Is there something uncontrollable about the sales function? Many top leaders think so. As Michael Smith points out in his recent Chief Executive column, CEOs should stop believing that old-school myth and get busy operationalizing the sales department.
Historically, salespeople have operated with a bit of mystique. CEOs might not have understood exactly what the rainmakers did to bring in that huge contract. In fact, they sometimes didn’t care. As long as the sales department made its number by the end of the year, everyone was happy.
But sales department don’t end every year with a 10% increase over the previous year. If your sales department is struggling to meet its goal, you need to make some changes.
Smith lays out his plan for how to improve sales departments by discussing organizational maturity. In the early stages of an organization’s growth, everyone’s focused on bringing in sales. At this point, you may depend on a superstar or two to get the sales job done. Because people are given leeway to do what’s necessary to make the sale, they rely on their own personal preferences and style. The trouble can start when new sales reps don’t have enough experience or training. They can’t make their numbers, especially in the absence of established practices.
The way Smith sees it, an organization moves through four stages of sales maturity. If you want your organization to show sales maturity, you first need to recognize what the top stage looks like. Defining factors include sales results that come within 10% of the forecast, manager use of performance metrics and pipeline transparency. Sounds nice, doesn't it? Chances are you're not there yet.
Your leadership team should take an in-depth look at the sales organization. Smith recommends asking tough questions about “sales cadence.” Does your department have one? And, have you determined whether your sales managers are effective? For example, you should be asking if managers are training their reps to follow the established cadence. You should also find out how often managers are coaching their reps.
If your managers tell you they lack time to coach, check out the SalesFuel Coach tool. With SalesFuel Coach, your sales managers can quickly and easily determine where reps need help and then assign them to engage with short pieces of content designed to help them improve.
If you want to increase your chances of achieving strong sales results next year, work with your sales managers now to establish consistency in practice and increase coaching in that department.