Sales Effectiveness: Communicate, Train & Measure

There's always room for improvement in sales.

As an organization, how efficient and effective are you at turning revenue opportunities into dollars? What does it cost you to generate that revenue? Even if you’re happy with the effectiveness of your sales team, there’s always room for improvement.

Sales effectiveness requires a clear value proposition, effective pipeline management and a culture of continuous improvement. It starts with knowing, and then communicating, your company’s value proposition to your team.

And that value proposition can't be a generic one-size-fits-all one. A value proposition – and the measurable financial impact of that value – is unique to each customer. In fact, it will be unique to each aspect of their business. If you go into a customer, for example, you may see metalworking, safety and hand tool opportunities; your customer’s problems – and your ability to solve them – will likely be different for each one.

Multiply that level of complexity by the number of people you have out selling. That’s a big challenge and one that all independent distributors face.

What’s more, your customer’s problems will also change over time. One day, you could walk into a manufacturing plant and the biggest challenge is labor productivity; the next day you may walk in after they’ve had a major accident, and now safety is the ultimate priority.

Getting reps to formulate and communicate a value proposition that may change on a situation-by-situation basis is much more difficult than training them to simply repeat a company slogan or mission statement. Help existing reps build those skill sets and to look for those skill sets in new additions to your team.

All of this may also require a cultural change. Rather than promote a confrontational environment where reps are afraid to own up to their shortcomings, managers must foster an atmosphere where challenges are viewed as opportunities to learn something new. Similarly, rather than trying to push new reps into the field as soon as possible, managers should give reps the time and resources to really develop an understanding of a territory and the value that’s been brought to bear by the prior rep before jumping in.

It comes down to effective pipeline management, and one of the best ways to manage a sales pipeline is through a CRM system. The best salespeople love CRM because it helps them to operate more efficiently, going after the right opportunities at the right accounts.

If you want to optimize your business, sales effectiveness is the place to start. It’s a huge cost area, and one where productivity hasn’t been historically considered. For a long time, salespeople did their own thing and owned their own customers. That’s not a viable approach in today’s increasingly complex market.

Make pipeline management at the company level a priority. Sales teams need to be more disciplined in how they execute, turning best practices into workflows.

Of course, no system is complete without analytics. Ask questions about your overall capability, execution and communication. If you find that it takes 6.9 visits to close a sale, how can you cut that in half, doubling your revenue with the same number of people? Why is your close rate 35 percent? How can you win a third more?

A focus on sales effectiveness and the numbers that drive it can legitimately become a driver of strategic planning and, in turn, long-term sustainable profitable growth.

Larry Davis is CEO of AgoNow, a Tulsa, OK-based pure industrial master wholesaler and channel solutions provider. Learn more about AgoNow at Before co-founding AgoNow, Davis served as the executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Stellar Industrial Supply, an industrial distributor based in Tacoma, WA, and as president of ORS Nasco, Tulsa, OK.

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