Senior executives know that, beyond mergers and acquisitions, a company's growth is driven one deal at a time by the way direct and indirect sales people sell and negotiate. That's why American corporations spend $7.2 billion every year on sales processes, account managment skills, negotiation, and opportunity management training. That's an average of $347, 000 per company, according to SellingPower. But beyond proprietary (and perhaps biased) consulting reports and high-level academic papers on change, there's little information available on whether or not those investing the money are achieving a return on their investment that's at least equal to -- if not better than -- their cost of capital.
Our recent research found that 56.5% of our sample considered the standard of world-class implementation of sales methodologies to be one in which "use of the methodology is strongly encouraged, measured, and rewarded, and in which there are consequences for non-compliance."
In fact, another 31 % said use of the methodology was a "condition of employment." We see emphasis on systematic measurement, rewards and consequences as that which drives this definition of world-class.
Using the information gathered, we determined that the companies that met this standard, that is, the most successful ones, shared three distinctive and disciplined practices:
1. sales training directly linked to growth strategy -- rather than executing sales training simply for the sake of training, they recognized that sales training can and should be used to strengthen core sales competencies that directly enable key aspects of growth strategy.
2. strong executive sponsorship -- senior executives in sales as well as other functions sponsored and got directly involved not only in funding the initiatives but attending workshops and using the methodologies.
3. coaches who measure and are measured -- field sales management not only formally measured those who reported to them but were, in turn, formally measured by those to whom they reported.
Despite differences in the way executives expressed themselves, we saw three themes here: use and coaching of the sales methodology had benchmarks that were embedded into the performance appraisals of line managers and sales people, these standards were communicated and formally measured constantly, effective use was rewarded and there were costs for non-compliance.
CEO Insights states "since sales revenue is the life blood of an organization, think of sales process as blood chemistry. If your cholesterol is way too high, you can positively impact this with diet and exercise. However, buying a gym membership has zero impact. You actually have to go to the gym and actively (and consistently) involve yourself in exercise to achieve any benefit."
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