How Top Sales Organizations Get - And Keep - Best-In-Class Status
Based on years of observation across a broad number of companies, we've seen that certain factors have to be present for a solid sales culture to flourish to any degree within the organization.
First, an organization should decide exactly how it wants to define itself in the broadest sense. Once that's in place, the organization must devise its' plan of attack. This invariably involves the sales organization and a selling strategy.
Before the sales strategy is executed, the following 10 factors MUST be in place for a team to earn a place among top sales organizations.
The 10 Best Practices Of Top Sales Organizations
1. Executive Sponsorship Of The Sales Effort
The sales organization must have a champion at the executive level and must be seen as bringing value to the entire organization. In many organizations - especially in manufacturing - the culture tends to be operationally-oriented. In these types of environments, a sub-culture supporting the sales effort has to exist.
2. Ongoing Communication Of Strategic Direction To The Sales Team
Organizational strategy, as well as the role sales plays in it, must be clearly communicated to the entire sales organization. With a strong understanding of where senior leadership wants to go, sales leaders can drive the desired behaviors in the daily selling activities of the reps. This is a little-known, yet crucial factor that's present in top sales organizations.
3. Sales & Sales Management Hiring & Selection Process
Top sales organizations have a screening and selection process in place that ensures only top talent is brought into the organization. Salespeople are hired based on their fit to the sales role and the sales environment. Sales managers are hired and promoted based on their ability to lead and coach, not because of top sales production.
4. Sales Coaching
Top sales organizations develop and support a formal sales coaching program. Managers are in the field providing real-time coaching and follow a repeatable coaching process. They model the correct behaviors and they're motivating reps to improve by allowing them to succeed - and stumble - on their own. Sales coaching is reinforced from the top and sales managers are free from excessive administrative work that prevents them from coaching reps.
5. In-Process & End-Process Metrics
Top sales organizations make absolutely sure the proper metrics for measuring in-process and end-process sales and sales management effectiveness are in place. Measurables such as quality of sales presentations and a demonstrated ability to have strategic business conversations are as important as numerical outcomes such as quota attainment or number of proposals generated.
6. Sales & Sales Management Compensation
The comp plans for salespeople and sales managers is clear, easy-to-understand and drives desired behaviors. Salespeople and sales managers are treated fairly and - ideally - are paid on margin, not volume.
7. Role Clarity & Expectation-Setting
Both the sales and sales management roles inside of top sales organizations are clearly defined. Individuals are coached against them and held accountable to them. They are made crystal clear immediately when salespeople are hired and when sales managers are promoted/hired and any changes are introduced intentionally and carefully with advanced notice.
8. Prospect & Customer Perceptions
In top sales organizations, salespeople understand the strategic organizational issues facing their prospects and customers and are perceived as strategic partners. Sales leadership encourages and coaches these skills and rewards behaviors which demonstrate a rep has them.
9. Selling Skills Training & Mastery Track Is In Place
There is a best-in-class sales and sales management mastery learning and development program in place. Top sales organizations establish a corporate sales training university focusing on selling skills, sales coaching skills and which involves progressive levels of mastery.
10. Marketing, Sales & Service Alignment
The marketing function sets expectations for potential and future customers about the sales experience they will have with the organization. This expectation is met by their sales experience. The service and support experience are in complete alignment with the expectations set by both marketing and sales.
It's a monumental undertaking to implement all of these factors. That being said, any organization seeking to forge and sustain a healthy sales culture should pay attention to all of these areas. Top sales organizations are developed over time by sales leaders, sales managers and salespeople with the right focus. Implementing most, if not all, of these best practices are guaranteed to increase overall sales effectiveness.
Just like sales, sales management requires training. It’s an uphill battle to walk into such a complicated role and achieve success without any help. From the thousands of sales managers we’ve worked with, there are 10 avoidable mistakes that come up most often.