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Understanding the investments made in sales performance
Most organizations are aware that they: can improve their productivity with investments in infrastructure, can always benefit from a sales process and fine tuning their skills, and require up to date information about market trends and competitor actions. However, there are many more factors that must be addressed...
Types of investments in sales productivity
There are many different types of organizations that are telling you that working with them will help you improve your sales productivity. For example:
- CRM vendors argue that implementing their software will help you drive more business by providing better structure to the sales process as well as improving the accuracy of your forecasting.
- Sales training firms suggest that you should improve your sales fundamentals by teaching them their sales methodologies and best practices.
- Market intelligence firms claim that better and more up to date information about market trends and your competitors' actions will do the trick.
- Telemarketing and list brokers suggest revenue growth is simply a numbers game, and that more calls will result in more sales.
What does your sales team need?
Before introducing our sales productivity framework, let's first understand the common challenges enterprise sales executives face in their jobs. Listed below are a few expectations that IT vendor organizations impose (either intentionally or unintentionally) on individual sales professionals each day.
Understanding the customer's needs. Identifying the true
customer is challenging enough. With most technology purchases,
there are many buyers involved. Business sponsors, IT executives,
requirements analysts, financial analysts, enterprise architects,
and application engineers, are all common participants in an enterprise
solution. It is almost impossible for a typical sales person to
understand the business goals of each of these stakeholders and
translate your offering so that it is relevant to them.
Following up on leads and prospect opportunities. What
happens when marketing passes a lead to sales? All too often these
leads only contain contact information and what products the customer
is interested in. The sales person who is tasked to follow up on
that lead does not have insight into the business goals of that
prospect, nor a compelling way to engage in a conversation with
them. How effective is your sales team at effectively describing
what you do in a business context to you clients?
Advancing opportunities through the pipeline. Sales people
are expected to continually advance opportunities through the sales
process towards closure. Methodologies allow sales executives to
focus their skills on various stages of the selling process and
define key milestones to help you determine how soon an opportunity
will close. However, your customers are not making decisions based
on the artificial milestones that your organization sets - they
have their own buying process to evaluate these opportunities.
Translating product knowledge into business advantages.
A lot of time and energy is invested in training sales people
on the functional attributes of the offerings they sell. However,
sales professionals lack the personal experience of working with
your offerings and have difficulty understanding why the features
and functions are important to your clients. Your clients want
to know how your products or services will help their business,
yet most sales people have difficulty making their offerings relevant
- and rely on the "product demo", hoping the customer will see
benefit in what you have to sell.
Financially justify investments. IT investments are under
a tremendous amount of scrutiny. Organizations want to know: how
your offering is going to impact their business, when will they
realize that return, and how will that investment impact their budget.
Corporate financial metrics, cash flow outlays, and internal rates
of return are all examples of topics common in evaluations of technology
investments. Yet, most sales people lack the ability to have a meaningful
conversation about these subjects - let alone prepare the tools
to help your clients perform these analyses.
Most organizations are aware that they: can improve their productivity
with investments in infrastructure, can always benefit from a
sales process and fine tuning their skills, and require up to
date information about market trends and competitor actions. However,
there are many more factors that must be addressed to improve
sales productivity, and all of these issues must be organized
in such a way that sales people can actually benefit from your
attempts to address them.
The five disciplines of sales
To empower your sales force with the resources it needs to maximize
its efficiency, we have developed the "five disciplines of sales"
framework. This model should be viewed as an ecosystem that requires
balance to produce the greatest return. For example, organizations
that continually invested in "market dynamics" would realize diminishing
returns on those expenditures, if investments in other disciplines
were not made. Below are some brief definitions of each of these
- Sales fundamentals. There are several sales productivity
companies that will help implement a sales methodology in your
organization. Sales people are trained on best practice skills
that can immediately improve their abilities. However, most
organizations do not equip sales people with the right content
to enable their sales people to practice these methodologies.
Over time, no matter how positive the sales team is about the
process, they revert back to bad habits because they lack the
tools to sell solutions.
- Market dynamics. Investments, typically made in the
marketing organization, about market trends and competitor actions
are elements of the market dynamics discipline. Regardless,
if this function is performed in house, or outsourced to the
many syndicated resource providers in the market, this information
is only half of the battle. Sales people require this information
to keep from being blind-sided by customers and to develop an
intelligent counter to competitor claims, but they still require
the content to develop those responses. An additional challenge
is getting the information to sales people in a useable manner.
Having them navigate several web sites, or asking them to read
reports, reduces their time spent in front of clients.
- Customers. Enabling your sales people (through a combination
of tools and training) to understand the roles and responsibilities
of the various stakeholders involved in procuring your solution,
and the knowledge of how they evaluate your offering are examples
of outcomes of the customers discipline. It is extremely rare
for any organization to provide this information in an easily
digestible way that salespeople can take advantage of.
- Business impact. The primary focus of this discipline
is to enable a typical sales person to map your features and
functions into specific advantages your customer will realize
from working with your firm; and translating those advantages
into the goals of each of the stakeholders involved in the buying
process. There are very few organizations working on this right
- Financial justification. Today, IT investments require
a business case and cost justification to be approved. How well
your sales people can define a clear business advantage and
support that with a strong financial case is the focus of this
Based on our experience and research, the majority of IT vendor
organizations are extremely unbalanced across each of the disciplines.
The most common mistake made is over investment in sales infrastructure.
The chart below highlights how well a common IT vendor is mastering
each of these disciplines.
The index on the left is a scale from 0 to 100, with 100 meaning
that an organization is sufficiently competent in a given discipline.
Keep in mind, your organization may score differently, this is
just an aggregate view of our industry.
The "performance gap" is especially eye opening because these
are the disciplines that are the most important to customers.
We believe closing this gap is a critical success factor to achieving
a highly efficient and effective sales organization within your
Disciplines are elements to compete in an "ecosystem" economy
Technological innovation has reduced so many inefficiencies that
business does not operate in the classic, industrial age, "cause
and effect" model. Today, change happens fast, business is dynamic
and seems to operation with a life of its own. IT organizations
today should view themselves as organisms operating within an
The sales discipline landscape is designed to help you organize
the various elements required for your company to successfully
compete in the extremely competitive and dynamic technology industry.
is a leading authority on reducing the business development friction caused by the divide between sales and marketing. His company, Blueprint Marketing ( www.blueprintmarketing.com
), helps companies realize the compounding returns on revenue generation investments that are achieved by harmonizing sales and marketing efforts. Scott can be contacted by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
and phone (703) 723-5900.
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