Most sales organizations underperform. At least, that's what ASTD's Accelerating Revenue through Learning: Developing Sales Teams that Win research report discovered. According to that and other research on the subject, almost half of business-to-business sales reps don't make their quota.
While some may want to blame this on the state of the economy, this
is only part of the story. Sales effectiveness, or consistent sales
performance against quotas, has been always been an elusive goal
We sat down with Dave Stein, co-author of the report and
speaker for our upcoming webinar to shed some insight on what
could be happening here. We discussed what lowers sales
effectiveness, how the disconnect between Sales and Learning can be
repaired, and the main takeaways from the report itself.
What Really Hurts Sales Effectiveness
There are of course many things that can hurt sales effectiveness,
but the main factor seems to be misunderstanding the customer. The
best way to sell to a customer is to know who you're actually
selling to. This means reps should have an idea of who their ideal
customer would be. Specifically, they should know what the
customer's buying pattern, preferences, and what the customer's
alternatives are to buying the rep's product or service.
When they learn who they're selling to, the next step is to look at
how this information interacts with sales strategy. If you're
finding gaps between how you go to market and what the people in
your market are actually looking for, it's no surprise you're not
There are also some structural problems that can hurt sales. Here's
what Dave had to say in regards to infrastructure:
"Not having the right infrastructure to support effective selling
not having the right support from marketing [and] not having a
strategic approach to sales training including reinforcement,
coaching, and measurement."
In other words, sales effectiveness can serve as a good barometer
for whether or not your business has the right people in the right
jobs at the right time.
The Disconnect between Sales and Learning
The conflict between Sales and Learning has been around for almost
as long as both departments have existed. Sales sees Learning as a
teacher who doesn't know their lesson plan; Learning sees Sales as
the troublemaking student who can't sit still long enough to learn
And, to the joy of sales reps everywhere, the problem seems to be
more with Learning than Sales.
Learning needs to make sure what they're trying to train them on is
relevant. And yes, this does include taking part in sales
activities, including sales calls and cold calling.
On top of being relevant, Learning should focus on training the
middle 50% of the sales reps. Dave explains:
"Your focus for learning most often is the middle 50 percent of the
sales team. You often can't help the bottom quarter, and the top
quarter can use the learning, but don't need it to perform. If you
can make an impact there, that's real progress."
And, maybe most importantly of all: recognize that Sales is in fact
unique. Bonus points if you can answer why they are.
As far as a main takeaway, Dave had this to say:
"The desired outcome from a successful sales training initiative
isn't excellent post-program evaluations. The bottom line is more
revenue. That direct connection must always be on your mind."
In other words: sales training should drive revenue. One of the
best ways to know if it's working is if revenue increases. When
that isn't working, start looking at what you can do to fix it.
(Want to learn more about what the 2011 ASTD Sales Training Report
had to say? We'll be having a webinar with Dave Stein to discuss
the key findings of the report, and how you can use this data to
develop your training.
Photo credit: aiesecgermany (http://www.flickr.com/people/aiesecgermany/)