Whether you are a seasoned sales person stepping into the role of a sales manager or a tech-founder who is ‘forced’ into this role, your best chances of success managing a team will depend on how strong are the systems you create around measuring sales progress, training and coaching your team, setting checkpoints for introspection. One of the biggest advantages in 2016 is the availability of tools that help you manage all these facets of sales management.
A foolproof sales management system comprises of 3 elements: sales coaching & training, systems for running effective sales meetings internally and using tools to measure effectiveness of all this.
Why is this article important to you? Here I’ll discuss the single most important formula that will define the likelihood of you meeting your sales goal in next 12 months. Whether you are a sales manager or a tech-founder who is forced into sales management role, the only way to assure you meet your revenue goals as a team is to get your sales reps behaviour aligned in the right direction. In short, winning sales rep behaviour – unproductive behaviour = likelihood of sales success
BJ Fogg from Stanford University created a simple model to breakdown the behaviour of people. His work explains that in-order for a specific behaviour to occur there must be the presence of motivation, an ability and a trigger to nudge that activity.
If you are trying to get your team aligned to specific sales goals for the year, align their behaviours to success. And in terms of sales management, there are three key rituals that enforce these elements – Sales Coaching (Motivation), Sales Trainings (Ability) and Sales Meetings (Triggers).
Let us discuss each of these elements in detail here and understand:
- What happens when these are not part of the sales management mix?
- What are tell-tale signs that any of these ingredients is missing?
- How can the presence of each of these 3 elements help you manage a tight ship?
Lead with Sales Coaching & Training plan
As a sales manager, your sales-rep coaching plan is the best bet to detect patterns in sales reps that are obstructing the path of their sales excellence. And training plan is the best way to act on it, with a precision.
On an average, losing a single sales rep within initial ramp-up period is about $0.5 Million loss in opportunity, productivity and replacement expenses. Additionally, onboarding a new rep takes 4-6 months to restore the rep to the full productivity.
To avoid that, pursuing a well-thought out hiring plan is supercritical as we covered in our podcast on how to hire sales rep with 100% confidence (and not on gut feel). However, the next best bet to avoid that is to create an intimate coaching plan that is centred around a sales rep (and not you).
Sales coaching uncovers true motivation level of the sales rep.
“Effective sales behaviours are both taught and caught. Managers who coach well are equipped for Mastery” – Walter Rogers, author of Pathways to Growth.
Signs that coaching & training is the missing link:
- Your team has consistent performers at both end of spectrum – top and bottom yielders.
- Poor performers have not shown incremental increase in their ability to sell in last 2 quarters.
- Each of the team members’ skillset is extraordinarily varied.
- You do not have a list of top 2 skill-areas each rep is committed to work towards each quarter.
- Your team gets together once in a quarter to share lessons learnt from real deals.
- Reps are hesitant to approach fellow sales colleagues for help (and there is underlying emotion of distrust and lack of sharing)
- Performance Evaluation is the main event for channeling a rep-driven feedback, organised semi-annually or annually. Great importance is placed on this event, lot of anxiety is observed both on part of reps and you, as the manager.
A solid sales management system integrates weekly 1-on-1 coaching (if not, monthly) as well as peer-led training programs. The key to success around both of these is to have a cadence, pig-headed determination to stick to the weekly plan as well as a method to measure the ‘before’ and ‘after’ status.
Coaching format can be as simple as a GROW model that we talked a bit about in this post. If you have not heard about it, download a simple template that you should take to coaching sessions. Set every one a designated day, typically 30 mins per rep for 1-on-1 coaching. (I prefer Tuesday Mornings as reps will have the time to sort out their stuff on Monday, in case you run month-on-month forecast cycles). And as your coaching session gives your insights on strengths and deficiencies of your sales reps, preparing a training plan that addresses skill-sets through to be most effective in delivering sales success.
And in case you are struggling with the training options, we’ve got you covered with 52 ideas that will keep your entire 1 year calendar filled.
Contrary to what sales reps really want, sales managers have a natural tendency to prioritize fire-fighting & getting intimate with their rep’s state of affair, (a.k.a let me show you how to sell?). And as a result, most sales meetings end up becoming a ‘general’ discussion on the state of sales that includes a bit of the pipeline discussion, a gut-feel based forecast discussion and an open-ended discussion on sales challenges, without any plan of action.
It does not matter if it is Monday morning stand-up sales sprints or mid-week remote sales conference-calls, any sales meeting that deviates away from a specific purpose and is not strictly regimented within a framework defined by the manager will soon become pointless and repetitive.
Here are some signs that your sales meetings are not serving you well:
- You end up asking for similar updates from sales reps throughout the week.
- Sales reps tell stories more than facts about their deals
- You find surprises in pipeline status after the meetings.
- Your confidence of your team’s pipeline is only skin deep. 60% at the best, somewhat better than a toss of the coin, right?
- And your forecast accuracy is even worse, like unexpected massive surprises in the last days of quarter.
- You have a vast variation in demonstrable skillsets of sales reps, with a solid bell-curve in the middle.
- You trust your gut / instincts more than the Salesforce reports & dashboards on the pipeline & forecast.
- Finding it hard to drive top of the funnel opportunities by sales reps.
- You find disparate skillsets in top performers and they are not able to share them effectively with other team members.
Why should you create a systemized and effective process of internal sales meetings?
- It is not about how you sell, or how sharp are your tools in your toolkit.
- Especially if you’re a company that’s competing in a multiplayer market with a high energy selling environment, the difference is set when it’s about the process with which you can improve and scale how you sell.
- Sales reps leave the company more than 70% of the time, not because they get better offer or are not happy with the product, that’s because of the sales manager. They are expecting structure, coaching, feedback, engagement and leadership from the manager. And organising your sales meetings around these needs of sales reps is exceptionally critical.
- The performance of your reps ultimately depends on the manager’s ability to align and coach the team on the behaviors necessary for growth. In this context, poor management engenders poor performance.
So, how do you go about setting a system of results-driven / outcome-based sales meetings?
First, acknowledge that as a sales manager you have a multitude of things to focus on the sales effectiveness. These include a healthy proportion of the top of the funnel pipeline, an accurate forecast, a good velocity of your deals, a great execution by your reps and keeping your team’s motivation high as well as binding the team together.
Each of these responsibilities must find a system for execution.
Hence, the single most effective thing you could do is, to break your one big multi-agenda sales meeting into 3 smaller segments with a specific purpose. We discussed on a separate blog post how a General Sales Meeting can be divided into a “Pipeline Update” meeting, a “Forecast Accuracy” meeting and “Learning & Sharing” session.
On top of that, do not shy away from 1-on-1 coaching sessions that every sales rep deserves. If you are a small sales team or an tech-founder-driven sales team, you would find this the single most productive way to steer your ‘sales’ ship, especially if your hirees are in-experienced. On the other hand, if you are a sales manager with a larger share of responsibility, and 8 to 10 reps, this would be the most effective way to drive a sales cultural cohesion.
Finally, the difference between Monday morning sales stand-ups in the 90s and the way meetings are run today is greatly shaped by the way sales teams are organised. The sales teams today are globally dispersed, serving customers in various time zones from one region. On one hand, they are extremely mobile and hot-desking kind and on the other – they are selling only over the phone (i.e. inside sales).
While the flexibility and agility that comes with modern-day sales teams is beneficial for the organisation, sales leaders with a shorter ‘window of contact’ with their reps often find themselves on their toes for driving the sales effectiveness and management. But the modern toolkit that aid sales managers has fortunately evolved with the times.
Ok, so how do you know if not having an enabling toolset is the missing link?
- Your team does not have your CRM open in any of your sales meetings! That’s the big one. If you’re discussing deals, pipeline and forecast subjectively without looking at the data in real-time, you are set for a non-responsive management.
- You cannot recall your top 5 closing opportunities, top 5 lagging opportunities, reasons for biggest deals risking closure in terms of next steps. When I say recall, I mean within 15 seconds of asking this question (and without asking the reps).
- Your reps ‘resolve’ to update their CRM after the meeting but not right away.
- Your sales enablement plan is non-existent, and as good as ‘shadow my best rep’
- Or it is a combination of word documents, pdfs, presentations and links all over the place.
- Your sales trainings follow an open agenda, without tracking progress after skills-lessons are shared.
How do you turn this around? – You may ask.
The shift in sales management to excellence starts with trust-based reliance on the core sales tool for managers, the CRM. The control you have on your sales management depends on how well is your sales process integrated on CRM and second, how accurately it is represented using reporting & dashboarding capability.Well, that’s just the start. The CRM is a go-to-place for all active sales discussions with your team, not just notebooks or whiteboards. Driving a strong culture of the CRM-led management relies heavily on the biggest beneficiary of this core tool – the sales leader or even the CEO.
In my experience of working with 100s of companies, I’ve found a few golden rules that stick out and make an effective sales management the second nature. In fact, it all crystallized when I worked with a detail-oriented CEO who took his 150 sales army from no CRM to 100% adoption on Salesforce.com. He shares those golden rules of team management on CRM here.
Besides CRM, the sales enablement and coaching plan is best supported by tools that make it hundred times more effective and efficient. Sales enablement is a wide range of things and there are tools that address each specific challenge within this topic. And which one is for you is a discussion that I’m happy to have.
Written by Deepanker Dua
Deep is the chief sales scientist at SalesChakra. As he experiments with sales acceleration at tech startups, he documents his learnings through this blog. An avid traveller, he has lived selling disruptive technologies in 4 continents, and speaks 5 international languages. Connect with him on Twitter @askdeepr and LinkedIn.