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Business – Eight Questions to Assess Your Sales Organization

Melissa Raffoni

My colleagues and I are in the process of surveying about 50 CEOs of companies ranging from 10- 1000 employees. About half the results are in. When the report is finalized, I’ll blog more formally about the results, but here’s a peek at the halfway mark.

At the moment, can you guess the #1 thing keeping CEOs up at night?
So far, it’s how to optimize the sales channel.

We’re also asking CEOs to choose the three biggest opportunities for their companies.

So far, the one making the top three most often is “developing new partner sales channels.”

I mentioned in a past blog that more and more of the cases in our CEO Peer Groups are about sales effectiveness, so I’m going to shift gears a bit from leadership to spur some thinking and commentary on sales strategy and effectiveness.

If you and your team are assessing your organization’s sales effectiveness, here are eight common questions that I hear CEOs ask each other in peer groups:

1.”Ok, tell us again, what’s your value proposition? Why should customers choose you over the competitors?” It’s so basic, isn’t it? Yet, I continue to be amazed at how difficult it is to answer this question well. With the constantly changing competitive landscapes and customer needs, every company should take a second look at what they are pitching and why it still resonates today. I’m sure, for most, the value proposition needs a facelift.
2.”What is your sales process and how does your organizational structure map to it?”
3.”Do you think your overall cost of sales is where it should be? What makes you think that? Are you comparing to an industry standard or mapping to a projected financial model?”
4.What key measures are you using to track sales effectiveness? Do you have a sales dashboard?” Is it cost of sales as a percentage of revenue, close ratio, sales person productivity? Something else? You can’t really optimize if you don’t know which lever you want to move.
5.”If you believe there are two ways to drive sales–increase the funnel and/or increase the close ratio–what are you doing to achieve those increases?
6.”Is sales compensation driving the right behaviors?” Is there enough of a variable compensation compenent to make a difference?
7.”It’s a new world, how are you taking advantage of it?” Partners are willing to talk, new talent is on the street, customers are looking for high ROI offerings, social media is changing how people communicate. Are you experimenting?
8.Do you have the right people?

Have you built fairly predictable and repeatable sales process? If so, what would happen if you simply put more resources against it–will you yield a greater result? If not, why? If so, why not do that? Other common questions center around the model and what works–hunters, farmers, key account reps, independent reps—does your model still make sense in this economy? Do you need to be more aggressive or take a different tact? Is there a model that will yeild a better result given the cost?

Having grown up in sales, I understand the complexities of running large sales organizations. I don’t mean to minimize the challenges that come with changing sales channel strategies and structures. My intention is for this blog to encourage leaders to hold up the mirror and ask again some of the fundamental questions. CEOs need sharp axes as 2010 approaches, but they also need to know which trees to chop at.

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September 30, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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