How to Help Sales Managers Maximize Their Teams’ Effectiveness
For sales managers, perhaps the single most important aspect of their role is to maximize the effectiveness of their teams to generate better overall sales results. However, according to the findings of the CSO Insights 2016 Sales Performance Optimization Study, the percentage of salespeople making quota has declined year-on-year since 2012, falling from 63 percent to 57.1 percent in the space of just four years.
The same study also revealed that the adoption of sales enablement initiatives has actually increased over the same period, but the missing piece of the puzzle for most businesses is a sales manager enablement strategy. In this article, we take a closer look at the ways sales managers can improve the effectiveness of their sales team and explain how organizations can do more to help managers optimize sales performance.
Give Them Time to Coach
Coaching is the single most significant way sales managers can influence the effectiveness of their sales team, and adopting a formal coaching strategy has a significant effect on business results. Indeed, the CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study found that when coaching is left entirely up to sales managers, average quota attainment is 53.4 percent. This metric increases to 60.6 percent with formal coaching.
However, in order to actually carry out their coaching activities, especially in a formalized way, sales managers need to be able to find the time. Unfortunately, evidence suggests that in many organizations, this is simply not possible, as sales managers are over-worked, often with tasks that are better suited for other people. In many cases, sales managers do not even receive the necessary training to be able to coach others effectively.
The extent of this problem was laid bare in the CSO Insights 2017 Sales Manager Enablement Report, where it was revealed that 18.6 percent of companies provide their sales managers with no training whatsoever. One of the various consequences of this is the fact that 47.1 percent of sales managers then spend less than 30 minutes a week coaching the skills and behaviors of their team members.
“I’m never surprised when sales managers tell me that the number one problem they face is not enough time,” says Kevin F. Davis, writing for Salesforce. “What they mean is… they’re spending too much time on doing everyone else’s job. Sales managers with great teams have conquered their number one problem so they can focus on their number one opportunity: developing more great salespeople.”
A Strategic Selling Approach
In terms of actually improving a team’s effectiveness, sales reps need to have guidance, structure and a clear process behind their sales prospecting efforts so that they win complicated sales opportunities and successfully sell solutions. Miller Heiman Group’s Strategic Selling product aims to provide sales managers and other leaders with the tools to implement this type of procedure and teach sales reps how to plan for opportunities.
With Strategic Selling, sales reps learn how to carry out a client analysis, identify key decision makers, assess the competition, use the most advantageous sales methods, and take a more measured approach to sales prospecting. This is achieved through the use of the Miller Heiman Blue Sheet, which encourages sales staff to follow best practices and work through a series of important “why questions.”
Asking these questions can assist reps in gaining a deeper understanding of their client or prospect and determine what their reasons for buying might be. Utilizing the Blue Sheet can also help sales teams evaluate their own objectives for sales meetings and specify their desired outcomes. In doing so, sales team members will be better equipped to examine their competitive position and assess whether to pursue an opportunity.
Ultimately, this all leads to greater efficiency, less time wasted on low-probability deals, more focus given to the best or most advantageous opportunities, and an improved understanding of clients and their specific challenges, needs, wants, and expectations. As a consequence of these various improvements, sales managers can expect to build a more effective team that is better equipped to meet sales challenges.
Create a Winning Culture
Finally, it is crucial for all leaders within your organization to take responsibility for creating and maintaining a positive corporate culture so that sales managers are able to bring new recruits into an environment that facilitates learning, builds their confidence, encourages their success, and allows for excellent sales performance. Doing so will also help to improve the morale of existing staff, potentially reducing turnover.
“Sales culture is important because the efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity of an organization’s sales force has a direct and significant impact on revenue,” says Shelley Cernel, writing for the Salesforce Blog. “High-performing sales cultures are characterized by an ability to align, execute, and renew. Sales leaders must outline a consistent sales process and then set specific objectives around those activities.”
Culture is about more than the physical environment in which staff have to work. A positive culture should be reinforced constantly through a willingness to acknowledge and reward good performance, the provision of genuine opportunities for career progression for top performers, and the social aspect of work.
Creating this kind of positive, high-performance company culture can also help with on-boarding by giving sales managers something with which to align their training so that new recruits are able to fit in more quickly. This is especially important because the aforementioned CSO Insights Sales Enablement Optimization Study highlighted the fact that 60.7 percent of businesses now report average ramp-up times of seven months or more.
Monika Götzmann is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global business solution provider consulting organizations for better sales prospecting. Culturally savvy, she has years of international experience in B2B marketing on behalf of dynamic, world-class enterprises. She likes to share her insights about sales and service solutions.