5 Reasons You DON'T Want a World-Class Sales Team

A company retained a sales consultant to increase sales, who then spent time visiting clients, observing the sales team, and quickly identifying ways to improve. Working closely with the Head of Sales, a plan was put into place that yielded a 20% increase in sales revenue for the company over a six-month period, yet net revenues plummeted. The problem was that the operational capacity reached its limit and service levels rapidly declined. Discontented with the lesser service, the company’s existing customers moved to an alternative supplier, and this lack of retention far outweighed the new business revenues. Senior board members were furious, the consultant was fired, and the company attempted to recover the deficit by reverting back to their previous processes. True story!

If building a world-class sales team is the goal, a company will need people who know what world-class looks like. This might include hiring a consultant to train teams and align internal processes, hiring a new breed of A-player salesperson, or creating a new leadership function. Whichever strategy is chosen, the result is great change within the organisation.

IMG 2603

Without a strong foundation upon which to build, aspiring to a world-class sales function can be a waste of time, and here are five reasons it can be a costly, unproductive nightmare:

1. The company hasn't aligned all departments to the initiative. In the above example, the project was seen as a sales problem, and managed in isolation. Sales performance was improved, but no consideration was given to the knock-on effect to other areas of the business. The process of aligning departments begins with agreeing on the company mission statement and goals, and ensuring a consistent message is delivered in every aspect of communication. Within this process, all departments must agree on the necessary changes to make the initiative work.

"Aspiring to deliver world-class sales performance is a mentality that must be adopted by all areas of a business." (Tweet)

2. The company culture isn't geared to high-performance. This is a complex topic. For example, putting an A-player hire into a team of B-player sales reps has a high probability of disaster. Equally, hiring an A-player, without ensuring the support functions are ready to embrace a higher standard, can lead to operational resistance, isolation of the new hire, and a breakdown of departmental relationships. It takes a leadership function that understands how to integrate these people and manage the peripheral issues, such as the potential need for a new compensation plan, managing the team morale and perceived preferential treatment of the new hire, as well as explaining the allocation of key accounts to the more experienced sales hire.

3. Building a world class sales team is expensive. The hiring, training, acquisition of new technology and altering the sales enablement process takes both time and resources. This must be balanced with the anticipated increase in revenues and potential disruption to the business.

IMG 2604

4. It opens your employees to being poached. Following a substantial investment in the sales function, sales professionals become the hottest asset in the industry, so it is crucial that companies inspire a culture of loyalty. This can be done with equity, remodeling incentive plans and reconfirmation of the company values, but it should be decided before the process begins. See Dov Baron's leadership book, Fiercely Loyal: How High Performing Companies Develop and Retain Top Talent.

5. The initiative doesn't have the full support of the board of directors. Business and process transformation must be led from the top. Building a world-class sales team isn't achieved by simply hiring a sales trainer, but is a challenging process and needs to be supported by the board. In this regard, world-class leadership is an essential component.

So, is world-class really the goal?

Before making the investment, careful consideration should be given to the company culture and capacity of every function, and the ROI must be compared with low impact ways to increase revenues. Without these five things in place, over-investment in increasing sales performance and a lack of company cohesion might be unnecessary, therefore failing to yield the desired results.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it, feel free to view recent articles by following the links below, and download my 2017 research paper: The Impact of Social Selling on the B2B Landscape in the U.K. vs. U.S.A. Free to download from the homepage.