5 Actions a CEO Can Take That Will Make a Big Difference to Drive Sales Performance and improve your sales long term.
Throughout the holiday break, many CEOs reflected on the performance of their sales organisation and the execution of their strategies over the previous calendar year. For some, their reflection provides a sense of confidence for the New Year, but for many others, a sense of rising frustration as results are not as planned and there is a risk of underperformance.
Strategies have been developed to achieve specific goals for the business not just in sales. However, most strategies rely directly or indirectly on sales delivery. It allows the flow-on of cash flow to ensure all other initiatives can be met. The need for an effective sales organisation capable of executing those strategies is pivotal and therein lays the problems for many companies.
The need for sales improvement is one that cannot be delayed but often the approach only creates further corrosion of the results. Sales improvement is often approached through traditional sales training and software implementation approach, but that does not actually improve your success. If you are planning any type of sales improvement initiative for the coming year, here are five commonly missed items that can substantially impact your ability to deliver and achieve the expected result.
Drive Sales Performance Tip #1. Strategy Execution Planning
Too often sales leaders are challenged to find the balance between planning and delivery. They often jump too quickly into delivery without giving due consideration to what is really needed to deliver the results and establishing sufficient measures to manage the execution. Doing more of the same with more enthusiasm is not a plan; nor is hiring more people going to guarantee results.
Execution planning requires a detailed analysis of what will be required in people, customers, sales behaviours, internal systems, sales tools, and marketing to find that finite line of what will deliver profitable results through the sales organisation.
This requires an investment of some upfront planning work to really establish a successful sales effectiveness process that is measured correctly and then managed correctly throughout the year. Once you have determined the strategic initiatives that you will undertake in 2013, it pays to sit down with someone who works out strategy execution all day, every day.
This will assist you to clarify your priorities, scope the right execution plan that will deliver sales goals, develop a realistic project plan for implementation, assist you to think through the change management implications, and how integrate your sales improvement plan. This planning activity also assists in getting leadership and other stakeholders bought into the initiative both financially and emotionally.
Drive Sales Performance Tip #2. Understand What to Expect from the Sales Leaders
Too often CEOs are placed in the position of managing sales leaders on the basis of ‘Trust Me’ philosophies. Sales leaders masterfully sell CEOs to leave them to their own devices to deliver the results. They put a very little footprint on the ground for the CEO to follow and everyone is required to await the results being delivered.
The reality is for over 57% of companies that are ‘trust me’ managed, is they do not deliver planned sales goals.
The ‘trust-me’ philosophy is often associated with those leaders that dislike systems and transparency and are promoters of autonomy in their sales teams too. When results are down they have what on the surface seem to be plausible answers, however, the results are not delivered. Some may have lucky breaks with a big deal coming through to save the day but the reality is their role is to have strategic sales plans to over-ride most commercial challenges.
The risk for CEOs is that if the results are not delivered it is not just about failing to achieve sales strategies. Quite often they must make hard decisions elsewhere in the company and they too may well come under scrutiny from their board personally.
It is important that CEOs have transparency of what is occurring in the sales organisation through more than just the financial reports and a pipeline report. They need to have the option at all times to look deeper and review measurements and indicators that validate the sales organisation is on track to deliver. They need both lagger measurements and driver measurements. This transparency provides CEOs with solid information that creates a productive dialogue with the sales leaders to keep the company focused and capable of delivering.
Drive Sales Performance Tip #3. Evaluation of Leadership Talent
The success of the sales organisation often lies with one person, the sales leader. They are pivotal to results being delivered by the team as sales forces are typically a direct reflection of the sales leader after ninety days. The sales leader at all times sets the standards and influences the behaviours of the sales team, whether they are applying performance management cultures, autonomy cultures, or variations of either.
If the sales leader is lacking skills for today’s hardened commercial requirements, then you are exposing the company to risk through non-delivery of sales goals.
CEOs need to have their sales leaders assessed against current best practices, knowledge, and skills to evaluate any additional skills they may need. If the sales leader is receptive to training, you need to invest in their development.
Interestingly, sales leaders receive the least amount of training and mentoring of any other member of the sales organisation even though their role is critical to success. Often promoted for their sales capability and customer relationships they can be challenged to understand or deliver the full requirements of the managerial role. Those sales leaders accepting education can be developed into excellent commercial sales managers creating an outstanding asset to the company. Those not accepting education may need to have their talents applied to other areas of the business.
Investing in an assessment of your sales leader now can minimise many risks and financial losses down the road. Mentoring and developing a sales leader can contribute much more to strategy execution.
Drive Sales Performance Tip #4. Building Capability and Consistency in Sales Leaders
Once the sales leader has developed the necessary skills to deliver results, the need for genuine performance management of the team becomes pivotal. Performance management embraces activities that ensure that execution goals are consistently being met in an effective and efficient manner. Performance management focuses on the performance of the sales organisation and the sales team members; as opposed to autonomy style management. Performance management is about providing high levels of sales coaching and guiding assisting people to stay on plan and removing the barriers that stop them from producing.
Sales leaders need to understand performance management content and culture. They also need to know what’s expected of them to support the overall sales improvement process. Even if they have a lot of experience, don’t assume that they know what they need to do differently. Take the time, make the investment, and have them mentored so that they are all aligned and present a consistent message across the sales organisation.
Improving sales leadership also requires the sales organisation to understand what is required of the sales rep for improving sales performance. What key performance indicators will be reviewed, and how the sales processes will change. A strong sales enablement person can be instrumental in building performing sales teams and supporting sales leadership.
Drive Sales Performance Tip #5. Gaining ROI through Change
Any sales improvement or strategy execution improvement project requires change. Many change efforts or projects fall by the wayside as people become focused on different projects and tasks throughout the year. The sales organisation is no different and can in fact be more prone to going off task with all the external pressures of customers on them.
A well-managed project requires clear definitions of what change will be delivered, measurement, excellent communication, and a consistent review of performance. There needs to be accountability for everyone involved including the CEO. Change within sales organisations is not a task that can be delegated.
If the CEO is not active in the review processes throughout the year, the changes will not occur. As with lean manufacturing initiatives, only 5-7% of change initiatives succeed when the CEO is not active in the process.
A well-planned and managed sales improvement project can return the initial investment many times over and deliver a significant improvement to an organisation with the reward of increased sales. The level of improvement that can be achieved can be analysed and identified with actual potential earnings from the outset. This provides a business case of what degree of change and investment is required to deliver the planned goals.
If you have any questions or need any assistance in reviewing the requirements for a Sales Transformation project to deliver results, please don’t hesitate to contact our office to discuss your specific situation.
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