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Driving Your Sales Capabilities through Sales Improvement Review

sales capabilities meter showing performance levels
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Driving the sales capabilities of your sales organisation has often in the past relied on the intuitive skills of one or two people within the organisation. For small businesses, this practice is maybe acceptable but once a sales organisation has over ten members, intuitive management no longer supports the business’s growth. Often intuitive management goes hand in hand with low structure and process installed within the sales organisation, which can actually inhibit your sales performance further.

“Top-performing companies typically are those that have stepped back and taken an independent view of their business to refine and improve how they operate to ensure they sustain a competitive advantage. And that research is done regularly.”

This action is commonplace in business operations, where a manufacturing or distribution area reaches a certain size or volume throughput, it must be supported by systems and processes to continue delivering the required output. Some adopt Lean practices and others install other manufacturing and distribution methodologies; all with the same intent to improve performance and lower costs to deliver.

Without such actions being taken, the business has immediately capped its output and profitability. The same applies to sales organisations but they are often more wary of having any other opinions or reviews provided that may challenge their current thinking.

The review of the sales organisation is in itself a disciplined process that combines best practices with business disciplines and sales disciplines. It looks deep into business practices operating around the sales organisation and not just the sales process which most people typically think of.

Sales Improvement Reviews are designed to drive sales capability through the identification of the right changes and improvements required for the business to reach its growth and profit expectations. It assists businesses to:

  • Identify those sales activities that are critical (and not critical) to winning business;
  • Standardise sales processes based on best practices;
  • Remove wastage of non-productive time and tasks;
  • Identify the full capability of the sales teams for resource management;
  • Minimise costs associated with the sales organisation in both direct and indirect costs;
  • Support customer management capability with consistent, measurable sales processes and activities;
  • Improve the predictability of sales processes and results;
  • Improve the management of the sales pipeline, from expanding the size of market opportunities to increasing win rates;
  • Understand the velocity of the pipeline; and
  • Raise the level of performance of sales forces across all members.

Successful companies are aware that the careful alignment of each of those components is vital in supporting growth and profitability.

Each action must all be carefully integrated, ensuring that no gaps or chasms that can or potentially will negatively impact other functions and processes remain. The output of the review is the identification of all levers and actions that will drive your sales organisation’s capability in the future.

When senior executives consider engaging in projects of performance improvement, they often meet with receptive people who understand the need for change. However, when senior executives are considering improving their sales capability, they are more than likely met with resistance.

Particularly from those who have held responsibility for sales and managed intuitively over the years. They and others are wary of any reviews or transformation plans as they look deep inside the business unit, and people fear what may be exposed in relation to themselves or others around them.

Initially, in my experience, where companies have not previously engaged in review processes within their organisations (operational or sales), they can encounter several major challenges. Often they are met by sales organisations with four major catch cries.

  1. Managing sales as a process. Many people still to this day consider selling as an “art,” not a process! Salespeople resist managing sales as a process, preferring to think of what they do as a skill dependent on a sales personality type and uniquely fashioned by the individual salesperson.
  2. Measuring the sales process. Salespeople and managers alike often consider selling does not have the type of consistent, repetitive activities that can be easily measured, analysed, controlled and improved. Often these thoughts are linked to point one.
  3. Relationships cannot be measured. Salespeople focus heavily on relationships when they have little other skills to draw on. They communicate the virtues of the relationship as the primary factor in selling and use it as a fear factor to executives considering making changes to how they do their roles.
  4. Our industry is different. A most common catch cry from those who have little experience in other industries. They look to duplicate what their competitors are doing rather than seeking to differentiate themselves and install the world’s best practices.

These are all signs of the wary sales executive who operates to his/her own standards and not best practices. They are potentially making decisions that are emotive-based, not business-based, as a fear of change may be lurking in the background. Senior executives need to be focused and dedicated to guiding their sales organisations through the process, as overcoming these challenges can result in significant benefits to the sales organisation, including:

  • Significant increases in win rates on sales opportunities, bids, and tenders. A Growth Capability Review will identify what actions need to be taken to increase win rates. This includes the acquisition of new customers. These improvements can mean adding millions to the top line as well as substantially improving the bottom line by lowering the cost of sales.
  • Improved customer penetration and retention. Identification of improved processes and methodologies being applied to the customer base can increase the lifetime value of customers, and some can lead to doubling their existing values. This can mean increased profitability and revenue even without the acquisition of new customers.
  • Reduced non-selling time and increased sales force productivity. In many organisations, non-selling time can make up more than half of the available time of a salesperson. The review focuses on identifying and eliminating waste and non-value-adding activities, resulting in significant increases in productivity and sales output.
  • Increased profitability. By stripping out all indirect and lower direct costs associated with the sales organisation, an immediate impact can be seen in EBIT reporting.

In most cases, yes, and that is what sales executives are wary of. No improvement will happen in anything unless the change occurs. The difference in taking the recommendations of review is through the change, you will have a documented road map to guide you through the process.

You will be able to drive the change internally without the excessive costs of external consultants to deliver the change for you. Your sales executives can be engaged as leaders of change rather than victims of change.

Like most change initiatives, it requires a serious commitment by senior executives. Gaining that level of commitment comes only from recognising that there is a substantial financial opportunity to be captured from taking this business step.

A Sales Capability Report will provide senior executives with a business case report to validate whether the change is worthwhile for your company. It provides the road map for the transformation and all the recommendations that need to be implemented.

To understand your readiness, you need to ask yourself the following question. ‘Is your company consistently delivering targeted sales growth and profitability?’

  1. Not at all;
  2. Infrequently;
  3. Somewhat;
  4. Most of the time; and
  5. Always.

If you answered 1-2-3 or 4, then your organisation needs to consider applying a sales capability review to provide the kind of sales capability you need to achieve.

The careful alignment of the levers within the sales organisation is a science and not an art. Making a few changes here and there often becomes the catalyst for more problems being experienced. Companies make the fatalistic error of making minor (or sometimes the wrong) changes that bring them only back in line with their competitors and not setting themselves to be market leaders.

Top performers look deep into the sales organisation and find ways of differentiating themselves, ways of increasing profitability, and operating with maximum efficiency ensuring the best outcomes are achieved.

To discuss your specific business requirements, please contact our office to speak directly with Adele Crane.

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About the Author: Adele Crane

A leader in Implementation Consulting.
CEOs and Managing Directors have relied on Adele Crane to solve challenges with the performance of their sales and marketing since 1990. Her consulting experience in delivering results in 90-120 days is unprecedented by any other known sales and marketing consulting professional in the world. As an author of 3 acclaimed books, appearances on major media, and publications in USA, NZ and Australia, Adele’s experience brings fresh thinking and contemporary practices to business.