An effective sales strategy starts with holding tight to basic sales fundamentals. Creating a dynamic sales team that will dominate the sales cycle starts with taking a step back, determining your key challenges and your fastest path to real impact. To help, we’ve pulled together some expert guidance from the industry’s best sales professionals. They share their thoughts on the top skills sales reps need to master as well as how to boost revenue by aligning sales strategy with value-based messaging.

Learn from their decades of experience and let their thought leadership help you build an unstoppable sales team.

6 Sales Strategy Insights from Top Performing Sales Professionals

1. How To Hire The Best Salespeople

One of the most critical keys to success is hiring the right salespeople. With average annual turnover in sales ranging from 25 to 30%, sales managers have to be strategic about hiring the right people, write GrowthPlay Board of Directors member Frank Cespedes and GrowthPlay CEO Daniel Weinfurter on Harvard Business Review.

This rate of turnover is a huge cost for sales organizations.

“Consider these stats. Direct replacement costs for a telesales employee can range from $75,000 to $90,000, while other sales positions can cost a company as much as $300,000. Moreover, these figures don’t reflect the lost sales while a replacement is found and trained. In sectors like medical devices, big capital equipment, and many professional services, including these opportunity costs can push turnover cost to $1 million or more per event,” Cespedes and Weinfurter write.

“Bottom line: companies typically spend more on hiring in sales than they do anywhere else in the firm. So how do you improve the returns on this investment? Here are four places to start: hire for the task, focus on behaviors, be clear about what you mean by relevant ‘experience’ and on-going talent assessments.”

Jill Konrath, sales thought leader and author, honed her sales skills at Xerox before becoming a sales consultant to firms across the globe. Her best advice on hiring? It’s all about finding reps who can ask the right questions.

“Turns out the ability to ask insightful, thought-provoking questions was the single biggest differentiator between top performers and average reps,” according to Konrath.

2. Why Great Salespeople Make Terrible Sales Managers

To minimize the downtime between hires, many sales organizations will simply promote their best salespeople to sales manager. This is actually a terrible idea because the skills sales reps need to master are vastly different than those of a great sales manager.

“First, only about one out of every six candidates who is a strong fit for a sales role is also a strong fit for a sales management role. Perhaps equally surprisingly, as many as five out of every seven candidates who are poor fits for sales roles are strong fits for sales manager roles. Good fit for sales = bad fit for sales management. Bad fit for sales = good fit for sales management,” writes Bruce Sevy, Managing Director of GrowthPlay Analytics Center on Forbes.com.

3. Leading an Elite Sales Organization

The best sales organizations know that their people are truly what sets them apart.

“Talent is your only sustainable competitive advantage. Think about it – product features are fleeting. Your competitors are going to eventually catch up to you… Your only sustainable competitive advantage over time is talent. When I think about what elite sales organizations do – they refuse to become a statistic. They know who will be successful in their organization,” according to John Kaplan, Managing Director at GrowthPlay.

To get the most out of their team, great sales leaders make the sales message one of the key skills that sales reps need to master. The most effective sales messages focus on two key areas:

“First, the problems you solve – how you create value for your customers and achieve positive business outcomes. Second, how you do that differently or better than the competition. When I say cross-functional alignment – I’m saying marketing, sales, product services – everyone has a crystal-clear vision of how you create value for your customers and how you deliver that value better than your competitors,” Kaplan advises.

4. Why Sales Execs and Salespeople are Misaligned – And How It Costs You

While many companies invest the most in their sales teams, they only deliver between 50 to 60% of their forecasted sales, write Cespedes and GrowthPlay Managing Director Chris Wallace on Harvard Business Review.

“And more than half of executives (56%) say that their biggest challenge is ensuring that their daily decisions about strategy and resource allocation are in alignment with their companies’ strategies. That’s a lot of wasted money and effort,”Cespedes and Wallace write.

“The results show that executives feel that they have a high level of understanding of their companies’ strategic priorities, while sales reps — who aren’t typically [involved with the strategy sessions] — said they did not.”

5. Sales Strategies for Driving Rapid Organic Growth

To take advantage of the tremendous investment that organizations make in sales, companies need to ensure they’re linking strategy and sales, Cespedes advises.

“Globally, firms spend about $100 billion dollars on consulting that is allegedly about strategy. … U.S. firms alone spend about $900 billion dollars annually on sales. To put that into perspective, that is about three times more than a U.S. company spends on all advertisement media. It’s about 15 times more than they spend on digital. It’s more than 30 times what they spend on social media. On average across industries, about 10% of revenues goes to selling efforts,” according to Cespedes.

To leverage this investment into greater sales, teams need to ask these four questions: What do you do for your customers or clients, what do you do that’s different, what do you do that’s better and what are your proof points?

“These seem like really simple questions. But, in my experience when you ask five people within a company these four questions you [get] 20 different answers. It’s very difficult to set this up where it can be developed and delivered with precision across an entire organization. … If you can get this conversation right, you can improve revenue per salesperson by 30% in the current year. It is very hard to do though,” according to Weinfurter.

See Cespedes and Weinfurter in action – watch them discuss more strategies to drive growth.

6. Using Company-Wide Sales Strategy To Beat The Competition Every Time

Once you have your team hired and your sales strategy identified, companies need to focus on one last thing to build continuous, long-term growth:

“Enabling your sales organization to differentiate on value that is specific and relevant for each customer is a critical component to beating the competition every time and hitting your numbers quarter after quarter. We believe this is a root cause of many downstream sales challenges,” according to Tim Caito, Managing Director, Customer Strategy and Success at GrowthPlay.

Hear more from Caito about enabling your company-wide sales strategy.

What are some of the best tips you follow from sales thought leaders? Share them in the comments below.

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