Sales force 3.0: Transforming how telecom operators manage sales reps

Telecom operators in every market are facing the same problems: weak economies, saturated markets, and stagnant or declining revenues. Their search for growth has focused primarily on retail customers and large enterprises, and less attention has been paid to the segment in between, the small and medium-sized enterprises. Operators must acquire a deep understanding of the SME market’s competitive dynamics, greater insight into the needs of the customer segment, and an honest analysis of their sales force’s structure and performance.

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Sales force 3.0 Transforming how telecom operators manage sales reps

Contacts

Buenos Aires Ariel Fleichman Partner +54-11-4131-0432 ariel.fleichman @strategyand.pwc.com Düsseldorf Roman Friedrich Partner +49-211-3890-165 roman.friedrich @strategyand.pwc.com

Madrid José Arias Partner +34-91-411-5121 jose.arias @strategyand.pwc.com Carlos Severino Partner +34-91-563-7308 carlos.severino @strategyand.pwc.com José Antonio Tortosa Partner +34-91-563-7693 joseantonio.tortosa @strategyand.pwc.com Enrique Manso Principal +34-91-411-84-50 enrique.manso @strategyand.pwc.com Milan Luigi Pugliese Partner +39-02-72-50-93-03 luigi.pugliese @strategyand.pwc.com

Moscow Steffen Leistner Partner +7-985-368-78-88 steffen.leistner @strategyand.pwc.com New York Christopher Vollmer Partner +1-212-551-6794 christopher.vollmer @strategyand.pwc.com Paris Pierre Péladeau Partner +33-1-44-34-3074 pierre.peladeau @strategyand.pwc.com Rio de Janeiro Paolo Pigorini Partner +55-21-2237-8448 paolo.pigorini @strategyand.pwc.com

São Paulo Ivan de Souza Senior Partner +55-11-5501-6368 ivan.de.souza @strategyand.pwc.com Nuno Gomes Principal +55-11-5501-6238 nuno.gomes @strategyand.pwc.com Tokyo Toshiya Imai Partner +81-90-7285-1597 toshiya.imai @strategyand.pwc.com Vienna/New York Klaus Hoelbling Partner +43-1-518-22-907 klaus.hoelbling @strategyand.pwc.com

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About the authors

Carlos Severino is a partner with Strategy& based in Madrid. He focuses on sales and distribution, large-scale turnarounds, startups, and the redesign of commercial models in the telecommunications industry. Enrique Manso is a principal with Strategy& based in Madrid. He specializes in transformation projects — commercial turnarounds, simplification — and in the design of sales and distribution models for fixed, mobile, and integrated telecom operators. Moisés Paniagua was formerly an associate with Booz & Company.

This report was originally published by Booz & Company in 2013.

Also contributing to this report were Strategy& partners José Arias and José Antonio Tortosa.

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Executive summary

Telecom operators in every market are facing the same problems: weak economies, saturated markets, and stagnant or declining revenues. Their search for growth has focused primarily on retail customers and large enterprises, and less attention has been paid to the segment in between, the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) that can account for as much as 20 percent of an operator’s revenues. By boosting the efficiency of the sales force dedicated to the SME segment, operators can lower the costs of serving those customers by 15 to 20 percent while reducing customer churn by as much as 25 percent. If operators are to reap these gains, they must acquire a deep understanding of the SME market’s competitive dynamics, greater insight into the needs of the customer segment, and an honest analysis of their sales force’s structure and performance. Once these elements are in hand, operators can turn their attention to five interrelated levers that can make a real difference in the efficiency and productivity of their sales force: clearer roles and activities for sales reps; better collaboration between the sales force and other sales channels; greater productivity; rationalization of compensation; and more transparent monitoring of performance and efficient support tools. The effort involved in optimizing the SME sales force is complex, but by approaching the task holistically, operators can add considerable value to both their top and bottom lines. Although this Perspective focuses on the SME segment, most of our recommendations can also be applied to the sales forces of other segments, such as large corporate customers.

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The opportunity of intermediate segments

Over the past several years, most telecom companies in both mature and developing markets have suffered from a general worsening of market conditions. Many markets remain weak, consumers are becoming less patient with traditional telecom offerings, and competition is increasing with the rise of mobile virtual networks and over-the-top players — even as operators must continue to invest billions of dollars into updating their networks. These new competitive dynamics are affecting each segment of the telecoms’ client base differently (see Exhibit 1, next page). In an effort to find paths to profitable and sustainable growth, many operators have focused on their residential customers, adjusting cost structures and boosting efficiency. The enterprise segment has also received considerable attention, characterized by an approach tailored to specific clients, often based on an individual business case for each. In the segments in between, most notably small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), achieving the right balance becomes much more difficult. These customers vary considerably in size and specific needs, a condition that increases the cost to serve each individual customer and the complexity of managing the sales effort — which combines aspects of selling to both large enterprises and retail clients. However, the challenges inherent in serving this client base open up a new opportunity to capture considerable marginal value through increases in efficiency. And the opportunity is significant: At a typical operator, the sales force can account for as much as 30 percent or more of revenues for all business segments (particularly for large corporate and SME customers), and greater efficiency can reduce go-to-market costs by 15 to 20 percent while reducing customer churn by a quarter. Taking advantage of this opportunity requires rethinking the structure and operations of the telecom sales force, given the essential role it plays in selling to, and maintaining relations with, this critical customer base.

The challenges inherent in serving the SME client base open up a new opportunity to capture marginal value through efficiency.

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Exhibit 1 Operators take different approaches to different customer segments

Average revenue per user

Segment profile

Value proposition

Customer approach

Multi-office companies By sector of activity

Sophisticated portfolio Significant weight on information, communications, and technology (ICT) and tailored solutions Medium complexity Increasing weight on ICT and tailored solutions Massive offering with add-ons Very limited weight on ICT solutions Massive offering

Large corporate
Mono- and multi-office companies High heterogeneity in customer base Professionals, small businesses, and home offices

Key-account management, complemented by engineers, specialists, and dedicated care resources Direct communication

SMEs

Multichannel approach, ranging from sales forces to shops Direct communication High importance of point-of-sale shops Limited action from sales task forces High importance of point-of-sale shops Commercial actions meant to attract customers to shops Very high Medium Very low

Small offices and home offices (SoHos)

Individuals

Residential

Source: Strategy& analysis

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The sales rep

The purpose of the typical sales force at a large telecom operator — both internal salespeople and external sales reps managed by dealers — is to visit high- and mid-value clients and prospects, accounting for specific capabilities compared with other commercial channels (see Exhibit 2, next page). The salespeople’s strength lies in their ability to identify customer needs, provide face-to-face advice, and customize complex offers. The personal touch allows them to build rapport and develop long-term relationships with customers to encourage loyalty and to understand (and act on) the root causes of churn in the customer base. Despite these competitive advantages, this sales force channel frequently suffers from high costs, from being poorly managed strategically and tactically, and from inefficient operations, all of which can quickly increase costs. All too often, commercial planning on the part of sales reps is unstructured and reactive, without a predefined visit plan or a focus on assigned client portfolios. A lack of professionalism in their approach to business leads to wide variety in their skills and performance, and frequently to low productivity. Further, they are often forced to use inefficient or insufficient IT tools, which increases average operating time and administrative tasks. Moreover, because their performance is commonly measured by the number of transactions, rather than revenues and churn, their approach to clients is often based on the acquisition of new customers or on overselling standard products to existing customers, rather than on the development of new or complex offerings. And finally, overlapping roles and activities among different channels, with little differentiation among the value propositions they offer, can lead to unproductive competition among channels. The hurdles can be significant, but operators that succeed in tightening the management of their SME sales force can improve productivity, reduce costs, and turn this critical channel into a strategic asset, thus gaining a real competitive advantage over rivals. To do so, however, they must understand their specific challenges and needs, as well as the proper remedies for their problems.
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Exhibit 2 How sales reps fit into a typical channel structure
Sales force Shops Call centers Online

Specialization

Proactivity
+ Alarms + Alarms

Quality of sales

Care activities
Self-service Leads

Cost
Large and corporate SMEs Residential SoHos SMEs All (in large and corporate, mainly care) All

Segment orientation

Very high Medium Very low

Note: Alarms are reactive contacts usually following portability or churn attempts from clients, or some specific care problems. Source: Strategy& analysis

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Understanding needs

Before operators begin making any changes to their SME sales force, they need to analyze as clearly as possible not just how their sales force is performing but also their own current competitive environment, their commercial and financial health, and the nature of the clients they are pursuing (see Exhibit 3). Inevitably, these four key areas will be interconnected, so operators must approach this assessment holistically,

Exhibit 3 Four key areas for SME sales force transformation
How mature is the market? How often are competitors contacting our clients? What are our competitors’ value propositions? How are customers distributed throughout the segment? What is the degree of product penetration . . . . . . and how much potential is there for more? How many customers get all their communication needs served by only one telecom operator? What is the customers’ share of wallet and purchasing power? What is the current level of revenues in the customer segment? Is there any urgency in any type of commercial activity (adds, loyalty and churn, development, care, etc.)… …or in any specific products or services?

Market dynamics Client needs and expectations Financial and commercial context

Initial questions

Sales force performance

Can greater productivity among sales forces be pushed/incentivized? How many customers were neither visited nor contacted recently? How loyal are sales forces to the telecom operator?

Source: Strategy& analysis

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ensuring that their understanding of the problem is consistent throughout the company. Only by doing so will they be able to devise a way forward in pursuing a complete strategic vision for the transformation of their SME sales force. These interconnections can run deep. In making these assessments, an operator may discover that its SME segment has a churn problem, whether for structural reasons, such as poor commercial offerings for certain client profiles, an inefficient retention process, or lack of resources to pursue the segment; or for tactical reasons, such as a badly executed visit plan, a distributor that has moved to the competition and has taken part of the client base with it, a particularly aggressive acquisition campaign by a competitor, or too much weight being placed on acquisition incentives and commissions. Finding the reasons for customer churning, and how those reasons are interconnected, will have direct implications for how the sales channel should be managed.

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The virtuous wheel

Using these strategic guidelines, a new tactical framework can be settled on to begin improving the SME sales force. Our “virtuous wheel” framework is structured into five optimization levers that sales managers should concentrate on in contemplating their next moves: roles and activities, multichannel strategy, sizing and productivity, a commission system, and enablers and facilitators (see Exhibit 4, next page). 1. Adapting roles to the terrain Sales managers typically differentiate between two distinct roles when referring to sales representatives: hunters and farmers. Hunters prospect the market, finding new opportunities and responding to leads — acquisition is their core activity. Farmers are devoted to retaining the customer base, boosting loyalty to minimize churn, and up- and crossselling new products and services. Different personal traits and capabilities are required for the two roles if reps are to achieve the highest job performance. In both roles, SME sales forces are learning to better utilize deep customer insight in order to tailor their value propositions to individual customer needs. Currently, sales reps are enriching their traditional business offering portfolio with information, communications, and technology (ICT) solutions and end-to-end consultative services demanded by increasingly sophisticated clients. Opportunities have arisen around cloud computing activity, unified communications, and “big data” services, so specific training and IT specialists are becoming critical in supporting sales reps. At the same time, however, a variety of competitors — both traditional operators and new rivals such as mobile virtual network operators, overthe-top players, and even IT service providers — are challenging the incumbents’ status as the dominant players in their markets and forcing them to rethink their sales forces’ farming role, which is focused mainly on churn prevention and thus often leads to discounts and revenue erosion. And operators’ efforts to implement a dual farmer–hunter role
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Exhibit 4 The “virtuous wheel” of sales force optimization

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What is the impact on other channels? Collaborative multichannel model Governance model 2

1

What do sales reps do? Roles and activities Matching of offering and care activities per channel 1

Multichanneling

3

How much can they do? Sizing - Portfolio size - Client rotation Productivity - Objective planning - Activities optimization

Ro le act s and ivit ies

d g an Sizin ctivity u prod

3

Optimization levers
En a fa ble cil rs ita a to nd rs 5

5

How do they perform? Tools and processes Standardization Training Management and planning Culture

ion iss m em m t Co sys 4

4

How much does it cost? Base commissions Bonus/variable renumeration Airtime/revenue sharing Other levers

Source: Strategy& analysis

have proven challenging and run the risk of wrong-footing their sales organizations and undermining their commercial objectives. As operators look for the best way to approach customers, many sales managers are reviewing customer assignments, trying to decide whether to create pure client-hunting portfolios. Some initiatives have been set up that way; however, the results for many operators have not been satisfactory, as sales reps trained as hunters keep trying to sell to the existing customer base to attain their monthly objectives. The right

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balance between hunters and farmers, along with the need for reinforcing technology services through IT specialists, will be determined by the segment strategy and objectives. Finally, note that the role of hunter can only be performed by sales reps, as other channels have proven to be much less efficient in dealing with the SME segment. Farmers can be sales reps, complemented, often efficiently, by other channels, such as call centers and websites. However, prospecting for new customers requires that sales reps be present with potential customers so that the customers’ needs are clearly understood and offers are presented in a compelling way. Relationship building and development — involving activities such as problem resolution and up-selling of simple products and services — can be carried out by call center reps if the care process is clearly defined and adequate tools and systems are put in place to ensure coordination among the different channels. 2. Defining a multichannel strategy Because the SME segment is so large and diverse, customers are accustomed to interacting with operators through a wide range of traditional channels, including shops, sales reps, and call centers, as well as increasingly important digital channels. As a result, most operators find it necessary to revisit their multichannel strategy from time to time, in hopes of aligning the cost of serving customers to the value those customers generate (see Exhibit 5, next page). The objective of this exercise is to rebalance the channel mix by developing the proper channel capabilities and activities, and suiting them to the needs of individual clients, while minimizing commercial costs. When the sales and care activity matrix is being defined for a given segment, a business case must be built in order to allocate the operator’s resources efficiently, especially when the operator is struggling to maintain its revenues. Approaching customers through less expensive channels should not lead to losing rapport or lessening contact with them. Managing mid- and low-value customers through the sales force alone, for example, would be expensive and inefficient; complementing in-person action with call center sales agents is a much better alternative, as a larger customer base can be contacted and the quality of interaction would not be impaired. In this case, sales reps could devote their time to a smaller customer base of higher-value clients. Reformulating a multichannel strategy requires three actions on the part of operators:

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Exhibit 5 Distribution of activity and customer value by segment
Activity mix Customer value ($) Point of sales Sales forces Call centers Digital channels

Large corporate

(mainly care)

(selfservice)

SMEs

Small offices and home offices (SoHos)

Residential

(sales and care)

Source: Strategy& analysis

1. Define channel activity. Operators must pursue a holistic approach when setting up channel activities and interactions to avoid potential conflicts. Collaboration between call center agents and sales forces through the creation of joint sales and care teams or by sharing common client portfolios can make a significant difference in increasing sales and customer loyalty. In fact, most high-value customers will reject being managed solely by call centers, but will value a mixed team of sales reps and some call center agents. Within such a multichannel team, sales reps could devote their time to more consultative sales for new offers and ICT solutions, whereas call center agents could up- and cross- sell traditional business products and carry out critical care tasks that complement sales rep activity. Digital channels are best used to enable customers to access product and service information and conduct a growing number of client transactions such as ordering straightforward products and services, while allowing reps to respond to leads.
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Experience in designing client portfolios has shown that exclusive customers that deal with just one operator for all their information and communications needs tolerate a higher degree of remote management (for instance, by call centers), freeing up sales reps to focus their efforts on shared customers in order to prevent churn and encourage them to become more exclusive. 2. Determine the governance model. To ensure that the multichannel strategy is properly managed, operators should set up a single entity with end-to-end oversight. Its role is to make sure that the customer experience is consistent through every channel and to resolve any internal conflicts among channels or back-office functions. The main functions of this entity include setting annual commercial targets for the proper mix of services offered; rebalancing the activity mix when necessary due to cost increases or poor alignment between sales objectives and the sales budget); ensuring that the various channels, territories, and functional departments share the same objectives; acting as a referee in case of conflict between channels; and keeping the overall customer experience coherent and consistent. 3. Set up a multichannel management system. An umbrella system that implements the governance model by overseeing the activities of the individual channels and managing multichannel strategy is needed to ensure continuity and coherence among processes, channels, and the customer experience. It is critical that customers do not find imbalances or inconsistencies in the channels they interact with, and that they don’t find outdated information when contacting a channel they haven’t used yet. 3. Size matters Sales forces are costly, so determining their proper size — whether internal or external reps — is critical for sales managers, given the potential impact on revenues and profits. Size can also affect the productivity of sales reps, and therefore their remuneration and longterm commitment. When sizing sales force teams, sales managers will have to determine the size of the client portfolio assigned to each farmer or the extent of the territory in the case of hunters, the rotation of when and how often clients should be visited, and the point at which visiting each client is economically viable (see Exhibit 6, next page). 1. Customer portfolio size is directly dependent on the daily capacity of visits by sales reps, and it can be enlarged considerably by promoting interaction among all available channels. For instance, by establishing a collaborative relationship between call center agents
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Exhibit 6 The sales rep productivity ecosystem
Capacity of visits per day, considering: - Planned contacts (visit plan) - Reactive contacts and portability alarms
Depends on

Customer portfolio size Profitability of sales reps Productivity Client value threshold
Depends on

Client rotation
Depends on

Sustainability and long-term commitment

Client ARPU Client spending and share of wallet

Client churn and loyalty Exclusive vs. shared clients
Source: Strategy& analysis

and the sales force, some leading operators have increased sales reps’ customer portfolio size by 20 percent. Normally, sales reps don’t visit lower average-revenue-per-user (ARPU) clients in their customer portfolios, preferring to concentrate on the higher-end customers. Action should be taken to address the issue of whether low-ARPU clients are worth being included in visit plans by leveraging the multichannel strategy. This cluster is of paramount importance, as many customers can be shared with competitors and the revenue potential is large. Additionally, given that client dispersion and route-planning factors have a considerable influence on the number of visits per day, it is
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critical, when defining client portfolios and assigning them to reps, to choose clients concentrated in the same areas and plan visits to optimize journey time. Experience has shown that an intelligent assignment of clients to sales reps, combined with effective route planning, can increase sales reps’ daily visit capacity by 25 percent. 2 . Client rotation remains a critical issue for sales managers. Some argue that visiting exclusive clients too frequently can bring about a surge in customer discounts and thus lower ARPUs, and that visiting “shared” customers with similar ARPUs is thus a better option. Whether or not that’s true, sales forces should leverage every customer contact to sell more sophisticated products and services, and new ICT solutions tailored for SMEs. 3. The client value threshold, or when to decide to visit clients, can be mathematically modeled, using metrics such as client ARPU, share of wallet, and number of products and services per client, and then determining a target revenue-to-cost ratio per average sales rep. But in practice the client value threshold is established once the size of the client portfolio and the expected rotation are determined, given the budget for sales rep remuneration. That, in turn, will determine how many sales reps the operator can afford to maintain. The size of other areas critical to the success of the segment, including call centers and support areas such as back offices and engineering, must also be determined. The goal is to make sure the operator has the right number of full-time employees per client to ensure excellent ongoing care while maintaining established profitability ratios. All of these elements will affect sales reps’ individual performance and productivity, and therefore their remuneration and commitment. The objective allocation methodology can be determined through past experience or as a multivariable function of market, sales force performance, and client information. Furthermore, productivity can be increased by curtailing the sales force’s administrative tasks. Our experience among both fixed and mobile operators has shown that typically 30 percent or more of a sales force’s overall activity consists of order tracking, contract preparation, and customer claim follow-up. This figure stems from the fact that sales forces, in many instances, have recently been professionalized, so processes and tools are not fully streamlined. However, in many other cases, sales forces push to keep doing care tasks, believing that they add value in the sales cycle by controlling the end-to-end process and by building rapport with clients, which could be leveraged in subsequent sales.

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4. Motivating the sales force Getting commissions and incentives right is the most critical factor in managing sales forces, motivating reps to stay committed and productive while maintaining the right level of profitability. Low incentives or rigid schemes lead to idleness, lack of proactivity, and the neglect of activities outside the compensation scheme. Moreover, because recent multichannel strategies require that commissions be shared among channels, they have to be designed properly to maintain motivation, foster collaboration, and avoid conflicts between channels that can result in loss of sales or decrease in customer satisfaction (see Exhibit 7, next page). In general, four main types of levers should be used in the overall design of the scheme: 1. Base commissions offer fixed payments for given transactions, normally established periodically in the case of internal sales reps or determined in the distribution contracts with external sales reps. Alternatives include shifting from fixed to dynamic values depending on the specific sales rep’s performance compared with that of the overall sales team. In the case of a highly competitive, discountdriven market, a further possibility is the use of different commission levels depending on the discount offered in the transaction. 2. Bonuses and variable remuneration schemes are linked to the fulfillment of certain objectives and must be aligned with the operator’s multichannel strategy through a system that incentivizes sales, care, and the creation of leads for other channels. This common strategy is vital to avoid conflicts between channels and requires an agreement between the managements of the different channels. Key to this lever is gross adds — if a sales rep can get a bonus by achieving a certain number of gross adds, that can foster intense competition with agents from other channels, such as call centers, unless there exists a double booking system that fosters collaboration instead. Some schemes use net adds as a way to motivate sales reps who either concentrate solely on keeping their existing customers or have high levels of new gross adds while neglecting their portfolios of current customers. 3. Airtime or revenue-sharing schemes — wherein a sales rep is paid a percentage of the client’s bill as remuneration — are based on customer usage. These schemes are highly dependent on the homogeneity of client portfolios’ total value in order to ensure

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Exhibit 7 Typical sales force commission schemes

Average revenue per user

Segment profile

Value proposition

Customer approach

Multi-office companies By sector of activity

Sophisticated portfolio Significant weight on information, communications, and technology (ICT) and tailored solutions Medium complexity Increasing weight on ICT and tailored solutions Massive offering with add-ons Very limited weight on ICT solutions Massive offering

Large corporate
Mono- and multi-office companies High heterogeneity in customer base Professionals, small businesses, and home offices

Key-account management, complemented by engineers, specialists, and dedicated care resources Direct communication

SMEs

Multichannel approach, ranging from sales forces to shops Direct communication High importance of point-of-sale shops Limited action from sales task forces High importance of point-of-sale shops Commercial actions meant to attract customers to shops Very high Medium Very low

Small offices and home offices (SoHos)

Individuals

Residential

Source: Strategy& analysis

similar conditions for all sales reps. The success of these schemes also depends on the nature of the operator’s market. In mature markets with steady revenues, airtime can become a fixed commission, resulting in “sleeping beauties” — sales reps whose client portfolios generate enough airtime to make them profitable without having to work hard. In emerging markets, sales reps may attain their objectives by doing nothing but following the market as it grows. And in declining markets, the value of the commission will quickly decrease as clients reduce their spend, leave, or churn. Nevertheless, the proper use of this lever can foster loyalty on the part of sales reps because it provides easy money and predictable commissions, and it encourages long-term partnerships among sales reps, dealers, and the operator itself.

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There are also revenue-sharing models based on the increase of revenues in each given client portfolio, paying higher commissions to sales reps with above-average performance, and lower commissions, or none, to those below average. Although this model introduces complexity in the calculations and requires transparency into the activities of all sales reps, it can produce excellent results. 4. Other commissioning levers can be used tactically to solve certain shortcomings of local operations when the operator is increasing the number of channels or wants to push certain products and services. For instance, in emerging markets that require establishing sales forces in new territory, distributors can be rewarded for attaining and maintaining a minimum number of sales reps in a specific region, thus allowing a network of field forces to be deployed quickly. 5. Supporting the sales force All too often, operators neglect to focus on the critical enablers such as IT tools and back-office processes needed to keep their sales forces running efficiently, considering them instead to be noncritical activities that limit resources and divert attention from the task at hand. Such assumptions are not only false, but also very risky, and can ruin a good sales strategy. Operators need to keep in mind six enabling areas when setting up a new operating model for their SME sales forces. These can be broken up into customer-oriented enablers and management-oriented enablers. Among the customer enablers are the following: 1. Tools and processes: In practice, sales reps have to deal with a wide range of tools to perform their daily activities: product catalogs, product and price configurators, systems to enter orders, systems to register their visit plan and their commercial funnels, systems to communicate with other channels, and so on. In addition to those tools, customer relationship management tools — either commercial software or in-house solutions — have become increasingly popular in recent years. These systems provide sales reps with extensive and comprehensive data on each customer and its interactions with every channel, and allow them to integrate or merge other tools, such as leads, alarms, visit plans, and tracking and reporting activities. The more highly integrated these tools are, the better — spreading these various functions across different company systems makes them less effective and harder to use.

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Finally, back-office tools and processes should also be streamlined to support sales forces in low-value tasks, such as customer activations, service and order fulfillment, and account management, allowing reps to focus on higher-value tasks. 2. Standardization: Practices and processes should be standardized among the sales force. A uniform sales force acting as a single body reinforces the channel strategy, builds the brand, and facilitates daily operations like replacing sales reps and exchanging customer portfolios among reps. A sales handbook is highly recommended for training sales forces and promoting standardization and integration. 3. Skills training: A sales rep’s professional credibility depends on the ability to understand actionable data sets and articulate compelling selling offers, along with the ability to understand, influence, and address customer needs. In the market today, as operators work on moving from transactional to more binding relationships with customers based on a consultative sales process, their sales forces require training in new skills both on the job and in ad hoc workshops. Enablers on the management side include the following: 4. Management and planning: The successful telecom sales rep must be developed carefully, ensuring that his or her skills and activities are fully aligned with the operator’s overall strategy. In the case of internal sales reps, the human resources department should develop a career path that builds pride within the sales force and provides an attractive value proposition. Management must be actively engaged in setting the direction of their sales forces and assisting reps in building rapport with customers. Managers should help motivate their reps by monitoring their activities, assisting in planning weekly customer visits, helping solve problematic situations, sharing best practices in terms of developing and capturing customers, and building pride by inspiring and deepening their relationships with their teams. 5. Key performance indicator monitoring systems: To attain their annual objectives, managers must maintain efficient tools, such as dashboards and monitoring matrices, to track sales activity, monitor customer satisfaction, and keep track of contact planning with clients. Such tools will allow managers to assess their sales force’s performance and efficiency based on historical and current performance, make decisions using real data, and define customized plans and supervision strategies accordingly.

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6. Culture: More and more telecom customers are demanding bundles of fixed and mobile services, encouraging operators to merge their fixed and mobile sales teams. Doing so, however, can provoke cultural clashes between the teams. Merging these often very different cultures requires that values, attitudes, and behaviors be redefined, then communicated to and embraced by both sales organizations.

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Conclusion

Managing sales forces efficiently is a matter of making subtle compromises to find the right balance, as sales reps’ performance is dependent on a wide range of mostly interrelated levers. In the case of segments such as SMEs, the uncertainty and intrinsic complexity of the segment only increases the difficulty of the task. A clear commercial approach and a sustainable SME sales force model, however, open up considerable room for improvement and for capturing value. Although the number of variables that might need adjusting may seem huge and complex at first sight, a sensible model for sales reps can be achieved through a structured, holistic approach, combining strategic and tactical thinking, rigor in numbers, field observation, and common sense.

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