Salesforce Effectiveness: How to unlock your full growth potential
Every successful business understands the critical importance of effective selling. Unfortunately, however, sales force effectiveness can decrease over time even with the best of intentions and time. Many reasons are behind this phenomenon, but they can all be overcome with suitable investments, focus, and follow-up.
If there's one thing that is true for modern-day sales, the landscape is constantly changing and evolving. Intensified competition has led to more demanding customers and pressure on prices. Therefore, to survive and thrive, sales teams need to approach customer acquisition and retention with a higher degree of sophistication to match this dynamic environment. With this, you can reduce the risk of being behind the curve and getting outmanoeuvred by your competitors.
Technology has been a transformative force in the world of sales. It's actively altering the way customers purchase products and how they are sold.
Salespeople have access to more data than at any point in marketing history, and customers remain more informed. As a result, the days of making a call, doing a presentation, or closing a sale without first pouring over data and insight, are over.
This article outlines the definition of salesforce effectiveness, its value, and the necessity of growing your company's sales potential.
What is Salesforce Effectiveness?
You'll likely get a different definition of Salesforce Effectiveness, depending on who you ask. It is not surprising; sales cover a vast area of any business's day-to-day functioning. However, we can still utilise a succinct definition based on how Salesforce Effectiveness works with this in mind.
While some sales managers would define effectiveness in terms of revenue, others would likely talk about target setting and the meeting of quotas. Others may talk about efficiency in beating deadlines and so on.
In reality, all of these interpretations are right. In the term's broadest sense, Salesforce Effectiveness measures how well your sales team meets their respective goals. Those goals can vary based on the business in question, meaning that there's no one-size-fits-all answer. Salesforce Effectiveness can have significantly different meanings based on each use case.
Salesforce Effectiveness is fundamentally about measuring how good your sales team is against a set of metrics and key performance indicators.
However, we can break this down even further into a simple formula: Salesforce effectiveness is your company's average output per salesperson.
Salesforce effectiveness = Average Output Per Salesperson.
Of course, knowing your average output per salesperson won't give you a complete picture of your sales team's performance. If the aim is to improve effectiveness, you have to measure and evaluate at a more granular level.
How you break it down, and what you look at in terms of effectiveness, will vary based on your team's structure and your company's strategy. But, here are areas where you could be asking critical questions in your business today:
- Directing: How do you get the salesforce to allocate time appropriately across products and high-value customer segments?
- Scoping: What role do you want your sales organisation to perform? What areas do you want them to cover (i.e. channel and territory mix), and how many customer accounts do you want them each to handle?
- Executing: How much time do you want your sales teams to spend on account service and administration? What details do you want them to capture relating to account planning and meeting preparations? What processes will you ask them to follow - automated vs manual?
- Engagement: What involvement and scope of authority will you share on pricing and discounts? What will be the frequency and form of sales touch (virtual meetings vs face-to-face)? How much focus will you ask your team to apply to customer acquisition versus spending time growing wallet share?
- Enablement: When will structure, incentives, or performance management be the most appropriate solutions? What is the best way to motivate your salesforce (especially if they have experienced a long period of good times or bad)? How do you strengthen your sales management/leadership team? What technologies will you invest in to support the team?
Why is Salesforce Effectiveness important?
Answering the questions listed in the above section will be a good starting point for addressing Salesforce Effectiveness and its importance, especially if you don't have answers to some of those questions.
Investing in Salesforce Effectiveness means you will actively improve your workforce's capabilities and skills, enhance their performance, and drive organisational growth. You will enable your salespeople to prioritise their tasks better and push their efforts towards high volume market segments.
Improving your Salesforce Effectiveness helps you better understand the changing market landscape and consumer trends and patterns and devise models and strategies that optimise your growth efforts.
Furthermore, Salesforce Effectiveness also helps with employee retention, motivating workers to perform better, improving the compensation and reward structure, and enabling better performance measurement. It can help you identify critical barriers to performance, such as the uneven distribution of territories, unrealistic goals, too little automation, and identifying opportunities to exceed expectations.
You can enable your sales representatives to target high volume segment customers, prioritise actions, assess needs, and develop solutions accordingly through various Salesforce Effectiveness tools and training techniques.
Although a little more challenging, depending on the number of products and their complexity (alongside technology), you can also enable your sales teams to get more active in upselling or cross-selling, maximising your revenues and perfecting customer acquisition strategies.
By leveraging Salesforce Effectiveness, you enable your business to create long-term valuable relationships whilst driving profitability and growing your market share.
What are the typical growth blockers that hamper salespeople and their effectiveness?
To better understand how your leadership in sales can leverage growth opportunities, it's essential first to understand the typical growth blockers that hamper salespeople:
Your salespeople need to demonstrate that they are experts in highlighting product features and benefits.
In this regard, sales departments can better align with their marketing colleagues. Salespeople need to put themselves in the position of their product and be capable of answering questions like the purpose of the product and use cases.
If your salesforce can't offer complex, competitive product and solution information with impact, they may not be effective. Again, marketing can play a crucial role in this respect.
A recent survey found that nearly 50% of respondents believed that a lack of information to support buyer needs was a key frustration point in the sales process.
In 2017, Sirius Decisions reported that the number one challenge for B2B salespeople was (and still is) "their inability to communicate value differentiation." Marketers must turn toward interactive applications that aid in telling a complex story to help sales deliver these value propositions to prospects. These applications provide a vehicle for deeper sales conversations, which uncover prospects' hidden needs and how the product or service in question can meet those needs.
Interestingly, Siemens Building Technology recently earned a Communicator Award for its interactive application, which offers actionable advice and information to help customers gain a more comprehensive understanding of smart buildings' benefits.
No Optimised Sales Process
In a way, your sales process can resemble an assembly line. Leads arrive at one end, and, ideally, sales come out of the other end. Along the way is a range of intermediate steps that each take time. If you're aiming to make significant improvements in your sales metrics, like cycle times or conversions, you may think you need to make substantial changes to your sales process. But in reality, it can be easy to make minor tweaks at some of these steps to leverage significant results.
See related post: 21 Ways to Get More Sales in 2022
Utilising analytical tools like Google Analytics makes it possible to gain a holistic view of your sales processes to identify better where improvements can be made and how customers fail to convert.
Standing Apart From Competitors
How can your salesforce help to set your company apart from its competitors? By establishing meaningful relationships with prospects and customers. Remember that every customer touchpoint represents your brand - an excellent customer experience can turn your customers into brand evangelists.
Demonstrate your passion for helping your customers by being selfless and offering rich, expert-level knowledge. If your business isn't the best solution for them, don't be afraid to provide suggestions for better ones. While it may seem counterintuitive, this can work wonders in establishing trust.
For instance, a contact could refer someone else to your business based on your honesty. In that scenario, if your customer's situation changes, they'll be more likely to come back to you.
Showing that you have your prospects' best interests at heart is one of the best ways of proving your worth ahead of your competitors. To better realise this potential, you may want to consider revamping your sales process to focus on every customer interaction as an opportunity to add value.
See related post: 12 Places Your Content Impacts Your Customer Experience
Zappos - an incredible case study story
Zappos's business and operating models are closely aligned, and this has allowed Zappos to thrive. Everything Zappos intends is to provide the best possible customer service and improve customer satisfaction, from its warehouse to its headquarters.
The best way to stand out from your rivals is to offer your prospects a more remarkable sales experience. The more you guide them instead of selling to them, the more you'll find yourself advising them, rather than pushing them, leading to a better chance of converting.
Also, it's worth noting that even if you have a process, if one member of your salesforce doesn't follow it, you don't have a process at all. The same is true for scenarios where you have a process that you don't measure.
For sales to be truly scalable, repeatable and predictable, businesses need a documented, measured and trained sales process that everyone follows every day.
What are the 5 levers you can pull to ensure that you stay on top and maximise your company's sales growth potential?
Measuring Sales Force Effectiveness
To be an effective sales team, you need to have a clear strategy, pick the right set of customers to target, understand the market, and wisely prioritise accounts.
However, in many cases, sales teams approach these levers with insufficient rigour or use incomplete or outdated information.
Reviews of customer segments, for instance, can often reveal a lack of meaningful detail that your sales colleagues can use to take the right actions. Without greater insight into various customers' needs, buying patterns, and overall value, your salesforce has little way of knowing where to focus its activities (therefore falling back on instincts/chance/relationships).
However, too much data can often be overwhelming. The key here is to clarify where the highest value opportunities lie so that sales reps can prioritise accordingly.
When you scope and shape where your sales resources are assigned, you maximise the payback potential - primarily if you focus efforts on the highest value customers and segments. This area's importance increases as your business scales and grows in complexity, from a system, process, people and customer standpoint.
Factors like products, customers, competitors, geographies, channels, and industries can come into play and must be aligned to numbers and types of resources. As needs often overlap, decision-making regarding best-deployed resources becomes more complicated given numerous market opportunities.
Typically, these decisions involve trade-offs (making choices and prioritising) and require a deep understanding of customers to identify accounts in which direct selling is inefficient or ineffective. However, even the best companies can benefit from more systematic, data-driven reviews of how they deploy their salespeople. This form of analysis can expose critical gaps and significant growth opportunities which can boost sales revenues - in many cases, double-digit growth.
Remember to increase face time with your key customers. Sales reps who spend less time on low-value administrative tasks can open up more time to add customer value and differentiate your company from your competitors—ultimately increasing their productivity.
To this end, it's advisable to recommend three levers:
First, ensure that your salesforce is thorough in their account planning, so they know where and how to spend their time most efficiently.
Secondly, make the sale process, tools, and handoffs as streamlined and simple as possible, potentially using digital tools to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
Third, identify and attempt to minimise the tasks and activities that take your salesforce away from their customers.
Each of these levers involves a fair level of effort but can come with significant boosts to productivity, so companies should zero in on the ones with the most upside potential. Fundamentally, the payback will be worth it: the typical revenue impact is between 5% and 10% and can sometimes exceed 15%.
Be sure to make customer interactions more productive. Sometimes, improving how your leads are generated and vetted can lead to more excellent outcomes. However, as a rule, greater upfront research and planning levels can help reps get more out of both initial sales calls and visits with existing customers.
By exploring the full range of customer needs, taking advantage of potential cross-selling opportunities, and finding out if and where price sensitivities exist, sales reps can optimise their share of wallet. In some cases, simply understanding how frequently your salesforce interact with customers, the quality of those interactions, and how well reps perform on renewals relative to competition can pave the way for significant insights. Here, it's vital to reiterate what will make the most significant difference. Improvements in this area can positively impact revenues by 5%.
Over the last five years, sales enablement in organisations has taken off, with three times more firms (from a base of 20% to 60%) reporting they have a dedicated sales enablement person, program or function. Moreover, firms that have invested in sales enablement claim better sales plans and profit attainment performance than those that don't.
However, despite the growing trend of companies investing in sales enablement, you'll get twenty different answers if you ask twenty people what sales enablement is. Overall, sales enablement is a combination of primarily four areas:
1) Sales Training
Making the sales team's life easier in applying their sales activities and processes (saving them time and reducing distractions) or helping customers self-service by making their experience easy to do business with you. This helps to free up talent to spend more time adding value to your customers.
It is providing them with the quality data, insights and perspectives that will inspire them so that, in turn, they can use these to encourage your customers.
By ensuring that you:
- evaluate sales coaching and management,
-software tools, training programs, support manuals and brochures,
- incentives, and compensation packages.
Companies can effectively weigh up the cost-to-value trade-offs and make intelligent decisions about the most effective ones.
As each situation is different, the right solution, and bottom-line impact delivered, will heavily depend on your company's starting point, industry and competitive position. However, in a marketing landscape that's defined by marginal gains, optimising your salesforce effectiveness is a vital way for gaining ground on your competitors and ensuring that your business stands out in an increasingly congested marketplace.
Are you looking to improve the performance of your salesforce? If that's the case, and you have a lot of work to do and don't know where to start, we suggest you start by fixing the basics. Often by making small changes, you can make a big difference. More often than not, you create savings that you can use to fund the broader change effort, covering many of the points outlined in this article.
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