Some of the participants in my weekly sales training program are not only salespeople, but they are also responsible for a team of salespeople. They’re comfortable managing their own sales activity, but when it comes to sales team management, they’re stumped by the team’s poor performance. Short of cloning themselves, there are 5 key improvement areas that sales managers can focus on, to achieve sales success in any industry.
1. Have a Well-Defined, Effective Selling Process
If you haven’t already done so, install a step-by-step selling process that identifies exactly what salespeople are expected to do. Then, hold them accountable to doing it.
Ideally, the process should emphasize qualifying, so salespeople are investing their time and resources in opportunities that have a high probability of closing. Stringently-qualified opportunities progress more quickly. And, they produce better-fit solutions, more focused presentations, and higher closing rates.
2. Focus on Salespeople’s Activities
Salespeople are experts in the art of constructive avoidance—engaging in contrived activities to avoid doing the real work of selling. Some, for example, will waste an inordinate amount of time updating, categorizing, and alphabetizing a prospect list to avoid actually picking up the phone and calling one of the prospects on the list.
Hold your salespeople accountable to the activities defined by your selling process—activities that keep the process moving forward. Those activities should be focused on moving opportunities into or out of the sales funnel—identifying and qualifying prospects; developing and closing opportunities.
3. Ensure that Your Salespeople Have the Necessary Skills
Having an effective and efficient selling process is of little consequence if your salespeople don’t have the essential skills to implement it. Working hard is not an appropriate substitute for working skillfully. It leads to frustration, lackluster performance, and below-average sales results.
Monitor the actual results of sales-process-directed activities against the intended outcomes. Where there are shortfalls, identify the deficient skills responsible for the result, and make sure your salespeople receive the appropriate training.
When you arrange for training, it’s important for you to be involved in it too. After all, you are responsible for seeing that the content of the training is applied, and for helping your salespeople refine their newly-acquired skills. Finally, training and coaching are interconnected. Support the training with regular pre-call briefings, post-call debriefings, and ongoing coaching.
4. Help Your Salespeople Enhance their Self-Esteem
Learning new strategies and developing new skills will have little positive impact if your salespeople don’t have the confidence to implement those skills. Lack of confidence (fear of failure) is perhaps the biggest roadblock that prevents salespeople from achieving greater levels of success. Providing encouragement, support, and positive feedback to your salespeople is as important a function in your management role.
Your salespeople will never learn to skillfully implement a strategy or tactic by reviewing their training class notes. The only way they will learn to develop skill and confidence is by doing the activity. Encourage your salespeople to step outside their comfort zones and try something new and give them “permission” to do so.
Along with giving your salespeople permission, you must also provide them “protection” when results are less than optimal. Specifically, commend salespeople for their attempts. And rather than focus on the outcomes, focus on the lessons learned from the experiences.
5. Focus on Your People, Not Only their Sales Results
Most sales managers recognize the importance of developing their sales teams. Yet, MANY say they simply don’t have sufficient time or resources to train and develop their people. They tend to be so focused on sales results that they overlook the potential performance improvements that come from investing time to develop their people. Don’t make the same mistake.
Self-cloning may seem like the easiest way to see results, but budget-wise, it’s highly unlikely. When faced with the challenge of managing a sales team, remember: get a process and measure the right activities. Skill gaps can be addressed with training for both you and your salespeople. Give your sales team permission to step outside of their comfort zone. And finally, invest in your team’s future through development.