Using your sales force to jump-start growth

There’s no escaping the impact of the sales force on your company’s growth trajectory. This is the frontline group best placed to gain an intimate understanding of existing customers, to observe the forces at work in an industry, and to identify potential new business. Here are four ideas sales executives described for leveraging the sales force to jump-start growth.

Hunt and farm
It’s easy for organisations to fall into the habit of seeking sales growth only through existing customers. Even though the sales force is typically best placed to find and approach potential clients, individual reps may shun the uncomfortable task of cold-calling in favour of selling to customers they know well. Yet there’s only so much each customer can buy, so finding new business is critical for growth.

One large distributor of auto parts designated one day month as “hunting day,” when all reps would exclusively chase new prospects. The rest of the time, they could focus largely on existing customers. The result was astounding: in single day, the company signed up as many new customers as it normally did in two months.

Motivate with more than money
The basic remuneration model for sales reps is simple: base salary offers security; commissions and bonuses provide incentives to perform. Most companies work endlessly to optimise the balance. Yet some companies have discovered that money isn’t the thing that actually matters most.

Boost sales without slashing prices
Companies experiencing flat or declining sales often elect to cut prices to spur demand. Yet sometimes, averages lie: decline across market doesn’t mean that all market segments are weakening and smart companies are recognising that.

Look over the horizon
The sudden arrival of truly disruptive technology – one that upends markets in ways few anticipate – presents obvious challenges to industry incumbents. Yet it’s also huge growth opportunity. One supplier of parts to high-tech manufacturers has created team of “speculative market analysts” to better identify the emergence of disruptive technologies and to predict their business implications. The team helps the company to position itself as supplier that’s ahead of the curve and to enjoy superior sales growth while competitors scramble to catch up.

• For the full story of how companies went about winning the sales battle visit www.mckinseyquarterly.com

 

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