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How to give your sales force a competitive advantage

April 4, 2014 in Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Leadership, Sales Strategy, Sales Trends

Which sales trends will most affect your business?

How can you make the most of these changes?

How can you steer your sales strategy to deliver sustainable results?

How can you give your sales force a competitive advantage?

Barrett-Sales-Trend-Report-2014These questions were posed at the inaugural 12 Sales Trends Annual Business Breakfast hosted by Barrett.  Focusing on what to do in light of the 12 Sales Trends for 2014 – The Thinking Sales Organisation Peter Finkelstein, Barrett’s Head of Sales Strategy, presented a very enlightening and informative speech on what we can do and how we can navigate our way using the 12 Sales Trends of 2014 as signposts to help us stay ahead of the game and turn thinking into action.

This is the second of two articles and summarises the speech that Peter presented to a full house of engaged and interested leaders. You will also find the link to the 34 minute video of Peter’s full presentation.

Sales strategy is easy to define; however, making wise choices about where and how to compete, where and how to sell, and what to offer to defined groups of buyers so that the company can counteract the forces that threat to erode sales performance is an increasing challenge in markets today.

We are convinced that too many companies are slow to react or are failing to allocate resources to support their strategic thinking. As a result, they slow themselves down, eventually succumbing to their own inertia.

Being a Thinking Sales Organisation is going to be the only way to survive in 2014 and beyond

Sales managers who resist being strategic both as thinkers and interpreters are going to find themselves steadily falling behind their competitors, with increasing difficulty in being able to satisfy the demands of the markets.

Salespeople who don’t learn to think for themselves and who fail to be proactive are going to find their negotiating position being eroded.

And Senior Executives who fail to see sales as probably the single most important element of their value chain in 2014 are going to find the cost of survival becoming too expensive to maintain.

With these considerations in mind Peter shared some of his thoughts about the Thinking Sales Organisations.

Sales Trend 1 – Sales Managers will be forced to drive costs out of sales

  • Find ways to enable their teams to sell in smaller geographic territories and reach more customers in an area, at lower cost, in the process reducing the cost of delivery, service and support.
  • Focus on new and more efficient ways to service low value customers.
  • Saturation selling is going to become the way to penetrate segments and the Internet will become more proactive as a store-front.

telesales-need-to-rethink-operationsSales Trend 2 – Telesales will have to make dramatic changes

  • A more strategic sales approach by tele-sales
  • Tele-sales operations has to be a part of an overall strategic initiative, in tandem with the Internet, social media and field sales operations as one integrated sales organisation.

Sales Trend 3 – Sales Excellence Management will find its correct place in the chain

  • Re-incorporate sales excellence into the sales manager’s activities with the responsibility for sales excellence and improving sales performance
  • Give sales managers the freedom to be leaders instead of super-salespeople

Sales Trend 4 – Sales Training Methodologies will change dramatically

  • Salespeople will need more, not less training  but they will also have less time to be trained
  • The most effective way to achieve ongoing training is through a blended learning approach using e-learning, classroom work and in-field coaching.

micro-sales-segmentationSales Trend 5 – The move to ‘micro’ sales segmentation

  • Instead of relying on market segmentation which is usually two dimensional, the 3 dimensional Sales Segmentation is the better option  – Attractiveness of the Segment, Attraction of the Company to buyers in the segment and Competitiveness on a narrow front.
  • This three dimensional approach is what fundamentally changes the game.

Sales Trend 6 – The low carbon economy creates sales opportunities

  • The shift in consumer sentiment —research reveals that upwards of 80% of consumers agree that companies should be responsible for fixing the environment— presents opportunities for sales leaders to develop strategies to capitalise on their organisation’s commitment to the environment.
  • Low / no carbon organisations can develop a competitive advantage that uniquely and meaningfully differentiates them from rivals.
  • Effective sales strategies are including low / no carbon companies as part of their segmentation criteria so that they can partner with like minded buyers.

Sales Trend 7 – The normalising of social media in sales

  • According to Forbes Magazine salespeople who use social media to sustain contact with prospects have a 78.6% better performance level than those who don’t.
  • Businesses need to ramp up their use of social media as part of their sales strategy to create real-time content and contacts.
  • Social media is rapidly becoming the window for salespeople to learn to listen and look through and engage with their buyers.
  • Those organisations that have social media strategies where salespeople are trained to use the medium are winning.
brain gears

Brain Gears of Smart Leaders

Sales Trend 8 – A radical shift in sales mindset

  • The Internet has enabled people to have human-to-human conversations.
  • Really effective sales leaders are implementing sales strategies that embrace this mindset and are pushing companies to move from competition to collaboration, from me to us; from talking at, to conversing with customers.
  • Encouraging everyone in the organisation to be meaningfully connected, in some way to the organisation’s customers.
  • Good selling is about helping people (customer, buyers, etc .) be successful. Finding ways to collectively achieve goals.
  •  The old supremacy and dominance sales model, where customers treated suppliers as vendors or minions has died.

Sales Trend 9 – Procurement Managers will become solutions salespeople too

  • Increased complexity and risk means that procurement has to assume responsibility for the creation and delivery of meaningful value.
  • Develop sales strategies that identify ways to help procurement deliver more internal value to their organisations
  • Get salespeople to change their mindset about procurement and look at developing the most reasonable partnership for these two.
Sales Strategy

Sales Strategy

Sales Trend 10 – Sales Strategy will become a legitimate leadership function

  • Sales Strategy is becoming a hot discipline for management.
  • Along with business and marketing strategies, sales strategy is now playing a leading role at the C-Level decision-making.
  • Management will look for more effective ways to prepare their sales teams for customer interactions and develop saturation strategies for covering every opportunity in a segment.

Sales Trend 11 – Selling in the Asian Century

  • A China strategy is needed for Australian business. Companies recognise the need to develop deeper engagement with their Chinese counterparts.
  • Australian salespeople will therefore need to study China, travel, live, work and speak Chinese.
  •  While our cultural links with Europe remain and our alliance with the US endures, our economic links have switched to Asia. With China going to be the world’s largest economy the strategic challenge for Australia is quite unique – we either agree to ride the tiger or get eaten by it.

Sales Trend 12 – The Age of the Enlightened Salesperson has arrived

  • Companies need to make hard decisions about how they want their buyers to see them – as vendors or partners; as mere suppliers or sustainable sources of value.
  • They need to translate these considerations into strategy that provides direction and a clear mission for the sales force.
  • Enlightened salespeople recognise that they need to invest in themselves and market themselves.
  • Salespeople need to step up to the plate, take some initiative and invest in themselves.


To watch Peter’s presentation, follow this link.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

Are your invisible sales managers losing you sales?

April 15, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Sales Leadership, Sales Management, Sales Measures - Inputs & Outputs, Sales Results, Sales Skills

The number one priority for any sales manager is to lead and drive the effective sales performance of their sales team.  The only way a sales manager can achieve this is by being AVAILABLE and RESPONSIVE to his/her sales team.  What does this actually mean in real world terms?

working with your sales team

working with your sales team

This means getting out from behind your desk, ditching any excessive administration, leaving internal meetings and getting out in the field and working with your sales teams. If you want to drive and lift sales performance you need to be out in the field working with your sales teams at least 26-30 weeks a year.

That’s right, at least 26-30 weeks a year in the field!  The more time you are out in the field actively coaching and developing your team: working on deals together, helping them develop their sales/territory plans to find new markets or avenues into new or existing accounts, making sure they are skilful at selling, etc, the more sales you and your team will make.  NB: This does not mean that you do the selling for your sales team which is also another issue for another time.

Yet too many sales managers remain invisible to their sales teams.  Salespeople are lucky if they get any one-on-one time from their sales managers, let alone effective coaching and support.


Because most sales managers in most organisations are being drowned in administrative paperwork, endless meetings and interference from other departments.  The following table is an excerpt from a recent large study undertaken by The Sales Management Association in the USA looking at Sales Management Activities. 

Sales Management Activities

Front line sales manager

Mid tier sales manager

Top level (senior) sales manager







Company administration







You can see already that the Actual versus Desired for company administration is way out of balance by a factor of 3 for the front line and mid tier sales manager – whose job is really to do that coaching and development in the field.  Sadly, on average only 26% of the sales managers’ time was actually spent in the field working with their sales teams.

This backs up other studies which have been undertaken over many years.  As we wrote recently, salespeople have a hard time getting enough real face time to sell because of other extraneous company activities put upon them.  And so it is with Sales Managers.  This is just one study of many showing how sales managers are being robbed of doing their real jobs.

So why is this happening?

obsessed with numbers

obsessed with numbers

Two reasons:

  1.  Over the years companies have been removing the sales support functions from sales managers and teams trying to cut overhead costs, saving money… the consequence is making the administrative work load for sales managers worse, robbing them of doing their real jobs.  I was reminded of a saying the other day: ‘you cannot save yourself rich’ 
  2. Obsessed with numbers, too many senior management teams are turning their sales leaders and, especially their field sales managers, into number crunching desk jockeys.   Time in motion studies reveal that each level of sales management spends more than 50% of their time with other internal functions instead of in the trenches with their sales teams and customers.

The consequence is that most sales managers’ time allocation is inefficient, leading to lost sales and poor growth. However, most sales managers believe their time should be weighted more to customer and market facing activities. With less time spent on administration. No surprise really.

Findings also show that the more sales managers are in the field working with their salespeople on customer and market activities the more positively this is correlated with sales growth.

The root cause for sales management inefficient time allocation is directly correlated to senior management influences.

So how do you change this?

Like freeing sales people up to have more live selling time, businesses need to free up their sales managers to have more field time with their sales teams.

Organisation should mandate that sales managers spend time in the field with their sales people in the real market place. The figures below are what is recommended for a full time sales manager:

  • 3 days/week in the field for mid tier sales managers
  • 3.5 days/week in the field for front line sales managers

The Sales Management Association study also recommends that businesses need to:

  1. Limit and control the impact other internal departments have on the sales managers
  2. Limit the amount of reporting sales managers have to do
  3. Make sure that sales management and leadership have a direct input into business strategy planning – involve them at the start
  4. Limit internal demands made on front line sales managers which reduces their external focus.

This is not new to Barrett either, we see this ineffective use of sales managers’ time and talent daily.

creating and leading fit viable sales teams

creating and leading fit viable sales teams

The reality is sales leadership and sales management is not about selling itself, it is about creating and leading fit viable sales teams that can sell!  In fact when one examines the role of the modern sales leader it quickly becomes evident that there just isn’t time to sell. Equipping sales leaders and sales managers to perform the tasks for which they are responsible, and sustaining the momentum of the sales force in its drive for incremental value and volume, at the same time as continuously improving the customer experience, is a challenge that demands a high degree of maturity, dedication, focus, extraordinary leadership skills – and of course, adequate time in the field to make this all happen.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au 

How much valuable selling time are you wasting?

March 27, 2013 in Education in Sales, Sales Culture, Sales Leadership, Sales Management, Sales Motivation & Rewards, Uncategorized

When it comes to sales productivity and sales performance many companies are shortchanging themselves and, unfairly blaming their salespeople for poor sales performance results.

How can that be? Well too many businesses pay salespeople for business development and then lumber them with non-revenue, non customer oriented activities such as administration, unnecessary internal meetings, service delivery or transactional account problems.  And whilst acknowledging that these are very much a part of managing the client’s experience and classified under the sales portfolio, the haphazard manner in which these are structured does little to encourage optimal live and productive sales activity on the part of the sales person.

stop and reflect on what is optimal for their business

stop and reflect on what is optimal for a business

In a recent study conducted by Barrett we found that amongst salespeople in Australia, South Africa and Europe, too many companies are restricting the effectiveness of their sales forces by overburdening their salespeople with functions that should and could be performed more efficiently by a Sales Support team and other non-revenue generating functions in the company.  However, often too busy to stop and reflect on what is optimal for their business, companies rarely take the time to actually look at how their salespeople are investing their time.

Interestingly though, when companies perform a Sales Activity Assessment on their sales operations including running time-in-motion studies on their field sales teams and speaking to customers,  they often find  that the their salespeople are doing anything but selling.

Here is an example of a recent sales activity assessment time-in-motion study on the activities of a large Australian field sales force that was experiencing a steady decline in sales revenue.   Their results were compared to an international benchmark for sales activities.

The international benchmark for sales activities in major cities, against which this company’s sales force activities are being compared reveals that salespeople on the road (as opposed to call centres) spend time, in each of the six areas of sales activity, as revealed on the table below…

Sales Activity


Barrett Client Company



6.95 hours


2.70 hours

Face-to-Face Selling


8.51 hours


8.55 hours

Servicing Customers


7.56 hours


5.83 hours

Organisational Activities


9.91 hours


16.20 hours

Travelling and Waiting


8.55 hours


9.00 hours

Personal / Miscellaneous Activity


3.52 hours


2.70 hours

   “Face-to-Face Selling” is defined as those meetings where the intent of the sales person making the call was to induce a purchase, as opposed to relationship building, service, problem solving calls etc.

As can be seen from the Barrett Client Company study, whilst there are differences in some of the areas, particularly the amount of Organisational Activity (Client company x 36.0% against a model of 22.02%) and Prospecting (Client Company 6.0% against a model of 15.46%), in the crucial area of face-to-face selling, there is no great variance between the client company and the model.

Specifically in the Barrett Client Company study you will notice that the salespeople in this business are being pulled into Organisational Activities and Servicing Customers  49% of the time which means the sales person time is spent in administration, organising and transactional customer service activities instead of being invested in what they are paid to do, and that is selling.

This issue is not only the problem of this company.

What is also evident, from both the Barrett Client Company study and international models is that salespeople have very little time to perform their primary responsibilities – i.e. induce a purchase (face-to-face selling).

Note: The International Benchmark presented here does not equal the notion of Best Practice.  It is just representing the current state of play in the field sales force world.

doing internal jobs

Organisational Activities and Servicing Customers

We understand that a field sales person cannot be Selling 100% of the time, however, giving salespeople the space and time to sell is critical.

As a sales person we need and want to do as much as we can for our company and our customers. But in the end, a sales person’s and a sales team’s success is going to be measured in terms of targets achieved or missed.

So if you are in a sales team that spends 15% or more of its time on these distractions it’s time to talk to your sales management and senior leadership group.

Ask what they expect:  More Sales or more time on Service & Deliveries?

If it’s the latter, ask them to reduce your sales targets so that you don’t feel as if you are underachieving.  If you do then you’ll soon find sales management and senior leaders will find other ways to address these distractions that keep you from selling and instead let you get on and sell.

If this is an issue for you and assess your Sales Team’s Sales Intelligence and current perception of their roles or conduct a Sales Activity Assessment on your business please contact us on (+61) 0395330000 or email contact@barrett.com.au

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrettwww.barrett.com.au 

Leadership in Uncertain Times

March 14, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Business Acumen, Education in Sales, Sales Leadership, Sales Management

In December 2012, like in the previous years, we published the 12 Sales Trends Report for 2013 and released a brief summary of each trend. Throughout the year we will look into each of them a little deeper. This month we are focusing on the Sales Trend “Leadership in uncertain times”.

Extreme uncertainty is the new norm.  Living in a constant state of fear and anxiety only leads to more fear and anxiety. Research shows that highly distracted or stressed people don’t and can’t innovate and change and without purposeful leadership and reason to change people will stand still and be left behind, trampled in the rush to the future. 

In times of uncertainty, leadership is required more than ever; leadership that can take us into the unknown; pioneering if you will.

This sales trend predicts managers of all persuasions, especially sales managers, will have to take on leadership roles and reduce their dependence on ‘processes only management’ and technical gadgets to ‘fix’ sales and business productivity issues.  In uncertain times managing processes will only get you so far and then what?  No more hiding behind the desk and excel spreadsheets; no more looking for shortcuts so you don’t have to deal with people; no more leaving good sales performers alone and booting out the poor performers with no interventions. It’s time to lead.  And this means taking risks – calculated risks.


taking a calculated risk

Smart companies realise that great leaders are great enablers.  The rules have fundamentally changed; what was once the norm is now obsolete: no playing it safe; sales leadership needs to be founded on sound thinking around new sales strategies and ways of operating, personal courage and conviction in adversity, and a willingness to experiment and pilot new ideas supported by learning and relearning.  Taking risks to design and develop sales teams of the future will be the hallmark of these new sales leaders along with building and earning trust and respect for all the right reasons.

Rethinking Sales Strategy

According to a recent international survey conducted by UK consulting firm Value Partnership there are some real issues facing businesses, especially big business when it comes to taking a One Company global approach. Many large complex global companies were taking a ‘one company’ approach but were struggling with what aspects of their business should be global and what should remain local.  Still confused many were trying to solve this dilemma by still focusing on structure instead of mindset and behaviours.  One company said it was shifting from hopelessly local to mindlessly global. Which continues to highlight the crisis in leadership we are facing.

Ownership of sales strategy

Effective sales leaders know only too well that their challenge it to take the overarching strategy of their organisation (global &/or national) and localise it to their markets and country so their sales teams can make it work. Giving sales leaders the freedom to make the overarching strategy work in their domain is critical especially for international and global businesses.


Cultivating effective leaders and sales leaders will be the key; training them in ‘how to think’ about their business, market and value chain not just telling them ‘what to think’ is critical.  Developing their capabilities around creating and delivering sales strategies; being effective sales leaders; applying sales management functions; sales coaching; account planning; mapping sales force structure; finding and managing sales talent; monitoring and managing sales performance; as well as creating a climate of trust, collaboration and action.  

Effective sales leaders need to develop their own leadership style and have courage to be themselves. They establish their own vision and purpose as a leader and understand and respect that each person is different and accordingly adapt themselves and their leadership approach based on the levels of maturity of their sales people and teams.

Smart companies are realising they need their sales mangers to shift from being ‘super salesmen’ (as many are still today) to being effective sales leaders.  Training, coaching and educating sales managers to become effective sales leaders is complex yet doable and will be on the agenda of smart companies in 2013 and beyond.


Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au 

Images used: Uncertain Times by Amy Casey 

Mastering the Sales Management Essentials

February 5, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Business Acumen, Coaching, Education in Sales, Sales Coaching, Sales Forecasting, Sales Leadership, Sales Management

What are the Sales Management Essentials and how do we master them?  Well firstly Sales management and leadership is not about selling!

In fact when one examines the role of the modern sales leader it quickly becomes evident that there just isn’t time to sell. Equipping sales leaders to perform the tasks for which they are responsible, and sustaining the momentum of the sales force in its drive for incremental value and volume, at the same time as continuously improving the customer experience, is a challenge that demands a high degree of maturity, dedication, focus and extraordinary leadership skills.

Tragically many sales managers are promoted to this crucial role without the training and development that this demanding role requires. Too often these managers end up as little more than highly paid “super salespeople”. 

The brutal facts in today’s world of sales management…

  • brutal-facts-gunSales leaders are given very little or no support when it comes to being a competent, effective sales managers.
  • In most instances the majority continue to learn their craft by observing their managers and then replicating both the strengths and faults.
  • Today’s sales mangers perpetuate the mistakes of their managers.
  • Few sales leaders receive formal training in “sales management” practices – either before or during their tenure.
  • Sales management training happens less than annually or not at all.
  • Even where sales leadership is relatively mature, managers do not know what standards to use to coach and develop their teams.


The sureness of our success

  • If sales managers are more frequently and better trained and coached themselves, their sales teams achieve higher performance and results.
  • No other type of sales training has a more positive correlation between frequency of training and sales performance.

Whilst much is made of the role of sales leaders as coaches, little attention is given to the other crucial roles performed by effective sales leaders, beyond coaching and / or themselves being “super sales / relationship people”. 

With more than 40 years field research and experience observing and addressing sales and sales leadership challenges, Barrett has been able to highlight 8 fundamental functions of sales leadership which provide sales managers with the knowledge, skills, confidence and competence to…

  • Define sales strategy and see to its implementation
  • Develop, implement and monitor sales systems
  • Inculcate sales disciplines that support a performance culture
  • Stimulate innovation and change
  • Select and build sales teams
  • Train, teach and coach sales teams
  • Facilitate territory management plans that support strategy


sales management essentials

click to see our sales essentials website

These 8 Sales Management Essentials are:

  1. Creating and managing sales systems, processes and protocols
  2. Supporting the sales effort and instilling disciplines
  3. Developing and managing sales strategies
  4. Stimulating and managing change
  5. Managing sales performance, budgets and targets
  6. Sustaining commitment to the organization
  7. Developing, training and coaching
  8. Selecting sales team members and stimulating individual talent


Sales management and leadership is a multifaceted role. Mastering these 8 functions is not easy however raising awareness and making these functions visible is the first step to sales management and sales leadership mastery.  Let’s get these topics in the sales leadership agenda and stop selling and start getting sales management fit.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.
Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au 


PS: If you are interested in attending the Sales Management Essentials 5 day intensive workshop in 15-19 April 2013 please contact us to book your place or call (+61) 03 95330000.

Who is it for: Barrett Sales Management Essentials is designed for sales managers and people moving into a role in sales management who want to ensure they are current with sales management best practice.

Until now no single program has provided sales leaders with a complete curriculum of sales management and leadership skills and techniques.

Participants will leave this unique workshop with an entire portfolio of skills, systems and competencies, including…

  • How to create an effective sales strategy that supports the organisation’s focus;
  • how to develop, map and monitor territory plans;
  • how to profile what characteristics are required in salespeople and then how to interview and staff the sales operation;
  • how to introduce sales systems that enhance productivity and establish reward mechanisms to inspire top level performance;
  • how to manage under-performing salespeople, map customer, account, new business development and prospecting strategies and skills;
  • effective solution selling skills; including questioning, listening, analysis, problem solving, solutions development, influencing, integrating and closing. 


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