It’s critical to connect your front-line sales team to company’s overall goals and strategy to drive profitable growth. We call these big goals the C-Level Goals℠ because they’re the most important objectives for the business. However, importance alone doesn’t get the organization to perform. C-Level Goals℠ often aren’t put into proper context for the sales team to understand why they’re important, how they can help achieve them, and how they can benefit from focusing their efforts on those goals.
How do sales team members understand contributions toward achievement? How do executives and sales leaders ensure the sales organization is keeping focus on business-critical activities?
Align goals with sales influence
Leading growth organizations in manufacturing build their programs to support achievement of specific targets within five key areas of the C-Level Goals℠:
Customer. What are the right types of companies and who are the right types of buyers for the business?
Product. What set of offerings will produce the most sales? Which products are most critical to the business and the brand? What are priorities for cross selling?
Coverage. What is the right mix of staff, routes to market and third-party channels to support current and project customers?
Financial. What growth results are necessary for revenue, profit, and market shares? How is ROI measured?
Talent. What types of skills and experience are required for various roles to execute strategy? Where does the organization need to build strength and where should it source new talent?
Within the Product goal area, for example, inventory management falls under operations. Sales has little influence here, except in limited activity like selling off excess inventory and selling orders that have a high likelihood of taking delivery or installing to improve levels. But often, these functions that don’t live within the sales organization find their way into sales measurement.
We worked with a food packaging manufacturer who runs a capital-intensive business with a great deal of property, plant and equipment expense. Making the best use of those assets is critical to the leadership team, so their C-Level Goals℠ included effective asset utilization that translated to measures like Economic Value Levels.
The challenge was that the leadership team included those operational measures as part of the front-line sales compensation plans. While the sales organization worked diligently, it had no understanding of how sales functions could impact those measures. This led to a disconnect between the company’s goals and the front line, which was underperforming against sales compensation targets. SalesGlobe redesigned the program, with input from the CEO, to change measures to those the sales organization could understand and control: primarily units, profitability, and day’s sales outstanding.
Operation measures were then applied for operations teams only. All teams then supported the overarching company strategy but in ways they could each directly contribute to its success. The company’s performance and ability to achieve its sales goals, with the revised compensation plans, increased substantially within the first year.
Create context and consistency
Sales goals need to be introduced within the context of a program, like sales compensation, with details about what they mean to each audience in the organization. And while it’s common practice to announce organizational goals or a new compensation plan in one major announcement plus reminders, the message often fades into memory. A best practice for communicating goals and programs is to treat communications as a campaign much like an advertising agency might, rather than an event. Campaigns are well-planned delivery systems that detail key audiences, message content by audience, proof points, communications channels and dates.
Manufacturing companies that employ campaign-based strategies to deliver goal information see the impact of their sales compensation program substantially improved. A steady stream of goal-focused messages that are crafted to reach specific audiences at specific times allows recipients to have a much clearer understanding of and continuous connection to the goals behind the plan.
Be accessible and visible
If every successful sales incentive plan is a communications device, then the C-level executives are the company’s chief communicators. Sales teams shouldn’t feel like they are separate from the mothership.
Executives who spend time with the front line, on the plant floor or with customers, and who have good relationships with sales management are perceived as valuing the contributions of sales rather than just expecting the team perform by remote control. Information sharing should go both ways to reinforce a one-team mentality. Whether the tactics include face-to-face conversations, small group gatherings, teleconferences or email, C-level executives who connect with sales teams create stronger relationships and see greater employee commitment to company goals achieve.
C-Level Goals℠ can be effectively translated to the front line with a well-designed approach to align them with sales functions, put them in context and reinforce them consistently. Manufacturing organizations that apply these strategies see greater results in sales achievement and overall company performance.
This article originally appeared in Manufacturing North America Issue 106.