“History is filled with brilliant people who wanted to fix things and just made them worse.” – Chuck Palahniuk.
If you've ever been into jogging, you know that you usually get injured if you violate one of the three “too’s” – too much, too soon, too fast. It’s easy to get carried away when you first start an exercise program. Similarly, in managing sales, if you don’t take a good assessment of where you currently are, you are bound to miss something and spend more time, resources, and effort than necessary.
I’m not talking about months-and-months of research, but it’s never a waste of time to ask yourself some key questions before you start most endeavors, especially since it’s easy for us to ‘lock-in’ on a single alternative or fool ourselves into thinking we are in a better state than we are.
What are the key questions to ask to determine if you need to optimize sales resources?
In my last blog on Sales Resource Optimization, I talked about the importance of aligning your sales resources to your growth opportunity, while spending some time assessing your 4C’s – customer, coverage, capacity and capabilities – as part of a Sales Resource Optimization (SRO) effort.
In a recent SRO engagement, jointly with our client, we learned quite a bit – various keys to success and lessons learned. Our client’s Chief Sales Officer, who is a very thoughtful, engaged leader, shared some of the strategic questions his sales leader compatriots should ask before embarking on an SRO project.
We find these to be great qualifying questions to assess whether your organization needs to optimize sales resources:
- Have I clearly defined the challenges I’m having today?
- Do I believe there are opportunities for efficiency within my existing structure?
- When was the last time we reviewed sales resource optimization (if more than 3 years, isn't it time)?
- If I proceed, should I (or can I) do the work in house, or do I need capacity, competence, best practice approaches from the ‘outside’?
- Do I have existing metrics in place that help me understand my current level of efficiency and effectiveness (cross-sell, win/loss, stage velocity, revenue per FTE, etc.)?
- Has the broader organization changed substantially, but the sales organization stayed the same?
- Am I investing in my growth markets, and rationalizing in weaker ones?
- Can I get organizational support behind the initiative?
The last question may be the most important – in our sales transformation research, we found that when sales ‘went it alone’ in a sales transformation effort, they had a lower probability of hitting their objectives. We wrote in our book, 7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation that sales "can’t be an island." The sales organization needs cross-functional leader support to be effective and gain buy-in for a holistic, transformative agenda.
The other themes in the questions above are twofold:
- Really crystallize where the optimization opportunities are in the sales organization
- Have the data / analysis to support your hypotheses and recommendations
Like the exercise example at the start of this blog, it’s easy to fall for all the broscience[i] that’s out there, which is usually asserted using ‘a sample size of one’, a single case-study, or ‘it was on the internet’ somewhere. An SRO engagement, like good strategic planning, is as strong as the reliability and validity of the information and analysis supporting the recommendations around the 4C’s … data is not everything, but it is the major sustenance for determining most strategic alternatives.
Our SRO guide has more questions and a deeper exposition than what I’ve shared here, but the message is the same – understand your opportunity space, the metrics you want to impact, and levers you can pull.
[i] Word of mouth knowledge passed off as fact, especially among bodybuilders and weightlifters