- June 28, 2010
- Posted by: Dave Kurlan
- Category: Understanding the Sales Force
Inequities are the things that aren’t fair and that don’t happen to everyone.
Take the Boston Red Sox for example. If you don’t follow them, you probably don’t know that they are just 1.5 games out of first place despite the fact that they have lost these great players for some or most of the season:
- Speedy outfielder and offensive spark Jacoby Ellsbury has missed most of the season with broken ribs suffered when Adrian Beltre collided with him
- Veteran outfielder Mike Camerson has missed almost as much time and is playing with an abdominal tear;
- Back-up outfielder Jeremy Hermeda has missed a month with broken ribs suffered when Adrian Beltre collided with him (not a copy/paste error – Beltre actually did this twice!);
- Ace pitcher Josh Becket has been ineffective and missed more than a month because of a back problem;
- MVP 2nd Baseman Dustin Pedroia fouled a ball off his foot Friday night and will be out 6-8 weeks;
- Catcher Victor Martinez took a foul ball off his thumb yesterday and broke it and will miss time
- Mike Lowell is on the disabled list with a bad hip
- Starting pitcher Dasike Matsuzaka has been on the disabled list twice.
- Jed Lowrie, the guy who was supposed to be their starting shortstop for the last two years, has been injured for most of the past three years and has missed all of this year with Mono;
- Starting pitcher Clay Buckholtz pulled his hamstring during Saturday’s start.
That’s an inequity (actually it’s just really bad luck) because all of the teams haven’t suffered the same fate as the Sox. Another inequity is inter-league play. The Red Sox have already played the Phillies, Braves and Mets (all NL East contenders) as well as the Rockies, Dodgers and Giants (all NL West contenders) while other AL teams get to beat up on weaker NL Teams.
So let’s move over to business, and sales. There are inequities there too – with territories, margins on imported versus domestic components, parts and products, various markets a company sells into, the relative size and market clout of the competition, patents and copyrights, etc.
But there are advantages that companies can, but don’t all necessarily have. R & D, leadership, people, product design and quality, expertise, service and support are a few that quickly come to mind. There are five areas where the sales force can develop a huge advantage over its competitors:
- Selection – when a company learns how to hire the right salespeople – those who will consistently succeed at their company – they can compensate for inequities through the effectiveness of their salespeople. Market leaders only need people who will show up every day. The rest of us need great salespeople to compete.
- Sales Process – 91% of the companies we evaluate don’t have a formal, structured sales process. This is just stupid! An optimized sales process is a huge difference maker, keeping salespeople focused on what must be done, when, with whom, and in over what period of time. It helps salespeople gain traction, improves conversion ratios, leads to bigger margins and increases in revenue. What’s not to like? Mike Workman, CEO of Pillar Data System, wrote a very funny article on his Blog about sales process.
- Strategies, Competencies, Tactics, Posturing – Most companies don’t have much in the way of this stuff either yet, through training, this becomes a huge differentiator. If you’re not the company people ask to do business with and you don’t have the lowest price, your salespeople must be skilled in these areas.
- Pipeline – Everyone talks about pipeline but most companies have nothing more than a placeholder. There is a pipeline, but it’s not staged properly, the criteria for each stage is lame, the method for factoring confidence sucks, and the data isn’t properly integrated for coaching and accountability. Yet, when management has a properly set up pipeline, used within an effective sales management framework, good things happen!
- Metrics – Most companies have metrics but they are invented rather than derived from pipeline requirements. The most important metrics drive revenue but most companies ignore them, opting for lagging rather than predictive metrics. The latter makes all the difference in the world.
There isn’t much you can do about inequities but you can compensate for them by doing all you can with those things you can take advantage of.