Improving Sales Effectiveness – A Primer

By Neil Smith

Inside Sales | Marketing Services

Better integration of sales marketing and service departments

One of the biggest areas of improvement for most companies is the number of qualified leads that result in initial discussion.  There has to exist a common agreed upon mechanism to develop and manage leads. Almost 60% of companies lack a common definition of a qualified lead. Naturally firms often cite lead generation as being their biggest challenge and for a vast majority of companies less than 50% of leads result in initial discussion with customers.

Another area of concern is social listening programs. While social listening programs are in place for most companies few posses set flows to transfer actionable information to sales, resulting in wasted sales opportunities. More so ignoring unhappy customers can often lead to sales looses in the future.

In a similar way sales and service must be integrated properly too. Over 47 % sales leaders feel that their organization’s cross selling performance is short of the mark. 82 % of them don’t even direct customer service reps to take advantage of up sell and cross sell.

On a bigger level out of sync sales and service leads to inconsistent customer experiences and switch. Poor customer experience can greatly be compounded in today’s digital world and hence need to be managed with great caution.

Manage customer experience at each checkpoint

In today’s digital age the tendency of customers to switch companies (move all or some of their spent to other providers) is on the rise. Customer loyalty is getting difficult to measure and obtain. What complicates it further is the sprout in number of customer touch points; marketing initiatives, sales promises, service commitments etc.

Over 41 % sales leaders have admitted to needing improvement in growing current revenue streams. 50 % of them admitted the need to increase the ability to sell across organization to existing customers. The direct impact of this can be noticed in the lack of referrals from satisfied customers. Last year on an average for a technology company around 52 % of the leads were as a result of efforts of the sale rep while barely 23 % of the leads were referrals.

How does this matter? It takes longer to acquire a new customer than it takes to sell to existing ones! The only effective way to resolve this is to manage this is by enhancing customer loyalty. Currently only around 12 % of sales leaders from technology companies believe that their customers consider them as trusted partners rather than as vendors.

Your company should strive for attaining a true partner relationship. This will help in sales performance especially with regards to quota and plan attainment.

 Refine your sales processes and methodologies

Good sales organizations have perfected the balance between the art of selling and the science of analytics and structured processes. Sales rep who work in sync with a structured sales methodology are able to close their deals faster than other reps. Lack of sales processes lead to prolonged sales cycles and less visibility to the sales managers which is turn leads to poor guidance. For an average sales company reps spend as much as 65 % of their time away from their customers. So much so that for 2014, sales leaders fear that around one third of their reps won’t hit quota targets.

Enhance talent acquisition, development and retention

This year because of a more optimistic economic outlook more than half of tech sales leads are planning to increase size of their sales force. This leads to a new challenge in hand, how to make these hires successful? Around 34 % sales leaders feel that their company needs to refine their hiring processes. Does your company apply an aptitude and competency test to hire the right talent? If not then don’t fret, around 40 % companies admit to not having such systems in place. Remember unscientific hiring practices are a big performance bottleneck. Hiring and firing isn’t an ideal scenario and more than anything else reflects the poor processes you have in place.

Another major conundrum is the rate at which you can hire sales reps to meet resource goals and the time it takes for new talent to become proficient enough to help meet sales goals.  Around 47 % of sales reps take 10 months on longer to become skilled enough to contribute to company goals. This is not a good picture and is a reflection of poor sales methodologies.

Over years most tech companies have increased their training spends. Nearly 45 % invest around $2000 – $5000 on each sales rep. Is your firm one of them? If so are you clear about the measurable improvements resulting from the investment? Focus not only on training but also on how to reinforce the training and imbibe it into actual sales activities.

Utilize technology properly

Companies today heavily invest in technology. But is the ROI in line with expectations? Probably not

9 out of 10 mid to large size companies have some sort of a CRM system in place. The idea is to streamline forecasting and improve sales communications. However a third of such companies cite low CRM tool adoption rates as a big problem.

Over 60 % sales leaders currently utilize services of an external sales intelligence system but a third of them are unsure of the benefits bought in. The most shocking problem is lack of usage of sales intelligence systems to mine key customer and prospect information from an ERP or CRM. Around 70 % tech companies are guilty of this grave mistake.

Most new age sales leaders feel that mobile based CRM’s help increase their reps performance. Less than 50 % companies however are currently able to provide ales and customer information on mobile devices. Does your company have a mobile device usage policy in place?

As a final word on tech usage we would like to highlight that two key factors power all data based systems – people should actually use them and secondly they should be based on accurate and complete data. Are these two conditions being fulfilled in your case?

Resolving these problems

Resolving the highlighted problems in this article would ideally lead to a series of steps across factors. What are these key steps? More on that in our next blog post!

To Be Continued

PS: All data utilized in this analysis and post has been retrieved from CSO Insight’s Sales Effectiveness Survey 2013.



  1. […] our last post Improving Sales Effectiveness – A Primer Part 1 we discussed in length the five major factors affecting sales effectiveness in modern […]

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