Sales people would not recommend their company or job to others

Need for a new sales management of the future

In general, people performing a sales function are quite satisfied. However, they would not recommend their company to others looking for a sales job. This is the surprising conclusion of a recent study on sales force effectiveness conducted byProfessor Deva Rangarajan, head of the Sales Management Forum at Vlerick Business School. The findings are based on qualitative interviews with both senior sales executives and sales people in the field from over 40 companies, combined with a quantitative online questionnaire.

The biggest challenge for companies in these difficult economic times is maintaining a quality sales force that performs well and stays on board for a longer period of time. However, there is currently a war for talent, and good sales people are hard to find. Combine that fact with the findings that most sales people would not recommend their company to others, and organisations are facing tough times indeed. Gone are the days when sales managers could simply toss in extra financial incentives as motivators for their sales people. So what other tricks and techniques are available to them?

Sales people need more support

Prof. Rangarajan’s study defines 5 key drivers for sales force effectiveness. One driver is directed at the management level; the other four drivers target the sales force. Respondents were asked to evaluate each of these drivers.

The main conclusion is that sales people need more support in selling the company’s product or service. Otherwise there’s no point in investing in a sales department. Only when sales people feel that all 4 drivers that can help them are in place will they recommend their organisation as a good workplace for other sales people.

Details of the survey

Key driver for SALES MANAGERS

Definers have an impact on the roles, the territories and the sales process

  • Sales strategy (customer segmentation and offering + sales process)
  • Go-to-market strategy
  • Sales force design (structure & roles, size, territory alignment)

In order to develop an effective sales force, sales managers need to take a critical look at themselves. They need to define what constitutes the right sales person for their particular company. They also need to work out a strategy – what kind of people do we need and how many? – to avoid the risk of recruiting the wrong profiles or not enough people. This can prevent managers as well as sales people from developing wrong expectations.

Mixed feelings about go-to-market strategies

Only 46% of the sales managers feel their company has a clear go-to-market strategy, and 47% think they have a clear, well-defined key account management policy.

Sales force sizing is an issue

64% of the respondents say that their company does not calculate the number of people needed to implement the sales strategy, and only 39% think that their company has the right number of sales people.

Sales force structure not optimal

Only 40% feel that their sales force is structured optimally to implement the strategy.

Territory alignment is a contentious issue

65% feel that their workload is never calculated, and 52% feel the company does not calculate the territory potential of the sales people.

4 key drivers for SALES FORCE

1.    Shapers have an impact on the skills, capabilities and values

  • Recruitment
  • Training
  • Coaching
  • Culture formation
  • Compensation

When a ‘war for talent’ is raging, you must make sure you can at least keep your own people on board. Additionally, you must think about how you can attract new sales blood to the company. This recruitment aspect contains a duality: recruiting from the competition or from customers is a good strategy for the short term – but in the long term these sales people will not think out-of-the-box because of company or sector blindness.

Recruiting from industries other than your own implies that the new sales people will not be productive in the short run. Patience is needed. A final problem is that there are no universities or other educational institutions that have a clear curriculum directed towards the sales profession.

All of this means that organisations have to invest a lot in recruiting, training and rewarding their sales force, without any guarantee of success.

Career paths and coaching need more attention

36% say that there are no clearly documented job descriptions, or career paths, available. As for coaching by the sales managers, only 36% of the respondents feel they have clear objectives to be able to evaluate the extent of coaching.

Objectives and compensation systems are more in line with expectations

55% have different performance objectives based on the specific profiles of the sales people. 62% say their compensation schemes are linked to evaluations.

2.    Enlighteners have an impact on customer insight.

  • Customer research
  • Targeting
  • Data and tools
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems

The research exposes a surprising lack of cooperation and communication between sales and marketing. This dialogue is indispensable for a sales force to be successful. Otherwise, sales people spend time re-inventing the wheel, so to speak, which affects their efficiency. By the same token, if marketing does not communicate with sales, it will not be in touch with the customers. How can you create marketing strategies without knowing what the customer wants?

Furthermore, there’s a problem with CRM tools. Most sales people don’t like the existing tools or don’t even use them. Why? The system is often too complicated and time-consuming, and/or the sales people cannot see how it can help them in their daily job.

The decision-making process lies mainly with sales managers and global and regional headquarters

69% of decisions on segmentation, 60% of decisions on developing value propositions, and 71% of decisions on pricing are made by management and headquarters – who also manage 62% of the communication with stakeholders.

CRM tools implementation is mixed

42% agree that CRM tools have been successfully implemented by their company and have buy-in from the sales force; 39% feel that this is not the case.

3.    Exciters have an impact on inspiration and motivation.

  • Leadership
  • Compensation
  • Motivation programmes (sales competitions to highlight talent, promotions, training programmes for high potentials, special career paths and merit increases)
  • Meaningful work

Both sales managers and sales people indicate that they require more time for coaching. Managers do not have the incentives they need to coach, nor the knowledge on how to coach. So there’s a lack of know-how, time and resources.

4.    Controllers have an impact on expectations and success measures.

  • Performance management
  • Coordination systems
  • Vertical and horizontal communication
  • Compensation

There’s too much focus on hard numbers – which makes evaluation especially difficult in times of economic crisis, when sales cycles are longer. Other ways of evaluating performance are urgently needed.

Well-documented, hard and objective measures seem to be in place

62% feel they are evaluated more on hard, objective measures than on soft, subjective ones. But only 44% feel that clear and well-documented processes for evaluation are in place.

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