How to Optimize Our 2013 Sales Performance

December on the doors, a month that brings positive vibes, energy, and joy to most people. In business, it’s a different picture; sales managers are worried. They are busy motivating, supporting, and pushing their sales team to achieve their targets. In parallel savvy managers are not limiting themselves to that. They are rather prioritizing their time, discipline and the required resources to analyze thoroughly and clearly their 2012 sales performance in order to find a way to optimize it in the coming 2013.

With many signs pointing to the underlying various economical factors; challenges persist for sales teams within all organizations of all industries. Thus what is genuinely required this time is more than some cosmetic fixes (motivational training, or increase on commission scheme). As described by Accenture in one of their sales study conducted in 2011 over 2900 companies, ”Composing a high performance sales function, even in growth, may require a deeper transformation of the fundamentals. This includes strategy and process to systems and talent, bringing science and art of sales back into focus.

Today maybe we can call this methodology, “best practice”, but I’m sure that within few years, this will be eventually the standard methodology applied within every sales organization.

In the below study I will focus on few controllable factors, that should be dealt with in order to optimize our sales performance. I’ll be addressing the case by conducting a small comparison between sales and a football game scenario. As per the “how we do it” part. I would invite you to read a previous post “How to Scientifically Assess our Sales Performance.

What is Sales Optimization?

As defined by Wikipedia, optimization is a methodology of maximizing the performance of anything by applying mathematical tools from the set of available controllable factors and alternatives.

Case Study Scenario

On one of a rainy Saturday afternoon in November 2012 I joined my friends for another football game. It’s been years, we call upon each other to play for fun.  Unfortunately, we had no fun this time, we were nervous, defocused, and even some started shouting at each other out of temper. Not to mention since we play for fun, we don’t take the required time to strategize, set a formation and tactics. We honestly rely on our energy, synergy and some individuals’ talents. The other team was overlying us, orchestrating their game while we are striving with all energy to cut their passes off, but with no luck. The score was 5-0 now and we are barely able to hold the ball.

I thought that through my experience as a defender holding the Libero position back along my school team and as a captain for another team during my university days, asking for a change now, and sitting on the bench would be the best solution. An act we used to follow in our official games. It was always true that such position (sitting on the bench) aided us to think more clearly while looking from different perspective

Optimization into practice

As defined, the 1st step in optimization is to identify and categorize the available factors into:

Factors to be dismissed

  1. Hiring Good Salespeople: As in the above case, it is very difficult to call upon other players to come and join us last minute, the same in business. It is further clear to all of us the difficulty of hiring good salespeople. “Irrespective of what hiring actions and plans one takes, sales teams will be in best case divided into, 20% top sales performers, 70% middle, and 10% bottom performers.”  Thus such uncontrollable factor will be dismissed.

  2. External Factors: the rain represents the external factors (the market, and other economical changes) and our opponent represent our business competitor that we can’t control their steps either. Thus these factors will be excluded too.

Factors to be studied

  1. Sales Strategy: Sitting on that bench, I couldn’t identify the problem clearly this time. No, it’s not because of the rain, but because there was no visible fundamentals (strategy, model, plan or formation.) I was only able to see us running here and there, not sure if we are in a defensive mode, offensive one, or following a kick and run strategy. As illustrated by Kevin Keegan famous assertion that his objective for winning a match is to “score more goals than the opposition”. But he had always had a strategy that synergize with this objective. Else players will wear themselves out running up and down the field unless you direct them to save their energy. The same applied in sales. Setting stretched achievable targets is any company’s first step when developing 2013 sales plan. But it’s not the sales strategy. It is important to optimize our sales force direction on a clear optimal sales strategy that describes clearly:

    1. Whom to Sell to: Market(s), Customer Segmentation and  Preferences
    2. What to Sell: Products and Service Lines to focus on…
    3. How to Sell it: the methodology to follow (direct sales and its structure, distributors, channels, outsourcing…)
  2. Sales Model: It’s the same as tactics in football. “If the pitch is really in bad condition (very wet), you have to avoid going down the middle. You can play more in the air up to a point, or use the side lines.” The same in sales, ex: If your analysis shows that it is optimal to generate new business using your winning product rather than putting efforts on up-selling old clients, then your model should be focused on generating new business.
  3. Sales Structure: It is the same as the formation in football. It is very important to put your salespeople in right place. Best football stars give their optimal potential when given their best position. ex: An excellent account manager couldn’t be given the position of generating new business, unless he can fit both.
  4. Sales Productivity: If strategy is the game plan, execution is the name of the game. But unlike football, you can still implant science into selling on this level. In football, they don’t have the luxury to ask players that if you are able to give 10 passes properly, this will lead to a goal. In sales, asking salespeople to generate constantly the same numbers of leads, approach same number of prospects, and conducting the same number of meeting will definitely lead to a certain constant outcome.

How can we help

Simply we assist organizations in optimizing their sales performance.

Our engagements focus on addressing the macro, process and people level. Our efforts normally range for an intensive duration of five to seven months for a medium-sized firm, including executing the set plan that link together people, strategy, plans and processes. It’s the discipline of execution which measures the success of any consultancy, and in execution we believe.