Finding & Fixing Hidden Sales Productivity Problems

By Gil Cargill on March 30

Over the past 35 years, thousands of CEOs have hired me to help them improve the productivity of their sales force.  Without exception, I’ve found that the fastest route to significant, permanent and measurable improvement in both the top and bottom line has very little to do with sales training and much more to do with many other factors.

In fact, if you violate some of the principles discussed below, there is no amount of sales training that will overcome those inherent problems.  Let’s take a look at some of the problems that you can address, next week, that will improve the productivity of your existing sales team without putting anyone through the cost, expense and inconvenience of a one- or two-day sales training “blitzkrieg”.

  • Increase selling time: Over the years, many organizations have required salespeople to do many non-sales tasks.  Without exception, the number one sales productivity inhibitor is this incessant move, on the part of many managers, to have their salespeople conduct non-sales tasks.  In this regard, my rule is Salespeople should sell, and everyone else should do everything else. Give your salespeople more selling time, and they’ll sell more… it’s just that simple.
  • Hiring mistakes:You can’t win a Super Bowl championship, if your team is made up of 150-lb. football players.  Many managers and CEOs hire good men and women in hopes that they will develop into good salespeople.  Small-to-medium businesses, which are the backbone of our economy, can’t afford to continue this practice.If you’re hiring a salesperson in the near future, before you write the offer letter, make sure that he/she can do the job the way you want them to do it and will do the job the way you want them to do it.  If you skip this, you will be one of the large number of companies that has made the half-million-dollar hiring mistake, when it comes to bringing salespeople on board.
  • Alignment:It’s amazing how many companies sell with a complete misalignment between their marketing messages displayed on their website/brochures and/or during their salespeople’s presentations.  Make sure that your company “sings from the same hymnal”.In other words, align your marketing messages and value propositions throughout the sales cycle, from your website to your brochures to your business cards to the presentations that your salespeople make, as well as the elevator speeches that your non-sales but customer-facing employees are charged with presenting to customers, when they encounter a customer.
  • Lead generation:Now, this is an area where the CEO of a company can dramatically impact his team’s ability to produce revenue.  In today’s world, it’s virtually impossible for salespeople to keep their funnels and pipelines full without assistance from a dedicated sales-ready lead-generator.In many organizations, this dedicated resource is a full-time Business Development Coordinator.  In others, it is a closed-loop marketing system.  And, in yet others, it’s a combination of those two functions.  Regardless of how you solve this problem, make sure that your company produces an adequate flow of sales-ready leads to fill the funnels of each of your salespeople and to keep them full at all times.

    In the 21st century, it is a waste of time (more often than not) to charge salespeople with prospecting, using 19th-century prospecting techniques.

  • Lack of accountability:Many CEOs wring their hands over the poor performance their sales team produces, yet there is a reluctance on the part of that very same CEO to hold the sales team (collectively and/or individually) accountable for the quality and quantity of activities undertaken by the sales team.Frequently, CEOs react painfully when they’re accused of being a micromanager.  Holding your team accountable for the quantity and quality of work is no different when you do this for your sales team as when you do it for any other function within your business.
  • Compensation:Many small-to-medium businesses overpay for underperformance.  Now, I don’t mean to infer any negative feelings with this statement.  I believe that this phenomenon of overpayment for underperformance is a result of operating without a documented sales process.Therefore, management is forced to pay salespeople to do things that salespeople either don’t do very well and/or aren’t very profitable for either the salesperson and/or the company.  Make sure that your sales process is 1) very well-documented and 2) followed religiously by your sales team.

    You’ll find that this activity, in and of itself, improves the effectiveness of a sales force by as much as 17%, according to some industry experts.

  • Forecast management: Failure to understand why you and your team win opportunities, lose opportunities, and/or have opportunities postponed is a key contributor to repeating flawed strategies in hopes that, through this repetition, your results will change.  Obviously, this is applying the definition of insanity to your sales organization.

Overall, when you start investigating the quantity of sales time available to your team, why the time is what it is, as well as how to improve the amount of time available to your team, you’ll find that your top and bottom lines will go up.  Combine this with a dedication to the one missing ingredient that I have failed to mention so far in this article, which is sales practice.

Regardless of your team’s experience, you should hold practice sessions (a.k.a. role-playing) with your team regularly.  The CEO who ensures that his/her sales and marketing operations are managed in conjunction with the recommendations in this article is the CEO that’s well on his/her way to enjoying a company that produces predictable and profitable results.

Good Luck & Good Selling!!

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