Supporting the Selling Process: What Organizations Can Do

Supporting the Selling Process: What Organizations Can Do

The job of selling comes with a unique set of challenges. Salespeople are out there every day—risking rejection to advance their organization, struggling to outsell the competition, trying to identify and stay on top of new opportunities, and making time to enhance relations with existing customers.

It’s true that many salespeople are self-motivated. Even the most motivated, however, benefit from organizational support— and can suffer when it’s missing. It is this support that can move average performers into the top ranks and help top players polish their star.

What types of support do they want? Here is what some salespeople in our research had to say.

  • Focus. “I have so much going on, I can easily get distracted. I use the compensation plan to focus. . . . It’s hard to stay focused on abstract concepts like a ‘business plan.’ So if our comp plan rewards new business, that’s what I’ll go out and get.” (Salesperson)

  • Information. “One way the organization distracts me is by not giving me the information I need. Last week, nobody could give me some pricing I desperately needed . . . so I made it up. This is time consuming and very stressful.” (Salesperson)

  • Useful tools. “I use a time-management software program that lets me track customers, keep to-do lists, everything. The ironic thing is I battled the company for years to let me use it. Now it’s the company standard.” (Salesperson)

Research Methodology

The study consisted of one-on-one interviews, surveys, and reviews of “critical incidences.” A total of 33 interviews were conducted from February to April, 2000, 24 with people in the United States and 9 with people from Italy, Switzerland, and Great Britain. The study focused on organizations ranging in size from 100 employees to more than 10,000 employees. They represented all business sectors, including heavy manufacturing, high-tech manufacturing, financial services, health and social services, business services, retail and distribution, transportation and utilities, government, and education.

More than 470 people responded to the survey. Participants in this part of the study were sales managers or salespeople, usually identified by a key contact within each organization. These responses generated more than 2,100 critical incidences. These were entered into a database along with information identifying participant characteristics. As a result of the analysis, these incidences were aggregated into a set of 16 selling competencies, and then further divided into the 5 key roles of effective salespeople.

Appendix B: Salesperson Competency Assessment

The following questionnaire is designed to help you assess this person’s sales skills and abilities. Please answer each question by circling the number that best represents your response. For each question, indicate the extent to which this person actually uses the skill described in the statement. Please keep in mind the following:

  • N means “Not applicable”

  • 1 means “Not at all”

  • 4 means “To some extent”

  • 7 means “To a very great extent”

Please feel free to use numbers between those described to accurately indicate the level of skill use. If a skill does not apply to your organization, circle N. The questionnaire is divided into 16 sections. In each section, look through the items and select the one where you feel this person needs to improve the most. For this item, place an “X” in the column marked “Area Needing the Most Improvement.”

click to expand

In this example, the answer indicates that, in your opinion, the extent to which this person focuses on client’s long-term interests is between “To some extent” and “To a very great extent.” Furthermore, you feel that focusing on clients’ long-term interests is the area in which this person needs the most improvement.

As you answer each item:

  • Think about the behavior and attitudes of this person. It might help to reflect on specific experiences.

  • Give your first impression when answering. Don’t spend a lot of time on any one item.

  • Be frank. Your responses are completely confidential. We want your candid response to each of these questions.

    click to expand

    click to expand

    click to expand

    click to expand