How to Build A Smarter Sales Force to Drive Business Growth
What are some inexpensive best practices you have seen that companies can use to train their sales force and keep them informed about product strategy and market trends? How do they generate collaboration between sales folks who often tend to be competitive with each other?
Keith's experience in business and professional services spans 30 years across functions and industries. He has been president of operating divisions in 4 different Fortune 500 companies, with equal time spent in sales/marketing roles as well as COO and other strategic leadership responsibilities. He is a Certified Sales Trainer, Executive Coach and Six Sigma Black Belt.
"The key to sales training remains Keep It Simple, Silly! (K.I.S.S). Almost every sales challenge can be broken down to 4 steps : Build Rapport, Establish the Need, Advance a Solution to meet the Need, and Develop a Commitment. The most common breakdown is in Step 2, Establishing the Need. This step isn't about "pitching." It is about learning. The most common error salespeople make is failing to spend enough time or effort in this step, in their rush to move on to pushing their product or service. Salespeople who become expert in this area will obviously produce more sales, but equally important they will build a knowledge base of market needs (met and unmet) and trends that a creative sales leader will tap into to inform marketing initiatives."
Bill is an accomplished CEO with a history of leading large and mid-sized companies through complex challenges, maintaining profitability and liquidity while expanding into new growth markets.
"Connect your sales force via a conversation about "disclosure." How do we generate the kind of trusting conversation with prospective (and current) clients that discloses client needs and allows for ways to begin assessing and developing our approach to treating those needs?"
Tony Cord brings to Newport an accomplished background as a practice leader, growth driver, board member and advisor to mid-market, emerging growth and PE sponsors. He leads Newport's Mid-Atlantic Practice.
"A CRM platform that the sales force uses and that holds them accountable is a big differentiator. It facilitates looking at and discussing data. Next, building and promoting a sales culture is huge - having a weekly firm-wide or department-wide social. There might be beer and pizza to debrief, talk about the market, your products, your services, the wins, the losses, what's working, what we're seeing and our opportunities in-process. This kind of regular event can make a huge difference and get everyone involved in revenue generation."
Fred has been successful both as an executive and an entrepreneur. Much of his career has been spent in different sectors of the healthcare industry.
"A couple of thoughts: One, we have worked with an HR firm that has a joint venture with SPI, a large sales training organization. The HR firm provides data analytics to (a) help companies hire individuals with the right characteristics for success within the company and (b) identifies internal training to emphasize/strengthen those same traits in the current sales force. The key to sales training is "refresher" courses, at least every other year to keep the sales force thinking about the basics of how to ask open ended questions, how to identify needs, and how to ask for the close. That suggests at least the occasional in person sales meeting to let the sales force get to know each other as well."
Sam is a seasoned executive with a proven record of developing and implementing strategies to enhance revenues and profits across a variety of industries. For the last 23 years he was part of the Graytrout Group, a Georgia-based consultancy, where he specialized in assisting clients in redesigning their sales organization and sales management processes.
"Every company needs a specific sales process/model that outlines and describes the most effective and proven way to identify, approach and convert a sales opportunity. Without it, there are no standards, nothing to train to, and no way to coach because there is no process to coach to, or ways to identify issues with low producers.
Conduct the formal sales process training, then use agenda-driven sales meetings to reinforce the process, allow the team to share issues and techniques, and introduce ideas for better execution. Also, link sales related activities and results to the comp plan to ensure adoption of the process. Regular sales meetings and training are key to sales effectiveness."
Susan is a multidimensional senior operating executive who has generated impressive results across the technology, education, B2B, B2C and social sectors in organizations ranging from start-ups to well established entities. Her approach focuses on engaging stakeholders and building consensus to develop and deploy aggressive sales and marketing strategies, customer retention initiatives and digital solutions.
"Entrepreneurial companies should hire sales leaders who see themselves as the Chief Training Officer, and who value working with in house marketing and product experts to create and deliver training via team meetings, brown bag lunches, webinars, and small group sessions. No expensive consultants required! After training, sales managers should work one-on-one with sales reps to cement the learning. Creating a collaborative sales team whose members know how to play in the sandbox starts with hiring team players and being clear about the behaviors you expect. Then, fair territory assignments and crystal clear rules of engagement between reps make it easy for sales folks to do the right thing. Finally, sales leaders must model collaborative behavior in their dealings with colleagues throughout the organization."
Margarita is an experienced leader who built a multimillion dollar global business unit, building on roles in engineering, sales and marketing. She has demonstrated expertise in leading global teams to open global markets.
"I have experienced effective in house training that develops from interaction between the technical team that designs and innovates the products and the sales team. The sales team learns from the technical team about the applications and advantages of their product design and, at the same time, they give feedback on market trends and issues their customers are experiencing that can help the technical team improve their products designs and functions. This open and positive exchange helps generate a coordinated sales/technical team, which understands and embraces the mindset that the key goal of the business is to solve customers’ problems—and that everyone’s job depends on doing this."
Mark is a co-founder of Newport Board Group and its Chief Knowledge Officer. He specializes in content management, inbound marketing and thought leadership authoring.
"Companies have to find ways to constantly debrief their folks who are in touch with the market, pool what they're hearing and seeing and communicate the upshot to their colleagues in the sales force. No nugget of information about the market and competitors is too small to be useful. The comp plan for sales should build in disincentives to hoard information."
Eran has diverse experience in executive management, venture capital, private equity and M&A, including turnaround, restructuring and special situation transactions.
"The use of collaboration platforms, such as Slack, is growing. These facilitate sharing of information about products, markets and trends related to the company.
It is important to achieve the right balance between collaboration and competition—via group activities and perks related to achieving group/department goals on top of personal compensation."'
How do you train your sales force to help you achieve business growth? Share your thoughts with us below, and don't forget to download our free guide "Business Growth Challenges Defined: You May Be In No Man's Land."