All companies strive to achieve top and bottom line success every quarter, but in order to do so, they need a strong team of sales reps that can consistently, and profitably, meet or exceed quota. However, that’s easier said than done in a complex marketplace where sales reps sell from a catalog of tens or even hundreds of thousands of products, and manage 100 or more accounts each.
Many sales groups end up relying on the more experienced sales reps, or “A” players to make their numbers, and they are smart to do so, as they have the talent, knowledge and experience to sell profitably every quarter. They often have a long history at one company which has given them a deep understanding of the products and customers, leading to a higher level of efficiency and better outcomes in the field.
However, most organizations have sales teams that consist of primarily “B” and “C” players with just a handful of “A” players. If all the B and C players sold as profitably as the A players, the impact on companies’ top and bottom line would be huge. As more experienced sales reps begin to retire in the next several years and sales reps become more transient, companies should consider how to level the playing field and bring B and C players up to the A level to build more profitable sales teams.
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One way to achieve this is with predictive solutions that pull out key data signals and deliver actionable answers to the most critical questions sales reps can ask themselves, including which customers should I call on, what products should I talk about, and which customers are beginning to defect to the competition.
It is exponentially more difficult and expensive to acquire new customers than it is to keep and grow existing accounts. But, in such a large book of business, staying ahead of customer churn is virtually impossible for sales reps – no matter how experienced they are – given the sheer volume of accounts and products. Even if a small percentage of customer churn could be recovered, it could spell the difference between a flat year and a stellar year in terms of revenue. Predictive models can look at purchase patterns across all customers, and flag when a customer begins to defect, even on just one product, enabling sales reps to easily redirect their efforts.
These models can also help sales reps determine which additional products to sell. This is similar to consumer e-commerce websites like Amazon.com that explicitly provide customer suggestions on what other products they might be interested in purchasing. Just like the Amazon.com model, B2B companies have customers with similar buying patterns that can help reveal when a customer is ripe for cross-sell opportunities.
Another way to up level B and C players is by enabling them to spend more time selling by minimizing their administrative and reporting tasks. There is strong evidence and intuition that correlates selling time with quota achievement. In fact, an increase of just a few percentage points in selling time across an entire sales force leads to higher overall profitability for the sales organization and can equate to additional sales headcount, at no additional expense.
However, when a sales team is underperforming, many sales managers implement more sales processes, increase the number of reports and look to sales force automation (SFA) systems. The underlying assumption is that more visibility into sales team activities will help identify areas for improvement and ultimately drive better performance, but these solutions often exacerbate the problem, creating even more administrative and reporting tasks for reps and managers alike.
More often than not, sales reps spend more time entering information into their SFA systems than deriving useful information from it to close more sales at a faster rate.
Sales leaders must look for opportunities to minimize activities that do not directly contribute to revenue generation. While SFA and CRM systems are important to help manage sales performance, sales managers should focus on sales effectiveness solutions that provide reps with actionable guidance to help them focus on the most promising growth opportunities.
Ultimately, these tactics will help increase the average amount of time sales reps spend selling and focus all sales reps – A, B and C players – on the best opportunities for growth.