May 19, 2012

Watch the Stars on your Sales Team


Whenever you want to pump up your sales team, take them to the nearest multiplex to enjoy a hindi potboiler. Hindi cinema has predictable storyline comprising a hero, heroine and the ubiquitous villain. You would wonder how it would help in improving the target achievement. Well let me explain the relationship. The sales guy (hero) has to constantly fight the villain (competition) to wrest the heroine, which is the sales target. And the story is complete with few songs & dances. Therefore lots of rehearsals would be required before the actors face the audience. So training sales team can not be a onetime activity, it must be an ongoing process.
India is land of SMEs and these businesses face unique challenges, particularly in organizing the sales & marketing function. Many a SMEs that have regional & national sales organizations are still straddled with teams that were relevant 20 years ago.  Sales teams are full of people who have minimal education & have never received formal training. Such teams function in a loose bureaucratic manner and lack creativity essential for real success in the market.
Few years ago I got an assignment reengineer a b2b sales team at an enterprise led by an amiable technocrat engaged in manufacturing of capital equipment of high speed packaging machines for FMCG companies. When they decided to scale up their manufacturing operation sales team refused to generate enough orders. Such businesses traditionally depended on agents led sales team to generate orders while they concentrated on manufacturing & finance. Most companies are currently going through this transition of restructuring their sales teams from agent led model to captive & committed sales force. If your company also depends on agent led least control model then chances are that you may have to invest more time in training the sales-force to achieve targets & give a real fight to competition. But shifting from existing traditional sales teams to modern hyperactive sales teams needs careful planning. Agent based teams are hardest to control and scaling them up is extremely difficult.

Another company engaged in manufacturing of bath fitting had similar problems as half of their production was dependent on one agent only over whom they had no control. Such challenges are to me met with robust knowledge management systems. It is time to organize professional sales teams rather than depending upon self taught sales people.

There is an interesting case of one of my client in b2c space where the sales & marketing head refused to achieve the higher targets & kept pointing figures in the direction of poor product quality & commercial issues. It is common for sales team to blame everyone else for non achievement of higher targets except their own limitations. And generally no company would take head on with their stars on the sales team. The way out is periodic training in sales tactics & motivation of the team.

Several SMEs are in awe of the power & hold of their sales people on the market. The company is held hostage to the ways of the existing team that controls the top line. There is need to create & train the sales teams to face the challenges of the contemporary market scenario in India. SMEs need to audit their sales team periodically and organize them based on their objectives such as nature of the competition, product handled, type of market and demand structure in the market. The top management must keep two paces ahead of their sales force to get the desired results. Companies need to have a set calendar of training for sales team to achieve the stretch targets

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