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Sales Leadership
May 13, 2013 | Kristina Vohma lock

Thinking of automating your sales processes? Before you do so, start with these four keys to sales force productivity -- and add millions of dollars to your sales results!

Most sales leaders find themselves bombarded with sales force productivity tools promising greater sales results and faster ways to find new customers.  There are hundreds of tools including CRM, cloud-based solutions, and an overwhelming selection of sales apps and social media strategies.

How can a Sales Executive navigate through this sea of automation tools?
It’s no surprise that the right tools in the right hands can be extraordinarily effective. Similarly, sales leaders need to remember that a surgeon’s scalpel in unskilled hands is like a box cutter! Before investing in automation tools for your sales organization, make sure you have a solid foundation for success.

To test the strength of your sales organization, ask these four key questions:
• Is your annualized sales force turnover below 15%?
• Are your sales openings consistently filled by successful, high performers?
• Do your sales leaders know how to establish a rhythm for better win ratios?
• Are your sales strategies implemented uniformly across all geographies?

If not, you might be missing out.
Answering no to any of these questions means you're probably leaving millions of dollars on the table and making your own job much more difficult.  To fix this:
• Start by putting the best people on your team,
• Give them appropriate strategies,
• Provide consistent leadership, and
• Develop a consistent and rhythmic pace that converts more customer meetings into profitable sales.

Curious about how to implement these winning practices?  Here’s what has worked for us.
1. Fill open sales positions in days, not months.  Vacant territories hurt revenues, leave customers neglected, and stress out the entire team.  Sales hiring has changed.  Companies that know how to use modern hiring methods fill positions with high performers far faster than those that don’t.  However, using contemporary hiring techniques doesn’t mean simply placing your previous hiring methods onto a social media platform, as this doesn’t generate interest and fails to attract the right talent. The key is to focus on simplifying your process and making it optimally engaging. To check if your hiring practices are adequate, try applying for a job in your own company.  Is it a motivating experience, or do you find yourself getting irritated by cookie-cutter job descriptions, dead links, and bureaucratic application forms? 

Tip: The best sales applicants don't have time to fuss with complex recruiting processes. If there are too many hoops for them to jump through, they will go elsewhere. You can fill positions much faster with an effective social hiring process: one that excites the best applicants and gets them connected within two mouse clicks.

2. Keep your feet in the street.  Sales force turnover can cost $1 million per lost rep. Even within the same industry, sales teams typically face turnover ranging from 12% to 35%.  Teams in the lower end of this range have an advantage, while companies above 20% are wasting time hiring and replacing their sales force instead of selling.  The methods for assessing and selecting sales professionals have changed dramatically in recent years.  Today, many applicants are now able to “game” old-fashioned sales selection methods. For instance, mediocre applicants can look like rock stars when they memorize the answers to your traditional interview questions. 

Tip: Google your favourite interview questions, such as “sell me this pen”. You will quickly see dozens of links that provide so-called best answers to memorize. Protect yourself and substantially increase the proportion of stellar recruits you hire by adapting state-of-the-art sales interviewing and assessment methods.  This can save a mid-sized company millions of dollars.

3. Have your sales managers focus on what really counts. A qualified sales lead is too valuable to waste. Many sales teams have become distracted by focusing on the metric or the “tool du jour” instead of the customer-closing strategy. This situation only allows you to report your missed deals faster. Instead, concentrate on supporting your sales leaders and make sure they have the training and methods needed to help your sales teams close more business. Strong leaders produce powerful teams!

Tip: Assess your sales leaders’ ability to teach their reps how to repeatedly formulate an account strategy, build customer relationships, and improve their win ratios.  Only then establish your metrics and implement suitable automation tools.

4. It’s a marathon, not a dash.  Wondering how some companies are able to realize a 25% improvement in closing success?  The answer lies in developing consistent and recurring processes for closing more business, and closing faster.  Champion sports teams achieve tremendous success by establishing a well-honed rhythm that allows them to win continuously. The coach is the one who sets that rhythm. Similarly, a sales team needs to develop a sales rhythm to reach its stride quicker. Turn your sales leaders into closing coaches who are able to teach their sales reps how to find new opportunities and increase the number of winning deals.

Tip: Ask each of your sales leaders to explain their sales strategies for each of your core business lines. In addition, ask them to describe the critical tipping points and how they measure their sales reps’ success. If they can't do this, it is time to focus on building their leadership and coaching skills.

Now you’re ready to report more wins!
Building the right foundation can add millions of dollars to your top line.  However, when you have an underprepared team using obsolete processes, providing them with technology and productivity tools only allows them to communicate their losses more quickly.  It’s far more effective to rebuild the team by providing your sales managers with the tools to stack their teams with high achievers, coach and develop high levels of performance, then track and automate their successes.

John Moore, Tom Armour and Kristina Vohma bring together decades of leadership practices from high performing global companies. They are strong proponents of the right automation tools but know that consistent performance is built on sound leadership. They have combined their advanced sales selection process and innovative sales leadership coaching practices to produce a comprehensive process for building greater sales results. For more information please contact JohnMoore@wraymacsolutions.com.

 

Recommended Reading:
Sales Leadership vs. Sales Management
Long-Distance Leadership: How Management Styles are Changing to Encompass a Global Workforce
What Makes a Great Leader Stand Out?

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