Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sales Education Focus

Sales education can help your sales force achieve greater success. To be successful in our industry or any industry, our salespeople need to be more than just subject matter experts on products and services. Whether they are just learning basics or getting back to them, a good foundation is a pre-requisite to success in sales. Without the proper balance of training, your sales people are at risk of failing on the job. Sales people who don’t know the fundamentals of selling are more likely to burnout, get frustrated, lose confidence, quit or worst – you fire them.

Going into the 4th quarter and on into 2011 there will be those that only “think about” improving sales effectiveness, those will be the companies that lose ground vs. those that act upon it. Companies that hunker down and cut investments in their sales teams’ effectiveness will watch the tail lights shrink in the distance of those competitors continuing to invest and improve.

2011 Sales Organization Goals

1. Increase sales professional revenue productivity

a. Increase sales revenues

b. Increase market share and share of wallet

c. Improve customer retention

d. Increase sales effectiveness

2. Reduce sales turnover

3. Improve access to key information

4. Revise or implement sales process

5. Improve margins

6. Decrease expenses

Surely companies will need to control expenses and wring out excesses (if any remain); but the answer, as with all aspect of a successful life, is balance. Initiating programs to increase your sales teams’ productivity and effectiveness is needed now more than ever. If you have recently evaluated and invested in your sales people’s education then you’re ahead of the game. But there is still plenty of room for improvement ahead. Recognize that whatever you have done until now has been enough to get you to here, but likely will not be enough to get you to there: there being where you want and need to be in twelve months.

There are many areas to measure when reflecting on how sales forces perform specific selling task during the sales cycle to educate the prospect, align solutions to needs, and win the business. Year over year, companies invest in sales training to teach sales executives the ability to understand the customers buying cycle.

A question many companies ask me when discussing sales education needs is the following “If I understand how my customers buy, can I sell with less effort?”

My research this past year shows that we at Strategy Development see some level of advantage attained in reducing the number of calls to close a deal through better understanding of buying trends. The real advantage though, is seen in the outcome of those sales opportunities. We see that sales executive win rates by companies who excel, or are adequate in this area are 12% higher than those companies that need improvement.

Taking the time to really understand how customers buy from you or a competitor seems to be well worth the investment. Buying processes can morph dramatically based on the changes in a customer’s industry. Take for example, the fact that some computer firms who generated a noticeable percentage of their revenues from financial institutions, they saw sales from those clients decrease in 2008 because of the subprime loans. Or consider the impact on pharmaceutical and health insurance firms with universal health care. If clients businesses change dramatically, the firms selling to them will see major changes in how they buy.

More than ever, there is a real payoff in acquiring marketplace knowledge (business acumen) about the customers upon whom your teams are calling. Figures from a recent CSO Insights survey show that if sales reps have been trained in marketplace knowledge (business acumen) and are willing to take the time to research accounts and apply what they’ve been taught (to speak about a customer’s industry), we will be able to impact their productivity through quota achievement and impact their ability to achieve income goals which directly ties into the ability for companies to retain personnel and reduce turnover. Companies focused on these areas of sales education see development in confidence for sales in analyzing customer needs and positioning products and services within the context of a buyer’s financial drivers and strategies. Armed with better business acumen, they demonstrate financial literacy in sales situations; engage in more strategic discussions with prospects, and open doors at higher buying levels. When sales training initiatives target marketplace knowledge (business acumen), sales personnel become better in offering products and services within the context of a customer’s real business needs. They become trusted partners as they develop long-term customer partnerships.

Strategy Development is a management consulting and advanced sales training firm with a focus to helping companies in the imaging space. Strategy Development advises companies on how to defend existing markets, assess entries into new ones, develop growth strategies, control costs and profitably invest resources. For more information on our strategic sales skills workshop and sales coaching consulting please contact me at