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New study reveals sales force practices of middle market companies

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New study reveals sales force practices of middle market companies

Interpersonal skills and formal mentoring among top components to effective sales forces.

An effective sales force is a key component to any middle market company's ability to bring in revenues, but the most desired attribute for the ideal salesperson may no longer be the ability to sell. According to a new joint study from the National Center for the Middle Market, interpersonal skills are considered by executives to be more important than selling skills when hiring new salespeople.

Among high-growth middle market firms (firms with 10-plus percent annual revenue growth), successful practices for sales teams include formal mentoring or coaching for new hires (61%), the implementation of sales quotas (54%) and the use of at least some online sales (51%). Half of these high-growth companies employ straight commission salespeople while 41% of slower growing firms do the same.

"This is the first time anyone has collected data about how the most successful mid-sized companies develop, organize, pay, and deploy their sales forces. We're shining a bright light on best practices. We also learned some fascinating stuff about how sales force management changes as companies get bigger," said Thomas A. Stewart, executive director of the NCMM, a partnership between SunTrust Banks, Inc. and The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business.

Additional key findings of the report include:

  • Eighty-three percent of high growth firms believe their sales teams are more effective than other sales forces in the industry
  • Base salaries are the most likely form of compensation for salespeople (57%) versus commission (25%) and bonuses (17%)
  • Fifty-nine percent of senior sales management positions are promoted from within their respective organizations

Middle market companies are defined as companies producing annual revenues between $10 million and $1 billion. The U.S. middle market consists of nearly 200,000 companies, 44.5 million employees and over $10 trillion in combined revenue annually.

Interpersonal Skills More Important than Selling Skills

When hiring new salespeople, middle market companies tend to place higher value on interpersonal and executional skills. Skills considered extremely/very important ranked as follows:

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