How to Build a World Class Sales Force in 2009

Neil Rackham, author of bestsellers such as SPIN Selling, Major Account Sales Strategy and Rethinking the Sales Force, and one of the leading minds in professional, consultative selling over the past 20 years, shares his five keys for building a world class sales force:

  1. Sales supervisors are the key to successI have played a part in the reorganization and performance improvement of over 100 large sales forces. It’s my experience that whether change succeeds – and whether results significantly improve – depends much more on sales supervisors than on salespeople. When I’m working to improve the performance of a sales force, I give most attention to building competent sales supervision.
  2. Fewer accounts means more sales Salespeople love to have lots of opportunities. A salesperson who has ten customers to chase feels much safer than if they had only five. As a result, many salespeople are half chasing twice as many opportunities. They don’t sell deeply enough, they don’t plan adequately and they lose business to competitors who put more resources into the best opportunities. I often find that I can get a dramatic improvement in results by taking away 20 – 30% of a salesperson’s prospects. Salespeople hate this and they argue against it – but it works.
  3. Salespeople must become value creators Too many salespeople are “talking brochures”, trying to show customers how their products or services are better than competitors. This is traditional value communication selling and it no longer works. Salespeople today must move from value communication to value creation. The salesperson must add as much value as the product. This calls for creativity and problem solving. Selling is no longer about persuasion.
  4. Coaching brings resultsEvery world-class sales force I’ve worked with puts great emphasis on coaching. They don’t just give lip service to coaching; they create systems and processes to make coaching happen. Yet few sales managers understand important coaching concepts, such as how skills coaching is different from strategy coaching. The best way to improve sales results is to make effective coaching happen.
  5. Integrate sales and marketingI’ve been working closely with Philip Kotler, the marketing guru, to find ways to help sales and marketing work better together. When we published some of our thinking recently in Harvard Business Review, we were flooded with emails from CEO’s, Sales VP’s and Marketing VP’s from all over the world. So we know it’s an important topic and exciting new ideas are being tried out.

Would you like Neil Rackham’s help in building your world class sales force? If so, please submit an inquiry on our contact page or contact Shawn Ellis at The Speakers Group at (615) 866-2665. We would be happy to work with you.

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6 Responses to “How to Build a World Class Sales Force in 2009”

  1. Chris Moran January 14, 2009 at 11:47 am #

    Nice writing style. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

  2. Sanjeev April 28, 2009 at 9:34 am #

    i completely agree with point nos 2,3 4 – i have done that unconsciously and found that it works….

  3. Sergey Egorov May 15, 2009 at 5:29 am #

    “SPIN selling” are driving force of all my big sales. Thank you Neil for excellent ideas and methods.

    Sergey Egorov
    Tyumen, Russia

  4. cdulong June 18, 2009 at 7:40 pm #

    Neil Rackham is a genious.
    I had the great satisfaction to meet him in Mexico in a conference and it was my dream come true.
    My favorite author.

  5. Dave Loomis July 13, 2009 at 7:01 pm #

    Sales vs Marketing! A classic problem in most corporations. I was integrated into the Marketing dept of a major bank to help sell online banking through their national branch network in the late ’90s. The first thing I did was go talk to the Account executives in the local branches to see what the customers thoughts were and what objections they had to our product. I thought the head of marketing was going to explode!! Talk to the customers and the salespeople to see what they want and need? NOT ACCEPTABLE!! I got lambasted at the next meeting and I asked HER the last time she had BEEN to branch? to talk to the manager and the employees about how the customers liked the ad campaigns, contests, collateral, etc… . That shut her up.. Unfortunately, most marketing execs think top down, using demo and psycho graphics and massive surveys and focus groups to justify huge spends with little accountability for the results. Needless to say.. when we rolled our Spring promotion, Official Bank of an NFL team?? in Spring???, she got rolled too…

  6. Charles September 8, 2009 at 9:10 pm #

    Nick – couldn’t agree with you more.

    As a sales rep in the mid 90s I asked my Sales Manager to assign all except 3 of my accounts – with the comment that if he didn’t then I would lose all 3 (as it was I won them). That was as a ‘one man band’ compared to the ‘teams’ that my competitors had on those accounts (e.g. a top 3 Bank in the USA).

    I was ‘released’ by my MD last year for arguing that as the National Sales Director I needed oversight over Sales & marketing so that the two were integrated, aligned & messaging focussed on the sectors that were deemed to offer the best opportunity for us.

    I concur wholeheartedly with your 5 focus areas – and my former superiors will attest to my passionate pleas (even to being released from a job) to do the same.

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