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Harness Sales Drivers to Increase Sales Productivity

Kevin B. Long, Regional Vice President, Sales, SBC Global Services, Inc. (a subsidiary of the Fortune 50 ranked, SBC Communications, Inc.)
Ravi Kathuria, President, Cohegic Corporation



Recognizing the importance of sales-drivers helps companies to consistently increase sales and improve performance across the entire sales-force. Considering sales as purely a numbers game often leads to brute-force approaches that are less effective. Alternately, analyzing sales drivers and systematically maximizing their impact results in more sales with less effort.

A sales driver is a factor that influences aspects such as the probability of deal-closure, deal cycle-time, deal profit-margin and the post-sale risk of failure. Sales drivers are attributes related to the vendor company, product/service, salesperson, prospect company, market segmentation, the market/economic conditions, etc. Commonplace examples of sales drivers are a company's reputation, notable product features, salesperson selling skills and a favorable economy.

While it is easy to identify a large number of sales-drivers, the challenge lies in identifying the top one to five sales-drivers. Top drivers either create a compelling case for the purchase and/or overcome a strong hurdle. While the commonplace sales drivers are necessary for the deal to go through, they are not sufficient. It is only the top drivers that have the power to take the deal to closure.

The objective is to systematically identify, analyze and relentlessly exploit top drivers, and continuously update what comprises the list of top drivers. The top sales drivers may change significantly based on the company, the product, the market-segment and even vary based on each sales opportunity. The consistent identification of top drivers overlooked by the competition is a key to success in the marketplace.

Consider three examples of top-drivers for complex sales (which require the client to make significant changes in their organization).

1. A compelling business event: If the prospect is not faced with a compelling business event that demands some strong action, the likelihood of closing the deal will be low regardless of the salesperson's selling skills, the product features and even a perceived interest by the prospect. By identifying, understanding and addressing the compelling business event, a salesperson can significantly increase the probability of closing the deal.

2. An executive-level internal champion: Deals involving significant change fail unless the salesperson is able to cultivate an executive-level internal champion in the client organization. Organizations need to buy-into change at various points and levels. As an outsider, a salesperson is ill-equipped to "work the organization" and no amount of feature selling or pricing discounts can drive such a deal to closure.

3. Risk elimination: Change is risky and a prospective buyer's foremost concern is the risk of failure. It may take time and a lot of work for the client to realize value from instituting change, while the risk introduced is often immediate. The prospect's instinct is to maintain status quo. Therefore, eliminating risk is a significant driver in closing the deal.

Identifying the top sales drivers gives each salesperson specific direction on what is absolutely necessary to close the deal. It ensures that their efforts are focused and aligned with the sales strategy. For the sales team to fully internalize the concept of sales drivers, each deal/opportunity in the sales pipeline must be closely and continuously monitored to determine whether or not it is harnessing the power of the top drivers.

Measuring the number of opportunities that are utilizing the specific top drivers and the success rate of each opportunity relative to the drivers employed is necessary to engage the sales team. Collecting and measuring this data helps validate or invalidate the hypothesis of what comprises the list of top drivers and leads to active evolution of top-drivers. Analyzing and exploiting sales-drivers is a proven way to increase sales productivity.