World-Class sales organizations have a system for driving performance, and it’s because of this system that they grow steadily and predictably. Building sales is too often seen in terms of finding star salespeople, but that is only one element of what we call sales. The companies that get sales right take a holistic view of this critical function. They invest in building a world-class sales system which has three interconnected components:
Time-based Targets: The most agile sales organisations set overall revenue and customer acquisition targets per month and sometimes weekly. This might seem like an obvious thing to do, but quarterly and annual targets set too slow of a pace, reducing urgency and creating a hockey-stick effect, where the sales organisation becomes dependent on securing too much of the target at the end of the period.
Common Language: Sales lacks a universal language for leadership, management and salespeople to communicate accurately and clearly. In particular there is no clear shared definition of what is an opportunity? Professional sales organisations use a rules-based vocabulary that enables all stakeholders to determine when an opportunity is live, capable of producing income soon and worthy of being in a forecast.
Commit-Level Forecasts: Even start-ups use a sales pipeline tool these days, but world-class, developed sales organisations are managed from the forecast, not the pipeline. The salespeople are trained to produce a very reliable and accurate monthly sales forecast number that is based on verifiable evidence, called the commit forecast. This sets pace across the sales team in terms of activity and sales strategies that reduce the length of the sales cycle.
Compelling Scoreboard: In a sales role you need to know, real-time, if you are winning or losing. Measuring the progress of a sales opportunity requires an agile approach. Rather like a chef or cook tasting the soup during the cooking process, a salesperson needs to frequently check the quality of each sales opportunity. They also need to check if they have the right number of opportunities at each stage of the process.
Scheduled Group Review: Many sales organisations do review sales results in a group setting, but such meetings often lapse into discussions about non-sales, operational issues. World-class sales teams have short group meetings to review the forecast and critical sales-only issues affecting all team members, such as messaging adjustments and strategising recurring obstacles.
Scheduled 1:1 Meetings: The quality of the conversation that takes place between a salesperson and their direct manager is the most critical driver of sales performance. A one-on-one meeting should happen weekly that deals with the high-impact strategies and execution tactics that shortens sales cycles and creates more qualified opportunities and wins.
Measurement doesn’t have to mean micro-management nor curtailing people’s freedom. Quality sales performers measure themselves against short-term outcomes and milestones such as securing calendarized time with buyers and creating business cases and propositions that engage stakeholders. A clear, commonly-shared measurement approach drives the right behaviours and tells the manager and the salesperson where to focus performance-improvement efforts.
Michael McGowan is Co-Founder of Smart Sales Talent Group. Michael has extensive international sales and sales management experience, and has worked with global sales organisations in the U.S.A., U.K., Europe and Asia. He has been a prime contributor on the Enterprise Ireland International Selling Programme since 2006 and hundreds of successful Irish companies selling globally, use his sales system based on DEI sales model.