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Achieving High Performance by Transforming Sales Operations

Jun 8, 2008
The drive to achieve high performance through sustained top-line growth is dominating the strategic agenda of most global companies today, and that has placed an even more intense focus on the productivity of sales organizations. Many corporate leaders have been trying to meet the challenge to generate growth and improve sales effectiveness by focusing on process improvements, cost reductions, sales tools and training however for most, sales results are not paying back the investment in improvement initiatives.

Our research and experience points to the fact that many companies are devoting inadequate attention and resources to their sales operations - the processes, infrastructure and administrative support that underpin everything a sales organization and its people do. If they are to achieve and sustain high performance, companies must focus their sales effectiveness programs more pointedly at the transformation of their sales operations.

Why is the operational dimension so critical to achieving high performance through sales effectiveness? Operations serves as the vital two-way conduit between the customer and the rest of the organization. It's the essential layer that enables activities such as placing the order and working with finance, accounting and legal. It's directly responsible for managing the enterprise through the sales person to the customer, as well as from the customer to the sales person and back into the enterprise.

Unfortunately, back-office cost reductions have left sales organizations gasping for air from an operational perspective: Not enough hours in the day to meet sales quotas; too much time spent on administrative tasks and not enough time spent actually selling. The cost-reduction squeeze on the sales organization and/or back office functions has simply inflated the amount of administrative time spent by the sales force, leaving less breathing room for sales discussions with customers.

Accenture believes that a transformation initiative with the goal of driving high performance through reengineered sales operations should proceed according to the following general steps:

* Diagnose current sales and operations spending and capabilities - Companies often have inadequate visibility into how much they are spending on sales operations because the various related activities are splintered across other functions such as finance, IT and supply chain. Executives see the budget numbers at the aggregate level, but may not adequately understand where spending is redundant or broken at the process level.

* Consider "core" vs. "context" processes - A critical step in getting a handle on the operations needed to support a sales team is to consider what we call "core" sales operations activities versus those more appropriately considered as "context". Core functions such as the sales advisory role, customer solution support, contract initiation and reporting should be retained. Context activities such as quotes, credit approvals, contract development and order management can be done effectively and at less cost by pulling them out into a shared service center.

* Tailoring a set of sales operations transformational programs to strategic goals and existing capabilities -companies can then design a transformational program right for them. Whether or not a company chooses a shared services or outsourcing solution as part of sales operations transformation, companies will still reap the benefits of standardized, modularized and consistent processes.

* Achieving high performance in a complex selling environment - high performance businesses know how to transform simultaneously along two dimensions: They can improve their company's ability to meet short-term quarterly expectations, even as they are re-engineering on the fly to support future plans.

Transforming sales operations can result in improved sales performance and increased margin optimization. Companies can realize comprehensive benefits by improving sales operations: reduced expenses, an increased rate of sales, more repeat sales and improved margin optimization.
About the Author
Accenture's Electronics & High-tech industry group offers management consulting, technology-strategy and implementation services to all segments of this exceptionally dynamic industry. Read the full article on Achieving High Performance by Transforming Sales Operations . Send an email to Patty Crawford (patricia.l.crawford@accenture.com) if you would like one of our pricing specialists to meet with you.
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