In my work with top performing sales teams I’ve found that leaders who exhibit three consistent traits create perpetual revenue growth.
1. Enforcing a High-Performance Culture
In a typical sales organization 10 percent of salespeople overachieve. Another 20 percent underachieve dramatically and are considered “dead wood.” And 70 percent are average, performing inconsistently and regularly missing their quotas. Perpetually growing companies, on the other hand, build an entire team of top performers. To do this, they get rid of their average, not merely their underachieving. Their tolerance level is far below what most companies will endure. I call this “Finding the best, removing the rest.”
For example, some sellers tend to repeat what they prefer doing regardless of what is actually required to exceed their targets. When interviewing sellers last year for a new business, I was told by one candidate: “I don’t make cold calls anymore. I’ve done my time. Cold calls are beneath me.” Refusal to do the work necessary for this business cost that salesman a job opportunity. In your business it could be costing continued growth. Make sure that your sellers are doing the job required of them, not only the job they want to do. And if they think anything is “beneath them,” it’s time to let them go.
2. Alignment of Compensation with Goals
Your teams do what you pay them to do, which I realize is not exactly a conceptual breakthrough. Yet, many organizations forget this and continue to pay their sellers out of alignment with the behaviors they expect. If you pay a seller more for new sales than repeat sales, the momentum will be to coach towards new client development rather than cross-selling to the existing customer base. To accelerate growth continuously you must align compensation with the exact behaviors you want your sales team to complete.
For example, a software sales VP noticed that all deals over a million dollars were being ignored or disqualified in the pipeline. He later learned that his team’s compensation was clawed back on all deals over a million. As a response, the sellers simply ignored the big deals and worked on achieving their full quota on smaller deals that they were going to be paid full commissions on. As soon as the compensation plan was changed, the sellers’ behavior was corrected, and revenue soared to 25 percent over target in one year.
3. Nonstop Training and Coaching
Selling is a learned skill and sellers must be trained and coached regularly, like any other professionals regularly. Here’s a story that vividly demonstrates the importance of coaching. In 2011, the vice president of sales of an office furniture company discovered that his installation team was routinely criticizing the products being installed, in front of their clients. They had not been hired for their customer service skills nor were they trained in customer retention. As a result, growth opportunities were lost because trust was eroded and perception of the product diminished before the installation was even complete. When the installers were trained and coached in sales and service skills, customer retention and growth soared and the company has been able to sustain a Nonstop Sales Boom for the past two years.
Even with the best intentions, perpetual revenue growth can be sabotaged by an organization’s strategies, and people. Yet, with a focus on compensation, training, and high performance that are aligned with your overall strategy the evidence is overwhelming that organizations can hit 100% of their growth goals, 100% of the time. The question is not about ability. It’s about willingness.
Are you willing to take the leap?