Sales management can be a difficult business discipline to master. It involves not only understanding and applying the latest sales techniques, but also helping sales teams work at optimum capacity.
Managing a sales team is demanding enough under usual circumstances, however the recent trend towards remote work has added additional layers of complexity. Sales managers now not only have to oversee a shift in working practices – but deal with the fact that many potential clients and customers are working from home.
This has resulted in a necessity to adopt the best sales apps and maintain extra flexibility to keep teams productive and motivated.
What is Sales Management?
According to Pipedrive, sales management is the process of
“ Developing a sales force, coordinating sales operations and implementing sales techniques”.
Using these strategies, the sales manager aims to help a business hit or surpass their sales targets. Which makes sales management a crucial element of any operation, large or small. And, as well as helping companies reach their sales objectives, the sales management process enables organizations to stay competitive throughout testing times.
With a clear view of which processes to monitor and how to keep track of them, sales managers should be able to pinpoint issues before they become problems. They’re also responsible for training staff so they know what they need to be doing to increase sales quotas.
Sales Management Strategies
Sales managers will have differing roles and responsibilities depending on their business. However, there are certain key strategies that tend to underpin the sales management process.
In this post we’ll outline some of these key approaches and offer some tips on how to maximize their potential:
1. Building the Sales Team
Sales teams often contain numerous types of employees from varying backgrounds. These include account executives, sales and business development reps, sales specialists, customer success reps, and more. It’s the job of a sales manager to hire, onboard, and train all team members.
Without a robust sales hiring strategy a company is at risk of ending up in a costly cycle of consistent turnover. Recruiting wrongly and losing an employee means having to hire someone else to fill that position – and that’s expensive.
But great sales teams don’t come about by accident. Finding the right people with the right qualities – those that display the highest levels of sales engagement – isn’t easy. Sarah Campbell from Kickstart Careers believes the expertise and experience of a sales manager is crucial in order to identify and recruit the most talented individuals.
Tips on optimizing your sales management hiring strategy
To help you in advance of the selection process, create a hiring profile for your sales team so you can identify the types of reps you want.
Create a list of attributes you would ideally like in an employee to help you develop your profile. Then, during the selection process, look out for candidates who exhibit these types of behaviors and traits.
The following characteristics indicate that a candidate could potentially be an asset for your team:
- Curiosity: Are candidates able to identify, question, and pursue answers?
- Feedback: Are they able to receive and process feedback effectively?
- Motivation: Do they understand what motivates them?
- Listening: Are they capable of listening in order to absorb information?
- Empathy: Do they have the ability to truly identify with prospective customers and give them the best customer experience possible?
- Closure: Are they aware of when to hang on and when to let go?
- Timing: Do they understand when to be patient?
In order to identify the above characteristics, use well-constructed screening questions. For example, if they have worked in a customer services environment ask them to talk about a time they had to exhibit patience with a customer. Alternatively, create situations where candidates have the chance to demonstrate these attributes.
Make sure your job descriptions are clear and concise and place your ads in the right places, such as on LinkedIn.
Using a CRM can help you organize your list of candidates and track their progress throughout the recruitment process.
Once you’ve decided on the right person, make your offer appealing. Highlight why this is the right position for them. Good sales managers understand that talented reps often demand higher compensation and the promise of career progression ,so factor this into your hiring process. It’s also generally the case that employees who are paid commensurably are more likely to stay longer.
Once you’ve recruited a new member of the sales team, offer them a strong onboarding process that doesn’t throw them in at the deep end. Have systems in place so that employees can work from home. Then help them get started with their new technology by offering them one-to-one training or a demo on how to use their new equipment.
Once you have a good team in place, it’s time to make sure they have the right ongoing training.
2. Training the Sales Team
Sales is a highly demanding area, so in order to succeed the team needs to be highly motivated. Coaching and mentoring play an important role in this. In fact, coaching a sales team is listed as a top practice when it comes to higher quota attainment. This makes it an important aspect of sales management strategy.
Sales leaders need to have strong personalities in order to inspire their team to achieve. They also need to have a wide range of sales skills and working knowledge of the latest sales performance boosting tools, like a predictive dialer system.
Unfortunately, however, this scenario often falls short. Fewer than a quarter of organizations cited sales coaching as a strength. Many overloaded sales managers say they struggle to find the time.
To make sure you’re in prime position to achieve or exceed sales quotas you need to make coaching a priority.
Tips for training sales employees
Here are some general rules set out by Gartner:
- Develop employees based on a sales member’s unique expertise and experience.
- Provide advice-oriented feedback.
- Provide continuous coaching – at frequent intervals and provide training across a broad range of skills.
- Introduce employees to others within the company for coaching.
- Act like a cheerleader. Give empowering and positive feedback and enable team members to drive their own development.
As part of your ongoing sales team development, you’ll need to focus on prospecting techniques. Prospecting training is an essential aspect of the sales management strategy but how the sales manager goes about this will depend on the company sector and target audience.
Whichever techniques are used, understanding how to train staff to prospect is key to guiding the sales team. Without a well-defined prospecting process in place, individual members will be operating randomly. And that means they won’t be able to convert leads into customers and achieve their quotas.
Tips for perfecting your team’s prospecting techniques
- As part of your prospecting techniques, create ideal customer profiles. Rate characteristics to determine which potential customers have the right attributes for your prospecting efforts.
- When talking with potential customers, encourage the sales team to have real conversations rather than trying to ‘hard sell’ to them from a script. Developing trust is essential.
- Always follow up your prospecting efforts either by email or phone call. For reps who are constantly on the phone there are many clear benefits of VoIP when working in a remote environment.
- Use all available automation. As a sales manager it’s your job to make sure your sales team has the best tools for prospecting, even from home. For example, if you haven’t already done so, investing in cold calling software can take your prospecting to the next level by helping reps create a seamless customer experience.
3. Coordinating Sales Processes
It’s up to the sales manager to determine the processes the sales team must follow. Based on their prior experience, the manager needs to make sure teams are going in the right direction.
Creating the sales funnel is an essential aspect of developing an effective sales management strategy. Sales managers need to use their sales experience to put together a sales funnel that reflects how their prospective customers move along the path to purchase.
Tips on optimizing a sales channel strategy
Divide your sales funnel into stages, then move leads through the system. Using segmentation, you can ensure you target leads with the appropriate marketing content at the right time. Automate processes with lead scoring activities so your sales team can focus on hot, sales-ready prospects.
As part of an effective sales channel strategy, you need to ensure sales and marketing are working collaboratively in order to fuel the pipeline with high quality leads. Once marketing has generated qualified leads they should feed these into the CRM, ready to be nurtured by sales.
Likewise, sales need to feed back on the quality of the leads and report success or lack of it back to marketing. Encourage reps to make use of the latest tools – e.g. sales email tracking apps – to help you see where a prospect is in the sales funnel.
4. Setting Goals and Quotas
Sales managers are responsible for setting goals for each member of the team. These quotas must be realistic and strike a balance between challenging and achievable.
Tips for setting goals
Use a tried and tested framework, such as SMART objectives, when setting goals, and align them with the company’s overall strategy.
Map team goals to individual activity and sales performance objectives. Break down goals into weekly, monthly, and quarterly targets, and reward team members when they hit these smaller milestones.
As well as tracking close rates and deal size, introduce self-improvement goals such as hours spent on the in-house learning management system (LMS).
5. Reporting on Sales Performance
Sales managers need a diverse, in-depth, and accurate range of data at their disposal so they can create reports that outline performance and identify areas for improvement. With different information coming in from a variety of sources, managers need to be able to analyze insights quickly and organize this information.
Sources of data can come from all directions. For example, if you use a call recording service you can gather important nuggets of information around the quality of calls and their outcomes. This can help you decide which individuals require more training and in which areas.
To create accurate reports and forecasts you’ll need to have the appropriate tools and techniques in place. You need to be familiar with the key forecasting methods so that the sales team can know when they’re driving value.
The right tools will help you create insightful reports that will tell you who your top performers are – as well as adjust your sales processes to improve things. A CRM is an essential component of the sales management reporting function.
When selecting a sales CRM, opt for a platform that enables you to:
- Provide the team with access to targeted sales leads.
- Build targeted lists from a database and filter via various criteria.
- Make use of verified data, e.g. with a built-in real time email verification system. Cleaner verified data will boost conversion rates.
- Search contacts and companies so you can target appropriately.
- Customize features so you can append fields and enrich and enhance your own data.
- Track and communicate changes and feedback with all teams across the company – as well as automate administrative tasks.
- Create reports and measure performance.
- Access data from all devices.
Effective sales managers need to have a variety of skills. They need to be able to recognize and onboard talent, coach individual team members, create a motivational work environment, and streamline the sales processes by harnessing technology.
Remote working means that sales teams need a tech stack that allows for both internal communication – e.g. via emails – as well as reliable video calls with prospects. To boost productivity when working at home the team should be encouraged to take advantage of the many time-saving tools, such as email productivity apps, that are widely available.
Flexibility is another aspect that needs to be incorporated into a sales management strategy. Sales managers should ask the team for their perspective and take a dynamic approach so team members can work to their optimum capabilities.
**** This is a guest post from Richard Conn. Richard is the Senior Director, Search Marketing for RingCentral, a global leader in unified communications and omnichannel contact center solutions provider. He is passionate about connecting businesses and customers and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Experian, Target, Nordstrom, Kayak, Hilton, and Kia.****