If you’re really short on time, the ways to boost sales team effectiveness can probably be summarised in three words: Direction, leadership and skills.
Business owners often stress about recruiting the right sales person – then spend more time worrying about whether they’ve done the right thing.
Yet in our experience the biggest determining factor in the success of sales people is… the performance of the boss.
No sales person likes to fail or to miss targets. It’s not in their DNA. If they are struggling it’s usually because direction isn’t clear, leadership is fuzzy or they are missing critical skills and tools.
Let’s take those areas one at a time.
The power of direction in boosting sales team effectiveness
You can call this sales plan or commercial strategy. Whatever name it’s given it’s about working out what you’re selling and to whom. And why those customers value you more than your competitors.
Just imagine how much sales time and cost you’re wasting if this isn’t clear.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking your ten largest customers are your most important.
If you dig more deeply you’ll realise size isn’t everything.
First of all, there’s the question of customer profitability. Often an organisation’s largest customer has negotiated the biggest discount. So margins from larger customers can be smaller.
Then there’s the question of cost to serve. Some large customers place regular, large orders and are a dream to work with.
But others use their scale to justify paying you late and making last minute demands on sales and marketing teams. One way or another that affects the profit you make from dealing with them.
Thinking more long term, who’s going to be your best customer in five years? It might not be today’s number one.
Perhaps you have customers who are keen to collaborate with you on innovative new products.
Or maybe you want to enter new markets and certain clients can help you crack that opportunity.
Don’t forget, you can only invest more in these growth areas if you make the tough decision to spend less elsewhere
To boost sales team effectiveness, we recommend clients carry out some sort of customer prioritisation so they can reap the benefits of backing the winners.
The impact of leadership on sales team effectiveness
New recruits are increasingly demanding purpose and values in organisations they work for. Being able to explain this through the interview process helps you attract the right people in the first place.
The next step in boosting sales team effectiveness – and it’s a critical one – is making sure that people see you walk the talk.
If you want your sales team to be “customer first” then the rest of your organisation needs to act that way – not just people with Sales in their job title.
When tough decisions need to be taken you need to show that the customer really does come first. Taking short cuts on principles like this always dilutes your leadership and leads people to question your commitment.
A third vital thread in leadership is setting clear goals. Sales people in particular need simple, clear objectives. It’s only fair that they (and you) know what success looks like.
Your targets and rewards need to match up here too. If you set sales bonus targets they need to be clear, equitable and achievable. And you can’t adjust them downwards over time because your team has become “too” successful!
Maybe more important than the money – when they hit these goals remember to celebrate. There is nothing more powerful in reinforcing the behaviours you want than publicly thanking someone for a job well done.
The role of skills in enhancing sales team effectiveness
Really this is not just about skills, but a broader point about ensuring your team have the tools to succeed.
It’s important to give a sales team the right training in sales techniques and customer management. And your customer will be able to tell the difference between them and others less well supported.
But it’s also about your sales process (or sales funnel if that’s the terminology you use).
You need to be confident that you have a reliable means of generating new business. And your sales team need exactly the same thing.
You probably also want some confidence in sales forecasts so you know what your revenue number will be next month.
If you build a sustainable sales and marketing pipeline then you’ll have this stability – and the confidence it gives you to invest in future growth.
And don’t forget, sales team effectiveness is heavily dependent on good marketing materials and support.
Whether that’s a continuous source of quality Inbound leads, impactful marketing campaigns, or just product samples and presentation pages, this is what keeps your sales team focused.
Allow this to dry up and nothing kills morale in a sales team faster.
Except of course having an old laptop that doesn’t work quickly and a phone that doesn’t connect to the company systems when they’re out with customers.
So don’t skimp on quality kit and systems.
There you have it in three words. If you want to boost sales team effectiveness, the solutions are in your grasp: Direction, leadership and skills.