Does Your Company Have a Sales Team, or a Sales Force?

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One of the top gripes companies have on a consistent basis is that their sales team is not selling. To fix that, you need to ask a clarifying question, “Do we have a Sales Team or a Sales Force?” Sales Teams wait around for the sales to happen. Sales Forces generate sales. There is a fundamental difference between these two sales ideologies, and it will affect the overall predictability of your business revenue.

Think about it for a moment. If you are waiting around for a client to call and give you a sale, it is impossible to predict when and how much. Sure companies look at last year’s numbers and use that as a gauge of what should be coming in or what is commonly referred to as run-rate, but what if it doesn’t? We see this time and again and when those numbers don’t come in, there is an awful lot of pain that goes around. You need a force of sales professionals that smash the market with productive revenue generating activity. If you are salivating and wondering how to make this happen, you first need to understand why your Sales Team is not a Sales Force. Through a wealth of experience, we’ve found that these are the top 7 reasons why the Force isn’t with you:

    1. Culture: This is the one that’s most important and almost always gets ignored. A culture of accountability, hard work, and results will transform an organization. If everyone is getting in at 9:00, spending the first 45 minutes checking email, sharpening pencils, taking 30 minute coffee breaks, taking 2 hour lunches, spending their afternoon checking Facebook and email and leaving at 4:00, there isn’t a lot of time for selling. This is a common occurrence in organizations and instead, creating a culture of selling from the receptionist all the way through sales, operations, finance, HR, up to the CEO is more powerful than anything else you can do. Create a selling culture and the culture will sell!
    2. Set Clear Achievable Targets and Don’t Touch Them: If you don’t know where the target is, you can’t hit it. Targets and commission dictate behavior so if you’re wondering why your sales people aren’t selling, you might first ask is if you’re motivating the right behavior. Clear and concise targets that are motivated by properly structured commissions are going to create results. The targets can be challenging, however, they need to be achievable on planet Earth. For a sales person, there is nothing worse than getting an unrealistic target. It will make them stop before they start. What’s worse than that is moving a target after it has set. Amateur organizations set the targets and then penalize the sales force for hitting the goals by moving them higher in-year. This will de-motivate the entire team and you’ll watch sales go down the drain. A total culture killer!
    3. Structure: There are so many ways to structure a Sales Force and when you get it right, it’s magic. If you get the right people in the right job, they will shine. Don’t have your hunters wasting their time farming and don’t make a farmer hunt that doesn’t have the DNA to hunt. This is just scratching the surface, but getting the right people in the right place is a day-one priority. Also, once you get this structure set, it is OK to tweak but don’t change it too often. We experienced a major multi-billion dollar company that decided to restructure the sales force, not one time, not two times, not three times, but four times within an 18 month period. Do you think anyone was concentrating on selling? Set the structure and run with it! Tweak but don’t touch.
    4. Rewards: From a used car lot to Fortune 500 companies, there are always going to be companies that destroy their sales force’s motivation by having an ambiguous commission plan or constantly tweaking the plan to the salesperson’s disadvantage. These sales professionals are selling to make money. Full Stop. When you play with that, you play with your results. Make the commission schedule clear and concise. Remember, this is going to dictate the salespeople’s behavior so if you want your sales to go ballistic, motivate them with good commissions based on a plan that is fair, challenging, and easy to understand that tell them how they are going to get paid.
    5. People and Training: Sometimes, you can’t turn coal into a diamond no matter how much pressure and heat you apply. It’s not that someone has to be born to sell, but if they don’t have the inherent skill set and don’t want to work hard, they are not going to perform. Selling isn’t easy and that’s why good commission structures reward the sales professional handsomely for selling. It usually takes a tremendous amount of hard work and the willingness to learn new skills, but it also takes training. If your salespeople don’t have enough training to understand how to prospect, propose,and close through a disciplined sales cycle than they are going to either fail or half succeed. If you find your sales are lagging, and you have addressed the other steps in this list, then training is your priority!
    6. Results & Forecasting: This is one of the all time favorites because it is just so easy to fix. Companies that don’t track their opportunities on a platform that is easy for Sales to know they are not hitting their targets are asking for failure. This is no different than using a map. If you don’t know where you are, where you need to go, how far you have come, and how to get there, how can you ever reach your destination? Sales isn’t any different. Get proper tools in place and at this point, there are so many inexpensive options available to do this like, Salesforce.com, Zoho and Insightly that you have no excuse. Get it done!
    7. Administrative Nightmare’s: This one is easy to see but the hardest to fix. If your salespeople are spending all of their time doing paperwork either before or after a sales, there isn’t much time for selling. We witnessed this in organizations both in the US and Canada and in some organizations it was so bad that the entire sales force was frightened of making a sale due to the overwhelming amount of work that would follow. Sales people are there to sell. Take away the administrative burden and get them selling! Remember, selling is a profession and good salespeople are professionals. You wouldn’t ask a doctor to fix your toilet so don’t ask salespeople to do anything else but sell.

These are the 7 Steps that will surely help turn your sales team into a sales force. Take a look at your organization and see if you have addressed all the steps. If you have and you still aren’t getting anywhere, there will be several articles coming out in the next few weeks that discuss each one of these steps to help you more. If after that your team is still not a force, feel free to give us a call and our team will see if we can help.

This article was written by Dominic Mazzone, Managing Partner of Smashbox Consulting.

This article and other like it can be viewed at SmashBox Consulting.

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