Did you know that the most successful sales teams have a 30% higher level of sales support than average? It may appear to be a large margin, but according to a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, it seems that sales support staff really are key to driving sales success. The study looked at 40 technology companies and analysed their sales data. What they found was interesting; the amount of sales support employed by the various organizations significantly impacted the efficiency of their sales departments as measured by ROI.
The pattern that emerged was that all the companies in the top 25% for sales ROI had a 30% higher level of sales support. In fact, the increase in sales support resulted in a sales ROI that was more than twice that of the bottom 25%. Pretty compelling figures.
The team found that there was a “Goldilocks”, optimal amount and type of sales support and management. Companies had to be hitting this sweet spot of just the right level of sales support in order to reap the rewards.
Using the Harvard Business Review’s findings, we’ve put together a step by step guide on how to support your team to drive sales in the tech sector:
Step One: Find the Sweet Spot of Sales Support
Structure your sales team so that 50%–60% of staff are in support functions. It may seem cost effective to hire less support staff, but this is a false economy, since those companies that devote less than 30% of their sales staff to support functions wind up with lower sales ROI. But beware going above the 60% mark for support staff. Having too high a share of sales support could also relegate you to the bottom 75% of sales ROI.
This makes sense. First of all, employing the 50%-60% level of support staff will free up your sales reps to go out there and SELL while at the same time saving you money since sales support staff cost less than high commission earning reps.
Step Two: Get the Right Composition of Support
Make sure you have enough operations and administrative support staff. These are invaluable team members because they let reps get out there and spend time with customers or focus on inside sales duties, so think twice before you cut them in cost-saving programmes. The study found that the most successful companies had twice the number of operations and administrative support staff (at 27%) than those that performed less well (whose number of ops and admins was on average 12%).
Step Three: Balance Non-Managers to Managers
The report showed that the optimal ratio of non-manager to managers was 8:1. Those managers who had to supervise more than 10 people were ineffective, impacting the ROI. While a lower ratio was far too costly to be efficient.
Step Four: Use Digital to Become “Lean” Across the Entire Sales Process
The last big finding of the report was that that going digital and automating some support processes helped increase efficiency. Digital support activities can enhance the efficiency of the process of matching sales bids to sales reps, reducing the time spent per bid by up to 50%.
It’s clear that support staff are critical to driving up sales. By following the suggested support staff structures and ratios above, you can optimize your sales team and give your reps the support they need to focus on delivering sales.
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