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2018 Sales Management Critical Issues, Part 2

by David Brock on January 15th, 2018

The first post in this short series focused on Talent Management.  Without a strong base of the right people in each role, it’s impossible to develop and sustain high performance in the organization.

This post, and the next one, will focus on various issues of complexity.  Understanding the impact of complexity on each of us, our partners, and our customers; doing everything we can do to radically simplify the things we do are the next areas of management focus.

Complexity has a devastating impact on performance.  Two of the critical data points we watch include:  Time Available for Selling, and Voluntary Attrition.  These are indicators of something dysfunctional happening in the organization.  We typically see Time Available For Selling at 9-22%.  This isn’t the result of sales people being sloppy with what they are doing, it is the unwitting end result of the complexity built into too many of our organizations.

Simply the act of getting things done within our own organizations diverts huge amounts of time from selling activities.

The second, perhaps more insidious metric, is Voluntary Attrition.  Over the years, we have seen a steady increase in people voluntarily leaving an organization.  The worst case we’ve seen was 72% voluntary attrition in the first 12 months a sales person is on board.  While that’s extreme, it’s not uncommon to see Voluntary Attrition rates in the 20’s to 30’s % range.  Imagine that talent fleeing to other opportunities.  (Some of you will argue they are going to better opportunities, but our data doesn’t support this.)

By contrast, one of the highest performing organizations I know, has voluntary/involuntary attrition at 3%.  That’s because they focus first on Talent Management, getting the right people in the first place, then second, removing any barrier to their effectiveness as sales people (Training, coaching, strong processes, tools, systems, collaboration).

There are two aspects to complexity that are totally within our control, organizational and individual (distraction/overwhelm).  This post will look highlight a few issues around organizational complexity.

As our businesses grow, as we add more product lines to our portfolios and seek wider market coverage, our organizations become more complex.  In managing this, we start to add specialization within our organizations (e.g. SDRs, BDMs, AEs, specialists, Account Managers, etc.)  We add new functions and processes, our interfaces with other parts of the organization, for example marketing and customer service, all become richer.  Inevitably, within our organizations, simply getting things done becomes much more difficult.   Simply, the acts of each person doing their jobs drive complexity in the interrelationships in the organization.

As a result, sales people end up getting diverted from customer facing activities to internal activities.

As leaders, we are constantly balancing conflicting objectives.  We put these functions in place to help our front line sales people, but the unintended consequence is we make things more complex and slow.  We have to constantly look at simplifying workflows and clarifying roles/responsibilities.  We need to asses the impact of the things we do in the spirit of helping our people sell more.

Every time we look to adding something, we must look at what it means to the workflow and lives of the sales people.  Rather that adding layer upon layer of new programs, before adding something new, we should first seek to eliminate at least one or two current programs.

Managing the inherent complexity of large organizations in constant motion and change will be one of the biggest issues facing sales executives in 2018 and beyond.  What are you doing to measure the impact and simplify your organization and processes?

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