Hidden Sales Growth Opportunities

Where will the growth come from? It’s the same question on the mind of everyone in the sales force; every sales leader, new or veteran, in a startup or established company, wonders where their new sales, profits, or market share will come from.
By looking at the differences in performance, sales activity, and market potential across different aspects of the business (e.g. certain customer segments, select products, or specific sales teams) you can typically uncover the best answers for where your new growth will emerge from. Thanks to the analytics made available through improved data storage and technologies, companies are able to be more creative in the way they analyze their own data to uncover and leverage these hidden growth opportunities.

Some examples include:

Novartis improves its average performers through its top salesmen. Global healthcare company Novartis identified its top salespeople within the US and discovered a set of behaviors that contributed to their top performance. Novartis then developed a new sales process that included the behaviors of its outstanding salesmen and aligned their hiring and development programs to coincide with this new process. Studies revealed that the “average” salesman who received this new training doubled their sales growth rate compared to those who were not trained in this new approach. Due to this success, Novartis implemented this new sales training model in its operations globally.
A manufacturing company ramps up growth among its new hires. A manufacturing company tracked the performance of its sales force over their first couple years with the company to gain an understanding of how new sales people developed. One of the most important discoveries was the direct impact that the first-line manager had on how successful a new salesman could become. The best managers realized the fastest growth among their new hires, compared to average-performing managers. The top managers were differentiated by two things: they spent more time coaching their team in the field and arranged mentorship for their new hires from the experienced members. The company has since made this an integral part of their managers’ duties.
A medical supply company reorganizes its sales efforts and increases profits. A medical supply company had a vast portfolio of products, and each salesperson would spend varying amounts of time for each product. The company analyzed the differences in the amount of time each salesperson devoted to each product, as well as the resulting sales and profits, and implemented a new system to organize its sales effort across its broad market offering. Complementing this new strategy was a new incentive plan as well as an educational program for its sales force on efficiently spending their time for optimal performance. As a result, sales and profits increased substantially without any new hires.
A business services outsourcing company increases its market share in new territories. This company compared the performance of its 50 least urban sales territories to that of its 50 most metro territories; each territory averaged $1.2 million. However, the non-metro territories had 79% more prospects and 49% more overall market potential compared to the urban territories. In urban territories, salesmen visited good prospects around 4 times a year, whereas non-metro territory visits amounted to just 2.8 per year. What the company discovered was that the sales people in non-metro territories were stretched beyond their capacity. To combat this, the company reduced the size of its non-metro territories and re-assigned coverage of its prospects in outlying areas to an inside sales team. As a result, its market share increased, travel costs reduced, and sales force effectiveness improved.

Looking at these examples, there are always creative ways to find hidden sales growth opportunities. Just looking at aggregate performance hides the insight that lies deeper within the sales force. Finding these hidden opportunities requires an understanding of the differences within specific groups of salespeople, customer segments, or products, such as:
Performance outcomes. Novartis observed that salespeople with similar market potential had dissimilar sales results, and realized opportunity by understanding what those salespeople did differently. Similarly, the manufacturing company observed performance differences across new hires and the telecom company observed differences across demographically-similar customers.
Sales activity. The medical supply company observed that salespeople allocated time differently across products, and realized opportunity by understanding how these differences affected sales.
Sales potential. The business service outsourcing company observed differences in territory sales potential and realized opportunity by understanding the impact on sales activity and results.

Companies will always be looking for new sources of growth. Today’s world of big data enables companies to creatively analyze historical sales force data to find new and better sources of insight.

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