What Makes Consumer Goods Sales Teams Work?

stress-ballOk so it’s pretty tough out there just now – driving sales is a corporate imperative but for many I speak to the first quarter of the year has been like wading through treacle with sluggish demand and customer reticence. Consumer goods sales teams have never been busier but what will make the difference for the rest of this year? Here are a few thoughts about how to improve total sales team performance:

Prioritize – sales growth doesn’t come from just anywhere, it comes from those accounts that fall into three groups:

    1. Those who could buy more but don’t
    2. Those who could buy more frequently but don’t
    3. Those who just don’t buy yet

In a tough sales year it’s essential to understand your customer base and focus. Most customer’s fall into one of the first two groups, so now is the time to take a long hard look at the missed opportunities in the customer base. Do you have customers with major distribution gaps or customers whose shopper base is not fully tapped? If so prioritize these. Avoid efforts with customers who are quick to say ‘yes’ but slow on delivery in favor of those who take action and deliver results.  Equally take another look at those customers you don’t service and look to activate a relationship with them. A wider customer base now might pay back in the future.

Specialize – Focus your sales team on those customers with growth opportunities and ensure you have the right team working on them. Delivering results with these customers requires clear priorities and clear priorities require you to put the best guys for the job, on the job. Make sure that you allocate your best resources to the biggest opportunities and ensure they have they time to address the key opportunities. Now is the time to take away extraneous tasks and ensure your team can deliver what they are good at.

Train – The best sports teams in the world spend 90% of their time training and 10% on delivery. While your sales teams play more than one ‘match’ a week, it doesn’t mean that ensuring they are at their best when they perform is a bad idea. Focus your managers on coaching not selling; ensure that individuals are performing at their best so you leave nothing to chance.

Evaluate – sales teams need constant feedback, not everything works first time, take the time and apply resource to ensuring you know what is working and what is not. Establish a constant review process and ask yourself monthly – what should we keep doing? What isn’t working and should be done differently? What isn’t working and should be stopped? And what should we start doing that we are not doing now?

This year is not a year where busy fools will succeed. It is a year where leaders will be made so now is the time to step up!

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