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Bob Prosen, Author

Chapter 2

Sales Effectiveness: Your Company’s Lifeline

Profitable revenue is the lifeblood of a company and can solve many challenges. Therefore, devote significant resources to ensuring your company develops realistic forecasts and consistently meets its sales plan. It’s much more enjoyable and a lot easier to achieve and maintain sustained profitability by meeting the top line instead of cutting costs.

This chapter focuses on the second of The Five Attributes of Highly Profitable Companies — sales effectiveness. Sales are key to profitability because a healthy revenue stream can solve many problems within a company. Creating a strong sales organization is both a science and an art. And the great thing is, there’s no mystery about the path to success. Sales are one of the most objective aspects of business because they are measurable by numbers. You either make your desired numbers or you don’t, and if you don’t, you must continue to make changes until you do. There are several key steps that any sales organization can follow to success.

The surveys conducted by The Prosen Center for Business Advancement on business effectiveness include measures of sales effectiveness. In one recent study the senior leaders of more than sixty companies rated themselves and their enterprises on this subject. The findings revealed the following strengths and weaknesses:


Salespeople involve senior management to help close important new business: 85 percent.

Salespeople have in-depth knowledge of the competition and know how to differentiate themselves: 61 percent.


We recruit great salespeople instead of teaching people how to sell: 14 percent.

We have a clear definition of all selling stages and win probability definitions: 28 percent.

There is a formal process to remove internal obstacles that impede sales: 28 percent.

There is a process to replicate top sales successes and to teach lessons learned: 30 percent.

Think about where you and your company fit within these strengths and weaknesses. How would you rate yourself? How would you rate your organization?

The primary expectation of any sales organization is to continually create new, profitable customers who are in solid financial shape and can develop into long-term relationships—customers for life. It’s important for salespeople to understand that not all customers are good customers. Instead, salespeople must use due diligence to identify the right customers for the company.

I can’t stress enough the importance of qualifying prospective customers. It’s essential for the sales organization to screen customers early in the process. To do this, they should verify budgets; pin down the timing of the sale and when it will close; identify the customer’s sense of urgency; determine and follow the correct approval process; deal with the “real” decision makers throughout the process; and, most importantly, establish the customer’s creditworthiness.

If you don’t take these steps early in the sales process, you reduce the probability of winning, waste precious resources, and, worst of all, acquire customers you can’t serve properly or who end up not paying.

Establish Strong Quota and Ethical Standards

A successful sales organization worships its quotas and adheres to the highest ethical standards regardless of competitive pressures. Companies that are passionate about results understand that quotas and standards are commitments that have to be met consistently and methodically every week and every month, not in fits and starts. Certainly there may be interruptions in sales patterns, a month or two in which sales are off, or even a slow quarter. Yet if sales quotas go unmet week after week, month after month, then the company needs to hold itself accountable.

Too many companies rationalize poor performance and ultimately accept being behind plan. When this happens, take Leaders must listen carefully and evaluate what the sales force is telling them. Is the price too high? Is there a problem with product quality, delivery, or customer service? Does the company need to reevaluate its value proposition? immediate action, because missing the top line has a domino effect through the entire company. Great salespeople love the success of selling and feel disenfranchised when they don’t achieve their goals. If they believe the company is holding them back, they’ll move on to another organization where they can succeed. So, it’s management’s job to be aware of what’s keeping excellent salespeople from doing a great job.

When there are real problems, management must remove the roadblocks to sales success. Management should put the necessary tools and processes in place so that the only factor left to determine success is each salesperson’s ability to sell—to find and close business. There should be no reason for excuses. The best way to achieve a “no excuses” culture is for management to work hand in hand with the sales organization to determine the root cause of any issues inhibiting quota attainment so they can be removed permanently. This is a never-ending responsibility. It requires management’s ongoing attention and personal involvement to ensure that all roadblocks are immediately exposed and overcome.

If management has done its job but excuses are still being voiced about not meeting quotas—such as, “The price is too high,” “We don’t have the features that our competition has,” “We don’t have the right relationships,” and “Donors have reduced funding”—then it’s time to weed out those salespeople who don’t meet quotas consistently. This is one of the few areas in business that’s virtually black-and-white. If salespeople have been trained, have the tools and support required to understand and communicate the product or service to the market, and they still aren’t achieving quotas, remove them from the sales organization immediately. Waiting and hoping for improved performance only increases the odds of not achieving the company’s top line. Pay close attention to this critical business area. Most leaders wait too long to take action.

To ensure that quotas are achieved, rely on four critical metrics and track them weekly: …