The Secret behind Sales Force Productivity

Hayward_2013_LO (6)This is a guest post from Karen Hayward, CMO of Chief Outsiders

For anyone serious about really growing their business, a comprehensive Win-Loss Analysis program is essential to capture the voice of the customer and help drive informed decisions and strategies on:

  • Product/service designs
  • Pricing
  • Customer service
  • Sales strategy/execution

Without in-depth knowledge from the people who know best (our customers), how can we really develop effective sales training programs and processes. There is a growing need to drive sales force productivity. It is not a matter of reconfiguring the sales force by trading inside reps for outside reps, but instead about finding ways to help the existing reps sell more.

The opportunity to narrow the gap between performers in the top 15 or 20% and the rest of the sales force represents potential productivity gains of over 200% (e.g., Ledingham, Kovac, and Simon). A focus on closing the performance gap has encouraged Sales Managers to become much more focused on individual performance metrics and activities. They are also increasingly focused on internal benchmarking, the process of using internal company data to identify strong and weak performers, explain the reasons for the performance gaps, and then use that information to shape marketing and sales training programs.

According to research recently conducted by Steve Martin, author and sales strategy teacher at USC’s Marshall School of Business, only 3 out of 5 sales people on average achieve one hundred percent of their annual sales quota (New Insight Into Key Sales Metrics). Interestingly, the number of sales people who achieved one hundred percent of quota varies greatly by sales organization.

Here’s a look at the average percentage of sales people who achieved one hundred percent of their annual sales quota last year, by type of industry:

  • Software: 52%
  • Computer hardware: 60%
  • Cloud/SaaS: 61%
  • Telecommunications: 66%

Assuming that annual sales quotas are set at a reasonable level, there is clearly a significant productivity opportunity and a compelling business case to be made for a training investment.

The Changing Face of Sales Training

Gone are the days when an organization could afford the luxury of delivering weeks of face to face training. For training programs to be effective and deliver early returns, being prescriptive and leveraging best practices that are proven is the place to start. At some point in their career, most sales people have been exposed to a particular brand or process of selling, and to completely overwrite this legacy would not be fruitful or realistic. Instead, what I have seen work extraordinarily well is to adopt a selling framework and to tailor it to your situation and challenges.

For example, Beacon Worldwide’s framework helps sales people win more business not just training them what to do, but by coaching and strategizing on real opportunities. Their coaches follow a proven framework that is able to incorporate best practices. How do I know? I hired Beacon Worldwide in 2000, and have been a fan since then. They extend the same focus to Sales Managers in short group sessions and then one-on-one to coach on specifics, so that their reps can win more business – faster. A good methodology helps sales leaders with the tough decisions, like coaching reps on when to walk away from deals that were never “winnable” in the first place.

A great way to start is with a formal Win-Loss Analysis program to capture the real insights of why you win and why you lose. In addition to impacting your sales strategy the Win-Loss study will allow you to understand the strategies of your competitors which will determine how and when to most effectively differentiate your offering from both a sales and marketing perspective. Incorporate those best practices and insights into a proven framework where the winning approaches can be institutionalized to yield results. “Investing in a comprehensive Win-Loss Analysis program, we regularly see clients boost win-rates by at least 10% and that translates directly into 10%+ more revenue” said Carl Erickson, CEO Beacon Worldwide.