Effective sales management helps you get the most out of your sales force. Setting sales targets and then sitting back to see what happens is not a winning approach. Perhaps more than in any other business area, sales people need hands-on support and guidance to help them succeed in a particularly challenging role.
Strategy and sales management
Successful sales management starts by establishing what you want your sales team to achieve, and then putting in place a process that tracks and measures outcomes, identifies issues and success factors for effective client engagement. Key activities typically include acquiring sales leads, closing sales and managing customer relationships.
Your sales and marketing strategy should help you determine what the priorities are. For example, strategic goals might include building your presence in a new market and filling up the sales funnel, with shorter term goals of introducing new products every 6 months, or generating quick sales to boost cash flow.
Whatever your strategy, it needs to be translated into specific objectives and communicated to the salesforce so that they know where to focus their efforts.
Clarity is the key here – for both staff and customers
You need to think clearly about your customer base and what your business offers them – get that sales story consistent across your entire business, not just the sales people. Your salesforce needs to clearly know what’s expected of them, by when, and what reporting mechanisms are in place to measure progress. Someone needs to drive this in order to review targets, establish direction and provide a “bridge” to ensure marketing and sales activities remain cohesive.
If a salesperson doesn’t fully understand their role, responsibility or target, they won’t perform to the best of their ability. And if you’re not providing clarity about what the offer should be and clearly measuring performance, you won’t see where the gaps (and opportunities) are.
Salesforce recruitment and training
Knowing what you want your sales force to achieve helps you decide what sales people you need and what knowledge, skills and attitudes are required. Key skills typically include interpersonal skills as well as specific skills in sales techniques and negotiation.
A well-planned induction program can be an important element of getting new recruits up to speed. As well as helping a new salesperson settle in, induction should include basic information on the company and its key policies. Potential problem areas such as expenses should be clearly explained. Key issues such as standards of conduct and restrictions on poaching clients after leaving the company should be included in employment contracts.
As well as on-the-job sales training and formal sales training courses, the sales manager has a role in sales coaching: passing on his or her own experience, accompanying salespeople to sales meetings if necessary and so on. Sales team leaders may themselves benefit from sales management training.
Motivating and incentivising salespeople
Salespeople are most likely to perform well if they feel that sales targets are fair and achievable. It’s important for the sales team to feel that customers have been allocated fairly. Sales targets should be agreed rather than imposed.
Wherever possible, sales targets and incentive schemes should be directly linked to company objectives. Indirect performance indicators such as number of sales calls made can encourage pointless activity.
Even direct sales targets need careful planning and management. Salespeople may be incentivised to skimp on other activities – such as customer care – in the pursuit of achieving sales targets and bonuses. Poorly planned targets can encourage undesirable outcomes: for example, high but unprofitable sales. Individual sales targets can prompt unhealthy conflict within the sales team.
Hands-on sales management is vital. Regular contact with each individual salesperson to motivate and support them. Regular sales team meetings can be used as an opportunity to review progress, share knowledge and fine tune priorities.
More articles on this topic coming soon.
- Managing your sales team
- Sharpen up your sales force
- Keeping staff in the loop about sales
- Managing the key events of the sales cycle
- Recruiting sales people
- Sales reporting
- Sales ratio management