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The Processes, Talent and Tech of an Elite Sales Brokerage

Best practices for improving B2B sales effectiveness, as evidenced in two reports from Accenture and CSO Insights.

Be it insurance, real estate, logistics or otherwise, the typical sales broker bullpen is two things: Data-driven and hustle-oriented. Here's what separates the best from the rest.

In this day and age, the old-school sales broker team gets overlooked. But perhaps now that everyone's finally stopped obsessing over Steve Jobs, we can all take a step back and appreciate these firms for a second.

Why is that? For one, they're primed to take advantage of new sales technology. And while many of their sales counterparts in sexier industries are going through a hangover-phase after tech overindulgence, the more conservative brokerage firms are about to hit Happy Hour. Number two: They stand to benefit greatly from the potential shortcuts that inbound marketing, real-time data analytics and other key business trends are creating in terms of accelerating revenue.

Example A: AMX Logistics, who is syncing and broadcasting broker performance data from McLeod, Salesforce.com, and its phone system directly to managers and brokers via personalized dashboards, scorecards, email alerts, and Office TVs. 

In this post, we're going to look at two key reports from Accenture and CSO Insights particularly applicable to broker sales teams. Tech is just one part of the discussion - this is an overview of the key traits that will define broker sales teams in 2016 and beyond. Here's a breakdown of the key findings from Accenture and CSO Insights, along with steps for implementing them in your sales team.

The Elite Sales Brokerage 

The 2016 Sales Best Practices Study from CSO Insights and Accenture's report on the Top-Five Focus Areas for Improving Sales Effectiveness Initiatives are the two critical reads.

We'll start by looking at the Accenture report, which discovered 5 "mission-critical" areas for sales effectiveness. In the 2+ years since its publication, all 5 findings have been validated ten-fold.

The CSO Insights article offers some valuable additions to the Accenture report, along with more insight into the technology side of things. Combined they provide executive leadership at brokerage firms with the most pivotal sales team action items going forward. 

The focus here will be on 3 key areas: Your brokerage firms's sales process, new hire training and sales technology. There's a lot to tackle in here, and every firm is going to be stronger in some areas and weaker in others. We advise focusing first on optimizing the area that's causing you the most friction to your growth.

The Sales Process in an Elite Broker Team

To optimize your sales process, Accenture suggests building "talent strategies, competencies, learning models and analytics capabilities to create agility, speed and stronger integration inside and outside the organization."

If you're scratching your head right now, don't worry. The illustration below cuts out the snobby consultant jargon and lays things out much more clearly.

broker sales

Let's drill down a little further. In their 2016 report, CSO Insights denotes a need for successful sales organizations to become more effective at three things in particular, "connecting, collaborating with and calculating value to their customers."

For example, a B2B Insurance Broker is likely now selling to more decision makers than he or she was in 2013 before closing a deal. That creates a longer sales cycle and -- as this great Investopedia article notes -- a tougher path to success for the broker.

To compensate, a sales leader at that firm should drill into each and every rep very specific ideal customer profiles, along with outlining a path to success that's streamlined so that the rep avoids targeting the wrong people and knows who the most important stakeholders in the decision are likely to be.

In other words: Figure out the right paths to success based on sales cycle data, interviews with your highest performing reps and buyer persona(s). Then: Map them out for every rep.

The Sales Talent and Training in an Elite Broker Team

Thinking about shelling out big bucks for an expensive sales coach? You're not alone. 

According to Accenture, "CSOs have increased annual training spend considerably since 2012, possibly due to the need to ramp-up cross industry hires. Nearly 45 percent are now spending between $2,501-$5,000/year on each sales representative. If that sounds like a lot, Accenture offers some pretty hefty caveats in accompaniment.

"Simply spending on training is insufficient. Organizations need to reinforce the training and incorporate it into daily sales activities to yield higher payoffs. Despite the uptick in training spending, CSOs are surprisingly unclear what measureable improvements result from the investment."

sales broker training

Unless you're a Fortune 100 company with a CFO that gets punch-drunk on spending exorbitant amounts of money ($2,500-$5,000 per rep is staggering), the message here is that you may as well be throwing each dollar you spend on a big, expensive sales kickoff in a pile, dousing it with gasoline and then setting it aflame.

Instead, Accenture advises adopting a much more cost-effective, and most importantly, sustainable approach to sales onboarding, training and retention. It starts with recruiting and onboarding (by the way, Ambition works wonders with the latter). 

"Know the DNA of high performing sales representatives and then revise recruiting, retention and training to maintain. Reduce time to sales representative proficiency by conducting more targeted recruiting and more effective onboarding."

From there, Accenture advises a holistic approach to sustained success. For brokers looking to increase sales representative productivity, the path to success comes from "more effective coaching, learning and motivation solutions." (Again, Ambition can be a huge help here).

For brokers looking to improve sales representative retention, Accenture suggested taking "more targeted practices." We recommend following the lead of firms like Coyote Logistics and AMX Logistics, who used Ambition to provide real-time recognition and fun competitions that celebrated success across their entire teams.

The Sales Technology in an Elite Broker Team

As just about every person reading this is no doubt aware, merely implementing a CRM tool like Salesforce or Dynamics into your sales team is not enough. Accenture outlines the adoption issues that continue to plague CRM users across all industries.

"Although nine out of 10 enterprises have implemented some kind of CRM system to streamline the forecasting process, improve sales organization communications or reduce administrative burden, more than one-third still face low CRM tool adoption rates."

Fortunately, these ongoing issues have given rise to new sets of automation and gamification tools that, used properly, can effectively eradicate adoption and data accuracy issues. The travel brokers at Peek will attest to the effectiveness of both.

sales broker process

As the above graph shows, many sales process issues go hand-in-hand with problems regarding technology. Ambiguous forecasting and inability to access performance data are two key pain points we've helped our clients resolve.

Depending on how problematic your current sales technology is, you should prioritize budget towards the myriad automation, gamification and performance management tools that can quickly nip these issues in the bud. 

Transforming Your Broker Sales Team

Whether your process is flawed, your hiring and training is off-base or your sales technology is keeping your brokers from succeeding, focus 85% of your improvement efforts on the most debilitating area to your organization right now. Once you have satisfactory ROI improvements proven by data, turn your attention to the next area. Be methodical.

That especially goes for researching new sales technology. Even sales organizations that have cleared a path to success with technology adoption and usage inevitably faced some buyer's remorse along the way.

If your team needs help with performance visibility and accountabitlity, click these links to see how Ambition helps brokerage teams in logistics, travel and hospitalityinsurance, and more. Feel free to contact us with any questions or issues you're facing with your broker team.

Ambition: The Sales Broker Management Platform

Ambition is a sales management platform that syncs every sales organization department, data source, and performance metric on one easy system.

Ambition clarifies and publicizes real-time performance analytics for your entire sales organization. Using a drag-and-drop interface, non-technical sales leaders can build custom scorecards, contests, reports, and TVs.

Ambition is endorsed by Harvard Business Review, AA-ISP (the Global Inside Sales Organization), and USA Today as a proven solution for managing millennial sales teams. Hear from our customers below.

Watch Testimonials:

  1. FiveStars: Adam Wall. Sr. Manager of Sales Operations . 
  2. Filemaker: Brad Freitag. Vice-President of Worldwide Sales.
  3. Outreach: Mark Kosoglow. Vice-President of Sales.
  4. Cell Marque: Lauren Hopson. Director of Sales & Marketing.
  5. Access America Transport: Ted Alling. Chief Executive Officer.

Watch Product Walkthroughs:

  • ChowNow. Led by Vice-President of Sales, Drew Woodcock.
  • Outreach. Led by Sales Development Manager, Alex Lynn.
  • AMX Logistics. Led by Executive Vice-President ,Jared Moore.

Read Case Studies:

  1. Clayton HomesHBR finds triple-digit growth in 3 sales efficiency metrics. 
  2. Coyote Logistics: Monthly revenue per broker grew $525 in 6 months.
  3. Peek: Monthly sales activity volume grew 142% in 6 months.
  4. Vorsight: Monthly sales conversations grew 300% in 6 months.

Contact us to learn how Ambition can impact your sales organization today.

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Sales Leaders, HR Professionals, and C-Level Executives use Ambition to recognize, motivate, and develop employees into more engaged and productive versions of themselves. Funded by Google, used by the Fortune 500, endorsed by the Harvard Business Review.

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