Neil Rackham, author of bestsellers such as SPIN Selling, Major Account Sales Strategy and Rethinking the Sales Force, and one of the leading minds in professional, consultative selling over the past 20 years, offers sales executives his five maxims for building a world class sales force:
- Sales supervisors are the key to success
I have played a part in the reorganization and performance improvement of over 100 large sales forces. It’s my experience that whether change succeeds – and whether results significantly improve – depends much more on sales supervisors than on salespeople. When I’m working to improve the performance of a sales force, I give most attention to building competent sales supervision.
- Fewer accounts means more sales Salespeople love to have lots of opportunities. A salesperson who has ten customers to chase feels much safer than if they had only five. As a result, many salespeople are half chasing twice as many opportunities. They don’t sell deeply enough, they don’t plan adequately and they lose business to competitors who put more resources into the best opportunities. I often find that I can get a dramatic improvement in results by taking away 20 – 30% of a salesperson’s prospects. Salespeople hate this and they argue against it – but it works.
- Salespeople must become value creators Too many salespeople are “talking brochures”, trying to show customers how their products or services are better than competitors. This is traditional value communication selling and it no longer works. Salespeople today must move from value communication to value creation. The salesperson must add as much value as the product. This calls for creativity and problem solving. Selling is no longer about persuasion.
- Coaching brings results
Every world-class sales force I’ve worked with puts great emphasis on coaching. They don’t just give lip service to coaching; they create systems and processes to make coaching happen. Yet few sales managers understand important coaching concepts, such as how skills coaching is different from strategy coaching. The best way to improve sales results is to make effective coaching happen.
- Integrate sales and marketing
I’ve been working closely with Philip Kotler, the marketing guru, to find ways to help sales and marketing work better together. When we published some of our thinking recently in Harvard Business Review, we were flooded with emails from CEO’s, Sales VP’s and Marketing VP’s from all over the world. So we know it’s an important topic and exciting new ideas are being tried out.
A peak performing sales force is one of the surest ways companies can boost revenue – always an important objective, but especially in our current economic climate. If you would like to learn more about Neil Rackham and how he may be able to help you optimize your sales force, visit his web site at www.NeilRackhamSpeaks.com or contact Shawn Ellis at The Speakers Group at (615) 866-2665.