How Effective Is Your Sales Coverage Model?

Your sales coverage model is a key component of your sales organization’s annual planning process – a process you may just be starting, are already in the midst of or recently rolled out. In our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study, only 37% of survey participants agreed that their sales coverage model effectively aligned resources to customers. (Click to tweet)

This means there’s plenty of room for improvement in the area of sales coverage model, but how often do you review the effectiveness of your sales coverage model? If you’re like many organizations, it likely happens only during the annual planning process, meaning once a year at most.

Before we continue, let’s take a closer look at what we mean by sales coverage model.

From an operational perspective, sales coverage model is about aligning the right resources with the right customers so that you can set achievable revenue goals and align your organization to reach those goals in the most effective manner.

From a customer engagement perspective, your sales coverage model defines how your sales organization (including channel partners) engages “on the ground” with your target customers. It’s where “the rubber meets the road.”

If your sales coverage model determines how your sales organization engages with customers, its effectiveness should be reviewed more than once a year. (Click to tweet)

As a sales operations leader, you can take the lead in helping to make that happen! A good start is to leverage the many analytics capabilities available in sales technologies today to compile insights on an ongoing basis and frequently review them with your sales leaders. Although implementing changes to your sales coverage model more than once a year is not realistic, periodically reviewing its effectiveness allows you to elevate sales coverage discussions during the annual planning process itself. (Click to tweet)

Let’s look at three things you can do to help you and your sales leaders elevate the sales coverage model discussion on an ongoing basis:

#1. Start with an open mind. (Click to tweet) When we think about designing a sales coverage model, both forward-looking and historical data are key inputs. If you want to start reviewing sales coverage model effectiveness more frequently than during your annual planning process, it’s important to keep an open mind. Be open to looking at data that may not be the “usual suspects” (e.g., total addressable market [TAM], forecasted and historical revenue, average deal size, deal velocity), and be open to reviewing available data with a new perspective.

Let’s look at an example where customer engagement concerns have increased as a result of multiple engagements with more than one salesperson. This could be due to rolling out a sales coverage model aligned with a new offering launch, merger and acquisition, or even divestitures (e.g., you shifted from a primary salesperson to multiple solution/offering-focused salespeople). For the customer, standard requests such as overall contract negotiations or customer references are now becoming unmanageable due to multiple, often misaligned sales engagements.

When looking at this scenario, keep an open mind as you investigate the root causes of the misaligned and unmanageable customer experience. It could be that rules of engagement within a shared account need to be revisited, or the sales compensation structure is driving a “focus on my own lane” behavior from your salespeople. It might be disparate internal processes for contract negotiations or customer reference requests… or maybe even salesperson capability. Don’t limit yourself to the first data point; rather, continue to ask “why” as you review multiple data points. You might eventually find there are many things contributing to the issue at hand, and resolution may be required in more than one area, coordinated with sales managers, sales enablement and even the legal team.

#2. Ask, listen, and ask them what they would do. (Click to tweet) To review sales coverage model effectiveness on an ongoing basis, compile insights from additional data that might be available outside of your usual go-to systems such as CRM. As noted earlier, your sales coverage model impacts customer engagement. Talk to your customers, your partners and your sales team. Expand the audience to include marketing, customer success and anyone who engages with the customer at one point in their purchase journey. Ask them what their engagement experience is like – what’s working and what could be improved. Then listen.

After you ask one question, listen and give them space to share their story. Resist the temptation to jump in and ask another question or add your own comments. It’s OK to ask clarifying or bridging questions such as, “What happened next?” as long as it helps the other person continue their story. Once they are finished sharing their story, ask them to share what they would do to improve the situation. Because they are the ones impacted by the engagement, which often is related to your sales coverage model in one way or another, they might suggest new ideas that you haven’t considered.

#3. Take advantage of your sales tech. (Click to tweet) As you gather new data points, don’t forget to take advantage of the various analytical and AI capabilities available in many of today’s sales technologies. For example, many call-recording technologies can proactively compile analysis around how many times a specific word is used and when.

Your call-recording technology might alert you that most of your salespeople are recommending a single solution instead of multiple solutions/services 75% of the time. This may be something you want to look into to determine whether a sales coverage model adjustment might address it, in addition to marketing campaigns and sales enablement programs. With such insights readily available, you can spend more time reviewing the insights rather than compiling them.

 

Once your data gathering is complete, there’s one more step: Prepare for the review meeting with your sales leader. Take time to review the data, pulling together key observations and points you want to discuss. And if there are recommendations worth discussing, include those as well.

And remember: When reviewing sales coverage model effectiveness more regularly, focus more on the findings and what they mean. It’s less about trying to adjust in real time (unless, of course, you are in a situation where this is required) and more about thinking through various sales coverage considerations in advance of the next annual planning process. That way, you can discuss what it should be instead of what it could be to make it more effective and improve customer engagement.

 

Questions for you:

  • Outside of your annual planning process, how often do you review the effectiveness of your sales coverage model?
  • What data do you usually use as inputs to your sales coverage model design? What other data could you be using?
  • How often do you engage with your customers, partners and sales teams to understand what their engagement experiences are like? What about marketing and customer success teams?

 

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