The adaptive sales force: Five steps for staying aligned with customers

Published: January 9, 2007

Executive summary

Multinational companies spend billions of dollars each year compensating their salespeople and sales management, and for good reason: A sales force is among a company’s most critical assets. The role of the sales force is becoming increasingly important as markets become more competitive, products commoditize, and companies focus more on organic growth.

Yet at the same time, it is increasingly difficult to maintain a high-performing sales force, especially if an industry or a company is undergoing significant change. Internal strategic shifts, deregulation and globalization, changing customer needs, and competitors’ moves are just a few of the shocks that can knock the sales force out of alignment with customers. Given the increasing prevalence of these issues, it is unsurprising that we hear statements like the following, not only from sales executives, but from leaders throughout the C-suite:

  • "We get the highest rating from our customers for our products. Yet we continue to lose market share."
  • "It has become a common end-of-year practice for us to make up sales shortfalls in our strategic accounts by driving a lot of smaller deals on overly generous terms."
  • "Our salespeople have great relationships with our accounts, but we are never invited to the big purchasing decisions."
  • "Our customers are looking for a one-stop source, yet our salespeople don’t cross-sell."
  • "Despite the fact that sales are going up, we miss our sales targets every year."

In such a business environment, companies must be willing to revamp their sales force on a regular basis, perhaps as often as every two or three years. We call this new imperative the Adaptive Sales Force.

Download

The adaptive sales force: Five steps for staying aligned with customers