When a team of 50 sales reps delivers as much as 25!

The current business climate puts more pressure on sales organizations.

It seems obvious that sales teams need to be effective rather than just busy, and hardly any company would dare to disagree with that statement.

However, execution is often lagging behind, since some common “beliefs” often get in the way:

  1. “Surely, there’s always room for improvement, however, so far so good, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!”.
  2. More pressure on the sales team will deliver more results”.
  3. “Sales transformation programs are a vague concept, with no real business impact”.

Considering that continuously seeking improvement is not an option, let’s agree to disagree:

  1. If it ain’t broke yet, it might be about to break: if there is room for improvement, then it is a managerial responsibility to implement improvements!
  2. More pressure on sales reps might bring results in the short term: however, in the long run this is not a structural solution, and negative side effects will offset the short-term benefits.
  3. Sales transformation programs: when objectives are clear, when structural improvements are targeted and when efforts are made to seek internal adoption, transformation programs do provide measurable benefits.

Improving sales effectiveness? Let’s be concrete!

Let’s take the example of a sales organization composed of 50 sales reps, which, on paper, will appear as a team of 50 FTE (full time equivalent).

Unfortunately, in sales, the number of individuals does not always reflect the size of the “sales engine”.

Let me demonstrate with assumptions that anyone who has ever managed a sales team can easily relate to:

Assumption #1: 30% of a sales rep’s agenda is spent on activities that could be delegated to other individuals or departments.

  • This means that 15 FTE are fully occupied with “other tasks”.

Assumption #2: 20% of a sales rep’s agenda is spent on chasing opportunities with no chance of winning.

  • This means that 10 FTE (20% of the team) are fully occupied with deals where you don’t stand a chance.

As a result, despite a team of 50 sales reps, the real “sales engine” is actually made of 25 FTE.

In other terms, 50% of the team does not contribute to generating business.

This is in addition to other negative side effects:

  • Direct costs associated with those 25 FTE are, indeed, a cost rather than a sales investment.
  • Indirect costs: internal support could be dedicated more efficiently.
  • It provides a false sense of security (a large sales team instead of a focus on the sales engine).

Conclusion

To fix this scenario, you will need to take some basic steps:

#1-Define what you (really) expect from a sales rep, and ask your organization these two questions:

a) Should sales reps be the single point of contact, regardless of the nature of the client request?

b) How can other departments improve overall customer experience?

#2-Implement a qualification process to stop believing “every opportunity is worth pursuing”. A qualification process does not have to be complex, but it must help define the criteria for deal pursuit.

As a sales leader, focus first on improving the sales effectiveness of your sales engine! 

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