With a gap in the understanding of what makes successful sales forces tick, researchers have begun to focus on quantifying the factors that go into turning a motivated sales team into a task force capable of making an effective impact in their market. By outlining a few fundamental processes that will have an impact on the efficacy of sales teams, we hope to identify the controllable forces field marketing managers can utilize to cultivate a successful sales strategy.
As it is difficult for any new business to hit the ground running, having success in sales is dependent on continual improvement. Conducting honest program evaluations, targeting specific strategy areas to augment, developing specific improvement programs, and tracking progress in following through with these programs will create a cycle that, if followed, will lead to a constantly improving sales team capable of finding success in today's dynamic market.
In order to launch a campaign focused on improvement, it is crucial for sales managers to have a firm grasp of their starting point. In order to understand how a sales team can develop, sales managers should take inventory of their team's strengths and weaknesses in a frank self-evaluation. This evaluation should identify conditions under which sales reps perform well, as well as strategies that are inefficient or poorly carried out. The most effective evaluations will be extremely specific and frank, allowing sales managers to detect areas that are wasteful or have a potential for growth.
Sales managers then closely analyze the findings of their evaluation, pinpointing areas for improvement that would most benefit the efficiency of their sales force, and, in turn, their company. Using data from their evaluations, managers can come up with a list of specific areas in which to prioritize development. Finding solutions to these issue areas can be challenging, but looking at the processes that influence the day-to-day productivity of sales forces can serve as a window to a solution.
Developing the programming that will lead to improved sales force efficiency can come from prioritizing one of five focus areas.
- Definers are solution programs that emphasize making clear the size, structure, roles, territory alignment, or other relevant aspects that will help a sales team to function more smoothly.
- Shapers are solution programs that focus on sales skills, capabilities, and values that will lead to success. These programs emphasize areas such as recruiting, training, coaching, culture formation, leadership, and incentives
- Enlighteners are solutions designed around customer knowledge. For example, Enlightener programs may prioritize customer research and developing more effective customer relationship management practices
- Exciters encourage sales teams to be motivated and inspired to succeed, placing value on culture, leadership, compensation, motivation programs, and making work meaningful.
- The last type of programming is Controllers. These solutions revolve around directing sales force behavior through an emphasis on culture, management, performance management and measurement, goal setting, and coordination and communication. Selecting the right programming system will help field managers get the most out of their programs targeted at improving the areas identified through evaluation.
Effective improvement programs include a plan to track progress. This data will be used in the following round of evaluation so that a more specific and effective solution can be reached. As markets change, so does the efficiency of a sales force. Through a repeated cycle of evaluation, identification, programming, and progress tracking, sales managers will develop a culture of field reps capable of constant improvement, a necessary tool in successful field management.
Mat Brogie is part of the founding team, and CEO of Repsly, the world's leading solution for high performance retail execution teams. Mat has spent the past 15 years of his career focused on bringing technology enabled business solutions to the consumer goods industry, having implemented solutions for tens of thousands of field reps at companies such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Pepperidge Farm and hundreds of others.