Is it time to readjust your sales force?

With changes to markets, and so much disruption going on, it is inevitable that companies are looking to the levers they can utilise to maximise revenue, and reduce costs so they can respond well now and place themselves in a stronger position going forward.

 

Border closures, lockdowns, and distancing regulations have all made working from home a new normal for our teams and for our customers.  It’s transformed the look and feel of customer engagement and it seems the genie is out of the bottle forever.  That said, it makes sense that sales channels and teams realign themselves in order to remain the vital organ that pumps the very lifeblood of the organisation – sales.

My view is that organisations will readjust their B2B sales channels in the following ways:

 

ONE: Reduce the size, scope and reach of sales teams on the road

Lockdown 1.0 in March 2020, redirected the focus for many B2B sales teams who were used to prospecting and selling in person, in customers’ offices and workplaces.  Suddenly everyone was at home and sales people either waited for things to get back to “normal” or they read the room and reoriented their approach accordingly to include Zoom and the good old phone.

At the same time, CFO’s began realising the opportunity to examine the returns on the way sales teams were structured.

And it makes sense.

Overnight sales leaders were themselves aware of an unspoken (but well understood) need to rethink the justification for having teams of multiple sales people on the road across the country.

Per person there is the price of the car itself, petrol, tolls, parking, insurance, registration, maintenance…Then there are the team members who regularly travel interstate: flights, travel, accommodation….With company cars immobile for months, it makes sense to look at where expenses can be shaved and where funds can be redirected to align with customers also working from home.  Is there a better way to generate sales given these shifts?

 

TWO: Increase the size, scope and reach of internal sales teams

Lockdown was internal sales teams’ time to shine. These people, once seen in sales teams as the understudies or the reserves were playing full games and not once getting out of breath.  It’s like they’d been training for this moment all of their lives because BAU for them has always been growing account revenue over the phone.  They simply got on with it. Lightbulbs started going off for leaders as they realised  the value they bring: internal sales teams require no cars and none of the associated costs.  They’re a fixed cost that delivers increasing returns.

Some customers may never return to working full time in the office which changes the way territories can now be managed.  Phone teams aren’t concerned with geography because customer location doesn’t matter.

It makes sense to expand the scope and remit of internal sales teams to maximise the value they deliver to their organisations.

 

THREE: Accept the shortage on sales talent and adjust the focus

Medium (45%) and large businesses (43%) were more likely to report they were having difficulty finding suitable staff, compared to small businesses (26%). Source: ABS Data May 2021. When it comes to sales talent though, my sense is that we’re experiencing a negative recruitment market because every single client I am working with has advertised for sales talent across entry level to senior sales leadership roles for weeks, sometimes for months. Application volumes regardless of the salary or role type have been wanting and the applications that are submitted more often than not are from applicants lacking in the skills or experience to simply walk in and be productive in the jobs they’re applying for.

Sales leaders are now hiring for attitude as well as aptitude, and accept that they will need to spend time and resources getting new people supported and up to speed.

Recruiting and onboarding is now required of our senior sales leaders and they’ll need to do this WELL and REMOTELY.  Without knowing how though, what can go wrong?? When someone leaves a role, the non revenue generating time lag is getting bigger.

Sales leaders now need to be better at recruiting, onboarding and coaching remotely or their teams won’t cut it…and by extension, neither will they.

 

 FOUR: Fewer customer facing sales people focused on higher value prospects and customers

This is where there is greater return.  The cost of developing and managing these high performers is realised in the value of the business they’re able to bring in.  Right-sizing the customer facing team.  The skill sets are vastly different with a higher degree of consulting capability required in order to identify, engage, progress and win more of the right customers in the right way and then grow them.  The challenge is now applying previous engagement best practice to a remote customer base.

 

FIVE: Utilising sales enablement technology to improve the customer experience and refocus sales activity on high value interactions

A report from McKinsey October 2020 showed that 70-80% of B2B decision makers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service due to ease of scheduling, save on travel expenses and safety.  While this is data from the US, we can extend the themes globally.  Ignore this trend at our peril.

How is technology supporting them to spend 80% of their time on high value activity?  In addition, how is technology aligned to further improve the customer experience? How does technology enable sales people to plan more effectively when it comes to identifying ways to improve margin, reduce cost to serve and improve efficiencies (ie. Time moreover).

 

If necessity is the mother of all invention, may we embrace our inner Edisons.  One thing is for sure: we can only go forward.  Let that be you, your team and your organisation.

 

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