As the leader of your organization, the next 6 months will prove to be more pressure-filled then you may have experienced in years. With decreasing prospects and the cost of doing business increasing, a squeeze on profits is inevitable. Companies will look to cut costs and the first place to start is the sales force. The sales force is your company’s most expensive promotional resource. You will have to make some critical decisions: Do you cut costs or improve the performance of your existing sales team? Cut back, down size and cut costs: I don’t need to give you advice on cutting back. It’s easy to cut back on sales people, promotion and training. While radical surgery may be financially prudent in the short term it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: first sales decline, then performance suffers and finally moral drops, completing the downward cycle. How can you improve the productivity and performance of your sales force? I believe that too many sales organizations operate well below their potential. Quick fixes abound during these times, but the secret to surviving difficult economic times is simple… Unlock the potential in your sales organization and watch that potential turn into sustainable performance! 1) Invest in your front line sales managers Who else is at the heart of change, productivity, accountability and performance in your organization? The front line sales manager is the key to unlocking the potential in your sales organization and turns that potential into performance. Your success depends on these managers. Coaching is the single most impactful activity that front lines sales managers perform. Studies show that effectual coaching can impact sales performance by as much as 19%! Great front line sales managers do a far better job hiring, developing and retaining top performing sales people. If you had $1 dollar to invest in your business the first dollar and best dollar would be invested in your front line sales management team. 2) Turn your farmers into hunters by focusing on unlocking the potential within existing customers Many of my clients tell me that their sales team are made up of a bunch of service people or farmers. The challenge in difficult times are that new customers are risk averse to trying new suppliers and that the cost of getting new business may come at the expense of profitability. The most economical way to grow your business is through existing customers. Train your farmers to cultivate more business with their existing customers. Programs targeted at growing and expand business opportunities can help stimulate sales people who have become complacent and find it challenging to go out and get new business. 3) Maximize the ROI on your training budget Maximising your ROI on training really means ensuring that what ever training you do creates sustainable changes in behaviours that impact on business performance. The challenges relate to a lack of accountability and follow up. Are there systems in place to measure newly learned behaviours or follow up programs to sustain lessons learned? The answer is no. Studies show that 90% of training is forgotten in the first 30 days unless reinforced. Are you one of the many companies investing in T&D and little or no ROI? Unless there is a plan that measures and reinforces changes in behaviours you are wasting your money! You must ensure that there is a plan to reinforce learning’s and you hold individuals accountable for demonstrating newly learned behaviours. Maximize your investment in training and development with a program that measures and reinforces the learning’s and they will become business practice. 4) Strategically invest your resources As you look how to manage your resources more effectively, the key is to strategically target your promotional dollars to maximise the ROI. Each sales person needs to be much more strategic on where they allocate their limited resources. This involves building customer specific plans based on factors such as existing business and potential business and holding sales people accountable to executing their plans. Strategically investing your promotional dollars on the right customers and holding sales people accountable will be one of the keys to unlocking your star results!