Marcos Fava Neves
This story came up as a discussion about sales trends and planning. I have two sessions here, one about the importance of planning the sales force and trends and the second session offers discussion questions for managers to audit and plan the sales force for a specific company in the coming years.
Sales are the linkage among companies and clients, or the touching point with clients. It involves the group of agents that perform services to sell the offer of a company. When a company produces an offer, for this offer to reach final consumers, some agents need to perform the selling process. Here we are dealing with people and relationships.
Sales planning needs to be aligned with the general strategy of the organization. Like an orchestra, a company should coordinate its sales in order to build sustainable competitive advantage. Regional characteristics must be considered and regional strategies built based on differences seen at the markets, which makes the process more complicated.
A group of questions is offered for discussions towards the improvement of sales force and selling processes, always trying to be driven by demand, they can be used in internal workshops or as starting points of a sales force planning process.
How will sales and the sales force of this industry look like in 20 years and how will it look like in our company?
How is the sales force structured today, which are the participants?
Is it better to use internal sales force or sales representatives?
What is the percentage of sales in each channel used by the company and how will it change in the future?
How the macro-environmental variables, being the political/legal; economic; socio-cultural and technological changes are affecting and will affect different selling structures in the future?
What kind of relationship needs to be developed by our sales team with the target markets and how to develop it?
What services are offered per type of clients and how to improve the sales force tasks?
What are the opportunities and possible benchmarks in using web/digital sales platforms?
Good practices are shared among the sales team in the company? How to improve and how to avoid that the career competitions in the company could jeopardize efforts to share information and good practices among sales people?
How to better prepare salespeople and have a long-term view of the buyers, potentials, risks and other uncertainties?
How to motivate and to make the salesman believe that he will win and how to use expected results to stimulate the sales team? How time scarcity can be mitigated for providing more opportunities for planning?
Are sales people well informed about the possible buyers, based on web and other available information? Are the systems of the company capturing the information of the sellers? How is the flow of information coming from the sales force to the company and how to improve?
Are the clients really clients of the company or of the sales force?
How can we better use the sales force to improve our communication strategies with clients?
How to pay for the sales team, looking at the financials of the selling person, to bring motivation and how to define fixed and variable income for the sellers?
What are the most up to date selling technologies?
How to plan the carrier of salespeople?
How to control and improve post-sales process?
How the sales force can balance discount policies and financial objectives of the company?
How the sales process of the competition is structured and do we have ideas of benchmark?
Which creative ideas in a network concept could re-shape sales force?
What can be done with competitors and with not competitors that operate in the markets towards improving sales force?
How to organize all these ideas and analysis in a project basis to make the company more competitive?
These questions are the ones we use in the situations where a sales plan should be built. Some of them are related to an audit and others to offer space for creative ideas to improve the performance on sales. Great sales team is a source of competitive advantage and hope I these questions may help your organization to improve this important part of the business.
The author is professor of strategic planning and food chains at the School of Economics and Business, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil (www.favaneves.org) and international speaker. Author of “The Future of Food Business” and other 50 books published in 8 countries and in China, “The World on the Tongue”.