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Maximizing Sales Force Effectiveness

  • ID: 42739
  • Report
  • January 1997
  • 97 pages
  • American Productivity & Quality Center, APQC
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It should come as no surprise to anyone in sales that there is a direct relationship between the productivity of salespeople and the satisfaction of customers. Therefore, it is critical that companies continue to take their sales productivity to new heights, mainly by ensuring that their customers are more satisfied than the competition’s. To discover which aspects of the issue of sales productivity impact organizations most, the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC) conducted a survey of toplevel sales managers and directors. Based on the respondents’ feedback, International Benchmarking Clearinghouse launched the Maximizing Sales Force Effectiveness study in late 1996. The study was designed to address three focus areas identified in the preliminary survey: the sales process, the sales force, and knowledge management.

The purpose of this multicompany benchmarking study was to identify and examine
innovations, best practices, and key trends in the area of sales force effectiveness. Fifteen companies participated in the study by attending a series of planning sessions, completing data-gathering surveys, and attending or hosting on-site interviews. Of those 15 companies, 10 sponsored the study and five participated as best-practice “partners”— companies that were identified as having effective sales forces and agreed to share their practices throughout this study.


The key findings that resulted from this study are categorized under the three
focus area headings mentioned above. The findings, listed below, are explored in further detail in following sections of the report.

Focus Area 1: Sales Process
Focus Area 2: Sales Force
Focus Area 3: Knowledge Management


The consortium benchmarking methodology was developed in 1993 and serves as one of the premier methods for successful benchmarking in the world. It is an extremely powerful tool for identifying best and innovative practices and for facilitating the actual transfer of these practices.

The data collection tools used to gather information include both questionnaires and site visits. Two questionnaires were used—a quantitative survey designed to collect objective and quantitative data and a site visit questionnaire designed to collect qualitative about targeted aspects of sales force processes.

The five partners hosted half-day site visits, allowing sponsors to meet with key personnel and share their sales force strategies and practices. Consortium members attended each site visit in order to participate in the discussion and to experience different programs firsthand. Both partner companies and sponsors responded to the quantitative questionnaire. (One partner company did
not fill out the quantitative survey; two divisions of another partner company each filled out the survey.) All partner companies and four sponsor companies
responded to the site visit questionnaire. Secondary research conducted was
used to help select innovative companies. In addition to this research, consortium members, APQC staff, and the subject matter expert identified potential participants based on their own firsthand experiences and research.

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- Sponsor and Partner Companies

A complete listing of the sponsor companies in this study, as well as the best-practice (“partner”) companies that were benchmarked for their innovation and
advancement in maximizing sales force effectiveness.

- Executive Summary

A bird’s-eye view of the study, presenting the methodology used and the key findings discovered throughout the course of the study. These findings are explored in detail in following sections.

- Key Findings

An in-depth look at the 14 key findings of this study in three topic areas: Sales Process, Sales Force, and Knowledge Management. The findings are supported by graphs and tables of quantitative data and qualitative examples of practices employed by the partner companies.

- Partner Company Profiles

Background information on the partner companies, as well as their innovative processes for maximizing sales force effectiveness.

- Appendix

Participants’ general sales background data.
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Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown