Establishing a feedback mechanism is critical in improving processes across a business. This article is an exclusive summary of the recent MDM Webcast, CRM & the Strategic Sales Force, in which Steve Deist of Indian River Consulting Group examines the importance of having a “feedback loop” and how it can help distributors create a more strategic approach to sales.
Establishing a feedback mechanism is critical to improving processes within a business, according to Steve Deist of Indian River Consulting Group. And it is a critical part of developing a more strategic sales force.
“If you’re going to have a management-directed sales force, you have to have a feedback loop,” Deist says. “You have to say ‘Are we doing what we said we were going to do; if not, why not?’ Otherwise, you’re just leaving it up to the reps.”
Deist was featured in the recent MDM Webcast, CRM & the Strategic Sales Force.
The effectiveness of a feedback loop expands beyond just the sales force, however; it can be used in all aspects of a business.
“Any management control process, whether it’s sales, whether it’s engineering, whether it’s operations, whether it’s finance, involves a feedback loop,” Deist says. “You plan what you want to accomplish, you execute the plan, you measure the results, and then you look back at the results and adjust your plan and execution based on what you find. It’s pretty simple, but it’s actually something that very, very few sales organizations and wholesale distributors actually do.”
Taking the time to sit down and evaluate processes is critical, according to Deist. But this evaluation cannot be done without collecting information from various contact points within the company.
By diversifying the sources of feedback, the feedback loop can incorporate information from the different sectors of a company, avoiding biases that may arise if only a small subsection is used. Deist says the best way to do this from the sales force perspective is directly: by sitting down with sales reps and collecting their feedback.
“The best practice is a monthly, one-on-one territory review with each and every field sales rep or inside sales rep. From raw experience, that is one of the single most powerful things you can do to improve sales performance,” Deist says.
This cannot just be a one-time thing. Transforming a sales force requires commitment to the process and establishment of a solid program to get the most out of the feedback loop, Deist says.
“It doesn’t have to be a long review, it might be 30 minutes, but it’s got to happen regularly, and it’s got to be formal,” he says. “It’s got to be a process where the sales manager and the sales reps sit down together and say ‘How are we doing, not just on numbers but on performance drivers and leading indicators? What’s working? What’s not working? What do we need to do?’”
Establishing a solid foundation that supports feedback helps to strengthen both the company and its ability to adapt. Many companies struggle to use feedback effectively, and their sales forces are suffering as a result, Deist says. Old analysis tools such as forecasts just aren’t enough anymore.
“That feedback loop is absolutely vital. And that’s the piece that most people are missing,” Deist says. “They do the sales forecasts and the budgets at the beginning of the year, it’s a big lift, everybody talks about it, and then everybody runs off and does what they are going to do.”
To move toward a management-driven sales force, these feedback loops must not only be used, but ingrained in a company’s processes, as they provide the best opportunity for companies to develop and enhance their systems. Failing to do so will make it harder to adapt to the changing market and leave a company ill-equipped to meet its customers’ needs.
The Webcast CRM & the Strategic Sales Force is available on DVD at mdm.com/CRM-strategic-sales-force.