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Sales Effectiveness:

In 1997-98, Partners In EXCELLENCE conducted a study of personal sales effectiveness for a major technology company.  The study included surveys and interviews of hundreds of sales professionals, managers and executives.  In the Spring of 2003, the study was updated with the addition of results from hundreds more sales professionals, managers and executives.

The results of this research have been revalidated with over 300 Sales Executives since its original publication.

Among the "public" observations and conclusions reached in the study were the following:

  • Sales effectiveness increased dramatically when the customer buying processes and the selling processes were aligned.  For every phase the sales person is out of alignment with the customerís buying cycle, the probability of winning decreased 10-15%.

  • A majority of sales people make at least twice as many calls through the selling process as were required.  The primary reasons for their ineffectiveness were:  1) Poor preparation and planning for the call, and 2) Poor goal setting for each call. 

  • Forecasting is viewed as a management reporting process, not a tool to manage the sales process and personal effectiveness.  Sales people view this as "non-productive" work or a vehicle for management to "beat them up."  Consequently, they tend to game the process, creating ineffective forecasts.

  • Multiple, inconsistent measurements create inconsistent messages driving the wrong behavior in the sales people.

  • Bad opportunities tend to be disqualified later in the sales cycle than desired.  Management pressure and certain measurement systems make it "better to lose a bad deal" than to have too few deals in the pipeline.

  • Sales people tend to confuse account profiling with account planning.  Many account plans represent detailed profiles combined with long task lists.  Few tools, data resources, and skills in place to develop strong assessments of account opportunity, share of account and growth plans exist.  The exception to this is in some consumer package goods sales organizations which tend to have rich tools and analysis to support account development plans.

  • Sales people continue to have difficulty in articulating their customer's decision making processes and adjusting their sales strategies to address these decisionmaking processes effectively.

  • Sales people talk about "Value Based Selling," but continue to have great difficulty in executing true value based selling.  Selling still tends to be product, feature, function, and benefit oriented.  Simplified ROI based on product, features and benefits is done, but true business value analysis is weak. Creating value out of intangibles is even more difficult.

  • Time management is somewhat of a challenge, with the appearance of activity being thought to be more important than effectiveness and efficiency.

  • With most experienced sales people, basic selling skills and fundamentals were very strong.  The sales people interviewed tend to be among the "best in class."  They tended to be very sharp and fast, creating more of a reactive than proactive orientation.

An executive summary of the public portions of this study and recommendations for potential solutions can be obtained from Partners In EXCELLENCE at no charge by completing the following:

Please send me the Executive Summary for the Partners In EXCELLENCE Personal Sales Effectiveness Study.

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Additional Resources:

Selling In Turbulent Times:  A survey conducted for Accenture in March 2003 of 178 sales executives for global companies.  A key conclusion is the one cited in the title of this page "Poor Sales At Global Companies Reflect Ineffective Practices More Than Weak Economy.  The survey present interesting information on what companies focus on to generate sales, opinions about sales force performance, challenges, and other issues.  The full PDF of the report can be downloaded from the site.  Click on the link to download the report.


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