The starting point of many of my conversations with sales managers is, “Improve sales effectiveness”. “Great”, I respond “what are you trying to achieve?”

Improving sales effectiveness is really about defining what are you trying to achieve or what problem are you trying to fix.

Getting your sales team effective can raise a bunch of issues, and can uncover root problems that need to be dealt with. The results is is worth the effort. There is nothing like working around an on-fire sales team. Some of the starter questions should be:

  1. Do you have the right sales deployment and coverage models—are you reaching your targeted customers, are you supporting the way they want to buy — eCommerce, through partners/channels, telesales, direct, …….?
  2. Are you trying to acquire new customers? Are you trying to retain existing customers? Are you trying to grow your key accounts business?
  3. Do you have the right sales process in place? Is it current, is it competitive, are your people using it?
  4. Do you have the right sales people? Do you need ‘hunter’ personalities or ‘farmer’ strengths? What types of people are most effective in working with your customers?
  5. Do you have the right levels of activity? Are your people getting engaged in a sufficient number of opportunities?
    Do you have the right numbers of leads that support the activity levels you need?
  6. Are your win rates where they should be? Do you need to reduce the sales cycle? Do you need to improve deal profitability?
  7. Are there things that are detracting sales people from engaging with customers — do they spend too much time on customer service calls, are they spending too much time in administrative work? Do they have the systems, tools and autonomy necessary to support them in executing their jobs?
  8. Do they have the right skills? Do they have the right product, business, selling skills?
  9. Do they understand their jobs, do they understand the organisation’s priorities, do they have a clear set of metrics that focus them on achieving the organisation’s priorities?
  10. Do they have the incentives that reinforce the organisation’s priorities?

……… These are some of the key elements that influence sales effectiveness.

A question lie “how do I figure this out?” is a great star. If we want to improve sales effectiveness or performance, we must first understand what problem or underlying problems we are trying to solve.

Sometimes the starting point is obvious — we have a customer retention problem, win rates are much too low, cost of sales is too high, the sales cycles are too long, our salesperson turnover is too high.

However you still need to drill down….. What is our current customer retention? Why are customer leaving or not buying again? Ask ‘why’ questions. The goal is to drill down and understand what is causing the visible problem. For example, putting in place a key account program, training sales people in relationship management, improving the frequency of targeted communications won’t improve customer retention if your product quality is terrible.

After you have identified the root problems, it’s important to prioritise the solutions — solving the most important problem first, that will leverage other action, then working on the next.

Every organisation should seek to improve sales effectiveness, performance, productivity. Defining what you are trying to achieve, understanding the root causes, prioritising the alternatives are critical to having an enduring impact.