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How To Benchmark For Sales Growth

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It’s time to shift the focus of your benchmarking processes – the Fourth Industrial Revolution offers an opportunity for new strategic approaches to the age old problem of poor quota attainment.

I’m often asked, “What can we do to improve sales performance? Should we change the compensation plan? Up-skill our current resources? Spend more marketing dollars? Change our KPIs?”

My answer is always ”I don’t know”. Because what customers value about you, why they purchase from you and why they don’t, why they stay and why they leave, are all unique to you.

Until you know all of those points about customers, how can you ever expect to make meaningful changes to your internal processes that align resources to service customers better?

And unless you know those points about customers, how can you change the dire state of quota attainment – 70% of sales reps in Australia and New Zealand expected to miss their quotas last year, and only 31% of a sales rep’s time is spent selling. Those are troubling stats to say the least. We have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to helping our sales teams become more productive, engaging and empowered when dealing with customers and doing their jobs.

Using quota attainment and time selling as marks to assess against, a business would likely uncover their reality and be able to measure a gap between goals and current state. They’d have a starting point by which they can measure future efforts, to ensure whatever decisions are made lead to higher rates of quota attainment and more time selling.

But they wouldn’t have clarity on what those future efforts should be, a way to find the root causes of these statistics, then benchmark internally to design a solution.

For example, if you can identify and eliminate or automate some of the non-selling responsibilities that are unnecessarily taking up the sales reps’ time, you can increase the amount of time they spend selling and with customers. If you can decrease on one side, you can increase the other. The expectation should be that the 70% of reps who expect to miss their sales numbers will decline.

The value of benchmarking

So this is a blog about benchmarking that will improve sales performance. It’s not about benchmarking your business against competitors in your industry. It’s not about weighing down individuals on your sales team with unrealistic new targets.

Benchmarking, in its most powerful form, is as much about knowing what not to do as it is about identifying areas of potential change. Done well, it can offer previously unimagined insight into the secrets of high performance while motivating individuals to achieve positive growth, as opposed to developing a basic understanding of only those outcomes.

Find out useful customer insights

How many businesses use benchmarking to determine whether their sales reps make a certain number of calls per day? This is not productive, nor is it sustainable. It ignores customer satisfaction and does nothing to highlight lost opportunities.

Instead, imagine if you went out and polled three groups:

  • Current customers
  • Ex-customers who have churned to a competitor
  • Prospects you were supposed to win but never did

Suddenly you’re assessing yourself against what customers want. From this research you can find out the real causes of:

  • Deal wins (why customer chose to buy from you)
  • Retention (why customers stay with you)
  • Attrition (why customers left)
  • Lost opportunities (why customers chose not to buy from you)

Develop a top three hit-list of each, the ones you actually have the power to fix, and you have an entirely new standard to meet, and it’s a standard that will have true business benefit.

Better yet, as the data is new and the motivation to improve performance is different, innovation will likely be encouraged as the team looks for new ways to solve a new problem.

Adjust your benchmarking focus

Internal benchmarking is a way to ensure managers are focused on the right things.

Lost prospects are unlikely to say ‘I didn’t go with you because you didn’t cold call me without taking the time to know about me and my challenges – shifting the focus from ‘how many calls did reps make today?’.

But we know how important diversity is to performance, so benchmarking might look at the specific measures of diversity of your business and its teams.

We know that response time is important as people find themselves working under increasing pressure. Track how long it takes you to respond to a request for proposal, set goals and plans for reducing this, and continue to measure it.  

As non-sales, or sales admin, processes are automated with new technologies, technical skills and knowledge are required internally. Measure both as a benchmark, set goals and plans for improvement, and continue to measure on an ongoing basis – this will ensure the team is always provided with the skills for success, as opposed to an unattainable sales goal.

Use the tools available

Technology is, indeed, an essential ingredient in business success. Frost & Sullivan research says that almost 70% of companies that report YOY revenue growth in excess of 50% are also early adopters of digital transformation.

The research also reveals that although the percentage of salespeople hitting their quotas dropped from 63% to 53% in the past five years, businesses with a sales-enablement charter saw almost 74% of their reps hit quota.

The most recent State of Sales research showed that high-performing businesses are almost 5% more likely to use AI than underperformers, and 90% of sales leaders who use intelligent forecasting say it helps them do their job more effectively.

So high-performing businesses are looking to new inspiration and innovation to build high-performing teams. Basic sales KPIs worked when that was all that was available, but changing customer expectations along with powerful and customised insights provided by technology mean that high-performers have moved forward.

Best of all, such subtle insights, as opposed to a topline focus, are more easily presented to a team because they naturally come packaged with solutions. Rather than simply demanding that a sales rep makes 100 calls instead of the usual 80, deeper benchmarking means opportunities have been identified to automate, re-train, upskill and offer greater insight.

All of this leads to more time, better relationships, more satisfied customers and a higher conversion rate. That’s a positive for all involved.

Ever feel like something’s holding your sales reps back?

Find out more insights and tools that help build a high-performing sales team. Download the Frost & Sullivan report ‘Modern-day Sales Team, Yesterday’s CRM?

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