Investing in an effective sales strategy won’t produce results without successful execution, which only happens by developing the right behaviors in the sales force. Aligning business strategy and motivating sales reps to work towards achieving the desired goals have always been challenging for companies.
In order to develop sales behaviors that achieve objectives, a comprehensive approach to sales compensation is needed. But how do you know if your organization has a well-oiled performance management system or if, on the contrary, things are not going in the right direction? Sales results are an obvious sign, but you don’t want to wait for sales to drop before taking measures to improve sales behaviors.
You might be missing these warning signs that indicate a need for optimization:
- Lack of transparency about performance evaluations. Sales representatives don’t understand how their work is measured and rewarded.
- KPI’s aren’t well defined, consistently measured and reported. Sales representatives don’t truly grasp what drives results.
- Sales people’s performance varies under different managers.
- There are few top performers. Most sales reps have below average results.
If you recognize these signs, you are also probably noticing low morale and productivity, good performers leaving the organization, an inefficient recruiting process, and the much dreaded loss of sales and inability to take advantage of market opportunities.
In order to move towards a more efficient sales force, your organization needs to have a focused sales compensation plan, with measures directly linked to your business strategy. It also needs to measure and report on indicators that don’t necessarily fit into the incentive plan, but that are equally important for driving results. These indicators can be either quantitative, such as financial KPIs, goals and sales activities, or qualitative, such as basic selling and consultative skills or certifications that sales reps might need to obtain. Keeping track of these KPIs and competences will go a long way towards improving morale, reducing turnover, and improving sales performance overall.
Here are the steps to take to achieve a more comprehensive approach to improving sales behaviors:
- Define the core skills sales representatives should possess and that are essential to achieving the desired results;
- Check that these indicators don’t overlap with the ones in the sales incentive plan;
- Decide how to measure these skills and put processes in place to do so;
- Evaluate results periodically; don’t only rely on annual reviews, but strive to create an agile improvement process;
- Automate and replicate.
Optimizing sales behaviors requires open communication between managers and reps. Moreover, with this extensive data at hand, you can offer sales people an overview of their performance, not limited to sales compensation information, but also including KPIs, competencies, recognition, and rewards. Sales people are competitive by nature, so this lets them see their strengths and weaknesses and take steps to improve. It will also make them more dedicated to undertaking coaching and training initiatives.
In order to achieve sales behaviors that deliver results, there are three key elements to remember:
- The sales compensation plan should be set up and managed by people with expertise in the field and also in your industry. This ensures they have the required analytical skills and hands-on experience to identify the right measures and implement an effective system that will truly make a difference in your results.
- Your organization needs standard processes that are easy to replicate and report on.
- Technology enablement is a must in order to collect, analyze, and store the data safely.
Optimizing sales behaviors doesn’t happen overnight, but once you have the right processes in place, you will notice the myriad of advantages of having a comprehensive sales compensation system.
First, sales people will get more motivated because they will better understand how their performance is evaluated and how they can improve.
Second, you will be able to easily identify top performers and to notice the competency areas where your sales reps need help and development tools.
Third, with a clear idea of the desired behaviors, it will become much easier to recruit and hold on to the right people. No more hit or miss recruiting and high turnover.
Last but not least, your organization will reach its sales potential and continue to improve and grow, following the business strategy and capitalizing on market opportunities.
I would love to hear your thoughts on improving sales force behaviors and how you have overcome specific challenges.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.