A company retained a sales consultant to increase sales. After visiting clients, observing the sales team, and quickly identifying ways to improve, the consultant worked closely with the Head of Sales to put in place a plan that yielded a 20% increase in sales revenue for the company over a six-month period.
However, net revenues plummeted. The problem: Operational capacity reached its limit, leading to rapidly declining service. Existing customers moved to other suppliers -- and the plunge in retention far outweighed the new business.
Senior board members were furious, the consultant was fired, and the company attempted to recover the deficit by reverting to their previous processes. True story!
If building a world-class sales team is the goal, a company needs people who know what world-class looks like. This might include hiring a consultant to train teams and align internal processes, hiring a new breed of A-player salespeople, or creating a new leadership function. Whichever strategy is chosen, the result is great change within the organization.
Without a strong foundation, aspiring to a world-class sales function is usually a waste of time. Here are five reasons this goal can be a costly, unproductive nightmare:
1) Lack of company-wide alignment
In the above example, the project was seen as a sales problem and managed in isolation. Sales performance improved, but no one considered the effects on other areas of the business. Aligning departments begins by agreeing on the company mission statement and goals, and ensuring a consistent message is delivered in every aspect of communication. Within this process, all departments must agree on the necessary changes to make the initiative work.
Aspiring to deliver world-class sales performance is a mentality that must be adopted by all areas of a business.
2) The company culture isn't geared to high performance
This is a complex topic. For example, putting an A-player hire into a team of B-player sales reps has a high probability of disaster. Hiring an A-player without ensuring the support functions are ready to embrace a higher standard can also lead to operational resistance, isolation of the new hire, and a breakdown of departmental relationships. Leadership must understand how to integrate these people and manage the peripheral issues, such as the potential need for a new compensation plan, managing team morale and perceived preferential treatment of the new hire, as well as explaining the allocation of key accounts to the more experienced sales hire.
3) Building a world class sales team is expensive
The hiring, training, acquisition of new technology and altering the sales enablement process takes both time and resources. This must be balanced with the anticipated increase in revenues and potential disruption to the business.
4) It opens your employees to being poached
Sales professionals are often the hottest asset in the industry, so it is crucial that companies inspire a culture of loyalty. This can be done with equity, remodeling incentive plans, and reconfirmation of the company values, but it should be decided before the process begins. See Dov Baron's leadership book, Fiercely Loyal: How High Performing Companies Develop and Retain Top Talent.
5) The C-suite doesn't fully support the initiative
Business and process transformation must be led from the top. Building a world-class sales team isn't achieved by simply hiring a sales trainer, but is a challenging process and needs to be supported by the board. In this regard, world-class leadership is an essential component.
So, is world-class really the goal?
Before making the investment, carefully consider the company culture and capacity of every function and compare the ROI with low-impact ways to increase revenue.
Without these five things in place, over-investment in increasing sales performance and a lack of company cohesion might be unnecessary, therefore failing to yield the desired results.
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Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Lee Bartlett's blog and has been republished here with permission.