Given a quality product or service, a strategy that is targeted to existing and emerging market opportunities and a sound plan for training, deploying, and supporting the sales force, revenue growth goes hand-in-hand with sales force growth.
Identifying the Opportunity
Before planning changes to sales force sizing and deployment, companies should carefully survey the market and identify their current market opportunities and what they can expect to achieve with growth. When doing this survey, it is important to bear in mind that there are two fundamental paths to growth: getting a bigger piece of the pie by taking shares from competitors or growing the overall pie by shaping customer preference and behaviors. The latter is considerably more difficult to achieve and requires a much more sophisticated go-to-market strategy. Taking market share requires you to consider the competitive landscape to determine where you have a competitive advantage and then how you will prepare your sales force to gain the upper hand.
Growing a sales force makes no sense if a company’s current sales team and methods are not fully optimized. As such, companies looking at achieving growth should first look inwards and analyze the following areas:
- Individual skill levels. Carefully analyzing each existing sales representative’s results frequently indicates that sales growth can be achieved by replacing underperforming representatives rather than by adding additional salespeople. The same survey can also identify the most skilled salespeople so that their particular practices can be studied and, if appropriate, applied across the organization.
- Deployment by market segment. Some companies deploy their sales forces in manners that are out of touch with where their customers are sourced. Reconfiguring territories or assignments can increase sales by better utilizing the existing sales force. This can also have the additional benefit of increasing the amount of opportunities that each salesperson has available to them, boosting morale and retention.
- Incentive programs. Designing incentive programs that truly incentivize salespeople to work as hard as possible can also help organizations to squeeze more performance out of their teams. Increasing or removing commission caps can be an excellent tool to give salespeople the ability to benefit from their hard work while saving the company from the expense of adding another employee.
- Management. One of the most important elements in maximizing a sales team is to have the right management in place. As such, the same analysis that companies use to identify high- and underperforming salespeople should be repeated with their sales managers.
Planning Sales Force Growth
The process of optimizing an existing sales force has an additional benefit — it gets the company ready for growth. Once a company’s sales team is fully optimized, the next step is to strategically add personnel to cover any gaps that were identified. The analysis that the company completed can actually serve as both a hiring and growth plan because it identifies which specific skills are most effective and which markets and territories are underserved. Thanks to this plan, the company can quickly hire and deploy new salespeople, bringing more impact to their bottom line in less time.
Getting Outside Help
This is an exhaustive process that requires considerable expertise beyond what most organizations will have in-house. At this point, it might make sense to bring in an experienced third-party consulting firm to help design and plan a sales force growth program. Outside consultants must have an understanding of workforce regulations to ensure you stay in compliance. Additionally, they have the expertise to choose the best metrics to analyze a sales hiring program and the perspective to look at a company’s performance with fresh eyes. Consultants can provide a turnkey solution that includes assessment, planning, recruiting, and training. This lets the company focus on what it does best — making the product for its sales force to present and deliver.
Many companies have been through round after round of cost-cutting and are extremely operationally lean. At that point, the best strategy to drive growth is to focus on increasing top-line revenues. Executing sales force optimization and growth with the help of outside experts is the best way to accomplish this goal.