selling hours, the sales employee is not selling. Sales professionals sell, it is what they are good at, what they want to do, and where they are of the most value to the employer.
Support – Somewhat related to bandwidth, it is important to support all sales personnel by catering to their strengths and best utilization. Sales coordinators are a vital component of a sales engine once several sales professionals are employed. The need for a sales coordinator is easily identified when the combined administrative time of your sales professional is great or equal to 40 hours per week. The sales professionals’ time is valuable in cost, but also lost revenue. A sales coordinator is typically significantly less costly than the unrealized revenue.
These points do not represent all possible issues with a sales culture, but function as a good starting point in checking under the hood of your organization. Small changes can create large benefits, which resonates across the organization. Even if not all changes are adopted, one may represent a significant benefit to a sales organization.
About the Author
Justin Bragan is the director of sales at CERTON, an industry leader in safety-critical systems, software, and electronic hardware certification. Visit CERTON.com to learn more.