A skilled and adaptable workforce is a key business priority for the majority of CEOs. In any company, nowhere is the need for a strong workforce more critical than in the sales organization.

What can executive level management do to impact the development of their sales organization? How can CEOs ensure that their sales organization has the firepower, inspiration, and motivation that it needs to drive the business forward?

In my years as a CEO and experience of working with CEOs, I’ve found that the following four criteria are critical to building a better sales force, faster, for any business.

1. Customer-centric culture

Everyone in the company needs to place customers front and center. In PwC’s 2016 Annual CEO Survey, 90% of CEOs said customers have the biggest impact on their strategy. That being the case, leadership must ensure that every employee understands the strategy and their own personal mission to serve those customers in the best way possible. Every single role should deliver value to your customers.

You must lead by example. Define and frequently communicate your company’s core values as they pertain to customers. Share sales successes and explain what they mean to the business. Demonstrate your own customer commitment and have structures in place to support customers, including internal SLAs for response times and appropriate staffing levels.

By prioritizing a customer centric culture within the organization, all workers increase their insight and knowledge about sales and are more vested and supportive in the sales success of the company. This vastly benefits your sales force.

2. Strong sales leadership

If you don’t have the right sales leadership, the cost to your business is devastating. You need to know the most important attributes of a sales leader and – as their leader – give them the space that they need to lead.

In his book “Sales Management. Simplified. The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results from Your Sales Team,” author Mike Weinberg discusses what’s needed for effective sales leadership. Foremost, management needs to take responsibility for sales success. As a senior executive, you need to find sales leadership that can inspire, not micromanage, the team. They should provide clarity on sales roles, make the time to lead, and foster a collaborative environment. Leaders must also work alongside their team and ensure the appropriate 1:1 time.

Make sure that your sales leaders know how to coach effectively. Sales coaching can increase top line revenue up to 20%, making it an essential skill for your sales leaders.

3. The right technology

Many CEOs don’t feel their organization’s sales processes are well defined. Using sales technologies, such as sales automation like email and call scheduling, your business can implement more structured sales processes. Accenture research shows that high-performing sales organizations that use a structured approach to sales:

  • Increase flexibility and speed to market by up to 40%
  • Improve sales force productivity by up to 30%

By making innovative sales technology available to your team, you increase your sales organization’s ability to succeed – and get them to success faster. Just improving sales force performance can give your sales/revenues a 5-10 percent boost.

As a leader, you must invest in technologies that strengthen your business model. By investing emerging sales automation and analytics, you can maximize the productivity of your sales workforce without additional headcount.

The PwC survey found that leaders viewed technology as the “best way to assess and deliver on changing customer expectations” and 68% of CEOs say data and analytics technologies deliver the greatest return for customer engagement. Technology helps you maintain that customer-centric focus.

4. Agility

To build a stronger sales workforce, faster, you need to be agile. This includes faster onboarding, based on repeatable processes, so new reps start selling sooner. This includes offloading or taking away grunt work that eats up the sales organization’s selling time. This includes the ability to understand when something isn’t working, so you can course correct and still make company revenue goals before it’s too late.

Executives need to consider how they can support sales agility. In addition to providing the right technology, do you provide the right selling environment? Are company processes efficient, or do they need to be modernized?

To build the most effective and fast-moving sales force requires the attention of executive management, as well as sales leaders. Everything starts at the top, and CEOs hold ultimate accountability for a successful sales environment.

Every sales team needs leads — but the best sales teams know how to make every lead count. Our e-book, Get More From Your Leads, shows you how to jumpstart your lead management strategy.