Sales Steering in Construction: Too Reactive, Too High Level, and Not Actually “Steering”

August 13, 2019

Sailing people compass navigation

Lost at sea with a broken compass: When it comes to steering their sales force, companies in the construction sector are not navigating on course, a recent Simon-Kucher study finds out. As sales experts, we examined the study insights carefully and extracted five points on how to reach safe ground.

Two out of three companies in the construction, building materials, and building technology sector are not satisfied with how they currently steer their sales force. Four out of five say they spend too much time explaining results rather than steering sales activities, and most lack the data to act proactively to sales developments. These key findings from our study show that companies know they are making mistakes in sales steering but are often considerably less clear about how to resolve these issues.

During our project work, we keep hearing statements like “By the time I receive the monthly figures, it’s already too late to do anything about it,” “I don’t have enough visibility to be able to intervene,” and “We monitor sales, revenue, and contribution margin but not the number of visits or new customer acquisitions.” These situations all stem from issues in sales steering. And give a hint, where companies could start fixing their sales steering weaknesses. 

Learning from sales steering champions

While the majority of construction companies lack basic competencies in sales steering, around 20 percent of companies surveyed steer their sales teams relatively successfully. These companies demonstrate that three capabilities are key to success: clearly defining the focus areas of activities, deriving actions along the entire sales process, and driving sales force performance with measurable goals and incentives. Unlike sales steering champions, most other companies don’t tie their sales activities to their strategy. Consequently, sales steering is unable to fulfill its goal of translating a company’s business strategy into specific, sales-related activities.

Five key points on how to improve your sales steering approach:

  1. Establish KPIs to get visibility over the sales pipeline and proactively drive corrective actions to meet targets
  2. Identify the most attractive areas for future growth and focus sales activities on customers and segments with growth potential
  3. Benchmark sales activities internally to increase effectiveness and efficiency and support sales teams with value propositions and negotiation guidance
  4. Enable data-driven selling with real-time transparency via easy-to-use dashboards and apps with mobile access
  5. Set specific and balanced volume and margin targets to provide sales with incentives and direction for decision-making

These steps will help companies in the construction and building materials sector upgrade their sales steering and prepare the sales department for a challenging future. 

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