Is Your Sales Team Engaged Enough to Sell Solutions?

4 business people cover their faces with "smily face" drawings

Are you seeing less enthusiasm in your sales force? You are not alone.

With each and every solution selling training workshop that we deliver, we hear tales of how much harder it is these days for sales teams to succeed – both internally and externally. Not only is the global economy more complex and intertwined but also the more local sales landscape has shifted. More and more customers are buying differently—they are better informed, expect more and arrive farther along in their buying process when they finally connect with a sales rep.

Many sales teams have not adjusted well to this new way of selling solutions. As a result, their sales reps are having a difficult time differentiating their offerings and selling unique solutions or value. The lack of enthusiasm you observe in your sales force is the result of their becoming disengaged due to unclear sales strategies, undifferentiated value propositions and increased internal and external administrative and legal hurdles. The sooner you can harness the full potential of your sales force by upgrading their ability to meet today’s challenges, the more enthusiastic and engaged they will be.

Our employee engagement survey uses three main drivers to measure sales force engagement.

  • Advocacy – Do sales teams think and speak highly of the organization – its leaders, managers, employees, products, quality and future outlook?
  • Discretionary Effort – Do sales teams think of ways to do their jobs better, improve service delivery and operational efficiency?
  • Intent to Stay – Do sales teams want to be a part of the organization?

Would it surprise you to know that our employee engagement research shows that sales forces consistently lag behind almost all organizational functions in terms of advocacy, discretionary effort and intent to stay? Perhaps not – high performing sales professionals typically have exceedingly high expectations regarding pay-for-performance, product and solution quality, future outlook and the effectiveness of related sales tools, processes and systems. If those expectations are not satisfied, they are at risk for disengagement.

As the growth engine and face of an organization, companies cannot afford to have a disengaged sales force. For every drop in advocacy, discretionary effort and intent to stay, there is a corresponding and direct drop in sales productivity. While the rate of sales productivity decline varies by company and industry, on average, a 10% drop in engagement equates to a 4% drop in sales productivity. This does not even include the hard and soft costs associated with the related sales turnover.

Sales leaders and managers cannot afford to disregard employee engagement as an “HR Thing.” It is a revenue growth, sales productivity and customer satisfaction thing. If you are concerned about sales engagement and performance, here are three steps we recommend you take:

    1. Revisit your sales strategy
      Effective sales strategies are aligned with the overall corporate strategy. Once that alignment is in place, effective go-to-market sales strategies clearly and compellingly outline the ideal target clients, value proposition, success metrics, goals, roles, processes and specific actions that should lead to superior sales performance. An unclear sales strategy blurs priorities and trade-offs for sales teams. Unfortunately, most sales teams have just enough of a game plan to stay in the game…but not to win it.It is difficult to consistently meet sales targets without a clear and meaningful direction. Yet many sales teams are moving too quickly to create and clearly articulate the basics of a solid sales strategy other than quarterly revenue targets. Some sales leaders say they do not have the time. Others think sales targets combined with pressure and hard work should be enough. But when you ask sales teams, strategic ambiguity reigns. Unfortunately the lack of strategic sales clarity not only hampers short-term sales performance and employee engagement but also long-term sales team health.You will know you are on the right path when your sales team thinks that your sales strategy is clear enough, believable enough and implementable enough to move forward.Benchmark your sales strategy to see where you stand.

 

    1. Revisit your sales culture
      Once your sales strategy is clear, believable and implementable enough to move forward, it is time to examine your sales culture – how things truly get done. We believe that it is a sales leader’s responsibility to create the circumstances that stimulate improved performance from their sales force – i.e. the right sales culture.So how does a sales leader create a sales culture that significantly improves revenue, margin, win-rate, deal size, etc.? That is the sales leader’s challenge and, when it is not done well, it will matter little if you have the right sales team or sales strategy. An ineffective sales culture can render an entire sales organization ineffective. Just as a great coach improves the performance of an athlete, effective sales leaders improve the performance of their sales teams by setting them up to succeed.To create a high performance sales culture, be fierce about making sure that the following components make sense for your strategy and the plan to make it happen:Success Metrics: Clear, meaningful and agreed-upon definitions for sales success and failure.

      Performance Measurement:
      Clear, understood, credible, relevant, accurate, consistent, timely, transparent, fair and trusted sales performance measures at the organizational, team and individual levels.

      Rewards, Recognition and Consequences:
      Each and every motivational component of your high performance sales culture should have direct cause and effect relationships, be timely, customized for your team and situation, perceived as fair, proportionate and consistent, be known in advance and always linked to a meaningful reason to stay and perform.

      Approach:
      Your sales structures, processes, practices and technologies should make things better, faster and cheaper for your clients, not be a hindrance to helping them, or your sales force, to succeed.
      Read more about creating a high performance sales culture.

 

  1. Revisit your sales talent.
    Once your sales culture is understood, consistent and leveraged, it is time to attract, develop, engage and retain the top sales talent that fits your culture and strategy. That means identifying and rewarding top performers and identifying and taking compassionate action with under performers – i.e. improve with your support or leave in a way that makes sense in 90 days. Once you sort out your current team, it is time to:Attract top sales talent: Know what you need to help your clients succeed and never settle for less than stellar talent. Always look for high performers who fit your sales culture and strategy. They are worth the wait.
    Read more about attracting and onboarding top sales talent

    Develop top sales talent: To effectively sell solutions, make sure that you identify and quantify the top few sales scenarios that matter most for your unique value proposition and sales strategy along with the critical few sales skills, behaviors and attitudes most likely for client success. Then use experiential-based solution selling training, targeted sales performance coaching and training measurement to drive sales performance.
    Read more about developing top sales talent

    Engage and Retain Top Sales Talent: Frequently measure the levels of employee advocacy, discretionary effort and intent to stay within your sales force and visibly take the steps necessary to become a highly engaged sales force that retains top sales talent.
    Read more about engaging and retaining top sales talent

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Harmonic has worked with LSA for over 8 years. We have found their partnership extremely beneficial. We recently implemented a Management Development Program that was designed and customized to support our company’s strategic initiative of hiring, building, and retaining key intellectual property and human talent. We worked closely with LSA to target and implement the right solutions with the greatest impact. I would recommend LSA to any company that’s looking for a trusted training and development partner.

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In my years working with LSA, it seems like I’ve had a personal consultant at my fingertips to help me identify just the right solution to satisfy our needs. The entire LSA team has become a trusted friend of Actel — assuring we provide state-of-the-art learning to meet our complex, high-tech business and people needs.

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LSA’s Employee Engagement Consulting and Survey work has provided critical visibility into: how well our people are holding up under the general economic environment, as well as, the specific challenges that face biotechnology companies in their efforts to discover and develop new medicines; their level of alignment and commitment to XOMA’s Vision and mission critical strategies; how leadership practices and management systems support an environment that engender commitment, and the specific actions that our leaders can take to improve on areas that are important to our people. I highly recommend LSA’s employee engagement solutions.

Chris Wells
Vice President, HR and IT

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