Great sales managers know that they have to apply proven sales management practices that work everyday in the trenches.
THE SALES MANAGER’S PROBLEM
Managing a sales team is hard. The role of the frontline sales manager (FLSM) is the lynchpin of most sales organizations, and when they fail, the company usually fails, or doesn’t fully capitalize on the opportunity the market represents.
Most companies recognize this common pitfall and care deeply about the sales manager’s effectiveness and productivity. But when company executives and sales leadership have the time to reflect, they also admit that most sales managers are overburdened with too many parallel tasks that make their job a juggling act. There are simply too many distractions, too many moving parts.
When you bring it back to basics, there are only five questions that a sales manager needs to run their sales business – and anything else is non-productive interference.
The 5 Key Sales Performance Management Questions are:
- What is the best cadence for managing my sales business?
- How can I understand the sales performance KPIs in my business?
- Can I reduce risk and avoid surprises to make my sales forecast?
- Are there enough real deals in my pipeline? Where are the risks?
- What happened to my forecast/pipeline last quarter
Consider all of the tasks a sales manager has to balance; hiring, enablement, coaching, closing deals, running the sales forecast, managing the pipeline, supporting HQ information requests, and conducting the Quarterly Business Reviews ... and that’s when she’s not traveling to visit the corporate office, meet her team, or meet customers.
THE COACHING CHALLENGE
Even though coaching is recognized as being a true driver of sales productivity, most sales managers don’t coach on a regular basis. In fact, 73% of sales managers spend less than 5% of their time coaching.
In theory, this is great, but in most cases, it’s not working in practice; largely because the infrastructure required to consistently deliver effective coaching - for even a moderately sized sales team - is lacking.
THE SALES ANALYTICS CHALLENGE
The rush to predictive sales analytics as a panacea for insight into sales performance is unsettling. When it comes to understanding the factors that improve sales performance, we don’t suffer from an information deficit; we suffer from an insight deficit. Some might suggest that sales analytics ‘Big Data’ projects are the solution to the sales insight puzzle. The real problem is the algorithms used to recognize patterns in sales data are lacking the informed creativity that experienced sales managers embody.
In large enterprise B2B sales, this approach is particularly dangerous. An enterprise sellers might work a dozen or 20 deals in a year. That’s not a sufficiently large, homogenous dataset to make valuable predictions. In B2B sales, the individual seller is a huge variable.
Sales management expertise needs to be at the core of any sales analytics project. If you don’t have real sales expertise, domain knowledge, experience and a ‘nose’ for what’s right, then you can’t apply any human qualitative input – making it hard to connect the dots.
MAKE THE NUMBERS
No surprise here, most sales managers are consumed with making the number. ContourIQ is in a rapidly expanding market and is striving for a market leadership position. ContourIQ has one very strong competitor, and there is concern that unless momentum is maintained, the opportunity will be lost.
Good sales managers triage the opportunities, focusing where they can win and applying resources accordingly, while at the same time securing their future business by working on the pipeline.
Neither of these goals (short-term revenue or future business) will be achieved unless the team is performing.
Here is what the cadence might look like in business:
EVERY DAY - What are the sales performance KPIs that drive my business?
To improve the operations of the sales business, you need to first understand the KPIs that matter. When you understand the KPIs that drive the business; things like number of deals, average deal size, win rate and sales cycle, you can then benchmark the team’s performance, on an aggregate and individual basis.
EVERY WEEK - How can I reduce risk and avoid surprises to make my sales forecast?
Any business practice is most effective when it is consistent. People get into a rhythm, know what to expect and what they need to do for productive engagement. Your meetings should focus on issues arising from what is changing in your Must Win deals, managing risk to short-term revenue, and seeing what has impacted your forecast. We all know that a forecast is a moving target. Managers need to know where they stand, real time, or else seeing the way forward is nearly impossible.
EVERY MONTH -Are there enough real deals in my pipeline?
Where are the risks? Unless there is a healthy pipeline, your business is in trouble. Pipeline management is too rarely treated as urgent, even though the strength of the pipeline is one of the most critical indicators of future sales. Managers must institute a regular monthly pipeline review to ensure the health of the business going forward.
EVERY QUARTER - What happened to my forecast/pipeline last quarter?
This is the insight into past performance, to drive change in process or behavior, and to improve next quarter’s performance. Unless you have an effective rear-view mirror, to assess what happened to your pipeline and forecast in the previous quarter, managers will be exposed at the quarterly budget review, and won’t have the insights from which to learn from past experiences. Your forward-looking view will be hazy at best.
By balancing the important with the urgent, managers will be more successful; particularly if they use technology that automates the majority of the monitoring and delivery of insights.
What’s Next you may ask?
The Sales Velocity Equation
If you can move each of these levers by 10% using proper practices, then your overall sales will go up by around 47%! Even if it is only a 5% movement – you still improve by 22%. That’s what great sales performance management can do.
First: Live the 5 Key Sales Performance Management Questions. These are the questions that matter.
Second: If you are a sales manager, a chief sales officer or a seller in a B2B sales organization, and our point of view makes sense to you – then give me a call - we would love to help if we can.
As Sales Performance Strategist and Coach, I work with leading sales organisations to improve sales performance.