Sustaining “Jump-Start” Sales Initiatives

Many sales organizations dedicate substantial effort and resources to “jump-start” sales performance through tactics such as product campaigns, call blitzes, marketing events, and incentives. Typically, these efforts produce short-term performance increases in a targeted area. Frustrating for organizations, however, is the predictable performance snap-back which occurs once the catalyst which improved performance goes away. How can snap-back be avoided? The solution entails avoiding the pitfalls inherent to short-term tactics, human nature, and long-term change. By paying attention to four critical success factors – activities, measurement, management, and attitude – you can produce a return on investment which includes long-term success.

Right Activities
Most initiatives focus on one aspect of the sales process such as increasing the quantity of customer interactions, contact with targeted customers/prospects, or sales discussions of a particular need/product. The issue arises when management does not ensure there is focus on long-term high-impact activities salespeople must execute differently in conjunction with the “jump-start” objective. Product campaigns are prime violators. They motivate salespeople to “promote this product.” They don’t emphasize becoming proficient at how to uncover needs and promote product benefits relevant to the long term. The result is salespeople product pushing with a campaign-added price advantage for a short period of time. Performance reverts to previous levels once the promotion/sale pricing ends. The activity “promote this product” is not a long-term high-impact activity which integrates into a salesperson’s regular routine. To create long-term behavioral change, identify behaviors you want your sales team to integrate into their regular routine. Make sure to build the campaign around these behaviors instead of short-term results to truly drive long-term performance.

Measuring Results
Salespeople are predictable; what you measure, they will do. Deciding what is measured is vital. If you only measure results, salespeople will figure out how to use old short-term tactics to produce a quick lift. If you measure the right long-term activities you want completed differently in conjunction with results, you have a chance to motivate salespeople to do the right things, become comfortable and competent at something new, and generate increased success.

Sales management unconsciously minimizes its role in “jump-start” initiatives by assuming other groups are responsible for the initiative and its success. Most managers understand they must express support in large group settings. Few recognize the opportunity or responsibility to coach the high-impact activities stressed by a “jump-start” initiative which hold the key to sustaining change. Why is this missed? The organization focuses entirely on the sales staff and skips the critical step of equipping management to productively coach the real change desired. Management becomes so busy trying to make the initiative a success by inspecting whatever the program emphasizes they don’t think to look at what needs to be altered in their coaching to produce long-term change.

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