Growing sales is not about motivational efforts or higher commissions for your sales force. The best incentive is to invest in your business model and your brand.
We emphasize with our clients that it's critical to build a business model as if they don't need a sales team. The premise is that if your customer offer is strong enough to cause the phone to ring off the hook, your salespeople can act as a catalyst for growth, rather than serving as a lifeline for an otherwise undifferentiated business.
But the reality is that most of us invest heavily in our sales team, and we want to get a high return on this investment.
Higher commissions and other financial incentives don't always deliver that return. Here are three other "gifts" you can give your sales team to bolster their success and create growth for the business.
1. Give them an advantaged customer offer.
A well-conceived business model should draw customers in. Investment in a sales force should be a "turbo-charged" catalyst rather than the primary fuel source. When salespeople are asked to be the primary driver of growth, they look for the options they have at their disposal, which are typically better sales pitches and price cuts. This puts salespeople in a vulnerable position: as snake-oil peddlers. Every salesperson would rather sell a great product-give them that opportunity by creating an advantaged customer offer.
2. Invest in the brand.
Customers are inherently skeptical of sales pitches, and most don't like to be convinced of something they don't believe in. Think about it: have you ever had a good feeling when a salesperson tried to convince you that you were wrong? Another way to help your sales force is to create marketing reinforcement around the brand. Marketing investments create awareness, which creates a positive impression of the brand prior to the conversation with the salesperson. Given that most customers will go online to do their own research, marketing investments focused on reinforcing a sales message can add credibility to the sales pitch.
3. Provide data and direction to identify customer hot spots.
Good salespeople want to spend as much time as possible focusing on the best customers and prospects. Investing in market research and analysis can pinpoint customer "hot spots"-those whose attributes make them more likely to purchase the product or service. This allows the salesperson to focus their time and energy on the best sources of customer revenue.
Your sales team is only one part of your overall business model, and it's likely to be most successful when each of those parts reinforces the others. To ensure that you are getting the most bang for your buck from your sales force, you first need to ensure that the rest of your business model is positioned for growth.
KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree. @karlstark