01 Feb

Build a Stellar Sales Team

When you’re starting out, you may be sales manager, marketing director and lone salesperson all in one–plus filling whatever other spots exist on the organizational chart. As you grow, however, you’ll find you need additional people to handle specialized jobs. These will someday include a chief financial officer and vice president of operations, among others. one of the first specializations in which you’re likely to need to hire is sales. This makes sense because sales are what drive your company’s growth. All other things being equal, the more salespeople you have, the more sales you will generate. So adding sales personnel and improving your existing sales staff are essential parts of growing your company.

Evaluating Your Sales Force
Maybe your sales force is fine the way it is. Maybe not. How can you tell? Evaluating your sales force is an important step in the process of deciding whether and how to grow your sales team. If your existing sales force is fine and will be more than adequate to fuel future growth, you still might need some additional training or perhaps a revamped compensation package. On the other hand, your sales force may need to grow by a few heads, or you may choose to stay the same size but have different people filling the sales positions.

Step one in evaluating your sales force is to decide what you want it to do for you. For some companies that do most of their selling through mail order or the Internet, a sales force is strictly an option. In this case, you may expect your sales force to handle only the larger accounts, leaving the smaller orders to customer service personnel and order-takers. For other companies, however, the salesperson is the most visible–and perhaps the only–outward manifestation of the company seen by customers. This type of salesperson carries a heavy load. He or she has to uphold the company’s image, hold the customers’ hands, interface with delivery and repair departments at headquarters, and, of course, get the sale.

It won’t require a lot of thought for you to come up with a good description of what you want your sales force to do. Make sure you’re not evaluating your sales force based on some other company’s needs. For instance, if your salespeople are primarily charged with following up on leads generated by your advertising, don’t penalize them if they aren’t making a lot of cold calls. Once you decide what jobs your sales force is intended for, simply check their performance against the requirements. The key measure when it comes to evaluating a sales force is sales productivity.

Measuring Sales Productivity
The simplest measure of sales productivity is the dollar amount of sales per salesperson. That’s easy enough to figure out: Just divide the volume of sales by the number of salespeople on staff. That will give you an average sales productivity figure and let you know how the average salesperson in your organization is doing. More useful, though, is to know how each individual salesperson is doing compared to the average. You may have a handful of relatively productive people who are carrying the load for a raft of under performers. This is the kind of information you’ll need to know to decide whether to make a change.

Be warned, though: Sales productivity may involve more than simply generating dollars of sales. Your sales force may be moving a lot of product now but costing you sales later by alienating customers with poor service. They may be making promises you cannot deliver on, overburdening your production and shipping departments. They may be selling a lot of the wrong products (items with low margins or high support costs) while ignoring your more profitable lines. Check to see if certain salespeople have large numbers of returns or tend to sell to customers who don’t pass credit checks. These salespeople could be costing you more than they’re worth.

to be continued


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