5 Questions Sales Leaders Ought To Ask Themselves
Managing Director @ SalesX
As market conditions continue to evolve and technology disrupts traditional sales approaches, it’s becoming increasingly important for sales leaders to build & lead modern sales organizations. In order to do so, there are several key questions that sales leaders should be asking themselves.
In this article, we interviewed Sven Lens, Managing Director of SalesX, to explore the top five questions that sales leaders should be asking in order to stay competitive and successfully lead their sales organization.
1. How buyer-centric is my sales organization?
“In today’s market, it’s the buyer who’s in control. As a salesperson, you can certainly influence their decision, but you cannot dictate it”, starts Sven.
It’s the buyer who ultimately decides when they want to make a purchase. As the salesperson, it’s your role to show business value to your prospects that stimulates them to take action now – not tomorrow.
“This doesn’t mean that the sales rep should be waiting until the buyer is ready to take the next step, but they should map their proactive actions with the buyer-journey.”
In today’s highly competitive business landscape, it’s crucial for companies to have a clear understanding of their target audience and how best to approach them.
“This is where buyer journey mapping, segmentation, and persona development come into play”, explains Sven. “Take the time to carefully map out the buyer’s journey, segment your target audience, and create detailed buyer personas. This will help gaining valuable insights into the needs, motivations, and pain points of your potential customers.”
With this information in hand, you can then define sales strategies that are tailored to the specific needs of your different personas.
Once you have identified your target audience and defined your sales strategy, the next step is to determine the best approach to take when engaging with potential customers.
This will typically involve a well-defined sales process and crystal clear playbooks, with clear steps and stages that guide the buyer through the buying journey. By mapping out the different stages in the buying journey, you can ensure that you are providing the right information and support at each step, and that you are addressing any potential objections or concerns that may arise along the way. In the end, a salesperson wants to be seen as a trusted advisor of the prospective client.
Therefore, ask yourself following questions:
- Do I know who (i.e. segment and persona(s)) I want to target?
- Do I know what their needs, motivations, and pain points are?
- Do I know what phases they go through before purchasing?
- Do I know when and how my sales team can influence the buyer in the different phases of the buyer-journey?
- Do I have a clear, scalable and measurable sales process in place?
If you can answer these questions positively, then you can be confident that your sales organization is buyer-centric.
2. Am I offering an attractive working environment?
Creating a positive and supportive working environment is essential for attracting and retaining top talent, fostering a sense of engagement and collaboration among employees, and ultimately driving the success of the sales team.
“The role of the sales professional is constantly evolving”, shares Sven. “In the past, the role of the sales professional was primarily focused on prospecting, knocking on every door, cold calling and closing deals, but today’s sales professionals are increasingly expected to fulfill a strategic and consultative role for their accounts.”
“Because of this, sales professionals are now expected to be knowledgeable about their customers’ industry and able to provide expert advice and guidance to their customers. This means that in order to remain competitive and effective in this changing landscape, sales professionals must be willing and able to adapt to new technologies, market trends, and customer needs.”
The above is also true for Sales Development Representatives (SDRs).
“The role of an SDR is often underestimated, but it is incredibly important. SDRs are responsible for determining whether an account is ready to be added to the pipeline, and this decision can have a significant impact on the success of the entire sales team.”
“It is common to give this task to junior or inexperienced team members, but the importance of quality in this role cannot be underestimated. Make sure that whoever is generating and qualifying the leads is well-skilled in doing so”.
Sven continues, “These talents are rare, super rare. So you must build and create a working environment that enables your sales people to develop & grow their competences so they can thrive. Therefore, a highly attractive working environment is an absolute must”.
Therefore, ask yourself following questions to find out if you’re offering a highly attractive working environment:
1. Team culture
- Is our team culture well-defined and agreed upon by everyone?
- Do we regularly communicate and reinforce our team culture to ensure alignment?
- Do I create a positive, supportive, and collaborative working environment where my team members feel valued and respected?
2. Employee satisfaction
- Are my team members proud to talk about their work and the company they work for?
- Do my team members feel challenged and engaged in their work?
- Am I aware of the wishes of my team for better working conditions?
- Do I offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options and flexible schedules, to help my team members balance their work and personal lives?
3. Employee development
- Do I provide ongoing training and professional development opportunities to help my team members improve their skills and advance their careers?
- Do I provide my team members with the tools and resources they need to be successful?
- Are there opportunities for learning and personal growth within my company?
4. Employee compensation and recognition
- Do I offer competitive compensation and benefits packages that reflect the value my team members bring to the company?
- Do I recognize and reward top performers?
Is my leadership style supportive and empowering?
- The above is not an exhaustive list, but it already gives a good overview of what to focus on.
3. Am I primarily focusing on the things I can control?
“A common challenge I hear from sales leaders is that they need more leads. To me, what they imply here is: marketing is not doing their job. They focus on things outside their control”, remarks Sven. “Instead, they should be asking themselves: what can I control?”
“Same goes for the economic downturn that we are going through. Complaining about conditions that are outside our control is not worth our time & energy.”
Similarly, but less obviously, don’t only focus on performance measurement.
“Being concerned about the numbers and making sure we hit targets are important, don’t get me wrong. But we cannot only worry about that. Heck, it probably does more harm than good.”
“Instead, let’s focus on the activities (the input), and less on performance (the output). Because it’s the activities that we control.”
Therefore, when preparing your meeting agendas, make sure to focus on the things that are within your control.
If you are tracking the performance of your sales team, however, make sure these are the 10 KPIs you are tracking > Download here the “Top 10 KPIs for Sales Leaders”
4. Am I also working on the organization, not just within it?
“When meeting for the first time with sales leaders, generally speaking, there are two main topics they are concerned about, which are: (1) how can they make their number? and (2) how can they increase the efficiency of their sales organization?”
“However, whenever we go deeper in that second topic, it becomes clear that they don’t really know where to start.”
As a sales leader, it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day hustle of closing deals and helping your team members achieve their targets. However, taking the time to look for optimizations within your organization can pay huge dividends in the long run.
One key step in the optimization process is to construct a 360-view of your sales organization and processes. This means taking a comprehensive look at the (1) people, (2) processes, and (3) data & technology that make up your organization. By doing this, you can get a clear picture of how your organization currently operates and where there may be opportunities for improvement.
Ask yourself following questions:
- What’s the organizational structure?
- What roles do we have and what are their responsibilities?
- How many sales do and should we have?
- How does the team collaborate with other departments?
- What about their remuneration packages?
- How are leads generated?
- How are my sales people prospecting?
- How are they qualifying leads??
- Have we benchmarked our conversion rates with other industry players?
- How are we creating proposals?
- How are deals closed?
- How are people renewing their business?
- Do we anticipate on buying intents?
- How are people churning?
3. Data & Technology:
- What’s the tech stack?
Are we generating all valuable data?
- How do we collect data?
What processes can we automate?
- How is the adoption rate?
- How do we educate the team on the adoption of new tools?
- How can we leverage data in our sales strategy?
When asking yourself these questions, make sure to think holistically, including the entire revenue department.
Get an external perspective on how to optimize your sales organization; get a free consultation call from SalesX by clicking here
5. Do I leverage the power of data & technology?
“Even though I have a lot to say about this one, let it be clear that technology is only an enabler, nothing more, nothing less”, says Sven. “What I mean, is that the buyer defines the sales process. The sales process defines the technology flow & features. Not the other way around.”
Thanks to digitization, we now also have an abundance of data available.
“When it comes to data, the goal is to connect multiple data pools to gather new insights that enable us to make informed decisions that weren’t possible before”, explains Sven.
“Imagine you link CRM data with financial data, product usage data and google analytics data. Think outside the boundaries of the sales organization there.”
Obviously, don’t just start connecting data pools to one another for the sole purpose of trying to be data-driven. Always start from a goal or research question.
Sven shares an example: “A client wanted to grow fast in a new market before competition was getting a foot in the door. At that moment, we performed an in-depth analysis of the current client portfolio by focussing on the accounts with highest-margin. Thanks to artificial intelligence, we could identify a couple of key characteristics that they all have in common.”
“This helped the sales leader understand which segments the team should focus on first, in order to drive more sales in a shorter timeframe and with higher margins.”
Sven goes on with another example. “One of our clients wanted to address a high churn rate. What we then did: we brought multiple data pools together and studied the behavior of customers before they churned.”
“By looking for common factors, we were able to link the high churn rate to a past acquisition campaign in which the client was promised a “cheaper solution”. However, throughout the year, subscribers added many extra add-ons, making the subscription no longer the “cheapest” option.”
“We then suggested addressing this issue by implementing an additional communication step before renewal, in which we explained the added value and price of the subscription. This resulted in a 30% decrease in churn.”
As these examples suggest, dare to take the time to look for optimizations within your sales organization. Making the number is important, but looking for efficiencies is also part of the sales leader’s responsibility.
Just like many things in life, the answers to above questions are not binary.
It’s not simply a matter of responding with a firm “yes” or “no,” but rather a process of exploring and understanding the extent to which you can answer the questions positively.
It is a process of getting clearer answers to the above questions, and we hope that this article helped you discover new points to consider.
If you still have questions or doubts regarding this topic, feel free to reach out to Sven Lens at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will be happy to help.