Leadership Selecting a capable and competent sales manager is the most important decision any organization can make. Everything revolves around the sales manager’s leadership, knowledge, planning, coaching, team orientation, and sense of urgency. The sales manager galvanizes the entire team and is the direct connection to senior management to ensure alignment with the company’s objectives and goals.
One major reason sales professionals come and go is directly related to the skill and personal magnetism of the sales manager. Finding and keeping a good one is well worth the effort.
Often the inability to sustain top line revenue improvement year in and year out has to do with the lack of strategic planning across the entire sales organization.
Frequently the fate of the team’s performance is left to the 20% (high performers) to do their magic with no “real” integrated strategic plan for the company. This approach leaves organizations extremely vulnerable when one or two of their superstars depart.
Utilizing a formal written planning process, analyzing who to sell to, assigning specific strategies and holding everyone accountable increases the chances of success exponentially.
Allowing a sales organization to “wing it” is simply managerial negligence.
To improve the quality of any sales organization constant effort must be focused on succession planning and finding high performing people to fill the bench. There are multiple reasons for this, but the obvious is sales professionals are the most mobile of any discipline.
They are out and about and continually being approached to join another sales organization, especially if they are top producers.
Thus an organization must be looking for and developing new talent all the time. Additionally, the best companies have a standardized selection process that is designed to increase the probability of selecting the right person for the right reasons.
When asked most owners and senior managers will say; “I’m not sure what those sales people do, but occasionally they bring an order in”. This is quickly followed by;” I wish the sales team had a process to follow like our other departments”.
The implication being, management doesn’t really understand what their sales people are doing or how they do it. This leaves the organization literally hostage to the whims of each sales person.
The best sales teams have analyzed what works, captures the 6-8 critical steps in their sales process and trains everyone to use it. This affords the team consistency in approach and consistency in performance. It also facilitates onboarding new recruits to the team.
As adults, somewhere along the way we consider ourselves a finished product and stop learning. Yet when we look at the best professionals at the top of their respective games, they are continually striving to improve.
Training is simply part of their regiment to compete and win. The very best sales organizations recognize this performance axiom and provide ongoing sales training to hone old skills and develop new ones.
The attitude of the sales manager plays a pivotal role in training. Embracing the role as a coach, teacher and mentor requires a commitment to time and energy to incorporate consistent training opportunities into the overall sales management process.
The sales manager must appreciate that continuous improvement is a key component to a sustainable competing and winning record.
Tracking the critical activities that are design to reach the sales organizations objectives and goals is a must. This doesn’t mean simply keeping track of monthly or quarterly sales statistics, but rather the activities outlined in the sales process.
The strategic sales plan is the overall roadmap and the critical activities; number of leads generated, appointments made, needs assessments completed, and proposals in the works are the day to day benchmarks that need to be tracked and coached.
In today’s technologically savvy business world the very best sales organizations use CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems to assist them to keep track of who their pursuing, contact information, notes, quotes and where they are in the sales process.
Among the most contentious issues for most sales professionals and management alike is the frequent medaling with sales compensation.
Owners or senior management decide last year was an anomaly in the market place that produced a windfall for sales people, thus there must be an adjustment to their compensation.
Or the market is very bad and they must tweak the compensation package to incent the sales people to focus on certain types of business.
On the other hand sales people think they are not getting what they deserve in commissions given the profit that the company reaps from all their hard work.
Sales managers would like management and the sales people to stop complaining and leave well enough alone!
And so it goes, the never ending dissatisfaction with sales compensation.
Best practices in sales compensation shows compensation packages of four types:
Messing with a sales professional’s earning power is a significant contributing factor to dissatisfaction and sales organization attrition rates.
With all of the previous seven in place, the sales manager must blend them together in a coherent management process, that underscores their collective importance day in and day out.
Generally this means setting up a routine sales meeting with a standardized agenda, and ongoing training.
To ensure alignment of every member of the sales team with the expectations of the company, Individual Sales Plans (ISPs) need to be create and executed by each sales professional. ISPs become the roadmap for a sales person to follow and focal point for a sales manager to coach for accountability.
Great sales organizations just don’t happen, they are the product of conscience thought addressing all eight of these critical components.
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