For the last several months we have been discussing what forward-thinking advisers are doing to not only survive, but thrive, in the current market conditions. Change is upon us, and being proactive will be the only way to grow revenue and improve profitability. This leads us to improving sales management effectiveness.

Why? Because for most firms, it is one of their weakest skill sets, and it is one of the most important capabilities required to grow your practice. How effective are you personally at managing sales personnel? Or how effective is your sales management resource at managing sales activities? Do you have a sales management function?

You should be able to do a somewhat realistic self-assessment of your organization's capabilities. We recognize that you undoubtedly have very strong product knowledge and technical skills when it comes to benefits plan design. But if you are like most firms, your track record at optimizing producer, consultant, or account manager talent and new sales production is something less than stellar and could use a substantial makeover.

In 2013, most benefits firms will need to grow their gross top line revenue by more than 20% just to replace the income lost due to commission reductions, normal client attrition, business failures, mergers, and competitor take-overs, etc. In order to make up that lost revenue, that's either: a lot of new accounts; or successfully selling a number of larger accounts; or selling more products to fewer existing clients; or some combination of these - all in order to just hold even.

So how is all that new business going to be generated? Are you personally going to do that much more in personal production as the chief rainmaker, while you also continue to manage the rest of your business operations? Not likely, right? Attracting new clients is the lifeblood of any business. Adding new clients provides career growth opportunities for your employees and ultimately profits for the business owners.

 

Addressing the need

So, what can you possibly do to address this critical need? Your firm can get much more effective at the entire sales management function. Effective management of the following functions, among others, is critical: recruiting; selection; hiring; new hire orientation; goal setting and sales accountabilities; managing sales activities; conducting effective sales meetings.

There is no sales management problem that cannot be solved by effective recruiting and selection. You will also need to be effective at goal setting and holding people accountable for the attainment of your organization's sales goals. You cannot manage sales results; you can only manage sales activities. By managing the right activities you will achieve the sales results that you expect.

As we start the football season, consider these thoughts from legendary coach Vince Lombardi: "The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price. Leaders aren't born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal. The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will."

Kwicien is managing partner at Baltimore-based consulting and advisory services firm Daymark Advisors. Reach him at jkwicien@daymarkadvisors.com.

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