I recently published an article about 5 Critical Steps to Sales Management Mastery. It was not originally intended to be a complete list but rather the top five steps to take and skills to learn to raise your own bar and truly master the role. Absent from the list were many well-known mechanical, tactical, and even strategic components of sales management. As for critical steps, at the core, make sure it's the right role for you, that you model and learn from the success of others, that you understand people's motivations, you create an environment that ensures success and that you build a culture of constant improvement through coaching.
After publishing the article, sales expert and international thought leader, Dave Kurlan, rightly pointed out that leveraging technology and holding people accountable belonged on the list. He's right. So here they are, below. And if you want to read about all seven, click here to see the whole article, now with the two additional components added, 6 and 7.
7 Critical Components to Sales Management Mastery
1 Model Success
2 Choose the Right Role
3 Know What Motivates
4 Make Coaching Your Most Important Skill
5 Create an Environment that Supports Success
6 Leverage Technology
There are numerous tools available to managers to help them do their jobs and to help their people do theirs. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems work when everyone uses it and keeps it 100% up to date. If less than 100%, the information reported from the data is almost useless. Managers that report 100% compliance also report that it is one of the most useful technology tools in the kit. Another is their pipeline tool.
Let's make an important distinction. CRM is not Pipeline and most CRM tools talk the pipeline talk without walking the walk. CRM focuses on customers whereas Pipeline focuses on opportunities. If you're visual, imagine the two dimensions of customers and activities. That's CRM. Now add a third dimension of opportunities and you have Pipeline.
Client after client ask me how they can turn their CRM tool into a pipeline tool. In Salesforce, for example, thanks to integration with Membrain and other pipeline tools, that's possible. If you don't want to spend money on both, err on the side of pipeline because it's more helpful to salespeople. Many companies use industry-specific CRM tools. E.g., Media companies, or heavy equipment sales, etc. They don't always have the luxury of tossing out a sub-par CRM tool because it is interwoven into many other parts of the business. In that case, either we are able to rig up a Pipeline tool within the structure of their CRM or we set up a separate Pipeline tool. Thanks to the integration tool, Zapier, sometimes we can even save the step of double entering customers.
Another effective tool for managers is the use of video for asynchronous communication. A video challenge can be sent to a rep who then responds with a video of their own. The manager asks a question such as, "Describe product x in detail," or, "Open a conversation with a positioning statement," and the rep responds so the manager can critique and provide feedback. Refract is an example of this kind of technology.
7 Hold People Accountable
Sales Managers often look at sales revenues as a primary data point for management. As we know, however, sales is a trailing indicator. To improve forecasting, we look ahead by examining activities and behaviors that are likely to lead to more sales. If we focus on behavior that is within the control of the salesperson, we can bring more accountability to our leadership.
Here's my Thursday-Afternoon Test: Imagine that you are meeting with your team Friday morning and you want them each to report on what they accomplished yesterday. What expectation could you set for team members such that it has the power to change their behavior on Thursday afternoon? That's the test.
Here's an example: You want them to sell more and you have a three-month sales cycle and an average monthly sales number of $100,000 per month per rep. (Let's keep it simple.) You give them the metric of selling $25,000 per week and reporting to you Friday morning. Does it pass the Thursday-Afternoon Test? Let's see. It's Thursday at 3:00 pm and they've only sold $15,000 so far this week, and many of the deals were started two to four months ago. Can they make up the difference in a couple of hours? Probably not, so are not likely to change whatever it was they were doing on Thursday afternoon. They usually can't magically make $10,000 in revenue appear just by working harder for a few hours. That's not to say it isn't possibly, just that it isn't likely to change behavior.
They do, however, have control over many other activities. For example, making calls, following-up, setting up a new meeting, identifying a potential referral source, etc. These kinds of activities have two important features. 1. They are leading indicators. Doing more of them leads to more sales later. 2. They are within the control of the salesperson. Using our example of a Friday morning meeting, let's say we ask our team members to set up six new meetings per week and report on their progress during the meeting. Does it pass the Thursday-Afternoon Test? Let's see. It's Thursday at 3:00 pm and they've set up five meetings. What will they do? Mostly likely, they will get on the phone for next few hours and get that last meeting set up so they can report accomplishing the goal at the meeting the following morning. It passes.
Creating accountability starts with setting expectations that are within the control of the team member. What is doable? What is reachable, within the time frame? How is being reported? Is there a peer component (the morning meeting; a daily huddle; a group chat or email, etc.)? And are their consequences for not meeting metrics goals, activity goals, and behavior goals? And how do those consequences change for one or two violations versus a pattern of missed metrics?
When the goal is sales related or any other trailing indicator, the assumption that poor performance is due to a lack of ability, drive, commitment, or concern can only be established with an appropriate amount of time. Maybe they are doing the right things well, but sales didn't reflect that this month. When the goal is activity-based, doing it or not doing it is a choice, and therefore an easier place from which to hold people accountable.
Here are some additional resources you might find helpful:
White Paper: The Modern Science of Sales Force Excellence
White Paper: The Science of Sales Effectiveness
Register to use candidate assessments (sales and sales management)
Book Dennis Connelly to speak at your event.
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