When attempting to maximise sales performance, it seems that many organisations point their finger at the sales team. Whilst addressing capability gaps or training needs in the sales team can be beneficial, on its own, it is unlikely to be sufficient to maximise sales performance.
Going deeper: Often sales are hampered by the organisation’s own systems, policies and procedures which do not support the sales process. Those complaints that the sales team keep bringing up, may be the voice of the customer, but is anyone listening?
For example, we recently worked with a retailer where the sales people were product experts, had great sales skills, but the organisation had reduced the in-store inventory and distribution was taking up to a fortnight. This was one week longer than purchasing the same product on-line from overseas. So customers were making their product selection with the help on the salesperson in-store, and then buying online – from another retailer. Although this is a common challenge for many retailers at the moment, it emphasises that maximising sales performance is not just about training sales people.
In order to truly maximise sales performance, the organisation needs to be willing to take an honest look at the systems and processes to ensure they support sales. In this example, when we discussed distribution, the reaction was “Yes, we know about that.” Well, why weren’t they addressing it?
Going deeper still: There are always improvements which could be made to systems, the key question is whether employees feel that their input can make a difference. This goes to the issues of organisational culture. Unless an organisation has a customer centric culture, it will be difficult, if not impossible to maximise sales performance in the long term. All the organisations systems, including accounts, customer service, product engineering, distribution and management should be there to support the sales process. Where there are problems with the systems, employees need feel that they can raise these issues and have them addressed.
At the very heart of maximising sales performance is employee engagement. There is little point training sales or customer service staff unless they love the company and its products. Their passion, or otherwise, will show and will influence customers buying decisions.
When employees are engaged, they will go the extra mile and willingly give great service; not because it is mandated, but because they want to, because they believe in the products and the company, because they are brand ambassadors.
The fact that higher levels of employee engagement will maximise sales performance has been repeatedly proven. (see Why Engagement is so important) For example, Aon Hewitt 2011 research across Australia and New Zealand reported that companies with an engagement score of 65 per cent or higher have, on average, profit growth four times that of other organisations. Now that should get the CEO’s attention!!
In his thought provoking book, “Employee First, Customer’s second”, Vineet Nayar (2010) demonstrates the importance and interaction of driving a customer centric culture and increasing employee engagement have on maximising sales performance. Nayar turns conventional management thinking upside down and proposes that all employees (including managers) who do not have direct contact with customers, should be accountable to the customer facing employees (in the” value zone”). By adopting this approach at HCLT, employees’ effectiveness and passion then improved. As a result of this transformation, HCLT tripled its revenue over a 4 year period.
The questions at the heart of the maximising sales performance are;
- Does the organisation love the employees and if so, how does it show them?
- Do the employees love the organisation, its products/services and its customers and if not, what can be done about it?