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What do companies think about sales growth?

Posted by Michael Vaccaro

Michael Vaccaro

The prevailing opinion seemed to be “so far, so good”, according to sales and HR participants attending our Enterprise Sales Effectiveness roundtables in April.

We held these events in Chicago and New York City. Each had about a dozen companies represented, including significant players in financial services, life sciences, industrial products and retail / consumer businesses. These roundtables were an opportunity to build networks with one another and discuss sales issues freely with peers across industries.

Each group agreed that 2014 is off to a strong start. The vast majority of the participating companies are meeting or beating their growth expectations for the first quarter – even with the initial Q1 GDP reading coming in somewhat low.

The formal discussion looked at several things companies can be doing to make sure they will be taking the best possible advantage of growth opportunities. Firms can make tweaks to their sales roles or ‘closing’ techniques to be more effective; think differently about the talent they need now and going forward; and work to assure the organization isn’t getting in the way – for example, if HR and sales, or marketing and sales are not seeing eye-to-eye or working toward the same goals.

One discussion group used this latter point to talk about strengthening the sales / HR relationship. An attendee shared how they were building bridges between the functions by identifying opportunities to improve overall sales effectiveness through analysis and modeling. The group also discussed how different companies attack the problem of measuring the ‘return’ on sales compensation. They agreed that, no matter the tactical approach, the central thought was to look at compensation as an investment to be made instead of a cost to be managed, which makes a difference in how internal conversations on sales are conducted.

Another hot topic was improving cross-selling within organizations. Many companies have been trying to do that for years, but results have generally been unspectacular. The group talked through and arrived at an incremental approach that used strategic, organizational, networking, reward and training building blocks to establish some easy ‘wins’, and lay the groundwork for bigger gains in the future.











Global sales approaches came up as well. The group found that they took a wide range of approaches to rewards design, from very standardized models to very decentralized ones, depending on how similar the sales objectives were in different countries.

Participants felt that is was time well-spent. One participant said: “Brainstorming the measures and metrics of effective sales incentive plans with my industry peers was one of the best investments of my time this year.” Plans are being made to hold similar sessions in the future.

Do the discussions line up with your sales “hot topics”? Are there other topics that a sales roundtable should focus on?


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