Sales Team Health Check
Few if any functions have as an immediate effect on profit as an organisations sales team; when investing in or buying a company it is therefore paramount to have your own sense of the incumbent sales teams performance.
All too often companies with great products and services are unable to leverage their competitive advantage due to underperforming sales teams. I have listed below five admittedly fundamental activities and processes that if not present suggest the sales team will not be performing to potential, this of course could be a threat to your investment or purchase however in many cases it provides an opportunity as the introduction of some or all of these will likely yield quick results for minimal investment.
1. Is there a sales strategy in place?
This is not to say there has to be a fifty page document littered with jargon such as work streams and dependencies; sales strategy can be recorded on a single page or may remain verbal as a set of simple shared actions and goals, the important thing is, it is known and understood across the organisation and is recognised as its own discreet plan and not confused with marketing or overall business strategy.
2. How many customers have the senior management met and spoken with in the last thirteen weeks?
Visiting customers is the preserve of the salesperson, right? High performing sales organisations are guided by customer need and market opportunity, where better to get a sense of this than from the field? Where senior managers, across all leadership functions are active in the field with sales people they have the truest understanding of how to develop their organisation. Inversely you will only truly discover how your organisation and its products and services are communicated to customers and prospects by seeing this in person.
Salespeople won’t like this? Where this is not currently commonplace its true there is an adjustment period, not least because it tends to shine a light on how the sales team are actually operating, this for you is no bad thing however this phase passes quickly and sales teams usually respond very quickly and enjoy the opportunity interacting with the management team provides, in short if customer need is met by the organisation the salespersons job is much easier.
3. How do the sales team measure up to this simple review?
Planning and organisation - Is there evidence of journey planning over a four to six week cycle; do sales visits have a clear purpose; is the outcome of visits shared across the organisation? Is account information, customer spend and sales trends information readily at hand and up to date?
Product knowledge - On an escalating scale, how developed is their product, company, competitor and market knowledge?
Sales skills - Do they demonstrate and understand sales skills and techniques?
Professional standards - Are all of the above underpinned by good professional standards?
What ongoing training and development actions are there in place to develop the sales forces competence across these areas?
4. Is there an effective and regular sales meeting in place?
In short do meetings happen regularly, is there good management information available for review, do the meetings discuss the right things, are discussions guided by a strategy, are actions agreed, minuted and followed up?
Is under performance discussed with individuals in an appropriate forum and corrective actions documented and outcomes tracked?
5. Good sales people will do what you pay them to do therefore be very careful what you pay them to do.
Pay and reward evolves as do companies, strategies, products and market places, does the sales incentive plan reflect the current strategy of the business and does it effectively reward the sales team for exceptional performance or as it too often prevalent is it a relic of the past biased towards the sales team and simply deemed too difficult to tackle?
I repeat good sales people will do what you pay them to do therefore be very careful what you pay them to do; can you afford to pay them to do the wrong things?
The above is of course just a few indicators and areas for thought presented at a high level, whilst the list is numbered it is not done so to infer any ranking in terms of importance. Whilst I acknowledge the fundamental nature all of these effectively.
Before making an investment or purchasing a business outright you will perform in depth due diligence adding the sales operation to this list of areas for in-depth analysis and seeking evidence of the above in practice should help you position the current sales performance as a risk or opportunity.