Sales managers face many problems, some of which they create for themselves. Others result from senior executives who impose unrealistic demands or from corporate cultures that work against salespeople and their leaders. If a sales manager performs poorly, so will the salespeople on his or her team. Salespeople create problems for their managers and their departments when they concentrate on products and features rather than on their customers’ concerns, and when they fail to push for new business.
Common sales management problems include managing sales staffers, leading direct sales, coping with sales compensation plans, working in an unsupportive corporate culture, and coping with leaders who judge salespeople by how busy they seem to be and not by how much new business they create.
In some organizations, sales managers must manage multiple tasks unrelated to selling while also responding to hundreds of daily emails. Customer relationship management (CRM) – which, ironically, should improve the overall sales function – is often a bothersome distraction. Many companies demand that sales managers spend more time dealing with their CRM systems than helping salespeople generate new sales and revenues.
Some sales managers get promoted into their jobs from positions outside of sales. Those who enter sales with management experience but no sales chops can contribute little practical knowledge about selling. Or a firm may take excellent salespeople with no known leadership abilities and promote them into sales management. Their sales teams suffer as a result.
Sales Managers Who Don’t Manage
When an organization’s revenue falls below par and salespeople fail to meet their quotas, the fault usually resides with sales directors who manage ineffectively. For example, they may fail to coach their people, to differentiate the specific talents that different sales jobs require, or to monitor their sales calls and go over their performance with them later.
Some sales managers don’t give sufficient attention to achieving their sales objectives. They don’t effectively communicate sales goals or clarify how they will evaluate salespeople’s performance. They don’t institute processes to monitor sellers’ work against set goals. Some sales managers want to be the department’s selling “hero,” so they deflate salespeople’s confidence.
The Plusses and Minuses of Sales Reports
“The sales world works a lot better when sales leaders focus on their primary job: leading the sales team and helping to drive revenue.”
Companies rely on sales reports to track performance. These reports compare sales yeartoyear, measure achievement toward monthly and annual quotas, rank salespeople based on how much they increased their sales over earlier previous periods, tally new accounts and lost accounts, and calculate what percentage of their yearly targets the sales staff hit.
Sales reports are essential, but many companies stopped publishing or distributing them after the 2008 financial crisis. With sales plummeting, corporate leaders took a “paternalistic approach” and decided not to embarrass their salespeople with reports of plummeting sales. They also pragmatically downplayed sales reports for public consumption and reconfigured compensation plans in order to retain their best people during the harsh economic times.
Sales Management Challenges and Solutions
Sales management encompasses more than selling. A sales leader deals with a big todo list that encompasses building a salesoriented corporate culture, conducting strategic planning, setting sales targets and making the team accountable for its results.
Sales managers also handle a myriad of HRrelated concerns, including recruiting, hiring, training, setting compensation and reward levels, maintaining good internal relationships, mentoring, coaching, retaining good people, and redirecting or dismissing people who fail to sell.
To establish your “sales management framework” and to increase your team’s sales in dollar value and volume, focus on these three areas:
1. “Sales Leadership and Culture”
To create a positive sales culture, identify the “attitudes, values, goals and practices” that the professionals in your sales organization share with each other. Companies that revere the sales function carefully monitor superior sales performance and hold it out as a common goal. Salespeople hold themselves accountable. Sales meetings are positive experiences for everyone. And the sales compensation program rewards the right factors.
A positive sales culture energizes an organization. Executives are inactive and in regular touch with sales personnel. Salespeople are members of an “elite” crew. They love to compete. They have great attitudes. They pay attention to the sales board and strive to be on top. They push each other to do well. They celebrate each other’s successes and feel proud of their pivotal role in the firm.
2. “Talent Management”
Recruit, deploy and retain the most talented professionals you can find and do all you can to maximize their potential. Expert talent management involves “four R’s”:
“Right people in the right roles” – According to the traditional “hunterfarmer” sales paradigm, hunters excel at prospecting and securing new business. Farmers – or, for a better name, “zookeepers” – excel at managing and nurturing established accounts. Don’t assign hunters to farmerzookeeper jobs, or viceversa.
“Retain top producers” – These highmaintenance salespeople will quickly jump ship if they aren’t happy. Give them what they need to produce at their best.
“Remediate or replace underperformers” – Many sales managers tolerate lacklustre results, but salespeople who constantly underperform send a negative message to everyone else. However, don’t cut new poorly performing salespeople too quickly. Give them time to prove themselves. Train and work with them. If their performance doesn’t improve over time, then let them. This shows that you believe in and nurture your team and that you insist upon results.
“There is almost nothing similar to being a sales manager and being an individual producer in a sales role.”
“Recruit” – Bringing in top sales talent isn’t enough. You must maintain a strong bench; that is, have numerous excellent candidates ready to join your team if you need them. Effective sales managers always make time for recruiting.
3. The “Sales Process”
Successful sales managers help their team members target the most promising prospects. This includes potential new customers as well as current customers who are ready for upgrades or expansion. However, too many sales managers don’t take this essential step. They mistakenly believe their salespeople all are already operating with welldeveloped marketing lists, but many salespeople don’t prepare strategic plans for reaching the best prospects.
Salespeople don’t get paid based on how many prospects they contact. Results are what counts, based on how many prospects they close. This is why sales managers must make sure that their salespeople plan and prospect strategically.
Managers should coach their team members to examine whether the accounts they are pursuing offer the best opportunity to close new business; whether they are in a rut, just contacting the same old customers and prospects, and nobody new; whether they should manage their accounts or territory differently to be more strategic; and whether their customer relationship management work is up-todate.
The “Sales Story”
Sales managers must make sure their salespeople have the resources they need to do their jobs and that they become experts in the use of social media and the best professional tools, tactics and strategies. This includes the training and ability to ask “probing questions,” make good presentations, and offer “facility tours and references.”
Make sure your salespeople are prepared, ready for sales calls and properly equipped. Have they researched their prospects sufficiently in advance of a sales meeting? Do they know how to solicit the prospect’s “input and buyin”? Do they have the right set of questions to get the conversation going?
Sales managers need to teach salespeople the importance of their sales story, elevator pitch or value proposition. A seller’s sales story should be a well-organized compendium of all the relevant product or service talking points. A sales story that is simple to communicate and understand is valuable across all your marketing efforts.
Good sales stories secure your clients’ attention, demonstrate why and how your offering solves their problems, validate your pricing, differentiate your offering, and position your salespeople as experts.
The Annual Sales Plan
Sales managers must monitor their salespeople to ensure they stick to their sales plans. This presumes your salespeople prepare annual sales plans for themselves. People are more likely to succeed if they write their goals in advance. Sales plans should include these components:
“Goals” – Set defined objectives. Some possible metrics are “total revenue or gross margin goals for the year, a number of new accounts or new pieces of business acquired, dollars sold to both existing and new accounts, and specific productmix goals.”
“Strategies” – Salespeople need a blueprint and a set of tactics for achieving their goals.
“Actions” – Positive steps include “calls, initial facetoface meetings, presentations,” and so on.
“Obstacles” – Sales managers and their teams often must overcome poor training, a learning curve about their customers, restrictive corporate policies, insufficient travel funds, outdated technology, and so on.
“Personal development, growth and motivation” – Your salespeople need specific motivation, tools and techniques for continual learning and improvement.
Besides creating sales plans, salespeople must report their sales activities and results and identify the prospects in their pipelines. Sales managers must monitor these reports to gather the information they need about their sales teams. Be sure the right forms are prepared and available.
To improve sales management, many sales supervisors are looking for a magic bullet that “guarantees unlimited qualified leads, a full pipeline and the ability to close every deal at full price.” But the sales world hasn’t got a magic bullet and you don’t need one if you stick to the basics of selling. The fundamentals always work if your product or service offers the right value.
Sales managers must focus on the essentials. Their primary purpose is to get their team to build revenues through increased sales. Conversely, their purpose is not to work “a bazillion” hours a week, to attend an “obscene number of meetings,” to send and receive hundreds of daily emails, or to be Mr FixIt for the company’s various problems. “You were not hired to do work; you were put in your position to produce results.”
Source: Mike Weinberg
Edited by: Palak Ranga