As a former sales leader, I really felt that my role served as the pivot point in the organization. Who better to translate strategy into execution for the field and to process and package customer feedback for marketing and senior decision makers.
But today if you ask a rep when was that last time they worked with their manager in their territory, you’d be hard pressed to hear anything recent. In working with salespeople daily, we’ve observed that the sales manager is rarely working with the rep in the field. Rather they’re in countless meetings, rolling up data in Salesforce.com for other senior leaders, or negotiating for resources and competitive pricing. They may attend a key customer meeting or organize an offsite in a neutral location, but outside of email and text, the new way of connecting is disconnected. My fear - the traditional “work-with” may be a thing of the past.
Now I’m sure there are readers out there that would bristle at the suggestion that they don't “do” sales management. If you are doing it and doing it well - I’m really happy for you and your team. If you're not, I have a few ideas. Lets go to the Doppler:
- First, validate or install a buyer-based sales process. Each step should be behaviorally meaningful and lead to a logical and mutually beneficial next step. Make sure it aligns with how your customers buy and engage over time.
- Second, ensure that your people have a firm grasp of your company’s value proposition. I’m not talking back of the brochure sales copy – I’m talking language that states that your firm knows the needs of the market, has a process to address them, and that you’re having an impact.
- Third, train against the competencies that underpin each step of the sales process. From prospecting to close, articulate what good looks like and model the process. Expect flawless execution. Your people need a clearly defined set of goals against which to measure the progress they’re making.
- Fourth, work with your people - regularly. Coach them on the steps of the sales process that are relevant for your visit. Keep in mind that your best reps want more time with you, not less. They want to know how their contributions contribute to a higher mind. So connect them to the strategy. According to the Corporate Executive Board, sales coaching can yield as much as a 20% increase in revenue.
- Fifth, write follow-up reports. Let your reps know what you saw, what worked well and areas where additional attention can pay dividends. This will make performance reviews easier and less stressful.
- Lastly, manage your time. Do what’s closest to the money first. If your calendar looks like a meeting placemat, beg off of some of them and get out into the field. Bring your insights back to leadership. Ask yourself if you’re being reliable or merely responsive. There is a difference. And, you can always ask your team for feedback!