- Sales executives typically have two levers to try to increase sales: they can increase the quantity of sales effort by adding salespeople, or they can improve the quality of sales effort by investing in coaching and training
- The third approach that is often overlooked: Improving the allocation of sales effort. Salespeople can work smarter, not harder, by dividing their time more appropriately among customers, products, and sales activities
- Sales effort allocation has a large impact on sales and profits, sometimes more than increasing the quantity and/or quality of effort.
See the full Harvard Business Review Article for detailed insights on each question.
Sales executives frequently talk about how sales forces misallocate effort. Salespeople spend too much time with “friends and family” (existing customers with whom they have rapport) instead of focusing on high-potential prospects. Strategically important products don’t get sufficient sales support. Service or other non-sales activities creep into the sales job, and role pollution prevents salespeople from developing new business. Costly allocation errors such as these are difficult to diagnose and fix.
By asking six questions (in order from the simplest to the most complex), you can trace the probable cause of any sales effort misallocation back to the sales force decisions and programs that can bring about improvement.
Do salespeople know what’s important?
Do salespeople have the information they need?
Do salespeople have the competencies required?
Are salespeople motivated to succeed?
Do salespeople have enough bandwidth?
Do salespeople have the right innate characteristics?
These questions are sequenced so that those asked first can be addressed with easier-to-implement sales force changes. Changes to performance metrics and information (questions 1–2) typically require moderate effort and minimal disruption. Changes to sales force structure and hiring (questions 5–6) are disruptive and more difficult to implement and take longer to have an impact. Changes to sales training and incentives (questions 3–4) are in the middle. Some effort allocation issues are remedied with only easy changes, but many will require a portfolio of changes to create lasting improvement.