Traditional manufacturing continues to weather an unrelenting sales revolution. Savvier customers, increased competition, shorter product life-cycles and a massive infusion of technology have spurred this revolution. Legacy sales organizations built solely around relationship development and product knowledge can no longer create differentiated growth. And they struggle to retain the best sales talent. The Alexander Group, Inc. (AGI) has observed four key sales talent trends among sales teams who outperform their peers and successfully spur differentiated growth.
differentiated growth: the process of increasing one’s revenue in excess of the competitive environment, leading to higher than average earnings for stakeholders.
AGI’s research shows that world-class manufacturers build their sales organizations around talent who can provide a more consultative and collaborative solution. Sure, everyone wants their sellers to be “solutions-oriented.” The trick is migrating old-school sales talent into an environment where the pace continually accelerates.
Four Key Sales Talent Trends of World-Class Sales Organizations
- Targeted investments in sales operations – To get the most out of their sales talent, manufacturers are professionalizing their sales operations function. By first getting their house in order and clearly defining what sales ops is and what it does, leading organizations are investing in the talent and tools necessary to support the customer-facing team. Simply put, leading companies are investing only in sales operations efforts that provide insights needed to inform strategies or tools and processes that keep their sales talent focused on selling.
- Investment in consistent sales metrics – In order to help plan, execute and monitor performance across an increasingly complex portfolio of products, organizations are doubling down on investment in the right metrics. Often this begins with a complete data cleanse that takes disparate account information from various financial reporting systems and synthesizes it into a “rebooted” CRM.
With clean data, leaders leverage three to five key predictive and results-based measures that reflect the most important elements of a sales job. Processes are put in place to facilitate coaching of sellers by their front-line sales managers to increase deal velocity, deal size and overall success rate.
- Increased pay for performance – To generate more sales urgency and increase the discrimination between high and low performers, manufacturers are revisiting sales compensation structures. Leaders are pulling three specific levers to infuse a growth-oriented culture. First, they are (re)introducing higher thresholds to appropriately set the bar for incentive pay. These minimum performance expectations are especially important when there is a high degree of recurring revenue in a seller’s territory. Second, leaders are increasing the upside leverage in their plans. By shifting incentive dollars to those who have outperformed their goal, leaders drive home a message of abundance for those who help contribute to the company’s growth. Finally, leaders are carving out sales compensation dollars to pay for specific, growth-oriented solutions. The focus on these unique measures works well to change behaviors in sales teams entrenched in legacy products.
- Recruitment and development of new types of sales talent – In today’s more complex and collaborative sales models, best practice companies are using structured approaches to find and nurture the right type of sales talent. Specifically, they cast a wider recruiting net to get the needed selling expertise. This often entails looking beyond typical “within-industry” channels.
After hiring the right seller, high-performing manufacturers continue a rigorous development program that stresses continuous improvement throughout the seller’s career. New hires learn well-defined onboarding processes that monitor activities and results. New hires quickly become fully functional. Seasoned sellers receive weekly coaching from their managers and regular learning and development opportunities to fine-tune their knowledge and skills. To tie it all together, high-performing organizations are also creating job-specific competency models that chart standards of excellence for each unique sales job. These clear expectations show the requirements for success and professionalize a career path for sellers.
Make it happen – Nothing in these four elements is rocket science. However, many manufacturing sales teams blindly catch whatever products are ‘thrown over the transom.’ But by making a deliberate choice to professionalize the sales function, world-class organizations are achieving a solid return on their additional sales talent investment.
To learn more about how you too can benefit from these and other sales team enablement strategies, please visit Alexander Group’s Manufacturing practice.
Read more about how sales leaders are addressing changes in the manufacturing landscape.