The sales industry is experiencing a period of significant change, with new technology, more demanding customers, big data and globalisation all posing both challenges and opportunities. As a result, it is more important than ever for organisations to implement the practices that best predict sustainable success.
CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group, identified the top 12 practices for sales organisations to implement in order to achieve this kind of success. The company also uses this list to define ‘world-class’ organisations – those that effectively implement at least 10 of the 12 practices.
As the following graphic, published in the 2017 World-Class Sales Practices Report, neatly demonstrates, the world-class segment outperforms other organisations when it comes to revenue plan and quota attainment.
Below, we take a closer look at these 12 best practices and explain why they are important.
1. Align Solutions to Customer Needs
In the modern age, it is no longer sufficient to simply attempt to sell products to customers. Instead, the very best organisations work backwards from the customers’ context and attempt to sell solutions to real problems customers are facing. This may also mean identifying and tailoring the right solution for the right customer.
2. Deliver a Customer Experience that Lives Up to Your Brand Promise
Next, it is important to create a brand promise – the experience you promise to deliver to your customers – and ensure you consistently deliver on it. According to the CSO Insights 2018 Customer Experience Study, 65 percent of leader organisations have a clearly defined and well-communicated vision of what the ideal customer experience is, while 63 percent of leader companies live up to that brand promise consistently.
3. Assess Why Your Top Performers Are Successful
Identifying top performers is relatively easy, but it can be more difficult to identify why they are successful. Nevertheless, world-class organisations take the time to do so, working with sales consulting experts, using performance metrics and pinpointing the skills, behaviour and traits that lead to sales success.
4. Determine Reasons For Losing Staff
Some staff turnover is inevitable and can even be healthy. However, it is also expensive, due to costs associated with advertising a vacancy, recruiting the right candidate and onboarding them. For this reason, it is imperative that businesses understand why staff are leaving and address any problems leading to unnecessary attrition.
5. Collect and Share Best Practices Across the Organisation
Traditionally, sales companies have thrived on internal competition, but in the modern age, it is imperative that collaboration and wider business objectives come before personal glory. Therefore, a culture needs to be developed whereby best practices are identified and shared across the sales and service departments.
6. Hold Sales Managers Accountable For Use of Tools and Resources
Successful organisations understand the value of consistency and accountability, and give sales managers the responsibility of coaching employees and ensuring they use the tools and resources available. Despite this, the CSO Insights Sales Manager Enablement Report found that most sales managers are currently spending less than an hour per week on coaching the skills and behaviours of their teams.
7. Ensure Salespeople Deliver Value Messages Based On Customer Needs
Another key best practice is ensuring that salespeople are equipped with the skills and knowledge to deliver unique value messages and propositions, based on the specific needs of each customer. This requires an ability for sales staff to think on their feet and shift away from more generic value messages when necessary.
8. Create a Culture That Supports Employee Development
For the very top businesses, employee development is deeply ingrained into their culture. It is not seen as a box to be ticked, or something to be done only when an employee first joins, or when an employee has a problem with their performance. Instead, training, coaching and development activities are seen as continuous.
9. Develop and Implement Personal Improvement Plans
Following on from the previous point, one of the most important practices for sales organisations is the development and implementation of personal improvement plans. Leaders should work with individual staff members here, tailoring the plan and creating mutually agreed targets or goals for every single salesperson.
10. Deliver a Consistently Positive Experience Across All Channels
Today’s customers do not just expect a positive experience, they demand consistent excellence, regardless of which channel they opt to use. The best sales companies adopt an omni-channel approach, meeting customers where they are most comfortable, but ensure there is no friction between the different channels.
11. Surface the Reasons Why Customers Stop Doing Business With You
It is inevitable that some customers will stop doing business with you and this could happen for a variety of reasons. Nonetheless, great business leaders take the time to find out the reasons why and take action to prevent customers from leaving for the same reasons in future.
12. Sell Value to Avoid Unnecessary Discounting
Finally, one of the best pieces of advice sales consulting experts give to sales organisations is to focus on selling based on value, rather than price, in order to avoid unnecessary discounting. Where price discounting is required, organisations should be equipped to gain comparative value from the deal.
The list of 12 best practices above can serve as a blueprint for any organisation aiming for sustainable success in the modern sales environment. As research from CSO Insights shows, businesses that tick at least 10 of the 12 boxes outperform other organisations in some of the most important metrics of all.