Improve Your Sales Force – The Right Way

My name is Dave Christofaro. I’m a Director of Global Accounts at Sales Performance International.

My focus is working with large organizations to effectively improve sales performance. There can be a lot of moving parts in those types of solutions, but we help them identify and manage their way through those sales performance improvement projects.

What are some errors that companies make when trying to improve their sales force?

Over the last 10 – 12 years, I’ve worked with several companies on sales performance improvement initiatives. Candidly, some of them that have not returned the kind of business results or impact that they thought they’d get. Usually, that’s for three reasons.

  1. The initiative is viewed as a sales challenge, and only a sales challenge. “Sales is not meeting our goal, so it must be a sales challenge. Let’s try to go out and fix sales.” Sometimes the flaw with that can be that for sales to be effective, the organization needs some work done. Needing a broad organizational support means that the initiative focuses on more than just sales.
  2. Sometimes, organizations may not have the facilities or the resources to support, is the ability to tailor whatever the solution for each of the global geographical regions that they have. While selling may not be that different, there are cultural nuances for each region that the solution needs to be tailored and adapted to.
  3. Sales performance improvement initiatives aren’t effectively managing change. If you’re bringing a performance improvement initiative, many times, you’re looking for people to do something different from what they’re doing today. You’re looking for them to change their behavior. If you don’t have the proper change management protocol and structure in place to effectively measure and monitor change, then a lot of organizations have seen a very short term impact. But, people revert to what they were doing before, and results are not sustained.

How do you prevent organizations from making mistakes, while trying to improve their sales force?

One of the shifts or trends that we’re seeing with organizations that are looking to improve sales performance, is that they’ve probably done many projects in the past and they didn’t work, so they’ve learned from those. As they move forward, they’re recognizing that there’s more to improving sales than just sales. There are marketing needs to understand and support what sales is doing. HR needs to make sure that they have the right development plans in place for individuals, or that they’re even hiring the right kind of people. Finance needs to have the right types of compensation plan.

Organizations recognize that to improve sales performance, it takes more than just a focus on sales. Over the last two years, I have had several organizations that I’ve worked with say, “We know the issues are more systemic than sales. How do I identify how systemic they are and where to begin?”

At SPI, we work with those organizations on what we call a sales force effectiveness study. That study is specifically designed to look across the entire organization, identify the impediments to sales performance improvement, help them prioritize the order in which to attack those impediments, and a roadmap for implementing the overall performance improvement initiative.

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