6 Foundations for Successful Sales

Author: 
John Harris

About five years ago, we established a relationship with Larry Williams, one of the principals in the Williams Leslie Group, to help EnerBank improve sales performance. As a result of ongoing Leveraging Sales Leadership training, we made an important shift in our sales management approach.  
 
No matter the industry, the traditional title of the person in charge of sales is the sales manager. Due to the training, we learned that to be truly effective in today’s changing business environment you need to be a sales leader.
 
Sales managers (as opposed to sales leaders) typically focus too closely on the measurable business results and lose perspective on the underlying factors and causes that produce the results. While the numbers are essential, leaders need to manage people. That means recognizing that as a sales leader and a company overall, you can’t be successful unless your sales team is successful.  
 
So how do you ensure this success? At EnerBank, we follow a sales success pyramid of sorts, with six levels. The numbers and financial performance comprise the smallest tip at the top of the pyramid. For the sales leader and its team to deliver on the financial performance, they have to start at the broadest foundation and work their way up. These are the causes or actions that generate the financial results.
 
Let’s discuss the foundational levels and the interrelationships in each which lead you to achieve or exceed financial expectations.
 
Knowledge, skills, and willingness: These three attributes comprise the foundation of a successful salesperson and ultimately, the team. What knowledge and skills they have, as well as their willingness to make an effort to achieve success in the first place, makes all five of the other levels possible. Successful sales leaders focus on that foundation to make sure it is really intact.
 
At EnerBank, we have defined the knowledge and skills we expect from our salespeople, and ask our sales leaders to assess each team member’s competency in each of those areas. Then, our sales leaders create a developmental action plan to help improve their team’s knowledge and skills in those specific areas.
 
Of course, the willingness of our salespeople to improve is the biggest key in their ability to progress to become a great salesperson.
 
Salesperson’s competencies and motivations: The salesperson has to be competent in delivering the right message, working with customers, understanding where that customer is in their buying process—focusing more on the buying process than on the selling process—and making sure their customers receive and understand the value of sales recommendations. The sales person needs to be motivated to take the action necessary to be effective in the market.
 
Salesperson’s behavior: Specific behaviors delivered by salespeople include the proposals they write and deliver, the questions they ask to determine customers’ needs, and the explanations they provide to questions asked by their customers or potential customers.
 
Customers’ perception of value: Customers base their decisions on how they perceive the value of your company’s products or services. That is typically based on the continual sales message that salespeople deliver.
 
Customer Decisions: A sales leader recognizes that financial performance is directly related to your customers’ decisions, actions, whether they accept the recommendation, sign a contract, or authorize a purchase.
 
This is the pyramid of a successful sales team. As you and your team are able to master each of these parts in the pyramid, you will see the impact on the numbers. So, you don’t have to manage to the numbers, but instead, you manage to the skills, knowledge, and behavior of your sales team as well as your value proposition and product offerings.
 
John Harris is executive vice president of sales & marketing at EnerBank USA.