What drives sales force effectiveness



What drives sales force effectiveness

World over, companies spend humungous amounts of money on their sales force. Do those spends make their sales force effective? A Kellogg’s Insight article titled Sales Force Effectiveness based on the research of Andris A. Zoltners, Prabhakant Sinha and Sally E. Lorimer tries to answer this conundrum.

Zoltners and his team surveyed sales professionals on what makes a sales force effective. They pored over published articles on sales force issues. Then they synthesized the insights picked up from the surveys and published content. What emerged was a Sales Force Effectiveness Framework (SFEF)

The framework recognizes that a company typically responds to pressures from multiple sources such as Customers, competition and external macroeconomic factors. These responses translate into a sales and marketing strategy, which eventually influences the entire life cycle of sales. Accordingly, the SFEF reveals:

  • 5 categories of ‘drivers’ that determine sales force effectiveness.
  • Under each category, lists the sales management decision clusters or drivers, as shown below
  • Specifies Salespersons’ needs met by these clusters

1. Definers

Sales force design | Structure and roles | Sales force size Territory alignment

Needs met: Clarity of roles and territories. Fuzziness and ambiguity in ‘definers’ underlies poor performance.

2. Shapers

Hiring | Training | Coaching | Culture elements | Leadership | Sales leadership | Compensation and incentives

Needs met: Create the skills, capabilities and values necessary for success.

3. Enlighteners

Customer research | Data and tools | Customer relationship management

Needs met: Equip the sales force with knowledge and insights into Customer behavior.

4. Exciters

Culture | Leadership | Incentives | Motivation programs | Meaningful work

Needs met: Going beyond hygiene needs, inspiring the sales force to excel

5. Controllers

Culture | Sales leadership | Compensation and incentives | Performance measurement and management | Goal setting and forecasting | Coordination and communication

Needs met: Steering sales performance towards specific goals

Interestingly, some drivers find a place in more than one cluster. ‘Compensation and incentives’, for example, figure under both ‘Shapers’ and ‘Controllers’. This could be because these drivers meet multiple needs of salespersons. They are required together with hiring, training, coaching etc. not only to attract sales people, but also to steer their behavior towards preset goals.

Applying SFEF to real life sales

The article mentions success stories in applying the SFEF across organizations. Key takeaways:

  • Assess the effectiveness-quotient of every driver
  • Identify opportunities for high impact improvements
  • Implement an improvement plan and monitor progress

The results of these exercises were so encouraging, says the article that SFEF based assessments and improvement plans became a regular feature in those companies.


The article as published in the Kellogg’s Insights page is here.




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