The world of sales management is a busy, stressful and highly rewarding one. With so many processes to monitor to get the most out of your department, it can be easy to forget about an element of the sales mix, or to fail to monitor a key metric.
For this reason, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to sales management in which you’ll find advice on getting the most out of not only your staff, but your internal processes too.
Sales teams can be notoriously difficult to manage due to the vast mix of characters that you are likely to have in them. The stereotype of the salesman is the brash, overly confident type, perhaps a young go-getter with a strong drive but little experience of diplomacy. Of course you might have someone like this in your team, however, in B2B sales, this is much less common. As products become more technical, it is genuine expertise that is valued over confidence.
Nevertheless, sales departments are dynamic places and it is your role to make sure that as a sales manager, you are getting the most out of your people in order to consistently hit the targets.
Whilst the study of different management styles is enough to fill several books by itself, there is one simple principle that you can follow to get the most out of your staff.
Every one of your staff members needs a different style.
This is the cardinal rule of any management position. Think about it this way, you wouldn’t ask your family members to undertake a task in the same way you would ask a stranger. In the same vein, you wouldn’t manage an experienced member of staff in the same way that you would manage an intern. Remember to consider individual’s competency levels, their emotional traits and general character before engaging in a management activity with them. The most important aspect of management is the ability to talk to staff in a way that engages and enthuses them - this will be different for everyone.
Again, this is a huge field of study, but can be boiled down into a few basic principles.
Every manager has heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, so we’ll save you the pain of going through it again, and skip straight to the headline of the theory. Providing that basic salary needs have been met, people are more motivated by achievement and recognition than money.
The takeaway from this is to ensure that your staff are being recognised and praised for their achievements. Although this sounds obvious, it’s surprising how many managers fail to do this simple task. Often, the cause is a lack of visibility of when achievements have actually been made - a salesperson may be warranted a congratulations if they have managed to make 4 pitches in a day, but if the manager doesn’t see this then there will likely be no recognition. Once a team member feels as though their efforts go unnoticed, they will become demotivated and start to under-perform.
Each member of your team is likely to have a set list of sales techniques that they swear by, it could be a type of handshake, or a way of steering conversations. It’s important to allow your team a sense of ownership of their techniques (unless they are providing negative results), and perhaps even give members a platform to teach each other their techniques as a means of motivating them.
It's important though to keep the techniques of your team up to date, particularly when it comes to effective communication.
Effective communication involves active listening, providing feedback and asking appropriate follow-up questions before starting the process again. Practise this skill with your team to hone their communication skills, and you will begin to see an improvement in the conversion rates of your team.
As part of your sales process, you should have the ability to track your conversion rates, to assess how many of a sales member’s visits result in a sale. A CRM system can assist you in collating this information in an easily accessible dashboard for immediate monitoring.
A vital component of getting the most from your sales teams comes from the setting of KPIs. There are myriad KPIs you can set for your team - here are 5 that we would recommend:
- Sales Growth
- Sales Closing Ratio
- Average Conversion Time
- System Touches
- Customer Lifetime Value
Each of these KPIs can be used to measure the performance of your team in general terms or against their accounts. The benefit of setting indicators such as these is twofold - firstly, they help to establish a benchmark against which you forecast future revenue for reporting on, and secondly they give your team targets to work towards, motivating them to achieve more.
In order to ensure that the set KPIs have the desired effect upon the team, and ultimately your targets, it is important that the indicators are monitored frequently. Don’t set and forget!
Of course, as a sales manager, nurturing your staff is only half the story. In order to make sure that opportunities are flowing, being followed up on and are handled in an efficient and consistent manner, it is vital that all of the necessary processes are in place for your staff to align themselves with.
The way in which a sales process is constructed will depend heavily upon the methodology being employed. There is no right or wrong answer in terms of which methodology you choose to utilise - each have their pros and cons. Our personal favourite is the inbound methodology.
Of course, when embedding a new methodology into your sales department, it is important that you have the relevant metrics established to gauge success, and a platform available in which you can easily access the results.
Whilst almost every sales manager is aware of the principle of the sales pipeline, it’s surprisingly common for businesses not to effectively use one. It may be that your purchasing cycle is seemingly too long or too sporadic for a pipeline to be relevant, however this is generally an oversight.
The value of an effective sales pipeline cannot be overstated - having one in place and maintained will not only give you full visibility of your upcoming opportunities, but help you determine where your customers are dropping off the radar. Everyone has had that gut wrenching moment when you suddenly remember that great prospect that you had several months ago, and no-one knows where they went or why.
A properly constructed pipeline should resemble a funnel - with the top of the pipeline consisting of broad prospects, filtering through to qualified and then closed leads. Of course, you will want a system in place where you can fully customise the different stages because each pipeline will be slightly different for each organisation.
Without contacts, a sales department doesn’t exist! Each contact that your sales team makes is a valuable asset to the organisation in one way or another, and these contacts require careful nurturing and management.
A sales manager’s nightmare is various lists full of contacts all in different places, a spreadsheet here or a scrap of paper there. In time, these lists will be misplaced or forgotten about, and then the contacts within them are significantly less valuable because they are now out of date. Contacts that were of vital importance have now moved on to different organisations and must be tracked down all over again. This situation is alarmingly common within B2B companies, and one which not only wastes time and money, but also directly results in a loss of business.
Thankfully, the situation is easily remedied through the use of a Contact Relationship Management system, or CRM. This software acts as a database for all of your contacts, and should be updated each time a contact is spoken with - although this seems like it may take a lot of time, the results are immediately tangible.
Through closer management of your contacts, not only are you able to access information on all of your customers as and when you need it, but you can also monitor the activities of your salespeople too.
Studies have shown that a CRM system can improve your conversion rates by up to 300%, and is an absolute must for an effective sales department to run efficiently and successfully.
Some managers love it and some loathe it, but reporting on your team’s activities and success (or otherwise) is an integral part of the sales manager’s role. While it can be a quick and easy process, many managers still rely on manually sourcing information from various locations in order to create a final report.
In order to report efficiently, it is advisable that sales managers use a single piece of software in which all of their teams’ activities, pipelines, and prospect information is held in one place. Using this software, managers can then create a fully customised dashboard to view all of the key metrics immediately, pull them out of the system and then report on them easily and efficiently.
The Sales Management Mix
Drawing all of this information together, it is possible to see how your sales department could be a smooth running lead generation machine with the correct systems in place. By drawing each of these different components of the sales management mix into one piece of software, all daily tasks become much quicker, conversion rates rise and, ultimately, your customers are happier for it!
A CRM system (as mentioned above) brings all of these individual elements together, focusing on increasing the conversion rates and visibility of both your staff and your opportunities. Implementing such a system can be a quick and easy process providing that a few considerations are taken into account, and the results will be immediately visible to you, your team, and your bosses!