The sales team can have a dramatic impact on a company’s growth. Consulting firm McKinsey & Co. interviewed around 100 sales executives from around the globe to learn what separates great sales leaders from the also-rans. Here are four ideas on how to use your company’s sales team to boost growth.
1. Designate a specific day to finding new clients
It can be easy for sales teams to get into the habit of relying on existing customers. Sales reps often avoid the awkward task of cold-calling potential new clients, in favour of selling to customers they already know. However, there is only so much one client can buy, so finding new business is essential for growth.
The solution is to designate one day a week or month as ‘hunting day’, when all reps must focus exclusively on finding new prospects. They rest of the time, they can focus on existing customers.
2. Motivate sales reps with more than money
The remuneration model for sales reps is the same at most companies: a basic salary that offers security, and commissions and bonuses that provide incentives to perform. However, while commissions do influence sales performance, reps also want personal satisfaction from their jobs.
One financial services firm interviewed by McKinsey found that its most successful advisors “often spoke passionately about the sense of fulfilment that came from helping clients realise their dreams. Fundamentally, that is why these men and women had become financial advisors.”
Sales leaders need to develop specific goals that would help reps feel that they have actually helped clients.
3. Create a special team to keep an eye on potentially game-changing innovations
A company needs to always keep abreast of new technologies and innovations that could change the rules of the game in its industry. Imagine if you owned a chain of music shops and didn’t see iTunes coming or if you were a manufacturer of photographic film that dismissed digital cameras a passing fad.
McKinsey interviewed one supplier of parts to high-tech manufactures that has established a team of “speculative market analysts” to identify new technologies and to predict their potential impact on its business. “The team helps the company to position itself as a supplier that’s ahead of the curve and to enjoy superior sales growth while competitors scramble to catch up.”
“The full-time team cuts across all business units and draws on a variety of internal and external sources: the sales force provides insights into the technology initiatives of the company’s customers, while continually pressing them for feedback about its shortcomings and the efforts of competitors. In addition, the team closely scrutinises all reports from competitors and customers – easier said than done, given the sheer volume of market information emanating from countries such as China.”
4. Set price and volume targets appropriate for specific markets
Faced with flat or declining sales, companies often choose to cut prices to increase demand and boost volumes. However, an average decline in sales doesn’t mean that all market segments are weakening. For example, a cement manufacturing company might experience a slowdown in the Kenyan market, while sales in Uganda is showing strong growth.
Sales reps should be given price and volume targets based on each market’s unique characteristics. In higher growth markets with limited competition, sales reps should aggressively seek new business and raise prices if possible. In declining markets with tougher competition, reps might want to lower prices to prevent customers from defecting to the competition.