Skip to main content
Strategies
Business Observer Friday, May 15, 2015 7 years ago

The four S's of superior sales performance

Share
Before you send your sales team out to represent your company, make sure it has all the tools needed to succeed.

There is a world of difference between starting a company and building a successful business. The “idea” part of a company is just one part of a complex puzzle. Below we examine the four pillars that help every business translate sales into growth: strategy, structure, staff and skills.
 
Strategy
For a company's sales force to sell successfully, it must have a compelling message that resonates with a specific, targeted group of people or companies. Take the time to have a clear vision of who derives the most benefit from what your company sells, or what problems they have that your company can solve.

Too often we work with clients who tell me they are in a mature market with lots of competition and that their company is really no different than the others. It is true that there are multiple insurance agencies, and technology firms, and yes even HVAC contractors. But what caused you to choose your HVAC contractor?

Every company has some differentiator. The leader of a company should be able to passionately share what makes his or her company special and unique. Your sales people are one of your best resources to go figure that out, if you haven't already. They can ask your best clients: “Why did you choose us?” 

In today's economic environment, companies are facing more competition and greater price pressures than ever. However, dropping price to close business is a risky proposition. What kind of message does that send about the quality of your offering? Worse yet, what does it do to the financial health of your company? Companies must create sales teams that truly believe in the value of their offering. Otherwise they run the risk of having their products or services commoditized.

Structure
Good sales structure has two basic components: the plan and accountability. Leadership must have the ability to make the plan relevant and meaningful to each sales person. Truth is, if the plan is well structured, it should incentivize the behavior that drives sales. Notice I said “behavior” — not revenue.

In the world of Sandler, we know that no one can ultimately control whether a customer buys or doesn't buy. We can only control the activity, or the behavior of the sales professional. If an individual focuses and executes on the right behavior with the right frequency, the results will ultimately come.

Of course, with that comes management's responsibility for accountability. Most sales people will cringe with the mention of accountability. And frequently they are right to do so.
Effective accountability does not mean endless reporting of how each and every moment of the day was spent. Effective accountability means a core set of behavior expectations, set with the help of the sales professional. The behaviors should be easily measurable with a “stretch” element to them. Once the right behavior expectations are in place, the sales person understands what is expected of him and has the ability to work toward achieving those goals. At the same time, the sales manager has clearly communicated expectations and will now have objective information on which to base that ever important performance evaluation — be it good or bad.

Staff
Many businesses overlook the importance of hiring well on the front end.

Another struggle we often see is management's inability to ascertain whether it has the right people to get to the next level. Objectively assessing each member of a sales team is critical. Once that valuable data is gathered, plans for improvement may be implemented and strengths can be identified and leveraged to the benefit of both the company and the individual contributor.

One last area that must be addressed relative to the staff component is the hiring process itself. It is astounding to me how many hiring managers will only interview and hire candidates with industry experience. You may think I'm crazy, but any company is better off hiring someone with sales skills and no industry experience than the other way around. Any good sales manager should be able to teach a sales person. But, if your hire doesn't have basic good sales skills, you are sunk.

Skills
Finally, as we send these carefully chosen individuals out into the world to represent our companies, we must give them the skills to do their jobs — the executable, step-by-step techniques that allow them to function in this highly competitive profession we call sales.

Getting in front of the right people with the right frequency is job No. 1.

Unfortunately, too often so much focus is placed on the actual number of appointments a sales person has that potential areas of weakness are overlooked.

Assuming the sales professional is getting to the right folks with the right frequency, you also need to make sure he's preserving the company's margins when he closes business. Sales people who have not developed the skills to have a peer-to-peer budget discussion will often drop their price to close business. And sacrificing margins to close business will kill business — that's not sales!

Jamie Kane is a Lakewood Ranch resident and the owner of Sandler Training in Sarasota. Sandler Training offers sales, management, and leadership training, coaching and consulting. Contact Kane at {encode="[email protected]" title="[email protected]"}.

Related Stories

Advertisement