Too often corporate salesforce effectiveness translates into putting sales staff through a one-size-fits-all sales training course, buying them all Blackberrys, bring them together for a sales conference gee-up, or launching a new sales incentive…. all potentially laudable initiatives IF they form part of a focussed and process oriented pursuit of on-going improvement.

A crucial understanding often missed in creating the on-going environment for the salesforce to become asproactive and effective as possible is by first looking deeply into the “bowels” of the organisation. How does your organisation perform when it comes to the competitive customer satisfaction ratings on your core order-to-delivery process outputs? How do your product/service output quality indicators compare to the competition in the mind of the customers? How does your fulfilment or cycle time compare? On speed? On consistency? Does the customer define fulfilment/cycle time the same way your organisation does? What about order integrity? How often does the customer get what they want, when they want, where they want, the way they want? For the benefit of avoiding labouring the point, I won’t even raise the somewhat obvious questions in relation to price/invoice accuracy.

Very commonly the sales folk of an organisation are caught up in the reactive “front end” and “back end” of the core order-to-delivery process. At the “front end” manual and inefficient order taking and processing activities, and at the “back end” closing out customer complaints, queries, checks and other forms of low trust and duplication activities distract the sales folk from being as sales growth and opportunity oriented as we would like. This is where the pursuit of on-going salesforce effectiveness excellence should begin…..not on a generic sales training program or not by telling them to read Spin Selling, Strategic Selling, Conceptual selling or any of the ilk and exhorting them to do it. Paradoxically then, salesforce effectiveness does not begin by “diagnosing” the salesforce alone!

The name of the game is to get to a point where all relevant functionaries have a clear picture of how and who will conduct the front and back end of a redesigned order-to-delivery process and therefore exactly how much time the sales folk need to invest in these minimised, agreed activities. CRM and other forms of technology can be great enablers in this respect. Then the balance of time (can be in the high 90’s% in some industries) can be spent on proactive sales growth and development opportunities.

I have studied 40 organisations sales and order-to-delivery processes across more than 20 industries over almost 20 years and I am sometimes asked what makes the difference between high flying sales teams (or people) and the also rans. The global truism that bears out every time, independent of industry, having got past the aforementioned inappropriate involvement in the order-to-delivery process front and back ends is that the high flyers operate in an environment where they are consistently seeing the right people, at the right frequency, with the right solution, communicated in the right way, within the framework of the right customer relationship.