Practicing Sales MANAGE-ment

In my last post, I challenged the notion of Sales MAN-ager versus Sales MANAGER because I believe many Sales Managers don’t spend enough time actually managing their people. Instead, they focus on pipeline administration and sales “results” instead of managing behaviors. An critical part of Sales Management is the effort Sales Managers make to work with their sales people on personal development. One of the most important things you can do as a Sales Manager is to address sales behaviors instead of results. I want to share how you can create an appropriate process of monitoring and managing sales performance based on behaviors.

A few years ago I worked on a project to help a training firm develop their program for student “aftercare”. If you have attended any type of sales training, you know that it’s critical to have training follow-up and reinforcement if you expect students to adopt the training in their everyday work. An aftercare program allows management and team members to participate a program that both strengthens the training and helps the students manage their adoption of the training skills and activities.

The aftercare program convinced me that the same principles also apply to managing sales people. By focusing on and observing behavior, we can determine which behaviors, activities, and deliverables are helping or hindering sales performance. If we take a structured “aftercare” approach to managing these behaviors, activities, and deliverables, we can address the challenges that salespeople face in their everyday selling activities.

How you structure the program? First, think about the core skills that you expect a sales person to exhibit and perform to execute the sales process and close deals. Depending on what process you use, this may include activities like prospecting, conducting a dialogue with customers, closing, negotiating a deal, or other competencies.

Based on these skill sets and the revenue goals we have for our business, we need to define goals and objectives for each sales person. For example, we might set a goal around prospecting that requires the sales person to complete a number of calls or e-mails on a period basis. In setting this goal, we focus not only on the number of calls, but (more important) the quality of the calls and the interaction that occurs between the sales person and the prospect or customer. This means that you just can’t look at the numbers in CRM to discover what the sales person is doing.

Enabling Sales Behaviors

Here are two suggestions that I feel are best practices when it comes to sales rep behaviors.

  • You need to listen in on rep phone calls to hear actual conversations between the sales person and the customer. Think of the phone call as a type of deliverable.  If your sales person sends a letter to a customer, you would examine that letter to determine if the messaging, grammar, and content are an appropriate sales communication. Phone calls are no different.
  • Another approach is to do role playing. I’m a huge fan of role playing, and I use it extensively when I manage sales people. Unfortunately role-playing often feels artificial and strained because people don’t practice it enough. Also, it takes valuable time that can be used for selling. It’s critical that as a Sales Manager you overcome this issue.  The bottom line is that if you can‘t see the rep completing the skills as they are supposed to in a sales call, then they probably aren’t going to execute when they get with a prospect.  (There are no “game day” players when it comes to sales!)

Set Documented Goals & Objectives

Now that you’ve established goals for the competencies and skills you manage, you should sit down with each sales person and establish objectives to accomplish those goals. This is not a brainstorming session; instead, you need to decide in advance what types of objectives you would expect a sales person to accomplish. That’s not to say a sales person can’t be creative about setting objectives, but the key is that you need to feel the objectives will accomplish the results required to demonstrate competency.

Use CRM to Capture Goals/Objectives & Corresponding Behaviors

In my consulting work, I use CRM as a way of capturing this information. I build skills, goals, and objectives that align with my sales methods and processes. For one client, I defined screens in Salesforce.com that enabled them to prescribe goals and objectives that accomplish the behaviors they want. They now have reports and dashboards that allow them to compare rep activities with their Goals and Objectives.

(I have created a form you can use to manage this process, and I’m happy to provide it on request. Just e-mail me at terry.walsh@acorngrowthpartners.com or fill out the Contact form on my website. It breaks down the Goals, Objectives, Skills and Activities required of the sales person.)

Allocate Preparation Time for Each Rep

As you focus more on proactive sales behavior management, provide yourself the time and preparation to complete quality discussions, evaluation, and goal setting with your team members. I try to allocate at least one hour every week with each salesperson. That may seem like a lot, but I often find I can do this when I’m in the field with the team. For example, I could allocate an hour before a sales call to focus on skill building, as well as preparation for the sales call.

Whether you manage this in CRM or on paper, you accomplish better results by focusing on behaviors than on the numbers. When you understand how and why sales people are behaving, you can create your own “aftercare” program focusing on the skills and activities that drive the appropriate results.  Become a great Sales MANAGER, not a Sales MAN-ager.

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Author: Terry Walsh

Terry Walsh is a Trusted Executive Advisor known for his work helping clients create and execute revenue growth strategies, organize and build sales teams, and implement CRM systems. He focuses on helping sales leaders achieve their potential in building and managing effective sales teams. Author of “99 Questions to Achieving Your Sales Goals” (Amazon), which outlines a road map for success in both individual sales and managing sales teams, implemented in dozens of clients. Terry's 25+ years’ experience and a proven track record help organizations build high-performing, well-managed sales teams that drive maximum revenue and create enduring customer relationships to exceed revenue, operational and strategic goals. Terry is currently a Partner with Funnel Metrics, LLC, a leading professional services firm that offers a unique suite of sales enablement and performance management solutions designed to help businesses improve revenue growth and predictability.a Previously, Terry worked as an executive sales leader for major companies including Culligan International, Cendant Corporation, Whitman-Hart/marchFIRST, Digital Equipment Corporation, and others. He has supported dozens of clients as a consultant, trainer and project leader to enable effective sales organizations.

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