In the rush to provide sales and marketing automation tools and the need to create more and more compelling content to draw customers in, there is a danger that you may be overlooking your most important sales resource...your sales people.
It doesn't matter if you have a simple product or offer, such as co-location power and space, a hosted software solution or a more complex infrastructure managed service offering, your customers buy from people and they almost always have a complex set of issues and drivers to resolve in making a buying decision. Your sales people are the most visible face of your business and critical to ensuring you meet your business objectives.
So, managing and nurturing that sales talent is vitally important and you could do worse than start by asking yourself 3 simple questions.
- What is the average time to revenue for new sales people? No doubt this will differ from company to company based on the complexity of the proposition, but you might want to set a target that says this should be a maximum of 6 months.
- Is the average tenure of our sales people greater than 4 years?
- Is the average tenure of our sales directors/sales vice-presidents greater than 4 years?
If your answer is no, or don't know to any of these questions then there may be some issues you need to address.
While most companies have a pretty clear idea of the type of sales people they need, and the best companies have documented their requirements, many fail to provide a formal on-boarding process for all new sales hires. Those first few weeks are critical to making the new sales person feel a valued part of a well organised, successful team. Leaving them to their own devices, to find out for themselves about everything from the company's value propositions, through getting on-line to understanding how to claim expenses can reduce productivity and lead to increased staff turnover.
Most companies would claim that they assess staff regularly, but I often hear that assessments are often very subjective and perfunctory, with little follow up action. Ask yourself, how effective is your assessment process? Do you have a documented and published set of core competencies and behaviours for sales? Are all sales people assessed once a year against these clearly defined competencies and behaviours?
Having assessed your sales people do you produce training and development plans for all sales based on the outcome of their annual assessments? Is new service or solution training focused onto specific sales people rather than the whole sales force? Too often, under time and cost pressure, training is either ignored completely, or a perfunctory tick box effort that isn't focused properly. Either way you won't have a clear picture of how competent, capable and confident your sales people are and whether there may be deeper product and company issues at play.
Finally, do you understand the characteristics and best practices of your most successful sales people? Do you regularly leverage the learning from your leading sales people across the organisation? Sales people often complain that marketing doesn't understand what sales need, or that the company's products are meeting customer requirements. The temptation then is to think that sales, a bit like farmers, always complain. But they are your direct interface to your customers and the best ones will bring tremendous insights into customer needs and buying habits. The best ones will go that extra mile to win the sale. You need to ensure you capture that best practice and make sales feel you value and act on that input.
This post first appeared on the old Cassini Reviews website.