Creating a High-Performance Sales Force by Avoiding Common Roadblocks

Published: February 2020


Sales is critical to a company’s success, but so many things can go wrong with the way it is organized. We outline how organizations can overcome common roadblocks to success.

An organization’s sales force is its lifeblood. The mark of a high-performance sales team is, to put it simply, business growth. Naturally, nurturing this asset should be high on the priority list of an organization so they hit the ground running. However, a number of company-wide, fundamental roadblocks are responsible for hindering the effectiveness of the sales team. Some primary reasons include:

  • Organizations wanting to leverage talent and role profiling instead of developing the required talent or role,
  • A lack of pay-for-performance compensation models,
  • An inability to strike the balance between competitive sales commissions and controlling profit margins, and
  • Poor cost of sales to revenue ratio.

When your sales force is unmotivated, turnover naturally shoots up. And when these roadblocks persist, the supply of talented salespeople remains tight and quota achievement trends don’t engage salespeople.

Here are ways to overcome common roadblocks.

Monitoring Cost Ratios

It is impossible to turnaround a bottleneck without first being aware of its existence. Sales are coming in, money is going out, but how is an organization to gauge the numbers are running in line with expected profits? The answer is to closely track an important metric: Cost to Sales Revenue Ratio. This helps in determining the efficiency of sales operations. A good marketing ROI would be in the ratio of 5:1. This means for every dollar spent in marketing, five dollars are generated in sales. Benchmarking and managing the trends in key cost ratios can help identify issues that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Taking the Right Approach to Sales Compensation

Perhaps one of the most effective yet underestimated approaches to nurture worker happiness is a solid sales compensation plan. Organizations need to design a compensation plan that makes room for both monetary and non-monetary rewards for the services rendered by their salesforce. This will not only improve sales performance but will also encourage teamwork, reduce salesforce turnover and boost morale.

The key to designing a well-founded compensation plan is to align the approach with the growth of the organization. In short, the sales compensation approach should evolve with the company levers. The approach that worked for a startup will not effectively do so for companies that are in the stage of optimization. Startups ought to keep commissions, high-risk, simple territories and solo credit as the main features of their sales compensation approach. This changes as companies move into the early stage of their development cycle where we see introduction of moderate risk, split territories and split credit. Mid-stage development companies introduce quota/bonus and accounts/territories. Finally, companies that are in the stage of optimization must keep quota/bonus, bring their risk down, use segmented accounts and multiple credit.

Motivating Your Sales Force

An organization’s sales force is often strapped for time. They are also under constant attack from external factors (e.g., customer rejections, poor market scenario and change in technologies). Sustained sales success is largely dependent upon creating a highly motivated work culture driven by both monetary and non-monetary rewards.

Non-monetary incentives of acknowledgement and appreciation of a task well done can go a long ways in engaging employees and keeping costs down. When thinking about what non-monetary rewards to give, keep the following tips in mind:

  • A milestone is a milestone (regardless of whether they’re big or small); never compromise on recognizing every one of them
  • Give compliments that are specific and not generic
  • Let your trust in your team be evident both through your words and your actions
  • Encourage an open-door policy
  • Consider one day of the month be set apart as “Appreciation Day” where a standout team member is recognized (and this does not necessarily have to be the one with the month’s highest sales)

Gaining the Right Perspective

Sales is a stressful job. Companies can help alleviate the stress by shifting the focus of the team, in the interim, from something that cannot be influenced or controlled (sales results) to something that can be (sales activities). This includes tracking sales activities, monitoring performance using data (metrics such as emails, meetings, phone calls and marketing campaigns), not leaving a warm prospect sitting on the fence by constantly offering value, cold-calling “dream” prospects (yes, it still works!), and staying in line with the prospects’ recall with email outreach.

Granting a Sense of Ownership

Contrary to common thinking, granting a high-level ownership over projects improves the sense of responsibility and accountability of employees. It’s important to give up the driver’s seat to individual team members so everyone can feel heard and valued. Defining the goal of a project and not the path to get there is one way to do so. Another way is to allow a new member to lead the team for every new project.

Create Connections with Other Business Functions

Happy clients don’t necessarily equal happy team members. Businesses ought to focus on generating employee happiness by creating a sense of connection between the sales team and the other job functions. This connectedness will give each team a sense of being in the loop, and their effective collaboration will help in removing existing or potential communication gaps. Sometimes, the best approach to motivation can simply be a straightforward question directed at the team members, “What would motivate you?” You might be surprised with the answers.

Setting Smart Sales Quotas

Direction is more important than speed. To win big in the world of B2B sales, effective goal setting is a must. It allows the sales team to concentrate all their efforts in reaching the target set before them. But what could be worse than not setting goals at all? Setting the wrong ones! The wrong targets will lead to wasted time and missed opportunities.

Consider the following questions before setting your quotas:

  • How are my business processes run and what are its wider goals?
  • How can I best align my sales targets to meet these goals?
  • What methods can I adopt to achieve these targets?
  • How must I keep track of progress and improve on what I am already doing?

Next Steps

Building a strong and high-performing sales team is as much possible as it is imperative. The bottom line is, when it comes to a high-performing sales team, status quo will never suffice. Change is the only constant and timely action is key to success.

If you would like to speak with a member of our rewards consulting group about sales force compensation and effectiveness, please write to

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