Learning from the Best: Top 120 Sales Companies Sharing Their Practices

I recently read a great case study on sales growth and I would like to share with you the most important key points that can help you drive sales. The case study was named “Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World’s Sales Leaders” and it was done by a team of global leaders from McKinsey’s. They conducted interviews with over 120 most successful sales leaders from a different range of industries (Proctor and Gamble, Deutsche Bank, Siemens etc). Here are the 5 strategies that the best sales leaders use to drive sales growth for any market.

1. Find Growth Opportunities Before Your Competitors.

Find new customers before your competition. To accomplish this, you have to do 3 things:
● monitor the trends to establish where your market is heading.
● dig deep to find untapped potentials of the existing market.
● analyze abundant datasets to understand how customers’ behavior and preferences are developing.

Sales reps must depart from short-term sales goals and look far ahead. They must look into technological, environmental and demographic factors, because we can spot clear trends only if we bring all factors together. Best companies quickly recognize the implications of upcoming trends and capitalize on them. Actually, best companies invest 2-4% of their sales budget in the distant growth revealed by these trends.

Here’s a great example: when the 2008 economic crisis began, the Hyundai Motor Company understood that sales would drop unless they do something. So, Hyundai started a program in which customers were allowed to return their cars if they lost their jobs with no expenses incurred. The result? Their purchase intent rose by 15% and Hyundai was the only car manufacturer in the US that increased sales in 2009.

2. Sell the Way Customers Want You To.

Research has shown that sales experience matters a lot more to customers than it was originally assumed. It turns out that in some cases it matters even more than product and price factors. So, how to offer sales experience that makes customers happy? With the evolution of new online sales channels come numerous opportunities to reinvent sales experience, as we know it.

A great example comes from South Korean Tesco. Home plus is an installed billboard in subway stations that looks exactly like an aisle in Tesco supermarkets. Commuters could buy items from the aisle by scanning items’ codes with their phones and groceries would be sent to their homes. In this way, the waiting commute time was turned into shopping time. The app’s success skyrocketed and within 2 years, 760,000 buyers had downloaded it. Moreover, the company’s online sales increased by 130% in those 2 years (2009-2011).

Indeed, those companies who managed to get the right combination of channels have seen significant profit growth. It is interesting to note that initially executives feared the switch to the digital channels because it was giving too much control to the buyer. However, Margo Georgiadis, Google’s President for the US market brought up a great point: “The digital age represents a huge moment of empowerment for companies because they can provide precise and relevant information at times the customer chooses and when they are most receptive.”

3. Not Just a Selling Team — Create a Selling Machine

Presales and sales operations are a huge driver of sales growth. When it comes to generating leads, a good presales team is focused on quality rather than quantity. They optimize sales reps’ selling time and resources. McKinsey study showed that an effective back office can bolster revenues by 10% to 25% by giving sales reps 50% more time to sell.

A good start to creating a selling machine is to check how much time frontline sales team actually spends selling. When SWIFT, a provider of financial messaging services conducted such an analysis, they discovered that sales reps spent only about 18% of their time actually working with prospects. After they incorporated lean management approach, this percentage rose to 40%. The secret to such a high leap was to divide sales activities into small tasks and give each task to the group which does it best.

4. Invest in Your Human Capital

Best companies dedicate considerable time to “coaching rookies to become rainmakers”. Actually, great sales leaders spend up to 60% their time training employees and also a significant amount of time reporting to managers, which in turn report to executives. They are also masters of pacing and know that motivating staff is not just about the money and that often a ticket to a favorite sports team’s game will do much more. However, to motivate employees is one thing but to have them stick with this mindset is something else — that’s why writers of the study talk about “building sales DNA”.

5. Set an Example from the Top.

This part of the book starts with a great quote by Albert Einstein, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it’s the only way.” That said, for any sales leader to foster a culture of growth, they must be the embodiment of it. How to achieve this? There are several ways. Sales leader should:
● To quote the old Mahatma Gandhi saying: “Be the change you wish to see”.
● Challenge the status quo.
● Demand results and specify about what kind of results they wish to see.
● Create a vision that touches the heart of employees, not just the head.

Less than 30% of change programs actually accomplish their goals, which shows just how difficult it is to implement change in a company. This can only be accomplished with a strong leadership vision; a group powerful enough to get through to all employees.

I really enjoyed this book and would suggest it to everyone who is interested in learning about sales growth from the best companies in the field.

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