Sales & Marketing

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How to get your salesforce in shape for 2011

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With a tough economic forecast for 2011, UK companies need to urgently examine the cost-efficiency and performance of their salesforce and make sure sales operations are aligned with changing business strategies.

In today’s uncertain economic environment, businesses of all sizes are implementing new strategies that need different resources, skills, products and services. But while most business leaders understand that strategic changes impact production, operations and supply, the impact on the sales side is frequently overlooked.

To properly execute a new strategy, sales divisions need some degree of change at all levels. This often involves process and skills, but may also require changes to roles and responsibilities, rewards, management and other areas. Most importantly, the change needs to be delivered in an integrated way.

These steps will help translate business strategy into a successful sales operation:

1. Make sure the sales strategy describes targets and tactics for each market/vertical/product; the budgets and resources required; how different sales teams and channels will be deployed; the interaction with other departments; the systems and processes used; and how required changes will be implemented.

2. Amend roles, responsibilities and reporting where required to support your business’s strategy in 2011.

3. Size the sales force and territories to deliver the strategy efficiently.

4. Define a clear model for the ideal salespeople to operate successfully in the target markets – this could very well be different to what it is now.

5. Don’t forget the sales managers – assess and develop management competencies so that they can support, coach and performance-manage their teams.

6. Clarify the sales process right from initial prospecting through opportunity management to sale closure, and make sure it’s supported by well-structured and practical reference documentation and tools. This changes depending on the product/service/solution, the sales cycle and the customer.

7. Reward and measure for success with the right incentive scheme and performance-management framework to accelerate adoption of new sales approaches.

8. Develop an integrated and well-managed change programme that is communicated effectively and has the support from every related area of the business. The change must be visibly endorsed at the highest possible level of your business.

There’s an assumption in businesses that sales will just “get on with it”, no matter the environment; maybe with some extra training in new products and services. But to get the best from your salesforce in good times or bad, the sales strategy needs to be matched to trading conditions, competitor activity and the product and service portfolio.

Tony Mortimer is a partner at sales specialist LoganLea.

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