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Sales Force Improvement
An Integrative Approach


A lackluster and struggling sales team is an age-old problem that has troubled managers, CEOs and board presidents of both Fortune 500 corporations and start-ups. Solving this problem can require an evolutionary, multi-dimensional approach. If you are considering changes to your current sales model or just some fine-tuning, here are thoughts you might want to include in your framework for success.

Pursuing the Right Customers
The definition of the "right" customer is up to you and depends on your business objective. By analyzing your past and current customers and creating customer personas or outlines of a variety of ideal-customer sorts, you can begin to target prospects that have a higher probability of performing like your ideal customers. Creating customer personas can be a  more compelling and weighty exercise, but this is a first step.

Knowing, with some certainty, if you are pursuing the right customers and prospects begins with answering these questions: are your targets people you can help, is there a likelihood that they will buy more than other consumers, and are they currently stable and gainful accounts


Pursuing in the Right Way

Establishing buyer personas for your business has another benefit - segmenting your audience helps to create stronger marketing campaigns. So, now that you have created a collection of consumer personas and you know which customers and prospects you should be pursuing, what is the most resourceful and effective way to begin? 


Well, there are field sales, inside sales and channel sales; and establishing superior demand generation programs to drive awareness and interest. Incorporate an appropriate balance of marketing - including content or inbound - along with advertising and sales prospecting. Then, ask yourself: do your territory assignments or coverage models and corresponding quotas or minimum expectations make sense?

Placing the Right People in the Right Roles
Jim Collins, author of From Good to Great, has been quoted as saying, "leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with 'where, but with whom.' They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. If you have the right people on your bus, you don't need to worry about motivating them. The right people are self-motivated: Nothing beats being part of a team that is expected to produce great results. If you have the wrong people on the bus, nothing else matters. You may be headed in the right direction, but you still won't achieve greatness. Great vision with mediocre people still produces mediocre results."

Sharpen your selection, hiring and promotion procedures by assessing your current staff, identifying top-producer profiles for sales and sales manager roles and generally improving your selection, hiring and promotion structures as you proceed. Use your assessment data to coach and develop your incumbents and, if needed, to confirm your judgment about some you may have identified as a poor fit - always corresponding your observations and reasoning to real-world performance. This will help to know objectively whom to develop, whom to redeploy, or, perhaps, which underperformers to terminate, as appropriate.

Let's also include compensation and incentive pay in this section. How does your sales force construe your comp plan - is their perception different from your intention? Work with your expert advisers to get the compensation right; in the final analysis, you get what you pay for.

Sales Process & Methodology
It is not atypical for sales professionals and leaders to have difficulty clearly articulating the difference between process and methodology.
A sales process takes you through the entire continuum from intention or target to close. It comprises all the stages of a buying decision.

Methodology refers to the techniques or tactics a sales professional employs at each stage of the buying process in order to effectively move to a successful outcome. Depending on your organization, industry, products/services and nature of your customers, the methodology may be somewhat different by degrees.

Determine the process steps that are right for your organization and then create or develop an effective methodology that your sales team can use to move with a buyer through the stages in the process. Just like a recipe, once you have the ingredients for baking the cake, following the instructions leads to a pleasing outcome.

As part of your process/methodology design, help your managers develop a clear structure and rhythm: how to organize their time - weekly, monthly and quarterly - what activities to focus on and how to effectively manage their teams. This can be your management process and methodology.

Once you have established the sales process and assessed what makes your top performers successful, you will have a methodology that you can replicate with all your sales teams, going forward, to ensure that you move through the stages successfully. When selecting top performers typically; this is your top 10-20 percent.

Documenting these capabilities and designing / implementing effective training are your next steps. Training is intended as a process, not an event. Fine-tuning or, perhaps, completely revamping your onboarding and training for sales staff and sales managers are important considerations. Include and engage top sales managers and the top 4-5 percent revenue producers in the training. They will provide significant buy-in and useful content support.

Train and involve all managers as much as possible on what their teams are learning, and ensure they have the ability to identify how well their direct reports' are using the skills learned. Just as important, ensure that your managers have the capability to close any performance gaps by coaching their direct reports.

Many organizations have abundant data, but insight is uncommon. Strong analytics can help resolve what really matters and what your company's key performance and leading sales indicators are. Gaining more clarity on those indicators, as well as lag results is imperative. A professor of mine always emphasized, "Handle the lead indicators and the lag results will trail along." Excellent reporting and quality dashboards can support this.

Managing Performance
Part of the rhythm mentioned earlier is managing performance. How will goals and expectations be clearly conveyed and how will performance be discussed and managed? Do your managers frequently interact with and visit their sales staff to observe and coach? Training reinforcement is a process and coaching should be ongoing - group and one-on-one. Coaching is a method of strengthening communication between your sales manager and the sales staff. It helps to shape performance and increase the chances that sales results will meet your vision. 


Performance expectations must be addressed after training interventions have concluded and learning has been established, including its transfer to the workplace and field. Whether you call it Overcoming Performance Problems or Performance Improvement Action Plans, both are a fact of business life. Right about now, there is a heartening note to inject: if hiring, onboarding, training and coaching are soundly executed, you will find yourself spending less time on these areas. 

Another key to performance management is acknowledging that good performance should be recognized and, yes, managed (buttressed, praised, coached, motivated, inspired, learned from and shared). Amidst efforts to help problem performers, allow your focus to include top producers, as well. They still need that pat on the back.


Over the years, I have often seen all of the above content used as helpful starting points; particularly, when there are no specific diagnostic processes and research in place. Combining these with our recommendations can accelerate the path to powerful customized solutions.

Certainly, providing out of context sales and performance improvement recommendations is about as helpful as recommending TQM or Six Sigma without knowing if you are advising a global engineering services firm or a 5-person construction start-up. I get it!  

My hope is that this commentary points you in a general direction and provides some groundwork for a positive sales shift; perhaps, even a complete transformation!



Appreciating today's rapidly changing business strategies and what it takes to become a market leader and great manager, JV Consulting strategically provides our clients with talent, performance and customer management solutions that are results-driven and spot-on accurate. Our solutions address: 
  • Selection and Hiring
  • On-boarding
  • Retention--focusing on improving employee engagement, loyalty and productivity
  • Leadership / staff development
  • Succession planning strategies focusing on top performance at all levels
  • Incumbent coaching
  • Team compatibility
Our predictive, job-related tools deliver significant results that will take your organization to the next level. Best in Class companies have recognized the important role predictive job-matching and development plays in building a high-octane workforce and gaining competititive advantage. 


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Contact JV Consulting

(347) 613-6432