Alexander Group’s 2012 Chief Sales Executive Forum focused on bold moves that sales executives are making to reach their numbers despite a continuing anemic investment in the sales function. With sales growth expectations outpacing investment in sales resources, sales leaders must look beyond current practices to find the best path forward. Here is what they had to say:
Stop wasting time and resources over-covering accounts and segments that historically produced but no longer offer the growth needed to make the numbers. Consider these bold moves:
Go where the growth is
Find account segments where selling really makes a difference. Not accounts where sellers simply communicate price; these can be covered with a catalog. Find segments with businesses that are in transition, that are looking for an edge and that will value advice.
Get your sellers focused on these segments. Pull them out of their comfort zone and push them to accounts where their insight is valued and where selling can be the difference between winning and losing. Force a change in tactical focus.
Don’t overlook the middle market. There are good sized accounts here that have less support staff but have tall growth ambitions. They are looking for partners to provide resources and wisdom…and you can be one of those partners with the right sales approach.
Re-tool your go-to-market approach
Use better sales analytics to do more with less. Finding the right account segments for your products and services is not easy. Sales operations departments need to get to work using more and better data (it is there if you look for it) to produce better insights about where the growth is.
Enrich the number of roles your sales force is prepared to fill. High value roles can range from visionaries and partners, to teachers and relationship managers. If you want to provide value to customers who expect it, you have to be prepared to deploy talent that can do more than simply show the product and communicate features, benefits and price.
Lean into the sales process. Don’t wait for the call. Get into the sales process early with the value you have to offer. Research shows that if you wait for the call, the decision is already made in almost 60% of the cases. Get on the inside of the decision making process to get more decisions in your favor.
Move up the food chain to engage the C-Suite in a dialog. The surest path to success is to engage high level executives earlier in your sales process. But you only get one shot here so make the most of it by doing your homework: know their business, get the facts straight and be prepared to demonstrate the ROI that you can deliver.
Get serious about implementation
Signal your sellers that you are serious. Let them know value selling is is not the “strategy de jour”. Make changes that are real and visible…that affect how they look at the world. Begin with what you measure, how you set goals and how you pay. Getting these programs aligned with your strategy will get their attention fast…and demonstrate the gravity of your intent.
Be prepared to show tough love. Let sellers clearly know what is expected and look for sellers who give it the college try. For those that win right away, celebrate in public. For those that show promise but whose results lag, cut them some slack. For those that refuse to change, who call outside the target list and who refuse to accept new sales roles; be prepared to make the tough call.
Implementing your bold solutions for sales growth will depend on having the courage to change. This is where the right leadership can shine. A value-based strategy attached to a tough-minded and committed management team is a real recipe for success.
See more growth-oriented insights from sales leaders who attended Alexander Group’s 2012 Chief Sales Executive Forum.
Gary Tubridy is a senior vice president of the Alexander Group and the general manager in charge of the firm’s management consulting business. Gary’s consulting work is focused on increasing marketing and sales effectiveness with particular emphasis in technology and medical products industries. Gary has deep expertise in diagnosing sales management issues and helping clients execute action plans to improve results. His research is focused on best practices of leading sales organizations in North America with particular emphasis on sales force transformation and the role of sales leadership. He leads the Alexander Group executive events series and hosts the Operations and Executive Forums. He is one of three founding stockholders of the Alexander Group.
Gary has been with the Alexander Group for over 35 years. Prior to that, Gary was in sales with the IBM Corporation. Gary holds a B.A. from Brown University and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University.