Developing Your Sales Function for Lasting Success

By Holly LaBoda, Partner and Founder at Luminaries Consulting, LLC, an Affiliate member of TMSA. She has 10+ years experience in strategy facilitation, talent management, sales development, change management, leadership development and custom learning content with leading companies such as C.H. Robinson and Emirates Group.

Picture it: An executive team is reviewing their quarterly results when the CEO asks, “why are we not hitting our revenue targets?” and all eyes turn to the sales leader. If results are struggling, some sales leaders will naturally jump to a few places. Perhaps the issue is their team not having the right talent or skills to achieve their goals. Maybe it’s a tool or resource gap, they need a CRM to better manage sales activity. These things may be needed, but a successful and sustainable sales function can’t be built by solving singular issues. Whether your sales function is thousands strong or a few key players, there are four key elements required to create lasting success.

Sales Strategy

Raise your hand if your organization has a clearly defined sales strategy that is getting the results you want. I’ll wait. If you didn’t raise your hand, you’re not alone. Your sales strategy is more than just “increase volume & revenue from last quarter”, and is not a place to follow trends or force fit approaches. Your sales strategy is just as unique as your company. It starts with a clear company strategy and must support your organization's ability to achieve its vision. Your sales strategy should clarify where you are now, where you want to be in the future, and how you’ll get there, with clear goals that depict what success looks like.

Your sales strategy should clarify where you are now, where you want to be in the future, and how you’ll get there.

Sales Function Model

How does your sales function need to be set up to facilitate your strategy? Here, you address important concepts such as what kind of structure you need in place, how you segment your customers, approach the market and the sales culture you need for success. Some sales leaders start here, assuming that structure or segmentation will solve their issues. Without first defining a clear strategy, it’s impossible to tell which approach is the right one.

Sales Process

All your systems and processes need to support (or, at minimum, not inhibit) your strategy. These include things like a sales process, CRM, incentive systems and performance management. One must-have is a simple and consistent way to track results. You need to know without a doubt whether or not you are “winning”, or achieving your strategy, at any time. Believe it or not, that’s the simple part. The true magic comes in when those metrics cascaded to every part of your organization. Each salesperson should know not only if they are achieving their goals, but how their goals contribute to the success of their team, department, and the organization at large.

Sales Talent

With your foundations built, now it’s time to ensure your people are set up for success. This starts with getting the right people in the right roles and may mean assessing your current structure and accountabilities, adjusting roles or designing new ones. Then you can focus on developing talent, from building coaching capabilities and leadership skills in your sales managers, foundational to advanced skills in your sales force, and ongoing development to ensure your team remains cutting edge.

Building a sales function for lasting success will take dedication, time and resources from your team.

Building a sales function for lasting success will not happen overnight, it will take dedication, time and resources from your team. If you’re undertaking an effort like this, here are a few watch-outs:

  • Don’t expect change overnight but do set goals that you monitor diligently.
  • Don’t be afraid to make changes. As you track progress, adjust your approach accordingly.
  • Don’t underestimate the change. A great transformation is more than communicating a strategy and more than a series of projects. Align your efforts and make sure you have a great change management strategy to maximize results and minimize disruption.
  • Don’t forget to bring people along. We are talking about sales success, but that doesn’t mean you only need to involve those in the sales function. The senior leadership team, and all those connected to sales should be aligned to ensure you have buy-in for the kind of transformation you need and all the right perspectives covered.
  • Don’t forget to consider your unique needs. Your sales function can’t look like anyone else's. Your organizational strategy, structure, culture and nuances are unique, so while a certain approach might mean success at another company, it's unlikely to fit you perfectly as well.

Great sales leaders don’t just ensure they have these components, but constantly reassess and adjust as the market and their organization changes. Have you been a part of a great or a struggling sales function? What were key issues that created that situation? Is there anything missing on our list?

If you’re looking to enhance your sales function, here are a few ways Luminaries Consulting (a TMSA Affiliate member) can help:

  • Assess your current sales function to identify opportunities for improvement
  • Guide you through the creation of a sales strategy that best suits your business
  • Lead the change process so you can get faster results with minimal disruption
  • Identify process changes that are needed to support your strategy
  • Build elements of a talent management infrastructure
  • Develop a sales curriculum and performance support system to boost sales results
  • Tailor content, tools, and reinforcement to drive your unique strategy
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