Sell, sell, sell. We all know that the sales team is there to engage with would-be customers and close deals. That’s why most execs only worry about the sales volume! And while that’s completely understandable, leaders pressuring salespeople to increase their sales without proper sales management risk getting into the Gordon Gekko territory.
So, how can you ensure that your sales team can deliver proper (and measurable!) results without becoming a greedy exec who only cares about money? The answer is already up there in the first paragraph: with proper sales management. Only through that will you keep your sales team outside of the whopping 67% of salespeople not reaching their quotas.
Now, you might be wondering — what does proper sales management look like? The answer will depend on whom you ask, as different managers have different approaches and techniques. That’s why I’ll share my personal opinion on the matter, which comes from years of experience working at Sales Clover and in the sales sector.
But first, let’s review why a sales team might not be delivering the results you expect from them.
Why your sales team isn’t closing deals
The Hubspot report I’ve linked above is pretty clear about the reasons why two-thirds of salespeople can’t reach their sales targets:
- Lack of skills, mainly for qualifying leads
- Misunderstanding of customer pain points
- Poor pipeline design
- Absence of sales processes
Other items need to be added to that list. For example, there are a lot of people that need more proper motivation. There’s also the issue of poor training, which leads to the misuse of sales processes or to the misunderstanding of the services and products the sales team is offering. In some cases, there might be people that aren’t cut out for making sales.
If you notice that your sales team isn’t meeting its quota, you should consider all these factors to truly understand what’s happening. With that analysis, it’s possible to clearly define a plan and reverse the situation. That plan will look different to each company, but there’s a list of things that can help you get on the right track, some of which I describe below. All of them are part of the battle-tested sales management processes, so you’d do well applying them in your company.
6 things you need to do to properly manage your sales team
Some of the things I’ll list here might sound obvious, but maybe they won’t. It doesn’t matter anyway, as these tasks are essential for proper sales management. So, take this as a checklist that will help you take your sales team to the next level.
1. Build and cultivate a winning team
Duh, right? Well, I feel like I need to say this first, because a lot of people often think that they have a potentially winning team on their hands, as if a team like that happens by chance. Let me tell you: it really doesn’t. A winning sales team starts to form during your salespeople’s hiring process and keeps going while the team works day in and day out.
The first step, then, is clear: hire strong salespeople with the skills and motivation to help your company reach its goals. Obviously, this is easier said than done, as people with strong resumes might end up being a poor fit. That’s a risk you’ll have to take, but, as a rule of thumb, remember to hire salespeople with experience in your industry (or, at the very least, in a similar one) who display enthusiasm for the job and can come up with an engaging sales pitch on the spot.
When building a winning team, you must mix things up a little. You don’t want a pack of wolves that will eat each other’s heads off in an all-out ego war. Try to balance traits, experience levels, and selling styles. Naturally, try to form a diverse team with people from all backgrounds. It will grant you different perspectives and insights that can unlock various business opportunities.
Hiring is just a part of a bigger mission. You’ll always have to cultivate your sales team for it to excel at all times. There’s no way around this: you’ll have to do it, and you’ll have to keep doing it constantly, as this isn’t a one-off. That nurturing process includes tasks like securing the vital assets for the team, redefining and evolving processes according to the team’s needs, motivating your salespeople as a team and individually – according to their varying personalities, and giving your team space to evaluate your managing style as well.
2. Establish solid and streamlined processes
During my years in sales, I’ve come across many people that don’t believe in general sales processes. According to them, “no sale looks the same.” And while I agree with the overall sentiment, having a general process can serve as guidance for salespeople in more ways than one.
A great way to develop a sales process is to build your own playbooks. You can document and standardize tactics and tools that have proven effective in the past. Thus, you can create a consistent guide that your underperforming salespeople can follow to achieve their goals. Remember that these playbooks aren’t a bible to swear by but a flexible compendium of potentially successful suggestions.
Aside from that, you can do a couple of extra things to improve your sales processes. First, you should identify the most common obstacles your sales team faces and offer solutions to overcome them. Salespeople often struggle with many issues but are frequently struck by fear of rejection and poor communication.
When the fear of rejection hits, your sales reps may dread reaching out through cold calling and emailing, in some sense, boycotting themselves. You can help by boosting their confidence and even offer additional training to improve their skills (more on that later).
As for communication, you might think that all salespeople are good communicators by nature, but that’s not true. A person can be great with words and still be a poor communicator, especially when selling something. A great seller communicates only the best selling points and allows the potential buyer to voice their needs and concerns. If you identify a rep that can’t stop talking about the wonders of your products or that can’t establish a certain rapport with your clients, start working on their communication skills with (you’ve guessed it) ongoing training.
The second extra thing you can do to improve your sales processes is to assist your salespeople in making their own plans. Giving your sales team their autonomy is a must in a people-first environment. However, that shouldn’t mean they can do anything they want to close a deal. That’s why you need to meet with your sales team and help each team member define their goals, design sales techniques, and improve their time management and prioritization skills. You must ensure that they align their approach with your overall sales strategy.
3. Adopt a continuous training and improvement mentality
I’ve already mentioned the need to train your team in certain situations, but I have yet to tell you that you don’t need to wait for your salespeople to get into a dead end before training them. Adopting a continuous training and improvement mentality is highly beneficial to keep your team’s skills honed and sharp.
A good sales manager will always save time to train their team on using new tools and techniques. Most of those training sessions will naturally focus on low and middle performers, as they are the ones that need the information the most. Through regular sessions, you can ensure that they develop the abilities they lack to become top performers.
Does that mean that experienced and top sellers can skip training sessions? Not precisely. Though the best salespeople out there will keep an eye on new selling strategies and will study and train on their own, you need to include them in your training sessions as well. Sales knowledge and tools evolve all the time. This means that even the most senior professionals in your sales team will need a refresher from time to time.
Continuous training also means going with a more individualized approach to training, especially when it comes to underperformers. Group training can be great for introducing new systems, approaches, and strategies, but it sometimes fails to properly engage each salesperson. That’s why one-on-one coaching sessions are the perfect complement to group training.
When you engage in a one-on-one session with one of your sales team members, you can provide personalized tips and suggestions to improve their selling techniques. You can review their performance together and get more detailed feedback about their work. You’ll also have the opportunity to provide your feedback. By doing so, you ensure that the person understands what you need from them and how they can do that.
Need more time to lead the one-on-one sessions yourself? You can always adopt a pair review program. Here the most seasoned sales reps pair with more junior representatives to help them in any way they can. Doing that can be doubly beneficial, as the junior reps can provide the senior professionals with new job perspectives. It’s a win-win for all!
These three suggestions are a great way to get started with proper sales management. They set the foundation for the work ahead. However, there are still some things left to do! So, we highly encourage you to check the second part of this article to get the whole actionable plan.