Your sales force is one of your most strategic levers for improving growth, market share, and profitability. A great sales organization will identify opportunities for competitive advantage and profit. Most consumer-goods companies spend as much as 7 percent of sales on the cost of their sales force, and the sales force is responsible for up to an additional 20 percent of spending on deals and promotions. But few companies feel confident about their return from that investment. Fewer still are realizing the competitive advantage they hope to create.
“I could fire them all, and we wouldn’t see an effect for years,” the CEO of a $5-billion company said recently. “What do they do? I don’t know. How do they add value? I really don’t know.”
Today, given relentless retailer consolidation and international expansion, an effective and efficient sales force is more important than ever in fighting the war for visibility, shelf space, and promotions. As retailers have grown larger and more powerful, they’ve also become more sophisticated about category dynamics, product margins, sales velocity, promotions, consumer behavior, and returns-and they are demanding more from their suppliers. Consumer goods companies must respond to these demands while continuing to provide coverage to the low-volume accounts. Sales force value added must be visible, or the sales force should be reduced or replaced.
The Boston Consulting Group has conducted more than 200 sales-force-strategy projects in the past five years, across all major sectors and geographic areas, working with a wide range of organizational styles and problems. The critical factors for a powerful, efficient sales force don’t change: strategy and customer segmentation must be aligned with economic drivers and resource allocation. Yet over and over again, many companies are unable to realize their potential because they are saddled with at least two, three, or more so-called “fatal flaws” of sales. Remedies require detailed, thoughtful nuts-and-bolts adjustments.
To have the best sales force in 2010, you have to begin to create it now. Here’s how you can start.
1. Recruit what you want, not what you have.
It’s no longer possible to succeed in sales the old-fashioned way, with a sample pack, a price list, and an order form. Yet most sales forces lack the necessary skills for today’s selling environment. Sales representatives need all the capabilities that go with running a big company: knowledge of logistics, information technology, branding, pricing, and customer service.
Here are the attributes to look for when assessing and recruiting a top-tier sales team:
· Intelligence: “gets it”; processes information quickly
· Problem-solving skills: assesses tradeoffs and rapidly drives to solutions; recognizes problems from prior situations and retains the analytical frameworks for solving them
· Raw creativity: thinks energetically and proposes original ideas
· Consumer knowledge: has a passion for understanding consumer needs and shopping behavior
· Tenacity: is principled; is tough under pressure and defends well-founded opinions; is resourceful
· Integrative skills: connects the dots; synthesizes across disciplines and across offerings
· Adaptability: deals with fluid situations; develops solutions to complex problems
· Logic skills: substantiates claims; draws sound conclusions from a sequence of facts
· Communication skills: engages others with clear, confident arguments
· Track record: has superior credentials and experience
If your current sales force lacks these qualifications, don’t expect your reps to recruit the people who have them; you’ll only get more of the same. Instead of hiring what you already have, look for the people you want and don’t settle for less. This flaw is the toughest to correct, and the solution starts at the top.
2. Avoid an inverted sales force: Green at the frontlines, entrenched at the top.
Selling is an apprenticeship profession. Successful sales reps develop by learning from experienced mentors. But most sales organizations aren’t structured to make that happen. Frontline positions are commonly assigned to the most junior employees, and too often those reps aren’t screened for the key success factors of today’s selling environment. The recruiting process may underemphasize the analytic capabilities required for a rep to describe the company’s value proposition and return-on-investment calculation. And district sales managers are often too burdened by administrative duties to coach the frontline reps.
Sales reps often graduate to managerial roles as soon as they acquire some experience. That means people who have spent little time in the field are making strategic decisions. All too quickly, they become entrenched in the organizational culture and are unable to see or respond to subtle changes in the competitive environment. What’s more, star reps in particular are often promoted to managerial roles despite the fact that they may not be suited to manage or coach people.
If the compensation system is properly aligned to reward stellar performers (with a variable component that flattens but isn’t capped), one of the best solutions to these problems is to encourage some district sales managers to rotate back to the frontline. That keeps them up-to-date, and the company benefits from their outstanding sales skills.
In addition, consider launching an apprenticeship program of at least 12 months that screens for skills, sets expectations, provides coaching throughout the program (with extensive help during the first two or three months), and certifies basic skills after six months. Your goal is experience and intelligence at the frontline and compromise breakers and change agents at the top.
销售团队建设 激励 培训 绩效考核