Let's get down to basics. If you want your sales people to deliver financial results, you have to ensure that there is an infrastructure in place to support sales execution. Many factors go into building a strong sales infrastructure including strategy, tactics, systems, and performance analysis; all of which need to be in alignment. Here are some ideas to help build a strong infrastructure:
1. Establish or Improve Your Processes
A few years ago I was working with a construction company that was struggling to increase sales. In reviewing their sales system we found dozens of processes that were outdated, redundant or broken that were hampering the sales efforts of the company. In addition their senior executives tried to achieve sales results by regarding marketing, selling and operations as independent functions. This was contrary to successful companies who consider them interrelated. Consider the follow examples of ways that processes break down:
- Marketing, sales or estimating may work hard to generate leads but they may not be what are profitable to the company.
- Service departments see customers complain over and over again about issues that project managers don't pay attention to.
- Estimating or sales staff don't have enough opportunities to make budget because of existing customer delays and problems or because of lack of bidding opportunities.
- Managers don't bring the different functions together to help each other capture sales opportunities.
- The independent functions have no means of correcting or improving processes.
Many companies don't seem to realize that it takes all the independent functions of an organization to create a structure to find, win and keep customers. Start cross mapping functions by getting all departments involved. Identify smaller projects or new services to add sales. Lastly, have everyone pay attention to the customers' needs. Bringing all functions together to talk and improve processes will build a stronger sales organization.
2. Make Sales A Company-wide Mission
In order to build or strengthen a sales infrastructure, companies need to realize they are a sales organization instead of an HVAC manufacturer, a construction equipment dealer, or an asphalt contractor. As a result everyone in the organization should be looking for sales opportunities and serving customers. Every member of a company can come across new prospects and projects of interest though business contacts, personal networks, or local press. These projects are often very valuable because they are based upon personal connections with employees of your firm. This being the case, a system to encourage and reward such input should be put in place. If this system is managed properly, it might be possible to maximize corporate outreach at a minimal cost to the company.
3. Develop a Sales Strategy
What is a sales strategy? If you think a sales strategy is all about the deal, then you really think it is all about price. But, where does the value proposition fit in? Selling is influencing the decision making process to demonstrate value, especially when you don't have the best price. It is about the strategy and tactics that a salesperson uses. High-performing sales people adjust their sales strategy based on the situation. They know that each situation is different and they have their eyes wide-open to the way the buyer makes decisions.
Within a company the sales manager should know when to adjust the sales strategies of their sales team or a sales team member. For example, a renovation division, a major projects division and a service division may be required to sell with different strategies and tactics in order to produce the sales, margins and future sales for their company. And, these differences may be essential to ensuring the company has the right mix of sales and profit margins to meet its financial needs.
Companies therefore should have built the necessary sales foundation for its strategy in these ways:
- Segment your business market, based on appropriate criteria.
- Ensure sales positions are filled with salespeople who have appropriate technical skills, critical thinking, language, and social skills.
- Segment your sales force into teams that match the needs of each market segment.
- Be more objective in seeing the mix of strategies your sales team uses.
- Provide a higher level of sales-strategy coaching for average-performing sales team members.
Companies who improve their sales strategy are likely to be more successful, even in an economic downturn.
4. Spend more on supporting your sales team.
Those directly responsible for sales are a company's major contributors to revenue. Move away from programs that don't support the sales team. Invest in more customer service and move towards things like warrantees, contract renewals and building relationships. Develop marketing programs designed to help and support sales efforts. Use direct mail, promotions, advertising, public relations, seminars, tradeshows, podcasts, your website and outbound calling to build a constant stream of leads. Ensure you have a system in place to ensure leads are being followed up.
5. Improve internal communication.
- Develop a series of well targeted and short e-mail or mail pieces sent in a series of threes to ensure reps read and comprehend the information. Review the information in weekly sales meetings.
- Ensure your sales people know it is okay to call and get information and answers to their questions immediately and at any time. The more information sales people are armed with, the more they can help their clients. When they need help solving problems, they need it now!
Ensure everyone in the company knows the urgency of providing information and support to the sales group.
A salesperson without support is like planting a flower and not giving it water and fertilizer--without it the plant won't grow. The key to improving sales performance is by helping each salesperson develop his/her skills, motivation and desire to be the best. Developing an effective internal infrastructure enables the sales organization to improve sales capability, better manage sales performance and improve sales force execution. Remember, if your sales people are not in front of clients and selling, they and you are not making money for themselves or your company. Doing everything you can to support them to get them selling more will help bring in sales and profits.
Linda Hanson, CMC, is a certified management consultant and author of 10 Steps to Marketing Success. She writes, speaks and consults on marketing, management and customer service issues and can be contacted at www.llhenterprises.com. Sign up for her free newsletter The Superior Performance Report.
Additional Resources that Build on the Topics of this Article
Getting sales people to deliver financial results
Utilizing local press
Maximize corporate outreach at a minimal cost
Direct mail Ensure leads are being followed up