Sure Fire Ways to Build a Successful Sales Force – Part 4: Plan, Fine Tune, Repeat

So far in this four-part series on building your successful sales force, we’ve looked at how your use and understanding of data, people and landscape can have a significant bearing on how well you grow your team and your organization.

Even after you have engaged all these steps, however, you still have more work to do. It’s not enough to just go looking for success. You have to plan for it, too. Just as important, you have to go back and measure your results, fine-tune your approach and repeat as often as required.

Planning for success

One of the biggest mistakes I see companies make when building their sales force is that they don’t fully anticipate how they are going to deal with the influx of new business. Sure, it sounds like a great problem to have, but if you fumble the ball at this point, all that effort can wind up leaving with no points on the scoreboard.

Consider this example: a small but growing company that has skyrocketing sales decides to divide up their sales territory. Where they once had a single sales rep looking after every market, they now have four. More sales growth follows, and again they divide up the territory evenly among the growing number of sales reps.

All sounds great so far, right? Wait a minute! What about that sales rep who once had the market to himself or herself? Not such a great deal for that person, who’s now disgruntled because they see their territory shrinking (and maybe their income too) as a result of the company’s success.

A wiser strategy here would be to anticipate your growth and plan ahead to divide your market into as many territories as required. That way, you can show that one hard-working sales rep where you are going in the future and what they also can be responsible for as part of your growth strategy. Suddenly you have a highly motivated sales rep on your hands who has a growing stake in seeing you succeed.

Don’t forget succession planning! As a rule of thumb, you should be looking to replace about 20% of your sales team at any given time. That might seem high to you, but in my experience even the top performing companies have close to that percentage of underperformers in their ranks. There are often plenty of sensible reasons why people underperform, but there is never a good reason why you should tolerate it in your growing business. At the same time top and middle performers leave unexpectedly and you certainly don’t want to be caught with a weakened roster.  My mantra for sales leaders is to “Always be recruiting”

Measure to find meaning

Throughout this series, I’ve talked about the importance of data as your guide to making good decisions. It’s not just something you do at the planning stage. Data at the evaluation stage can tell you many things about how well you’ve implemented your plan and whether fine-tuning is required. My recommendation is to measure your expected plan against your actual results weekly, monthly and quarterly. This way you are always able to stay ahead of problems and course correct quickly once you spot an unappealing trend.

The best managers we work with spend 30 minutes a week reviewing their results against plan, one hour a month and two hours a quarter. At the same time they spend 30 minutes per each rep coaching them on their results and their plan. While all this measuring may seem like a lot of thinking time to you, the combined results of these companies is 106% of quota and 25% less turn over than average sales teams. Measuring regularly defiantly pays off!

Pay attention. Your territory plans don’t have to stay the same year after year. And if you find yourself making a mistake, fix it. Markets are forever changing: that’s their nature. So it’s up to you to measure regularly, stick with what works and be ruthless about doing away with what is not working for you.

Summing up

To recap, your seven sure-fire ways build a successful sales force are as follows: make good decisions based on data; assign the right number of people; identify roles; plan compensation strategically; know the sales landscape; plan ahead; and fine-tune regularly.

Implement all seven of these steps and you will find yourself with an organization that grows and sells on a steady upward curve.