Recently I spoke with a sales leader from a company that’s featured on the Selling Power 2013 Top 50 Companies to Sell For list. I was particularly impressed by the number of years he’s spent building the best sales force possible. His approach involved a combination of factors that I’ve often advised sales leaders to think about: people, process, and technology.
Is this combination easy to get right? Hardly. Just think about the effort that goes into each one.
- Motivation sounds simple -- the reality is that many companies are only getting it half right. For any sales organization to be competitive, your compensation plan needs to be attractive, transparent, easy to understand, and automated. And comp is only part of the equation. Do you offer incentives? Are you taking advantage of gamification apps? Do you know what motivates your team? (Just asking can be a good start.)
- In reality, not all “top performer” job candidates are right for your company. Half the time, they’re not even top performers, because they’re better at selling themselves than they are at selling anything else. Hiring success starts with creating a clearly defined job role, complete with the characteristics that you know lead to success in your particular industry and company. (An investment in assessment tools has been a key success differentiator for many companies.)
- Quick tip: conduct internal survey -- these help leaders learn what is and isn’t working in your existing sales culture.
- A sales team needs to follow a defined sales process. You’d be surprised how many companies think they follow a process, when in fact their reps are out there winging it.
- Selling has always been about the customer, but never before in history has the customer been such a powerful driver of how purchases are made. Even great companies miss opportunities because they fail to pay attention to how the buyer wants to interact with the sales and/or marketing team and how they prefer to purchase.
- Go ask one of your reps right now to tell you what your value proposition is. If it can’t be articulated, it doesn’t exist. Which means your customers probably don’t know what your value is, either.
- Alignment among all teams, across all divisions, is a must. Without it, you are spinning your wheels and losing the productivity game.
- Here’s something I encourage all sales leaders to do: learn how to shop for technology. There are technology solutions for almost anything you can name -- training, coaching, prospecting, generating leads, managing time, managing your team, recruiting, compensation, incentivizing … the list goes on and on. This is a great boon to sales teams, but it also represents an investment of money and time. There is no question that these days one of the most difficult aspects of technology is wading through the thousands of offerings that promise to supercharge the efforts of salespeople.
- Here’s another trick sales leaders must master: learn to make the internal sale for technology investments. The number one company featured on the 50 Best Companies to Sell For list is SunGard, where the Vice President of Global Sales Enablement, Ken Powell, recently helped lead a $4 million sales transformation that pulled together technology solutions from more than one dozen vendors. One thing he did was plant the seeds to support change by building a coalition of supporters internally. Once they became champions, it was easier to align the whole team around a successful investment.
What’s behind a great system of people, process, and technology? Great leadership. Without leadership, any company is like a ship without a rudder. The wind might blow you in the right direction from time to time, but when the weather changes -- look out. A rudderless company will not attract good sales talent or encourage existing talent to stay.
Based on my years of working with sales teams and profiling successful sales organizations in Selling Power, here are the top three characteristics of superlative and sales-friendly companies.
- They offer industry-leading solutions. No salesperson wants to sell for a company with a mediocre offering. Remember, your company doesn’t have to be everything to all customers -- just the best to your best advocates.
- They communicate well. We live in a real-time economy, and that is simply what all employees expect from employers. If you fail to communicate comp-plan changes, announce new product offerings with no game plan, and never take time for coaching sessions, then you’re not creating a supportive and transparent sales culture.
- They empower their salespeople. Today it is almost impossible for top companies to lead in the market without sales enablement solutions, training, coaching, and mentoring. It takes a village to create a sales superstar. Combine that support with the natural drive and ambition of a talented seller, and watch your sales take off like a rocket.
Yes, it can also be very difficult for sales leaders to build a winning company culture that attracts the right kind of talent. However, they do exist. When we assemble our list of 50 Best Companies to Sell For each year, we put a high premium on sales cultures that set the standard for hiring, motivating, retaining, and supporting sales teams. This year, we see that these opportunities exist among companies at all levels of maturity. Each company is succeeding when it comes to helping salespeople perform at their best.
I encourage you to check out the full list and see for yourself which companies are setting a high bar for sales professionalism and achievement.
For a chance to see your company on next year’s list, go here.