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What Makes a Sales Organization Successful?

The keys are investing in sales intelligence and sales training and hiring a direct prospecting team.

By Silvia Quintanilla, president, Industry Gems Sales Intelligence

Being in the business-to-business (B2B) sales profession for nearly 20 years has given me certain insights and revelations. I have seen first-hand how certain sales organizations thrive, while others languish.

What makes the difference? Are there certain attributes that can make a B2B sales organization extraordinary? I believe there are. Here are my conclusions (which are based on my time as both a bag-carrying salesperson and a services provider):

Invest in Sales Intelligence

Unfortunately, I have seen companies go out and hire a bunch of salespeople and tell them "find your own leads, make the calls, and sell something—or else." My time in this profession has proved this practice is a recipe for disaster. When you don't invest in your sales team, don't expect them to stick around very long.

On the other hand, when you invest in sales intelligence tools, you are creating a more effective sales team. My definition for sales intelligence is anything that helps your salespeople "sell more intelligently."

Investing in sales intelligence has many obvious benefits. Primarily, the main outcomes over time are a shorter sales cycle, a larger pipeline, and larger deal sizes.

Examples of sales intelligence services include Hoovers (for the essential basics), Jigsaw (for direct numbers and e-mails), ZoomInfo (for background information on contacts), and Highbeam Research (for company articles). (In the interests of full disclosure, my company, Industry Gems Sales Intelligence, also provides this service.)

Hire a Direct Prospecting Team

This is a big one. My clients who employ a sales force ONLY to make outbound prospecting calls simply perform better. Sometimes, the prospecting team is an inside sales team. Other times, a company will hire out a firm to make the outbound calls.

Why does this practice increase sales? I believe it is because when salespeople are tasked with "doing it all," prospecting time suffers. In other words, when your salespeople have to prospect, train, perform customer service, and nurture prospects, prospecting time falls short.

Yes, sometimes it's a matter of "call reluctance." However, my experience has shown me that when there are many tasks fighting for your salesperson's time, prospecting time might not get the attention it needs.

Dedicating a team to focus 100 percent on tele-prospecting ensures it will get done. Your salespeople then can use their skills to follow up on qualified leads. I personally have seen that companies that employ this dual-selling strategy simply sell more.

Invest in Sales Training

This point is exemplified with a Zig Ziglar story. In one of his talks, a heckler yelled out that self-improvement didn't work!

When Zig asked why he thought that way, the heckler replied, "Because it wears off after a day." Zig, in turn, replied, "Well, so do showers, but that doesn't mean you should stop taking one every day!"

I wholeheartedly agree and am a big believer in consistent sales training. In fact, I can attribute nearly all of my current sales skills to my teachers. By learning from the experts, I have been able to sell more effectively time and again.

Whether you hire a sales coach for your team, or follow a methodology such as Miller Heiman, you are making an investment for your sales team to succeed.

Silvia Quintanilla is president and chief sales detective of Industry Gems, a custom sales intelligence company dedicated to helping salespeople win large deals with Fortune 1000 and Global 500 companies. Learn more at www.industrygems.com. If you sell solutions to the Fortune 1000, you can sign up for the Sales Gems Triggered Events newsletter at www.industrygems.com (subscription box on top left-hand corner). Every month the newsletter highlights the best "door opening" news that can help you get your foot in the door at a big account.