Sales Performance Improvement – Where Are The Gaps?

Sales Performance Improvement – Where Are The Gaps?

Gap Analysis is a useful tool widely used in many professions, but less so in selling. However, identifying and filling gaps in terms of sales; skills, process, strategy and systems is at the core of the job of the modern sales manager. With that in mind this article provides some pointers on applying proven gap analysis methods to selling.

What is Gap Analysis?

Sales Gap DiagramThe gap analysis is a tool that helps a sales organization to identify the gaps between its performance and its potential. As the diagram suggests it is the gap between ‘where we are now’ versus ‘where we want/need to be’.

In this the gap analysis it clearly focuses managers on what is required to achieve sales success, or more to the point what is (or has the potential) to limit, or prevent it. So, paying attention to the gap is really important.

What are the main gaps?

The key gaps that sales managers look for can be identified from the table below. It may be the gap between the sales target for the year and the forecast year end, or the gap between how we sell and how our customers buy.

Where We Are Now Where We Want To Be
Common Practice Best Practice
Forecast Sales Sales Target
Past Performance Future Potential
Perceived Needs Real Needs
Today’s Skills & Sales Training Tomorrow’s Skills & Sales Training
Strategy (What We Say) Implementation (What We Do)
Management View Team View
Our Solutions Market Needs
How We Sell How Our Customers Buy

However, based on our clients, the key sales gaps and their relative frequency is as follows:

  1. Process (30%)
  2. Skills /People/ (30%)
  3. Strategy (20%)
  4. Systems (10%)
  5. Structures (5%)
  6. Marketing (5%)

Some of these gaps are examined in more detail below.

Sales Skills Gaps

One of the key areas for which sales managers look for gaps is in relation to sales skills. That means mapping today’s skills with those required for tomorrow, both at the level of the team and the individual. Doing this requires asking such questions as:

  • What are the key gaps between the best and worst performing salespeople?
  • Does the sales team have all the skills required to bring the business to the next level (e.g. to sell to bigger companies)?
  • Is there a consensus on the skills profile required for new sales people?
  • Are the key skills gaps being comprehensively addressed by coaching and effective sales training?

Based on a cohort of companies, the most commonly identified sales skills gaps are as follows:

  1. Closing (30%)
  2. Selling Higher /Higher value and at a higher level/ (20%)
  3. Sales Prospecting (20%)
  4. Trusted Advisor (20%)
  5. Pre-qualification (10%)

Sales Process Gaps

Of course in examining skills gaps, it makes sense to look to gaps in terms of sales process, that is to identify what sales steps need to be added, deleted, or just improved. That means asking questions, such as:

  • Has your organization defined the ideal way to sell its solutions?
  • Does it have a proven, repeatable process for generating leads and converting them through stages into orders and ultimately repeat orders?

What are the key sales process gaps? Well, again based on our cohort of companies, a more consistent and repeatable approach to the following issues that are too often left to individual discretion:

  1. Target customer profile & pre-qualification
  2. Nurturing leads to sales readiness
  3. Management of sales cycles
  4. Communicating business impact/business case
  5. Opportunity & pipeline reviews.

Strategy Gaps

Attention often turns to strategic gaps, which although often outside control of sales person, have an important bearing on success:

  1. Target customer profile /Market focus/ (30%)
  2. Messaging & proposition /Market fit/ (30%)
  3. Implementation /Strategy and what is happening on the ground/ (20%)
  4. Short term focus /Sporadic sales drives/ (20%)
  5. Demand Generation /Position as expert in the industry/ (40%)

What gaps are you addressing?