by David Wolfskehl

Most sales organizations do not maximize for their success, regardless of size or industry, because they do not embrace all the pieces of the sales success formula.

 

Most sales organizations do not maximize for their success, regardless of size or industry, because they do not embrace all the pieces of the sales success formula. A common denominator among these sales teams is a single-minded focus on sales activities. This focus on activities is critical to success, though it is not the simple “end-all” of sales success.

Before reading details about the sales success equation, rate your sales organization in each of the following areas (1 is the lowest score, and 5 is the highest):

Attitude

1   2   3   4   5

Strategy

1   2   3   4   5

Skills and Behavioral Change

1   2   3   4   5

Activities

1   2   3   4   5

Accountability

1   2   3   4   5

How did you do? Are you a successful, winning organization? Are you failing? Are you focused on only one of the areas?

Sales organizations cannot afford to be narrowly focused. There is much more organizations must do to achieve the desired sales success than just engaging in some sales activities. The sales success equation actually includes several additional components.

The critical components of the sales success equation are:

                X Attitude

                X Strategy

                X Skills + Behavioral Change

                X Activities

                + Accountability

                = Success

When you understand each of the critical components of the sales success equation, it becomes clear why each component is necessary. It becomes clear how each component has an impact on the other and how each component makes all the others more effective. It also becomes clear why a single focus on activities will always be inadequate to achieve the desired sales results.

Attitude

If the leadership of the sales organization is not passionate about what they have to sell and cannot clearly communicate what makes their products or services unique in the marketplace, then they cannot expect their sales team to do so. If the salespeople feel like they are a commodity, they will sell like they are a commodity, and their customers will believe it and negotiate price because they do not believe the salespeople have something of value. Typically, a poor attitude is a symptom of poor strategy and poor skills development.

Strategy

Strategy is a gift that keeps on giving. It makes everything else more effective if time is spent upfront understanding who the ideal clients or customers are. If the sales team does not know who the ideal clients or customers are, how can they create a message or an offer that is compelling to them?

What differentiates your company or your products/services from those of your competitors? Many people believe differentiators need to be big, but very often, small works. JetBlue, for example, is currently spending millions of dollars to let you know that you get a full can of soda on their flights, not just a cup.

Your differentiator should justify a premium pricing strategy. How can you change the product or the packaging in a way that enables you to sell it for more money? Thousands of companies use a differentiator to justify premium pricing. Eggland’s Best has a premium pricing strategy. Even McDonald’s has a premium pricing strategy for McCafe, snack wraps and the banana-strawberry smoothie.

No matter what your product, if it is more complex than an egg, you should have a premium pricing strategy. When you put differentiation together with a premium pricing strategy, you can come up with a unique selling proposition that answers the question “Why us?”

Skill development and behavioral change

In most sales organizations, training is based on content delivery. The training often follows this pattern: Here is an idea; learn it. Yet most companies do not want content delivery. Instead, they want people to change their behavior. An example can be seen on LinkedIn almost every day: People take LinkedIn training, and for the next two days, they make all kinds of connections. But if you look at their profiles again in a month, you’ll see that they went back to what they were doing before — very little new activity.  Although the content was effectively delivered, because it was not connected to behavioral change, the long-term impact was very small.

To change the behavior of an adult, ongoing feedback and reinforcement — typically through a coaching relationship — is the pathway to success. The strongest approach to sales training is to have content delivery and ongoing coaching. This allows the sales team to achieve ongoing sustainable change.

Activities

This is where most sales organizations focus. The typical activities include social media networking, sharing and research; traditional networking activities; sales calls; follow-up activities; etc. Although engaging in the same activities as their counterparts, sales organizations using the sales success formula achieve better results because by having the training, the coaching, the strategy, the skills and behavioral change, and the attitude, the activities become far more effective. In many organizations, it is very difficult to increase the number of activities. Thus the real solution must be to examine other pieces of the sales success equation.

Accountability

In most organizations, accountability is very low. If the owner is the sales manager or the primary salesperson, then accountability is almost always nonexistent. When we were in school, we knew when a project was due. Because we knew someone would be checking on the delivery of the project, there was a greater accountability — whether you worked on it over the long term or did it the night before it was due. The deadline and the fact that someone was checking on it significantly increases the likelihood of people completing the project.

In the workplace, we all know that what gets measured improves. The simple requirement to report sales activities regularly almost always results in increased activities, which leads to an increase in sales.

In the companies I work with, it is clear that if the owner is the sales manager, meetings are not held consistently because the owner has other priorities. Salespeople quickly learn to “yes” the owner and get by because s/he will move on to other priorities. If there is no measurement of key sales activities, often discussions will become about doing a better job rather than assigning specific things to work on.

Finally, when the owner is the primary salesperson, not only is nobody holding him or her accountable, but that person has multiple people pulling him or her in different directions. For some of these owner-salespeople, selling is a necessary evil, and it is not what they are really good at. As a result, they move to their comfort zone, and over time, sales activities go down, down and down. 

How is your sales organization doing?

It is very easy to answer a question like “How is your sales organization doing?” and respond with some nondistinct, middle-of-the-road answer. You might say, “We’re okay,” “We could do better, but things could be much worse,” or pretend that flat is a positive. Yet that kind of answer will not help you see where change is needed or where your success could be greater.

Instead, conduct the self-assessment again in light of the explanations:

Attitude

1   2   3   4   5

Strategy

1   2   3   4   5

Skills and Behavioral Change

1   2   3   4   5

Activities

1   2   3   4   5

Accountability

1   2   3   4   5

Now add up your score. If your score is between 20 and 25, you are doing great; keep going. If your score is between 15 and 20, you are moving in the right direction, but there are opportunities for improvement. If your score is less than 15, you need to get your act together.

Rating your sales organization in each of the categories of the sales success equation helps you to identify areas for improvement. By working on each of the categories and ensuring that they’re all working together, you will be able to increase your sale success.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of The Imaging Channel.

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