How to succeed through smart sales management
Updated: Jan 2, 2019
Peter Drucker famously said, "Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done".
While this is woefully true of many aspects of management, it resounds the most with sales. Any of this sound familiar? - A pit in the stomach before your weekly sales meetings - The knowledge of not having met targets and yet no idea of how the gap is going to be bridged - The absolute certainty that you are going to be embarrassed by your boss, but no comeback, because, "Hey, it's the boss, and the boss is always right!"
Your not alone. Most sales professionals, managers and executives alike, admit that they wish the frustration and pressure associated with sales could be altogether removed or at least mitigated. While it seems like this is easier said than done, there are a few easy things to implement to make sales management easier as well as your sales job more enjoyable.
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT PEOPLE
I have seen so many mediocre or downright poor sales professionals in my career that I have started believing this is a role that requires a more selective interview process than others. The reason is that there are too many people that get into sales roles simply because there are openings available, or because they talk well and so think they can be good in a sales role.
It is extremely important to choose people that are passionate about sales, and an easy measure is to pick a problem solver. Sales people need to believe in their product, and that they are adding value to the prospect and not wasting their time. It requires the ability to actually figure out who has a pain, then boldly go and pick a conversation with this person and be brazen enough to propose a solution, all the while believing that they are actually doing something good and valuable. So, a natural problem solver is someone that I am always looking for when I make sales hires. All the other things, such as good communication skills, interpersonal abilities reasonably good EQ etc are equally important, but a problem solver will enjoy his work so much that it will not be a job to him. You want such people in your team.
2. PRIORITISE PROCESS OVER RESULTS
The process is important, regardless of the outcome - this should be true of every single role and job in an organization. I do not mean that results are not important, only that if the process is strong, the results will come. For both your inbound and outbound sales teams, define the process with specifics about the number of calls to be made, meetings to go to, emails to be sent, follow-ups to be made, questions to ask to qualify the inbound lead and so on. Then, sales management will be about tracking the data that comes in by following the process, seeing if you are at, below or above industry averages, and then making changes to the process as necessary.
While analyzing results, allow for a free discussion between the executives about what is working, where they are facing challenges with following the process and ask for their opinions about what they think the direction should be. Being more involved in the decision making process will make them double or triple their efforts without you having to ask for it.
3. BUILD RESPECT WITHIN THE TEAM
Treating your inbound executives like stars and your outbound sales guys like the poor relative that came home and never went away is not going to help anyone. They each have their place in the organization and should be adequately appreciated for their efforts. A lot has been said about how to manage them correctly, and I personally think there is no one right way.
There is a school of thought that says your outbound team should never receive inbound leads because then, they will start depending on these to meet their targets. I am not sure if this is 100% right. I subscribe to another method of management - allow your outbound team to receive inbound leads for one day in a month and ask them to convert those into sales. Ask your inbound team to perform outbound sales for one day (or more) in a month. Set some goals and targets based on this new activity. I think both teams will develop a greater appreciation for the others' skills, the number of new sales will increase (this has actually been documented in a few organizations) and everybody wins.
So, that is pretty much all there is to it - choose the right people, set the right process, and treat people right. Above all, be open to unlearning the old and learning new things each day. A tall ask, I know, but once you master this, you simply cannot fail as a sales manager.