In recent years, it’s become more important than ever to have a winning sales team and not just an average team.
In periods of strong economic growth, it’s easy to grow through your mistakes. But when you face a tough economy, as in today’s competitive global environment, any mistakes become magnified. The differences between an average sales team and a good sales team have also grown.
A good way to understand these changes is through the annual Global Sales Best Practices Study conducted by the Miller Heiman Institute (MHI). The study, now in its 11th year, helps to quantify the differences between average sales teams and world-class teams.
In the 2014 study (which covered data from 2013), 8.5 percent of those surveyed had met the criteria for world-class sales organizations.
“World-class sales performers represent a segment of sales professionals that consistently leverages a specific collection of behaviors that result in improved sales performance,” according to the MHI report. These world-class sales organizations outperformed the average by more than 22 percent in key metrics, such as:
- Number of qualified opportunities
- New account acquisition
- Average account billing
- Year-over-year existing customer growth
- Quota achievement
- Forecast accuracy
In recent years, the MHI study has shown a widening gap between those considered “world class” and the rest. The world is quickly growing more competitive, and it’s increasingly important for organizations to understand what drives effectiveness in this tough marketplace.
Here are five factors, in order of priority, that make for a winning sales team:
1) Alignment between marketing and sales: In order to work together efficiently, these two teams need to share clear definitions of what constitutes a qualified lead and what it takes to close a lead. In a winning sales team, you can’t afford to have sales reps hunting down their own leads.
2) Coach all reps on top performers’ best practices: Timely, data-driven coaching allows your entire sales team to learn and apply the techniques of your highest performers. As the saying goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
3) Become the strategic partner: Excellent sales organizations focus on becoming strategic partners for their customers, while average organizations tend to remain as transactional suppliers. Every sales team wants to become a trusted partner, but it’s the proactive teams that achieve this goal.
Seek out ways to regularly demonstrate that you’re treating the relationship like a partnership, such as by bringing unique ideas to the table before the customer asks for them.
4) Sales effectiveness technology: The best sales technology helps you combine efficiency with effectiveness. You’re not just finding ways to make reps faster; you’re also giving them the right tools and information to win at each stage of the customer buying cycle.
5) Aligning the customer portfolio with the appropriate sales channel: There are many different types of customers, and they’re going to perform best when they’re working with the most appropriate channel. To have a winning direct sales team, make sure that they aren’t spending a lot of their efforts on customers who would be a better fit for your e-commerce sales channel.
The outcome of these five factors is that you create a culture where excellence is expected, practiced and demonstrated by leadership. In this culture, winning is part of the DNA, and it naturally produces a winning sales team.