As a sales organization grows, there often comes a breaking point where individual team members can no longer move the needle by working in silos and following their own agendas. Customer-facing messages become inconsistent, employees are spread too thin, and sales start to plateau—all of which are signals that the time has come to professionalize your sales organization.
A successful sales organization requires putting the appropriate people, processes, and technology in place to improve top- and bottom-line growth, attract and retain top talent, and ensure sustained profitability.
Here are six steps to professionalize your sales organization and ensure profits are trending up and to the right.
When a company first launches, executives need to wear a lot of hats, including that of a salesperson. But after growing the company, executives shouldn’t maintain a book of business or be involved in the day-to-day operations of the sales organization. It limits the growth of the individuals on your sales team and can hold the company back because leadership is worried about closing deals rather than focusing on big-picture initiatives. If the C-suite is still selling, it’s time for them to step back and allow the sales staff to step up and take ownership.
Salespeople are often self-starters and require very little supervision, provided they’re hitting their numbers. But that doesn’t mean your sales organization should lack structure or leadership. It’s easy to let your sales staff run free, but it’s vital to put sales leadership in place to develop strategies for targeting specific accounts, coach green members of your sales team, set sales targets, and monitor sales activity from a high level. The most motivated on your sales staff will also likely need incentive to grow beyond commission checks, so you need to create a path for them to follow and set goals to help them advance. Otherwise, you risk losing them to a company they feel values their growth.
In an ideal world, your sales team would spend all their time prospecting and selling. But that’s not often the case. Many sales teams get bogged down with list management tasks, creating their own sales collateral, developing sales and loyalty programs, processing orders, and taking customer service calls. All of these duties limit their capacity to sell, which is only exacerbated when your organization lacks a strategy for how to split markets and accounts. For the most productive sales team, come up with a formal plan for dividing up markets and verticals, have a process for siphoning customer service questions to a separate team, and develop processes and systems to make operational tasks as streamlined and efficient as possible.
Historically, most business has been conducted at face-to-face meetings with clients. But more and more people are interested in researching and buying products online, shopping when it’s most convenient for them. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly reduced in-person meetings. For both near- and long-term success, companies need to adopt technology that allows their sales organization to prospect for new customers and sell to them digitally, in order to meet clients when, where, and how they want to be reached.
As a rule of thumb, your sales organization should follow the 80/20 rule, meaning that 80 percent of your sales should be coming from 20 percent of your customers. If your profits are highly dependent on a few individual customers, you might be in danger of a collapse. The same goes for relying too heavily on one member of your sales team. If your star salesman leaves the company, will you be able to keep the organization afloat? Make sure you put processes and strategies in place to track where your sales are coming from, spend resources on the top 20 percent of your best customers, and measure your sales staff with performance-driven metrics.
The only way to develop performance-driven metrics for your sales team is to use formal and consistent reporting on your sales pipeline and funnel. Without pipeline reporting, accounts could remain in the pipeline for months without ever closing, and sales team leadership will have no way to forecast sales. And without looking at the sales funnel, it becomes difficult to review and coach your sales team on how to close more deals faster.
With more detailed reporting, you can analyze your sales commission structures. If compensation is based solely on revenue and new deals—rather than profit margins and acquiring targeted clients—you may be rewarding your sales staff for spending time on deals that bring in minimal profits or even losses.
If you don’t have the time or expertise to implement these six steps, take just one step and call the experts at FortéOne.