The best sales professionals in the world are hardcore business practitioners. They understand their specialist vertical intimately. They are well connected and highly remunerated. As a business owner, you want this. Sales professionals read their compensation agreement carefully and then set out to achieve the best outcome for themselves and the company.
When the planning and business analysis is done, the members of the top sales are 20% who contribute 80%.
In this situation, the average company provides a lot of support in pre-sales with the explicit goal of leveraging the core talents.
The case for providing sales support can be examined from two angles: skill enhancement and ROI.
Altshuler (2018) list 30+ traits you need to develop or hone to become an amazing sales consultant. The truth is that very few sales professionals have a total range of skills. Most efforts to provide sales support in organisations are aimed at leveraging the best skills of the sales professionals and supplementing the weaker or less productive areas. These areas are commonly in:
the sales administration,
Areas where salespeople are notoriously weak or relatively uninterested. The simple investment a pre-sales technical expert or an extra administration support person can free up the sales professional for more calls and customer engagement.
However, before the addition of sales support, it can be quicker and more cost effective to provide necessary training to enable the sales professional to be more productive. The provision of a good structure learning and development curriculum is a great asset for any sales organisation. Typically, this is done to onboard new sales members, but it is just as important to circle back each time the individual moves to the next level. Life long learning is a great habit we all can adopt. The best sales professionals already have this integrated into their DNA.
Kuchler et al. (2016) found that increasing the level of support (to the correct balance) resulted in additional revenues and reduced costs. But what is the correct balance? With this achieved Kuchler found that the top 25% of sales organisations were able to achieve a 10 ~15 times return on the sales support investment.
A key part of the budgeting process is to determine the total people costs as a percentage of gross margin. As a part of this, the total sales cost, which includes front line sales, commissions and the sales support function.
All salespeople are not created equal. Therefore, the amount of support provided to sales teams and individuals must be proportionate to the expected return. Beginning or inexperienced salespeople need to operate with little or no support. At the same time, the relative strengths and weaknesses of the individual need to be noted so that skills enhancement through training and additional sales support is executed in a targeted manner.
What is the expected productivity per seat for each salesperson?
What is the expected productivity per seat for the sales + support function?
In most sales teams I have worked with there has always been some degree of sales support. Sometimes it is directly attributed to an individual, and sometimes it is a shared resource. The key learnings from this collective experience are:
Allocate expensive sales support in a careful and specific manner
Allocate resource slowly – once given it is hard to take away
Expect a return on investment.
The return on investment sounds obvious and common sense but is hard to achieve culturally. The key thing to ensure is the same as whenever a new function and resource is added into a business…what are the accountabilities for each role? How is the position description for each changed? What does success look like for each member?
Sales support is neither essential nor extravagant. It is a business investment that needs to be thought through and positioned strategically.
Sales Support – How to get it just right – McKinsey & Company 2016 Kuchler et al. 2016