Why Bother Investing in your Sales Team?

7 minute read


At The TAS Group, we’re winning a lot of business recently, and that’s clearly a very good thing. What’s interesting though is the percentage of wins we’re getting where we are replacing an incumbent provider. We have not overtly embarked on a competitive take-out / replacement / upgrade program, but it seems as if the word is getting around about how much we focus on measurable business results, rather than just teaching sales people a sales methodology. I’m sure our Dealmaker Sales Performance Automation platform has a lot to do with our recent success, but I’d like to think that it is also driven by the priority we place on understanding how a customer’s sales effectiveness initiative supports the customer’s business strategy over the long term.

I’d like to discuss that last point, so that as you develop and review your business strategy for 2010, you can contemplate whether a sales effectiveness initiative is appropriate to consider. Secondly, if you’ve already decided to invest in improving the effectiveness of your sales team, (working with The TAS Group or any other provider), this post might help you to determine whether you’ve optimized your approach.

From a business, or business unit perspective, there are really only three things you can list as strategic priorities, Revenue Growth, Increased Profit (including cash conservation), or Maximized Market Share, and at any given time, you can only have one as your primary business strategy, with the other two as attendant constraints. Your business strategy is the key aim or goal of your company or business unit. It should be at the heart of all your activities.

All good companies comprise leaders and followers. The essence of leadership as embodied in a great leader is the ability to motivate his (or her) team to execute a clearly articulated strategy. The first challenge for the CEO, executive team, or divisional leader, is to choose the right strategy, having given adequate consideration to the aspirations and possibilities, and the constraints and implications. Vision should be untrammeled but sight must be focused.

Great CEOs of great companies, in common with great sales leaders, have an uncanny ability to simplify complex messages so that all team members can recount the company’s primary business strategy. From a strategic perspective, the only thing more important that selecting and articulating the business strategy, is to make sure that the consequent execution plans are aligned with that strategic compass. Whether or not you contribute to the selection of your company’s or division’s business strategy, you need to ensure that your actions, and those of your team, align with the strategic direction. This is particularly true for the sales organization.

It’s easy to understand how the sales team can help the company achieve it’s revenue growth strategy, right? Isn’t that why they exist? Well, of course you know it’s not that simple. Many options exist to grow revenue, and optimizing how you select which option(s) to prioritize is critical to success. This is hard, and requires diligence and effort.

Some won’t adopt that strategy, but instead will embark on an event-based sales training exercise ” just to sharpen up their skills”. Others may try the “Go get ’em tiger!” approach. If that’s you, you’re going to need a heck of a motivational speaker to launch your 2010 sales kick-off. Military analogies will fly through the air, cutting through the testosterone fueled atmosphere, only to crash-land alongside the debris of previously wasted sales training events.

If you’re a frequent reader of the Sales 2.0 Network, you know that the winners in 2010 will be those that take a strategic approach to their efforts, fully aligned with their companies’ primary strategic imperative, whether that is Revenue, Profit or Market Share. Let’s examine what that means in the context of Revenue Growth as a strategy.

Primary Company / Division Strategy: Revenue Growth

I like to think about this in two dimensions, Focus and Factor. This helps me determine the problem that I’m trying to solve.

In the Focus Dimension there are decisions I need to make about where I focus, because I always have too many options to execute them all well:-

Focus: Revenue comes from different types or customers; existing customers or new customers, and from direct or indirect channels. Product revenue may come from new products or older products. Revenue growth can come from selling more units, or charging more for the units you sell, or selling a broader range of products in a single deal. Q: Where should we focus our resources to optimize revenue?

Where the Focus Dimension is the ‘what’ or ‘where; the Factor Dimension is the ‘how’ – the specific dials I can maneuver to turn up my revenue. It’s best looked at how I can fail – so then I can take action to rectify.

Factor: Failure to achieve revenue targets comes down to just one or more of four basic factors. Either you don’t have enough opportunities, your average deal size is too small, your win rate is poor, or your sales cycle is too long. Q: Which dials can we turn, and what tools do we need to make it work?

If you’re not making your revenue goals, or you’re concerned about your future targets, you need to look at how to impact one of the four factors, and consider how you might choose which dials can be turned, and figure out what sales effectiveness solution might help you achieve that. Bear in mind that if you move each of those factors 10%, your overall revenue will increase by 48%. Do the math!

$ = (#Deals x $Average x %Close) / Sales Cycle

$ = (110% x 110% x 110%)/ 90% = 148%

It’s worth thinking about.

Rarely do you have to start with a blank sheet of paper, and it’s unusual if you have to make all these decisions from scratch. However, I hope you’re getting the idea.

If your primary strategic imperative is Revenue Growth, and Profit is a constraint rather than an objective, and Market share is not high on your agenda, you should probably be looking at how to maximize key account penetration, looking for more opportunities within your existing accounts, or new divisions thereof, for a broader set of your solutions.

Maybe you should consider upgrading your strategic account planning practices. But please if you do – don’t do account planning without figuring out how you are going to do account management. Account plans should be live documents, that can be shared – in a collaborative, technology supported, environment – so that the whole team can contribute in real-time. We’ve seen too many account plans that have been developed at great expense and effort, only to languish unused on the shelf. That won’t help you achieve your strategic goal.

Also, account management without opportunity management is usually sub-optimal, but that’s a topic for a future post.

Primary Company / Division Strategy: Profit or Market Share

This post is getting a bit long now, so I will come back to these topics in more detail later, but just five points about Profit (or cash conservation) as your primary strategic imperative, before I go.

  1. When you’re focused on Profit, opportunity qualification is even more critical. You should only be pursuing sales where your organization is able to profitably deliver. Usually these requires rigorous selection criteria, and walking away from ‘strategic’ business that might deliver long term revenue.
  2. Sales forecast accuracy is essential, so that resources can be allocated efficiently.
  3. Ensuring that your sales support systems maximize productivity and effectiveness (not just efficiency) is critical, as you’re likely trying to do more with the same or less.
  4. Here’s where you want to reduce your cost of sale, and that means looking to Sales Performance Automation solutions (ok, that’s a plug! – but only because I believe it’s true)
  5. Cross organization communication, common language, and agreed set of best practices, will all combine to impact the velocity and productivity – and consequently the profitability – of the organization.

Before you embark on your 2010 planning, I’d suggest you could really benefit from considering these points. Whether you end up using The TAS Group, or our Dealmaker platform, I’d like to see you succeed in your sales effectiveness initiative – and I think that’s a lot more likely to happen if you consider how that initiative lines up with your company’s, division’s or team’s primary strategic imperative – before you bother investing.



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