A unique approach to sales team assessment and training has delivered high return on investment.
A mid-size firm kept missing its sales targets. The sales team blamed product pricing, but management sensed that something was wrong, so they asked Executive Consulting Group (ECG) — a leading sales consultancy company — to review their performance.
ECG Co-Founder and Managing Partner Jim Colonas identified $20 million in lost sales that financial year because of poor selling practices. The gap between the best and worst salespeople was too large.
Worse, the sales team’s capabilities were misaligned with the firm’s strategy. The sales director had weak leadership skills, and performance transparency and accountability were lacking. The director was replaced, and a 12-month sales training program was implemented.
With ECG’s help, the firm recovered those lost sales, implemented state-of- the-art sales processes and upgraded its sales skills. ‘In the first year, we had everyone in the sales team moving in the right direction and in the second, we ramped it up,’ says Colonas.
‘The sales team is now performing better than ever.’
Colonas has seen similar problems across different industries — and too many firms lose revenue because of antiquated sales practices. Often, there is a pattern when firms miss sales targets.
It begins with the sales team downplaying the problem. The sales director tells the CEO that sales are soft because of one-off factors, such as an election, and will bounce back.
As sales continue to disappoint, the sales team looks to shift blame. They say the firm has not advertised enough; its products look tired; competitor products are cheaper, and so on.
Meanwhile, the firm’s CEO struggles to address the problem. He has a financial background and lacks sales skills. Further, the CEO worries about taking on the sales team because he doesn’t want to lose his star performers.
Unable to resolve the problem, the CEO organises a one-day sales training program that wastes time and money.
‘A common theme is CEOs lacking skills to accurately assess their sales team capabilities,’ says Colonas. ‘They think a one-off training program will fix everything, whereas an in-depth sales capabilities assessment and an ongoing sales-transformation program are needed to get the company firing.’
This insight encouraged Colonas and fellow Founder and Managing Partner Ralph Vossenberg to start ECG in 2015. Most sales consultancies offered quick-fix training; none provided the end-to-end solution ECG believed companies needed.
The Brisbane-based firm quickly built a client base, and expanded to Sydney and Melbourne. ECG works mostly with mid-sized and large business-to-business firms across different industries.
ECG begins with an assessment of firm strategy. ‘We spend time with the CEO and leadership team to understand the firm’s goals and determine if it has the right sales team for the strategy in place,’ says Colonas.
ECG then analyses the sales team’s capabilities. ‘We understand what each person is billing, or should be billing, and the team’s sales processes. We quickly know if there are “sales ghosts” — underperformers flying under the radar.’
The sales team’s capability is assessed through proven psychology-based digital surveys that help ECG understand the firm’s sales skills and culture.
‘We advise if staff need to be redistributed or if new hires are required,’ says Colonas. ‘We can also assist in this process by using ECG’s networks to identify top sales professionals to recruit.’
ECG then designs a six- to 12-month training program, a service Colonas strongly advocates. ‘Clients sometimes ask ECG to run a quick sales course and we decline. If companies are serious about transforming their sales performance, they need a long-term approach. It takes time to reinvigorate a sales culture and embed new skills.’
ECG also implements in-depth reporting and growth-planning tools. ‘Our systems vastly improve transparency and accountability, and encourage the sales team to keep lifting performance.’
Executive coaching is provided. ‘Every CEO is ultimately responsible for the firm’s sales,’ says Colonas. ‘But too many don’t realise that they have a sales problem until too late or don’t have skills to fix it. They don’t realise what an enormous impact having a high- performance sales culture can have on their results.’
Colonas has seen ECG clients achieve rapid gains. ‘ECG is putting processes in place now to help clients exceed their FY20 sales targets — and vastly upgrade their sales team’s capabilities and performance potential over the next few years.’
Article published first in Forge Magazine, Vol 5 No 2.