Sales performance analysis is typically quite involved and complex. It’s no easy task to figure out how to improve, change, or build a sales strategy. But for those sales leaders who are taking a longer-term view and looking into sales performance optimization, a performance analysis is a necessary precursor.
Like other kinds of initiatives that can drive a business’ competitiveness and success, sales performance optimization doesn’t happen overnight. Unfortunately, anything that takes successive quarters or years is a particularly odd fit in the world of selling where the line of sight rarely extends beyond the end of the current quarter.
Should sales leaders take a longer-term view, they tend to reap the benefits and get outsized returns, much like the Warren Buffet-led Berkshire Hathaway. In the Harvard Business Review article, “What It’s Like to be Owned by Berkshire Hathaway,” a key takeaway is that leaders are encouraged to take a long-term view of investing in their business to gain competitive advantage, saying, "A long-term investment horizon improves operating performance."
Unfortunately, short-termism is rampant in sales.
In one RAIN Group Center for Sales Research benchmark report, we presented a list of 19 challenges to sales and strategic account management leaders. The number one most prevalent challenge faced by 58% of average and below-average performers: "Pressure to focus on short-term vs. long-term results."
For those leaders willing to pull their noses out of this week’s pipeline report and take the long-term view of sales performance optimization, the next step is to lead a sales performance analysis. After all, if you don’t know where you are, it’s tough to figure out where you want to be and how to get there.
For any sales performance analysis you run, consider the following 9 guidelines for getting the result that you need.
9 Guidelines for Leading a Sales Performance Analysis
- Define the specific impact you seek to achieve. Higher win rates? Faster revenue growth? Lower turnover? Lower cost of selling? Higher quotas? Better pricing and margins? Faster ramp-up? Stronger hiring? Something else? And for any of these, be specific about what it is you intend to achieve, and what the financial impact will be.
- Include input from all stakeholders that somehow touch the selling process, from sellers, sales managers, seller/doers, marketing, operations, leadership, delivery, etc.
- Make the process collaborative. Beyond just gathering input from others, work together to build the strongest possible analysis plan—that is, if you want the best data, and you want the best chance of an implementation that succeeds.
- Combine survey analysis with consulting analysis. You can learn a lot from survey data, but it’s the combination of survey data with expert analysis that yields the most insight.
- Benchmark your company against other companies. It’s not good enough to know where you are. You need to know where you are compared to others to have a sense of where to focus your efforts to get the best results.
- Know that most sales performance optimization efforts require a significant amount of change. Most people underestimate the amount of effort it will take to make the changes happen. Don’t let this deter you.
- Define and prioritize key initiatives that will take time and effort, as well as low-hanging fruit that you should change quickly.
- Don’t assume technology will fix it. Many organizations rush to the latest and greatest sales technology implementation to solve their sales ailments. Create the strategy first before choosing technologies to help drive performance. Technology can enable sales performance, but tends to play a supporting role, not a lead.
- Create a specific action plan with goals, tasks, costs, schedules, and accountabilities. Without a plan you can trust, sales performance optimization efforts tend to stall.