Connecting HR Leadership to the Bottom Line

PDF FormatKey Strategies for Improving the Customer-Centric and
"Sales-Centric" Character of Your Organization

by David P. Snyder, Business Development Counsel, Headway Corporate Resources & Teresa Spangler

Human resource officers at most corporations have long been in the best position to help hire, train and mentor those people who have the leadership qualities necessary to achieve a company's business goals. Yet, it has not always been recognized that human resource leadership can have a substantial impact on a company's bottom line.

It is the purpose of this paper to show the key areas in which human resource officers can help direct high-impact research, selection, and training programs that can make their companies more profitable and also track and validate the ROI of human resource efforts. We strongly believe, however, that a new term must be employed when measuring the success of human resource efforts. Because the business impact being studied in human capital goes beyond a mere calculation of ROI, we have chosen to create and adopt the term ROPSM - Return on People. Although the concepts presented in this paper relate to performance issues in sales, the emphasis on character and productivity applies equally to administrative positions, human resource positions and all executive and leadership positions.

Measuring Your ROP: The Role of Surveys

The advent of affordable online assessment surveys, some of the most popular of which are the "360," are enormously valuable for the richness of the organizational insight they provide. The problem is that very few companies use 360 surveys and other employee assessments as effectively as they could. In order for human resource officers to use employee surveys of critical performance issues successfully, they have to be empowered by the CEO to ask the types of questions the organization needs to ask of itself.

This kind of assessment requires that human resource officers be permitted to tell the truth and use their insight when it comes to identifying sources of bad leadership or poor management practice in the company. Then they have to ask employees, via surveys, how much they believe these practices have hindered morale and performance. If it is discovered that their hunches are correct, they must be allowed to use the information to create meaningful change.

Human resource officers should be a company's frontline in the business of "reality checking." That is because their contact with employees across the departmental spectrum has enabled them to understand the real questions, concerns, personalities, and morale issues that are impacting performance, especially sales performance.

Using Sales Force Morale as a Benchmark For Organizational Cohesiveness

Examining a company's sales performance from the view of companywide attitudes towards sales, is an excellent vantage point from which to study how sales-centric a company is. This approach also affords a simultaneous opportunity to study how customer-centric the company is. In companies where the sales people are not respected by other departments, it is almost certain that there are morale problems. Sales people who have a lowered or handicapped morale have a direct and negative impact on the bottom line.

In companies where sales people have morale problems, you can be assured that other departments will have similar issues. Unfortunately, not all top executives outside of human resources care or recognize that all departments should be aligned with companywide sales philosophies. Worse yet, not all companies recognize the power of this alignment.

Visualizing and Employing The "Sling-Shot" Approach: One Sure Way to Kill Goliath

We ask all executives to imagine their company as a sling shot. In other words, sales is about growing momentum and energy internally as much as externally. The organization should strive to be the most powerful and best built sling shot in the world, insofar as its marketing, operations and delivery efforts are concerned. Yet, we must always bear in mind that the sales force is the rock that goes into the slingshot. If the sling shot is strong and well built, the rock will fly fast and hit its target. Small companies that are known for "slaying the Goliaths" in their industries, have always put their sales department at the center of the action; where sales departments rightfully belong. The results in sales achieved by such sales-centric companies, translate into long-lasting, loyal clients and growing revenues.

Almost any CEO will pay attention to human resources if human resources makes the case that the company is not sales-centric; it is at this point where you can usually get the company to act. Once you begin to implement the team-building programs that increase interdepartmental knowledge, teamwork and support around the company's sales efforts, those philosophies and standards will find a foothold throughout the rest of the organization.

In the following section, we will demonstrate how relatively simple online surveys about your sales force can give you an exorbitant amount of information about the morale of your entire company; as well as the operational support of sales, which is the platform upon which any successful sales growth is built.

A Sales-Centric Survey For Your Company

It would be fairly easy to construct and deliver an online 360 survey of departments that would examine how various team members viewed and understood the sales and marketing roles at your company, and to see if sales people felt they were adequately supported.

However, you can get a sufficient preliminary gauge by pondering certain questions as you put yourself in the mindset of the sales professionals at your company.

By considering these questions carefully, you will also achieve a bird's eye view of key strategic questions involving operations, delivery, teamwork and support that directly impacts bottom line performance. In other words, healthy and cohesive companies that are supportive of their sales forces (and also involved in sales force education and the enrichment of sales force morale) would get healthy marks from anyone when asked these key strategic questions.

Analyzing the "sales-centric" health of your company will also give you valuable insights on the "customer-centric" health of your organization.

Be brutally honest with yourself when you answer these questions, putting yourself in the shoes of your sales people.

Imagine that you are a sales person when you answer the following: Score 1 to 5 (5 being Highest) Score

1 The marketing organization of my company understands the tools I need to have when I am selling.  
2 The marketing department asks my opinion and respects my input when they are developing the materials I need to sell.  
3 If I need support from the marketing department, I get it.  
4 Our marketing materials are powerful sales tools and accurately describe what makes us better and different.  
5 Our sales processes are clear and simple. Once I make the sale I can rest assured that delivery will be made and go back to selling to other customers.  
6 All of our sales people understand our value proposition and know what makes us valuable and different in the marketplace.  
7 All of our sales people know what we are selling, and why we are selling it.  
8 Most people who are not in sales understand what we are selling and why we are selling it.  
9 The company's leadership sees the sales department as a value department that is key to the company's image, growth and profitability.  
10 The technology tools that help the sales process are up to date and efficient.  
11 The operations side of the company quickly delivers and supports the customer when the sales person sells.  
12 The company has achieved the market presence it is capable of.  
13 The company has achieved the brand recognition it is capable of.  
14 The company has achieved the customer service reputation for excellence it is capable of.  
15 The company has achieved the competitive differentiation it is capable of.  
16 The company has achieved the sales it is capable of.  
17 The company has achieved the profitability it is capable of.  
18 The sales department receives the help and respect from upper management that it needs.  
19 The sales department receives the kind of training that it needs.  
20 Most people in sales are passionate about their jobs and giving it their all.  
21 Most people in sales would say their heart is really in it and they love the company.  
22 Most people in sales would say they believe in their company at least 90 percent 100 percent of the time.  
23 Most people in other departments believe in their company at least 90 percent 100 percent of the time.  
24 As a sales person I admire my managers.  
25 As a sales person I admire my company.  
26 The feedback I get from regular reviews and evaluations makes sense.  
27 I know how my performance ranks in relation to my peers.  
28 I know my areas of strength.  
29 I know the areas I need to improve.  
30 I understand the value of relationship building in my organization.  
31 I understand the value of relationship building with prospects and clients.  
32 I embrace my company's core values.  
33 I reflect my company's core values to my clients.  
34 I believe that members of other departments respect my role.  
35 I believe that members of other departments understand my role.  
36 I believe that members of other departments value me.  
37 I believe that we have a cooperative, mutually respectful organization.  
Max total = 185   

After you have entered a score for each question, add up your results. In a healthy environment where sales people are adequately supported and are achieving what they are capable of, you could expect a score somewhere in the neighborhood of 148.

If your score is much lower than that, and you are sure that your own instincts are a fairly accurate barometer of organizational morale, then you will know that you might do well to conduct interdepartmental studies of the operational support of your sales force.

Another reason for doing this research is connected with Customer Service quality. The connection is simple and does not require additional work in order to ferret out potential weaknesses.

As co-author of this paper, Snyder demonstrates in his book How to Mind Read Your Customers (AMACOM, 2001), the health of an organization's sales force is a barometer of the organization's relationship savvy overall.

In organizations where the internal customer service is high, the external customer service will be high as well. There is no better barometer than that of internal customer service to see if the sales department feels supported and appreciated since sales people, in general, are treated as "second class citizens" in arrogant or dysfunctional organizations. If morale in the sales force is low, you can be assured that on the outside, customers are being short-shifted as well, which will further erode the company's bottom line. Your attention to the issues revealed by surveys such as this will help you to take significant steps to improving profitability by addressing customer service quality and sales support at the same time.

This article continues on page two.

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