The sales team in an organization is the lifeblood of any business. They not only ensure the sales of the entire company are ongoing and profitable but also focus on customer retention, repairing and upholding the company’s reputation, and selling the brand of the company.
This article discusses eight specific strategic factorsfor a sales team leader, be it a sales manager or VP of Sales, or a CEO. Many of these are familiar however they warrant repeating as they form the foundation of a strong functioning sales team.
Professional sales teams provide loyalty and trust to build key relations between a customer and the company. But for these sales teams to be effective and work aggressively they must have a management structure that provides validated metrics that prove past performance of product/service delivery. Senior management often have a treasure trove of metrics that do not frequently get maximized to assist salespeople to close the sale. Salespeople like to make promises, but facts that support the promises close more sales.
Salespeople can promise on time delivery, for example. But if they have the actual stats that show the company record of success with being on time, they will gain much more credibility. Salespeople with a higher degree of credibility should be able to close more sales.
There are a number of factors that may hinder a sales team for which a sales team leader can take action to assure these factors don’t occur:
• Inadequate training – Sales training should always include competitive advantages and how to use them in a sales encounter.
• Poorly communicated corporate strategies – Often sales teams are not aware of the goals or direction set forth by senior management. This can lead to operating at cross purposes.
- Insufficient knowledge of your product, service, or industry – Training must be reinforced on product/service benefits/values. Did you ever buy a car and have the salesperson unable to answer the simplest questions? Would you trust an engineering firm whose salesperson can’t evaluate a basic engineering problem?
- Commission programs – This is a double edged sword. Some sales teams do better on a salary basis, and some are driven by commission. Know which kind of players you have before embarking on changes to the pay.
- They are not generally sales oriented – Use personality profiles to ensure you have candidates who will excel at sales. It is not a job for everyone, although many think they “might be good at it.” It is costly to train someone who will not succeed in the long run.
Best ways of Managing a Successful Sales Team
Here are eight topics which impact ways in which a sales team can be well managed and motivated to produce more sales.
1. Goal driven
As an organization, achievable goals should be set over a period of time. These goals could be weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly. Goals without accountability are meaningless. Be sure you communicate the consequences of not reaching goals. If there are no consequences, then the goals themselves have little meaning, and in particular, have a minimized ability to influence sales actions.
The sales team should also individualize their goals which will enhance healthy competition in the department.
Salespeople thrive on recognition. Be sure to recognize the super stars. Have the super stars share their best practices with others in the organization.
It is the sales manager’s role to remove roadblocks, if any are identified, that may prevent sales people from reaching their goals. For example, don’t set a goal of selling 100 widgets within a certain timeframe if operations can only produce 60. On the other hand, if operations can produce 100 within a specified timeframe, and sales has only been producing 60, then setting a goal of selling 100 is logical.
Hiring of qualified, tested personnel for sales jobs comes in as the first priority. Hiring the right type of person for a sales role should mean your goals can serve as motivators. But, if you hire the type of person who isn’t motivated by goals, then putting them in a situation where you identify a goal isn’t likely to get you the desired result.
2. On the job – out in the field training is the only way
After all, sales are done in the field and not in the office. It is essential for the sales team to meet customers, ideally at first with a seasoned staff member who can guide them through several experiences and situations. Sales people need to crawl before they can walk so as not to risk any damage with existing or potential customers.
Having an experienced staff member participate at first will also allow for that experienced person to provide feedback to the new sales person. Each supporting sales staff should be able to give and get feedback. How they react to this feedback is essential during this training period. Successful salespeople are open to critique. Defensive salespeople generally will not do well in an organization.
Assuming you have the right personality type in place, providing good feedback will not only boost their confidence individually, but it will give the full team confidence in the approach as well.
Every member of the sales team will not have the same strengths. There will be individuals with strengths to follow up with enterprise businesses and individuals in that structure, while others will have a better connection with smaller businesses and their “multiple hat” individuals.
It is key to identify and group these capabilities. Having small groups or departments targeting different entities and individuals will help the sales team in general. This will also boost healthy competitions among the groups.
Each salesperson must be crystal clear on who their target audience is and what that buyer values in the sales selection. Too few companies engage in market research that removes bias in getting to the top buying attributes. This hinders sales teams as they are forced to “guess” what sales pitch to use each time.
Or, organizations can often develop a “one size fits all” message. That message may have been tailored to enterprise businesses, but does that mean it will work just as well when targeting smaller businesses? Market research can provide insight to this distinction for a fee that may be more reasonable than dealing with a high level of sales rep churn resulting from mismatched messaging.
4. Success stories
It is equally important to use real life success stories and examples to boost and educate the team. Let salespeople share the success of a closed sale with their team members. Ask them to specify when they noticed the turning point of the buyer becoming positive about the transaction.
When a sales person has great ideas on how to handle customers in the field, it can be easy for them to sell and interact. Bonding of departments helps in exchanging of ideas and is important in creating a friendly and conducive environment.
Sales graphs in meetings can sometimes be cumbersome but are often essential. They can provide a solid visual that supports the overall story. Visuals can be powerful, so be prepared to give your team those visuals.
5. Recurrent training
It is obvious that business environments change frequently. New competition, new products, economic changes, and global concerns all impact our day-to-day activities and decisions. Be sure your sales training takes all into account.
Ask your team how often they get squeezed to lower their price. Then ask them how they successfully sold value, so they did not have to cave in on price. You must equip salespeople with solid competitive advantage based value propositions if they are to negotiate strongly. This means providing historical metrics of past performance on an updated basis.
If you learn that your team is being asked to lower your price more frequently, then that might be a good indicator that training would be beneficial.
6. Telling the experience through an onboarding plan
Onboarding involves bringing in new ways or employees into a company. Onboarding can be implemented through successful employees who have managed to bring big businesses sharing the experience and ways they used to do so.
This will enable an exchange of ideas that will help manage the team. This will also boost new employee confidence and skills and expedite internal relationship building.
Companies that don’t think through their onboarding process often leave new employees alone to figure it out for themselves. Given the expense of recruiting and hiring new employees, this approach will result in higher costs to manage the sales operations.
7. Customer CRM
A CRM is a business managing tool that keeps track of prospect/customer data during the sales process. From communication and reminders to leads, this is an effective way of managing sales for a sales team.
A CRM is a critical tool for a company and sales team but it is only as good as the data put into it. The customer data must be kept up-to-date and shared if it is to add value to any organization. Part of your training and onboarding must include good use of your CRM.
A CRM is an excellent place to keep the customer and company metrics that will help build a solid value proposition and offer competitive advantages for sales encounters.
8. Territorial assignments
There are pros and cons to assigning territories. Sometimes it limits the superstars by placing boundaries around their opportunities. On the other hand, some sales people like to feel their contacts are protected, especially when their sales are commission based.
Territory management tools are available to help keep track of assigned regions and employees. They should also be reflected in the CRM.
How can I help my sales team:
Make sure you give them proper training, and recognition for a job well done when their efforts bring in that next new customer, or when they save a customer who may think bout leaving the company for a competitor.
Give them the proper tools whether it is technical materials or a CRM or a website that supports their efforts. Don’t let them onto field without the armor needed.
How can I support my sales team
Make sure you give them solid, validated competitive advantages with which to build their competitive advantage talking points. Show them how to use these to build a value proposition and to negotiate away from price as the differentiator.
How can I motivate my sales team
First and foremost, make sure their compensation is fair. Be sure they are clear on what territory or niche belongs to them. Sending a salesperson out to hunt and they are not sure of either can be extremely demotivation. They need to know where the boundaries are and the opportunities exist for them.
Also, show them, when you can, how their competitive advantages, stack up against the competition. Once they know they are the leader, at least in some areas, they have more confidence. Strong confidence is the basis for motivation. Deliver to them, and they will deliver to the company.
Many companies have competitive advantages, yet don’t communicate them, or don’t understand how powerful they can be as differentiators in a highly competitive market. Getting competitive advantages should start by looking within to see what is currently being delivered and how. Chances are, you’ll find value that may seem obvious to you, but somehow remains hidden to prospects and customers.
Leading your sales team to a successful journey can prove to be challenging, but as you have read, it simply requires taking time to plan and execute various tasks to help improve the management.
Use the above as a checklist to ensure you are not skipping any key steps needed by your team.
The single most important tool to arm your team with is a value proposition that is based on your company and its products/services that provides solid competitive advantage differentiation. This requires validated metrics that can prove past successes.