How to Build a Better Sales Force: Sales Management “Secrets” of High-Growth Middle Market Firms
This post shares key practices of high-growth, sales-savvy middle market firms. For more middle market sales force best practices, see the latest research report, The Force Is With You: Building a Highly Effective Sales Organization.
Would you describe your sales team as very to extremely effective? If not, you may be failing to take advantage of some key strategies that can boost the sales staff’s performance along with your company’s success.
According to recent research by the National Center for the Middle Market, middle market executives agree that an effective sales force drives overall organizational success. So it’s not surprising that the fastest-growing middle market businesses—those with annual revenue growth of 10% or more—are more likely than their peers to give their sales teams top marks.
What is interesting is that these high-growth, sales-savvy firms share a number of key practices when it comes to how they hire, train, compensate, and augment the efforts of their sales forces.
Here are a few things the middle market sales elite are doing (and that your business can do, too) to drive more sales and generate better overall business performance:
Look for candidates with interpersonal and executional skills.
Beyond the obvious selling skills, more than nine in 10 high-growth middle market businesses contend that interpersonal and executional skills are critical factors in hiring decisions. In fact, these companies often emphasize the ability to develop relationships above any other sales skill.
Provide formal mentoring and coaching for new hires.
Most successful sales organizations make it a habit to groom and prepare their sales staff. At 61% of the fastest-growing middle market companies, new salespeople take part in a formal mentoring and coaching program, which may include shadowing experienced sales team members.
Set and use sales quotas.
Giving the sales staff specific goals to meet can enhance the sales team’s performance. The majority (54%) of high-growth middle market businesses use sales quotas compared to 44% of slower-growing businesses. The vast majority of these companies base their performance expectations on revenues generated, and a sales manager most often sets the quotas.
Put more emphasis on commission.
Half of fast-growing businesses employ straight-commission salespeople while just 41% of their peers do the same. In high-growth firms, the commission-only salespeople generate a higher percentage of the firm’s total sales revenues. What’s more, rapid-growers base a higher percentage of each employee’s compensation package on commission. In other words, successful sales organizations are inclined to incentivize and reward their sales staff.
Augment the sales team with online sales.
Fast-growing middle market companies leverage more than one sales channel. A majority (51%) of these businesses supplement the efforts of their sales team by making some sales online, either via their own websites or a third-party vendor sites, compared to just 39% of slower-growing companies.
Promote cooperation between sales and marketing.
Nearly all (94%) of leaders at high-growth middle market businesses believe it is important for sales and marketing to be part of the same organization. Despite the classic battle between sales and marketing, at fast-growing organizations, the two departments typically play nice with each other: (76%) of high-growth firms describe the working relationship between sales and marketing as highly effective.
Have salespeople provide their own service.
Fast growers tend to keep the salesperson involved in the post-sale service, as opposed to handing off the service function to another person or department. Specifically, 50% of fast-growing businesses have the salesperson who made the sale handle after-sale service, while just 38% of slower-growing companies do the same. It may be that the follow-through and ongoing interaction from the salesperson helps strengthen customer relationships, ultimately generating more sales for these high-performing firms.
Adopting some or all of these strategies may help your company build the highly effective sales team it needs to thrive and grow. To learn more about the best sales practices of high-growth middle market businesses, see the Center’s full research report, The Force is With You: Building a Highly Effective Sales Organization.