Salespeople like to suggest they can sell ice to Eskimos, as if to say they are just that good. It's a nice sentiment, but totally implausible. A salesperson is only an influencer in a customer's buying decision. Sure a bad salesperson can drive a customer away, but a great salesperson is limited by the potential of the products he sells. If the customer doesn't want what he has to sell, there isn't much he can do about it.
Salespeople are only part of equation. To determine if a salesperson will be successful or not, you have to look at a company's brand and the demand for its products. The equation I look to for sales performance is Brand + Demand + Talent = Sales. You need all three for a truly effective sales force.
The Eskimos were never dumb. They don't take persuasive salespeople at their word, and now they can check them out online. With a few quick searches on Google, they can clearly validate all of the salesperson's claims. If they check out, great, the sale will be made. If not, well no ice is sold.
We live in an age of abundance. There are countless companies, products and services available. The competition is steep, and finding vendors is easy. If you don't know who to buy from you can source your options online. The web is a powerful equalizer of companies. Buyers don't have to compromise. They get to find and choose the products and services that best fit their needs.
Brand counts for so much in the sales game. The more established the brand, and the clearer the value proposition, the easier the product is to sell. This is simply good marketing. The sales team is reliant on marketing's ability to get it right and layout a rock solid brand, market position and value proposition. Without an effective brand, the sales team ends up selling on price, because there isn't any other way they can differentiate their products.
Selling on price is a last resort. There is always another competitor who can sell for even less. That's why you have to nail down the brand. The better the brand; the better your margins. Why? Because customers are willing to pay more to get the differentiated products and services that meet their needs. They are choosing the brand, versus settling for something else. It's pretty straight forward.
The number one indicator of sales performance is territory potential. It doesn't matter how good a salesperson is. If the territory sucks, the salesperson's performance will suck too. A great sales- person may do measurably better in a poor territory, but compared to the reps in high potential territories they will still appear terrible.
This poses a real challenge for organizations trying to increase their sales. The old logic states, to grow sales hire more salespeople. The problem is more salespeople won't increase territory potential. Rather every time a salesperson is added to the territory everyone's performance is adversely impacted.
To grow sales you need to increase lead volume. The more leads there are, the more sales can be made. One of the hottest arenas in sales is demand creation. A demand creation department resides between sales and marketing, and its purpose is to execute programs and campaigns to generate sales leads.
Demand creation is multifaceted. You can generate leads by teleprospecting, webinars, events, tradeshows, search engine optimization, direct mail, email, public relations, you name it. The more touch points your organization can create with your market the better. The goal is to build relationships with prospective customers well before they are ready to buy. This will enable your organization to be the first call when your customers start to shop.
Before hiring more salespeople always evaluate the territory potential. If you need to increase the potential build a demand creation department. The increased lead volume makes it easier to hire, feed and manage salespeople for results.
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great wrote, good-to-great companies "first got the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus."
Talent is the X factor in a top performing sales organization. They take brand and demand, and they make something of it. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a group of top sales reps dominate a market. Armed with a well defined brand and strong market potential they simply win deal after deal. It's a little like shock-and-awe. They achieve sales and revenues other organizations could only dream of.
Without a well tuned sales force, sales won't be made. Brand and demand drive customers to the door, but the sales team is responsible for reinforcing the brand, solving problems, negotiating deals and driving the revenue. In our overly competitive marketplace every differentiator you can build into your organization is essential. The caliber of the sales force is a clear brand differentiator.
Brand x Demand x Talent = Sales
There isn't a silver bullet for sales performance. Everything counts. From the focus of the brand, to the number of leads in a territory, to the caliber of the sales force. Each customer touch point has to be in sync to achieve sustainable growth.
The new reality of sales is sales and marketing have to work together. It's no longer a separation of functions. Both departments are clearly dependent on each other. The better an organization can align their sales and marketing, the better they will perform.
About the Author:
Jeremy Miller is a Partner with LEAPJob, a sales and marketing recruiting firm in Toronto, Canada.
©Jeremy Miller, 2009. Reproduced with permission.