Shared Traits of Leading Sales Organization

Sales leadership involves setting a vision and direction that define the business development culture within your organization. It includes setting goals, objectives, and top priorities for your firm and empowering those who have sales responsibilities to achieve success.

The creation of a sales culture is ultimately the most important thing a firm can do for all its stakeholders. Yet, most agencies cannot definitively answer the question of who leads the firm’s recruiting and development efforts.  The all-too-common “we’re all responsible” approach is a perfect recipe for getting nothing meaningful done, as no one is ultimately responsible or accountable for the strategy’s success in any practical sense.

A gifted sales leader delivers a sales playbook that defines the vision, strategy, capabilities, processes, behaviors, tactics, resources, services, target markets, and performance indicators to enable his or her team to consistently win. Sales leaders come in many forms.  He or she may be an agency principal, practice group leader, part-time producer, or person solely dedicated to producer development.  In contrast to a sales manager who directs, influences, and controls, the sales leader coaches, mentors, and empowers.

Leading Sales Organizations

Reagan Consulting authored a study related to sales leadership in 2012: Leading Sales Organizations.  You may find the following findings to be of interest:

  • Only 17% of the agencies surveyed employ a full-time sales manager.  And interestingly, the results of these firms fall short (by 2.2% revenue profit) of those firms without one.
  • For the majority of firms (51.5%), one or more members of the agency’s executive team is responsible for sales management.
  • The investment in a new producer is a significant expense…especially understanding that the attrition rate hovers around 45% after three years. It is not uncommon to see an investment of $200,000 to $300,000 or more over the first three years of a producer’s development. This investment does not contemplate the significant time and resource allocation required.
  • Far too many agencies do not have an “intentional approach” to producer training and development, often letting producers sink or swim on their own. The survey evidenced that almost half of the producers have no mentoring system. Yet, research confirms that mentoring is especially effective in boosting success rates among producers.
  • There are three primary elements to sales leadership: 1) Equipping producers for success, 2) creating a culture of accountability, and 3) recruiting and development new producers.  That being said, someone has to own sales leadership. This person must be fully empowered to take responsibility of addressing each of the three elements.
  • Agencies that have developed resources for its sales team for client acquisition and retention are growing faster than those firms that choose not to invest in value-added services and solutions. Furthermore, these resources enhance the agency’s ability to attract and retain talent.
  • The development of a defined “sales process” is also within the DNA of top-performing organizations.  The sales process encompasses how to initially identify a prospect all the way through the delivery of services and stewardship once they have secured the business.  The sales process is a key ingredient to the new producer’s training platform. It is also important to note that there is also institutional buy-in of the process within these firms.
  • High-performing agencies measure what they want to manage, and manage what they measure using a level of detail that creates a culture of accountability. This includes, but is not limited to, prospect pipeline maturity, new business hit ratio, key accounts under competition, customer engagement, retention, and cross-sell results.
  • When producers are not meeting expectations, leading sales organizations take steps to find out why. And customize support strategies. For some, this involves deeper training and education. For others, it may be a change in their target market. While others need coaching in areas ranging from active listening to priority management to the art of closing the deal.
  • The traditional lead generation approach of dialing-for-dollars and blindly calling for expiration dates does not exist in the cultures of high-performing agencies. It has been replaced by more sophisticated initiatives that are highly focused on targeted industries or geographic segments.