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Science Trumps Artistry: Why Sales Benchmarking is the Next New Thing

by Matt Bertuzzi on Tue, Dec 02, 2008

I recently had the pleasure of reading "Making the Number" by Greg Alexander, Aaron Barels & Mike Drapeau of Sales Benchmark Index. I found the topic so interesting, I connected with Mike & asked him to write a guest post on the topic.

Note: You can also read Kevin Sasser's take over at The Sales Wars.

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The trend to sales benchmarking
In a down economy, sales forces will increasingly adopt scientific problem-solving techniques. Companies who grow will do so because they have successfully analyzed the key drivers of sales force execution. This analysis is much more than running canned reports from a CRM system that struggles with poor adoption. To truly accomplish this goal, Sales executives must re-think how they measure, manage, and assess their sales forces. Achieving sales force excellence through benchmarking provides a new source of competitive advantage.

Just when you think you know what sales benchmarking is
You might say, "so it's about sales and numbers, right? We have a CRM system and do our own analytics and even consult the latest research. So, I think we are already doing sales benchmarking."

Wrong.....

  • Sales benchmarking is NOT sales research - as the latter is typically concerned with taking polls, surveys, and measuring changes over time in people's opinions; it is not based on empirical data
  • Sales benchmarking is NOT sales analytics - as the latter involves assessing internal performance using lagging indicators

So just what exactly is sales benchmarking?
Sales benchmarking is the application of a discipline.  It is accomplished through a rigorous analysis of a company's sales function by comparing its performance across leading (not lagging) indicators of empirical data to that of an external but relevant peer group.

Sales benchmarking helps organizations:

  • Understand how to use data to uncover the root cause of individual sales problems
  • Drill down to the real issues preventing success
  • Connect the return to a quantifiable improvement in performance,

Furthermore, and more importantly, sales benchmarking enables the implementation of best practices to close the gap. It's no good to have a world-class diagnoses without a suitably effective world-class solution.

So where do I start? Sales process
Sales Benchmark Index has identified a subset of sales processes that deliver improved bottom-line results. These twelve sales processes are:  Account Planning, Budgeting, Channel Optimization, Compensation Planning, Expense Allocation, Sales Management, Sales Methodology, Staffing, Talent Selection, Technology Infrastructure, Territory Design, and Training.

Each process has its own metrics - some at an organizational level and others at an individual level. Again, the focus is on leading measures of performance.

Be first....be profitable.
The most successful practitioners of sales benchmarking gain competitive advantage  from combining data orientation with street smarts. By using benchmarking properly, they are able to draw an accurate picture of their operating environment, and from that picture sales managers can judge exactly what resources they need to make their numbers. Deploying sales benchmarking as a sustainable discipline allows organizations to better allocate their time, money, and resources so that they can focus selling activities on the best opportunities.

For more on the discipline and power of sales benchmarking, read the book, Making the Number: How to use sales benchmarking to drive performance. For more information visit http://www.makingthenumber.com/.

Topics: inside sales management, ask the experts

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