September 28, 2016: The pressure on sales leaders to achieve profits and growth targets every year is relentless. The chief executive of the Association of Professional Sales today offered a masterclass in how to plan and manage resources to keep hitting your number.
From the minutiae of which type of sales person you put into which role, to strategic hints on managing rampant shareholder expectations, Andy Hough gave an overview of how to plan for success.
Map the market
Many in the audience for Hough’s webinar on Territory Design and Execution were sales directors or at VP level, some listening from the US and the Far East. He advised these most senior sales figures to begin their strategy by mapping the state of their market: where is the competition strong, how good is their pipeline, and which are their best customers? Which areas of the business are under-developed and where is there potential? On the flip side, which loss-making customers are too prestigious to lose and which would be better farmed off to their rivals?
Sales leaders need to be in touch with where their market is in the economic cycle. How does this affect when to bring on new products, and how to target the competition when they are at their weakest? Macro-economic insights can also be helpful to give a dose of reality to wilder shareholder hopes.
Get the best from the team
Turning to tactics, Hough advised them to consider the balance of their team. Are they using inside sales and field sales to their best, and are they co-operating? Would it help to bring in in-house experts, such as a bid management team, to handle some parts of the process? Can channels and partners help them to hit their number?
He quoted the example of Johnson and Johnson, who galvanised their procurement function by offering their suppliers a profit-share if they co-operated in bringing on new business. Now 25% of Johnson & Johnson’s revenue comes from new products brought on by that framework.
Meanwhile the sales operations, sales enablement and administration functions of your organisation all need to be co-ordinated to be as responsive and helpful as possible to the sales team.
Use data analytics at every opportunity, Hough urged: the more you understand about what is going on, the better your plan. Analytics are a useful tool not just for a market overview, but for drilling down into what is happening between individual reps and their accounts every day.
Coach reps to ask more questions and schedule more meetings to find out more about their prospects, so they can be strategic in developing new business, counselled Hough. Sales people hate change and will resist it, but businesses that need to grow constantly also need to change constantly. Prospects rarely come to you, you must find new ways to develop them.
Learn from experience
Hough’s presentation was studded with nuggets of hard-won advice on how to maximise what you’ve got, based on his decades of experience as a sales leader, latterly at EMC.
For example, Hough recommended motivating the sales team by promising to halve the territory of the highest performing salesperson periodically. This allows the high performers (HiPers) to concentrate on the cash cow accounts they have developed, while other members of the team focus on bringing on the under-developed parts of the HiPer’s territory. In this way, what was previously one territory becomes two, and before long possibly four, with all the potential for expanding business that implies.
“Resources need to be aligned to as many accounts and territories as possible, to maximise potential return,” he advised.
Bring on talent
Hough hammered home the importance of nurturing talent. HiPers need to be rewarded and praised, but perhaps even more important is to give opportunities to your junior but high potential salespeople to spread their wings, he said. Sales leaders must also be in regular touch with a list of likely candidates to fill the gap when one of their high performers moves on.
Last but not least, don’t forget that a plan should be a living document, constantly reviewed against what is happening on the ground. Don’t stick it in a drawer.
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