How to Target Your Sales Improvement Efforts More Precisely for Greater Impact

As a sales leader with limited time and resources, how do you prioritize your sales improvement initiatives to ensure that you get the highest return on your investment? How do you know what kinds of projects are worth investing in, and in what priority?

Too many sales performance improvement projects begin with general assumptions about what is needed, before determining the specific root causes of an underperforming organization. For example, sales leadership may assume that their people need to be more consultative, or need to improve negotiating skills to avoid discounting.

While these conclusions may have some basis, the underlying causes and effects on selling success – in your company, in your markets, for your products, and for your customers – might not yet be fully understood. As a result, many sales improvement initiatives typically distill down to a “fix the salesforce” training event – based on intuition, instead of hard data. In addition, there is often little commitment to measuring impact, because there’s no defined approach tracking causal metrics and sustaining change.

How can sales leaders avoid being misled by their assumptions and intuition, and know for certain where to invest time and resources to improve sales?

Investing with Precision

Here’s how to target your sales improvement efforts more precisely:

  1. Establish a baseline framework for optimal sales engagement.Start with a solid foundation. If a sales organization wants to provide a consistently high quality experience for buyers, it needs a formally defined framework for sales engagement. Without a common language, consistent frame of reference, and a buyer-aligned approach for sales planning, execution and management, it’s virtually impossible make data-driven, analytic-based decisions about sales improvement. Key sales activities must also be reasonably enabled and aligned to CRM usage, to provide a foundation for measurable improvements.
  2. Identify the critical competencies required for sales success.Sometimes it’s not just a framework for selling that an organization is struggling with. For example, we have seen global organizations where a group of salespeople were once highly effective, but for some reason, their own experience diminished their effectiveness. This often happens after a fundamental shift in either their market or competition.In these cases, the approach that led to past success simply isn’t working anymore. The challenge is objectively uncovering the underlying causes of lower performance, and then addressing the critical selling competencies that can drive improved outcomes.It is possible to eliminate guesswork on where to focus sales competencies. We typically begin with about twenty core sales competencies, tailored to specific selling roles. We then work closely with a client to tailor a competency model that applies to specific sales roles in their organization.  The result is what we refer to as “competency skylines.”  These illustrate the critical sales competencies for each role and the required proficiency levels to succeed. This provides a baseline reference against which the sales organization can be assessed.
  3. Audit the talent of the sales teamWith defined competency skylines, we can then assess individuals to measure their proficiency in required competencies for their sales role. In addition, we evaluate performance data across the organization and use advanced analytics to identify which competencies have the highest impact on business outcomes.This analysis creates two valuable insights:  1) It validates and refines the skyline model against real performance data, and 2) it clearly illustrates where capability gaps exist that have the most impact on desired sales outcomes.These insights provide sales leaders with the ability to focus development plans for each role or individual, and helps managers apply their coaching time to improve their team in the most impactful areas. The result is more intelligent investment in improving human capital in the sales team.

With this method, sales leaders can test hypotheses against defined measurement, and make much more precise decisions about sales performance improvement investments. Rather than guessing what might drive better sales, sales leaders know what “good” looks like for salespeople in the context of their business, and the specific gaps between the current state and the ideal. They can then prescribe meaningful, high impact development plans for improvement.  These plans could involve training, but it they may involve other types of sales enablement, as well.

It is possible to make sales performance improvement investment decisions with confidence and certainty. By using a data-driven approach, sales leaders can accelerate improved results.

We’ve prepared a white paper that describes a data-driven approach to sales performance improvement, which you can download here.

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