Are You Providing Value as a Sales Manager?
Managing a sales team requires more than managing goals and holding meetings. Sales professionals are often ambitious and driven and they value freedom and independence in their jobs. Managing a team of sales professionals like this who have various skills, motivations and egos, can be a complicated and challenging role.
So why do some managers successfully lead a team while other consistently struggle and fall short?
Here are four ways top sales managers add value and help their team exceed sales goals:
1. Optimize how your team uses their time. Successful sales teams thrive when they don't feel they need to stop and check in or are overloaded with intermittent and irregular "review" events. Utilizing a CRM to provide real time data and reporting capability is key to freeing up your team from submitting multiple redundant reports. Your job is to make sure your sales people can use as much of their time as possible on revenue generating activities and not on administrative tasks. Develop a set schedule for team meetings and individual 121s utilizing well thought out agendas that provide value for your team. Using a consistent cadence allows your team to focus their attention on selling activities and less on management requirements.
2. Use powerful KPIs. Sales is a numbers game and today's CRMs offer a never-ending choice of reports you can use. But it is key that you are managing based on the correct indicators. There are two types of indicators that sales managers use, lagging indicators and leading indicators. Lagging indicators are outputs and results that are measured after the fact. They include sales, number of new customers, gross margin and sales cycle time. Leading indicators are activities and actions that are tracked and measured during the sales process. Leading indicators include number of calls a sales person makes per week, who is the sales person calling on, when are they making prospecting calls etc. Leading indicators are by far the most important when you are looking to mentor and develop a stagnant or lagging sales team.
3. Manage the forward pipeline. Successful managers understand that there is a difference between pipeline management and forecasting. Forecasting is focused on late stage deals and accurately identifying a closing date and amount. Pipeline management is focused on the future; how effectively each sales person is prospecting and how prospects move through the pipeline. If your sales team is not effectively managing the pipeline and only focusing on the late stage deals, your future forecasts are going to suffer. Sales managers should be paying attention to the number of new leads and opportunities being added as well as the time it takes for prospects to move from one stage to another. As your visibility into your team's pipeline improves, you will also want to start paying attention to how often the close date is pushed back and if the forecasted sales amount consistently gets smaller as the opportunity progresses. Both of these could indicate that effective qualifying is not happening early in the engagement.
4. Lead don't manage. As important as metrics and data are to making a informed decision, too many managers manage their teams solely based on numbers and miss out on the opportunity to work alongside their team in a way that motivates and rewards them and inspires everyone to up their game. The easiest way to stop managing and start leading is to get out from behind your CRM and get into the field with your team. 60% of a managers time should be spent doing ride alongs. This activity gives you first hand observations that you can pair with your data to provide real time actionable coaching. If you tie these obsevations back to the impact on the pipeline or forecasting you can help your team better understand your coaching.
Even the best sales managers aren't perfect. But if you genuinely care about the members of your sales team and apply these four concepts consistently and in the best interest of your team, you can become the manager that your team loves working for and loves producing for.