Sales Team Optimisation

Under utilised ‘sales teams’ = lost opportunity.
Too often any consideration of the ‘sales team’ is after all the major decisions have been made; the ‘sales team’ being seen as facilitators of a process, quite often a somewhat menial process – the task of selling the product /services which have been developed by the business.

We at ‘colourthinking’ believe that there is much energy lost in this approach and advocate an entirely new approach. This is about engaging with the sales team at the beginning of the process and delivering to all personnel within the organisation, sales oriented KPI’s in addition to their line KPI’s.! (Indeed even the concept of KPI’s for line personnel is still in infancy).

The ‘them and us’ mentality pervades the majority or organisations, whether that be ‘office / warehouse’, ‘sales/office’, sales/warehouse’ or as so often occurs, sales / office / warehouse / management / …..!’ The sale made at the right price for the right margin is lost if the store fails to deliver – the office invoices the wrong price, accounts put them incorrectly on ‘stop supply’.
In this scenario, there is loads of wasted energy and opportunity and until everyone ‘gets it!’ nothing happens until a sale is made, then opportunity just keeps seeping (or gushing) out!
To institute new thinking, old paradigms and conclusions have to be recognised and if not abandoned, given a good shake up. Today’s sales results are the answer to the negative Pygmalion* behaviour of management through time. The overall sales responsibility needs to be taken and shared by more senior people within an organisation. Sales management has to be elevated and separated – it must not be lost within the general management and needs to be resourced with skills, experience and funding.

The ‘marketing function’ needs to wear some of the responsibility in this, for too often mismanaging the potential of the sales force but for also not being assertive enough in making sure sales is more competently represented within the senior management circles of the business. The ‘sales effort’ and indeed ‘sales people’ are frequently seen as ‘lower level’ operatives. This brings us to the contention that ‘sales management’, ‘employee performance management’, ‘career structuring’, and much more is not designed appropriately.
It is of little consequence how good the ‘senior strategies’ are, if the people who have to implement are not ‘engaged’, ‘connected’ and very much consulted and included then potential is much less
Where there are a number of sales people ‘pareto’s principle** of 80/20’ is most relevant. That is if there are ten, 80% of sales will come from 2 to 3, 2 to 3 will be looking for other positions while hanging onto their positions and the rest will be doing a fair job, not really believing that they can either do better pf that it is worth it. (This applies to where there are effective sales and other KPI’s, where there are no effective measures, then generally, everyone is underperforming and it is only the ineffectiveness of the budgeting process that hides this from the people who make decisions – and they are too busy working out how to cut expenses or change product ranges, blaming almost anything but ineffective management of the sales team and process).               . 
In a sales focused organisation, there needs to be numerous sales development process and numerous ways of rewarding people for their effort. Expectation and recognition of sales needs to across all staff but the particular emphasis needs to be on those labelled sales.
It is not possible, that is, it is impossible to have a sales incentive scheme that will incentavise the entire team in any sustainable way across numerous objectives – eg sales / margin / new business/ maintenance of business / recapture of lost business etc Sales Management needs to be elevated and a lot more resources given in training and development so that not only territories but people are managed and developed.
When lost opportunity is found, it goes straight to the bottom line’
In the case of the sales function, when this is ‘right’, then the right product is sourced, the appropriate pricing and complimentary policies are enacted, appropriate clients are identified and the business functions. Any business I consult to will be serving clients they ought not be – again the Pareto principle – 80% or business coming from 20% of the clients. So, the 80% of clients are not effective then at least the bottom 20% would be very marginal – some potential starters but mostly not. Sales folk recognising the right clients is all part of the deal – now the reader could be thinking that ‘Buckingham’ is mixing marketing and sales too much together. Well, as long as marketing continues to act as a manager of, informer to sales and fails to recognise the active early part they should play, then yes I am.
Check list

  • Redesign job /person / KPI descriptions to include sales people in all processes
  • Redefine ‘sales management’ criteria
  • Develop new multifaceted ‘compensation programs for sales and all company team members based on KPI’s across a wide range
  • Develop the business to be sales focused
  • Train sales people across a wider range of thinking than a ‘sales track – handling objections, closing the sale’ and expect (and get) much more
  • Pygmalion theory – ‘people live up to or down to your expectation and that is self-fulfilling’
The Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many phenomena, 80% of the consequences stem from 20% of the causes. Business management thinker Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy went to 20% of the population. It is a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., "80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients."
Rex Buckingham
Principal colourthinking
Mob:  0407 827 173