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Improve commercial outcomes by charting the path of sales execution

by Dave Egloff  |  December 11, 2019  |  Submit a Comment

While most sales leaders set specific goals to guide their team, too few take the extra step to design a deliberate path for sales execution.  Laying out the specific path may feel like an unnecessary step.  However, when a recommended path is missing, sellers follow a personal path or perhaps execute along an unchartered course.  Either way, the risk of underperformance exists.  Plus, the risk magnifies for those who have longer sales cycles and/or a less transparent sales process.

A sales execution path does not need to be overly elaborate.  Instead, a simple structure with a few key guideposts will lead to improved outcomes.  These guideposts include:

  • Behaviors
  • Milestones
  • Outcomes

Illustrative Path of Execution for Cross-selling

Illustrative Path of Execution for Cross-selling

Sales execution begins with behaviors – what should sellers do?  Assuming sellers have the right skills, behavior statements suggest specific actions to take.  These statements also alert managers to areas to look for during a ride-along or focus on while coaching.  If sellers lack the skills to behave accordingly, sales leaders can build the skills by sharing examples of best practices or by working with their Sales Enablement function to develop targeted content.

Milestones serve as a preliminary but significant sign of progress along the charted path.  Unlike behaviors that might be a bit subjective, milestones should be objective and verifiable.  Plus, these intermediate accomplishments serve as a valuable, early indicator of future results.  Again, this is particularly valuable to sales leaders who might have longer sales cycles.

The desired outcome – typically a financial metric – serves as a capstone indicator of success that helps to align sales leaders and sellers.  Some sales leaders unknowingly have an issue in that their specific, desired outcomes are not supported by the sales rewards or recognition programs.  To be effective, specific outcomes should be supported by specific rewards.  Regrettably, broadly-designed performance metrics are frequently used instead.  Broad performance metrics likely reward total performance, which might sound acceptable, but can put a specific strategy (i.e. cross-selling) at risk.

With the path of sales execution defined, sales leaders guide sellers from behaviors through intermediate milestones to the desired outcome.  The suggested path removes the guesswork and improves the chance of success by giving leaders earlier signals of action and progress.

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Dave Egloff
Senior Director
1 years at Gartner
20 years IT Industry

Dave Egloff is a Senior Director, Analyst in the Gartner for Sales Leaders practice. His current work focuses on key initiatives in sales strategy, sales operations and sales compensation. Read Full Bio

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