Sales Study: Sales Teams Require New Steering Methods

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Two thirds of chemicals and construction companies are dissatisfied with how they steer their sales force. The main reason: 84 percent of companies say they spend too much time explaining deviations from planned revenue figures rather than proactively steering sales activities.


Bonn – Companies acknowledge a lack of focus on critical sales steering activities, admit to considering it too late in the process, and typically adopt a reactive rather than proactive approach to the practice. These are the main findings of an international sales study conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners among approximately 300 managers from the chemicals and construction industry.

More transparency, clear-cut KPIs, and unambiguous incentives

“We keep hearing statements like ‘By the time I receive the monthly figures, it’s already too late to do something about it,’ ‘I don’t have enough visibility to be able to intervene,’ and ‘We monitor sales, revenue, and margin contribution, but not the number of visits or new customer acquisitions.’ That’s a sales steering issue,” says Markus Mayer, Director at Simon-Kucher and coauthor of the study. Additionally, as a result of CRM set-up or usage limitations, 79% of companies surveyed cited insufficient or inaccurate data as a major obstacle to making critical sales decisions.

The 20 percent of companies surveyed that steer sales successfully demonstrate that three capabilities are key: clearly defining the focus areas of activities, deriving actions along the entire sales process, and driving sales force performance with measurable goals and incentives. The pre-sales activities of these champions are highly transparent, from identifying opportunities to creating offers and closing deals. “How many customers did the sales team contact? How many offers were sent out? How many offers are at the last final stage? What is the conversion rate? The answers to these questions are essential,” says Mayer. Mobile access to systems and dashboards providing real-time performance metrics and benchmarks are important tools to support the day-to-day activities of a sales team.

Link of sales steering and strategy

An alarming 84 percent of the companies surveyed concede to having little insight into the pre-sales activities that would enable them to proactively steer sales. For Jan Haemer, Partner at Simon-Kucher and coauthor of the study, these figures clearly indicate that companies need to improve transparency. “Sales data should be part of strategic planning. Prioritizing the most attractive growth areas is a prerequisite for focusing sales activities on the right segments and customer groups.” Steering sales based on clear, segment-specific volume and margin targets is essential for implementing a business strategy. Companies often lack this connection between sales activities and strategy, so sales steering cannot fulfill its goal of translating the strategy into specific, sales-related activities. “There is still room for significant improvement,” Haemer adds.

Dr. Andrea Maessen, Senior Partner and coauthor of the study, puts the results into perspective: “With continued digitalization, sales processes will need to evolve, becoming stricter in terms of leadership and steering, establishing greater transparency, implementing more comprehensive performance measurements, and placing a clear focus on targets. Other functions, such as operations, are clearly one step ahead here.”

Simon-Kucher & Partners, strategy & marketing consultants: Simon-Kucher & Partners is a global consulting firm specializing in TopLine Power® with a focus on strategy, marketing, pricing, and sales. We help our clients achieve growth and profit targets by applying practical, evidence-based strategies. Simon-Kucher & Partners is regarded as the world’s leading pricing advisor and thought leader. The firm has 1,300 employees in 38 offices worldwide.