The Four Pillars of Sales

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Every sales team is supported by the same four functions, whether it's composed of an entrepreneur selling his own product or thousands of professional salespeople working for a huge corporation. If any one of these supporting functions is not up to par, then the team will not be able to work up to its full potential. The four pillars of sales are:

Sales Operations

Operations provides the day-to-day structure of sales.

Weekly meetings, call logs, schedules, forms and contracts, sales goals and quotas – these are all part of the sales operations for a company. This pillar provides a framework within which the sales team can function. A well-designed sales operation helps the team work at maximum efficiency, letting salespeople spend as much time as possible doing actual selling. At the same time, it should provide the necessary data to track each salesperson's performance. A poorly designed sales operation bogs the sales team down in endless reams of paperwork and pointless meetings, while failing to provide a means of tracking their performance.

Sales Process

The sales process is the specific A-to-Z approach that the sales team takes to close a sale. It starts from the moment they open a lead list and ends either with a successful sale or with abandoning the attempt to sell to that particular person or business.

Some companies have sales processes that continue even after a sale is closed, to cover how salespeople handle existing customers. A good sales process provides a clear, defined path for each salesperson to take yet has enough flexibility to allow for some improvisation. It's a roadmap that allows the sales team to secure as many prospects as possible.

A poor sales process is an impediment to the team, requiring them to take unnecessary steps or simply leaving each salesperson to make up his or her own process.

Sales Coaching

The sales manager is usually responsible for coaching her sales team. Coaching is the process of keeping a close eye on each salesperson to see how they are doing from day to day and week to week. A salesperson who is struggling can turn to the coach for help and guidance. One who is doing well can expect praise and rewards from the sales coach. A good sales coach is on top of the performance data gathered by the sales operation and uses it to detect problems. She talks with her salespeople on a regular basis, whether or not they are having trouble. She knows what assistance to offer and when a particular salesperson simply isn't cutting it and needs to be removed from the team. And she is lavish and public in her praise of salespeople whose performance goes above and beyond. A poor sales coach either leaves her team floundering, or takes the opposite approach by putting them under a microscope and monitoring their every second, giving them the impression she doesn't trust them.

Sales Training

Every salesperson, from the guru who's been in the business for decades to the brand-new rep who was hired last week, must keep learning and growing to be effective.

A sales training plan, usually executed by the sales manager, is an essential tool in keeping the team up to date and offering them new and different ways to sell. The market is constantly changing and salespeople must keep up with those changes. Often a company's product offerings shift over time, meaning salespeople need to be informed of those changes and understand what they mean for the customer. And salespeople are prone to falling into ruts when they use the same script or presentation every single time. Such salespeople need to shake up their approach and try something new before they get totally stale. A good sales training plan allows for all of these factors and makes it easy for salespeople to acquire the knowledge they need in a form that works for them. A bad sales training plan either eats up too much of the sales team's time, provides knowledge that they don't need, or leaves salespeople struggling to craft their own training systems.

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