How you manage and motivate your sales team will determine how well they reach and exceed targets, initiate new business, and persist when it’s tough.
Managing sales teams requires you to select the right people, clarify expectations, provide resources, monitor performance, develop skills, reward and motivate people and provide support.
This guide will help you to understand the components of sales management, the role of the sales manager, and the tools that are available to help you and your team reach targets and grow a loyal customer base.
Sales managers are the bridge between the company's sales goals and the realisation of those goals. Day-to-day interactions between salespeople and their customers are filtered through the perspective of the sales manager.
Growing the sales team
When you're starting out, you may be sales manager, marketing director and lone salesperson all in one – plus filling whatever other spots exist on the organisational chart. As you grow, however, you'll find you need additional people to handle specialised jobs. These will someday include a chief financial officer and vice president of operations, among others. But one of the first specialisations in which you're likely to need to hire is sales. This makes sense because sales are what drives your company's growth. All other things being equal, the more salespeople you have, the more sales you will generate. So adding sales personnel and improving your existing sales staff are essential parts of growing your company.
Responsibilities of the sales manager
The sales manager provides a focused sales structure that comprises elements such as the way sales territories are defined, the way salespeople go about their jobs, the way markets and customers are targeted, the way salespeople are compensated, company training and development systems, how information must be collected by salespeople, the frequency and agenda for sales meetings, and the sales tools used by the salespeople. A highly focused, well designed sales structure can be one of the company's greatest assets, as it ultimately shapes the behaviour of the sales force.
The sales manager also engages in regular and systematic direction and feedback with the salespeople. There are lots of reasons why a set of numbers can be up or down, all of which need to be discussed with the salesperson.
Sales managers need to control the regular and systematic involvement in continuous development of their teams.
Importance of a sales plan and sales structure
A sales plan should be short, simple and to the point. It's basically a strategic and tactical plan for acquiring new business, growing existing business and making or exceeding the sales targets.
There are four basic parts of a sales plan:
- New business acquisition strategies
- New business acquisition tactics
- Existing business growth strategies
- Existing business growth tactics
The sales plan is the sum total of all the policies, guidelines, procedures and tools your company uses in its sales effort. It's everything about how your company sells.
All of these decisions you have made about how things are done in sales can be codified into a structure. That structure forms the rules for the salespeople, and tells them what to do and how to do it.
The major components of a sales structure:
- Sales tools
- Information systems
- Sales process design
- Sales training program
- Sales territory design
- Sales compensation plan
- Sales automation systems
- Sales management practices
- Sales administration/support
- Job descriptions for salespeople
- Assignment of markets and customers
- Processes for continuous development of salespeople
Hiring sales people
Hiring salespeople is a difficult task with many risks and potentials pitfalls. It takes time to find the right people, to get them to fit into the company culture and to train them in your systems. The interview for salespeople is crucial. If they are good at sales, typically they interview quite well. They should be able to sell themselves and their fit with your company and culture, so that they can do a good job in representing you to your customers.
Must-have traits of a good salesperson:
- rarely perceives obstacles
- overcomes rejection
- lives to persuade
- Is able to "read and relate" to the prospect
- wants to be liked, but rarely needs to be liked
- likes people
- needs to have some "sense of urgency"
- will always have a tale of "accomplishment from adversity"
- have to have a definitive lifestyle goal
- needs to have a need
It’s important to know your employees in order to reduce the risks associated with employing staff with questionable integrity, credibility and skills. There are a number of pre-employment and background screening solutions to help verify a candidate’s qualifications, employment record and skills, and to make sure they do not have a criminal record.
Psychometric assessments are tests, exercises or questionnaires, designed by psychologists, which measure cognitive, behavioural and personality constructs of an individual. They provide the assessor with information, helping them to make decisions regarding selection, development or promotion of employees. The assessment is made of someone's abilities, personality, values, motivations and their interests or preferences.
Psychometric testing can include:
- Personality profiling
- Competency profiling
- Emotional intelligence
- Ability assessment
- Learning potential assessment
- Integrity assessment
- Locus of control, motivation and drive
- Interest evaluation
- English proficiency
- Numerical literacy
- Economic literacy
Commission vs salary
How will you compensate your salespeople? Pure commission, basic salary plus commission, salary and incentives, or salary alone? You may choose to hire commissioned salespeople because they’re the only ones hungry enough and truly invested in results. Or you may want to hire salaried employees, since this is the best way to create teamwork and an investment in the company’s goals, rather than the individual's. There’s no right or wrong. Check out the industry norms and your competitors, and then decide which compensation system will best support the results you seek to achieve.
Training your sales staff is important to your small business’s success. In addition to classes and seminars, make sure your sales staff is equipped with the tools they need. Product knowledge is essential. Make sure that they understand the features and benefits, and how these apply to different types of clients.
To increase sales, ongoing sales techniques training and sales coaching is key to success. This includes engaging in role play and viewing and assessing sales execs working in the field.
Effective sales training teaches how to succeed with relationship selling in today’s economy. The sales process has to be transformed into a “buyer focused” format where building a relationship and adding value are the main goals. Ongoing sales training also helps people to let go of outdated practices and replace ineffective habits or behaviours with effective, bottom line, results-oriented sales habits.
When you set productivity goals, it’s important to ensure these are realistic and attainable. Find out, for instance, how many prospecting calls your top sales representative makes in a week, how many does the lowest-performing salesperson make, what is the average for the group, how many appointments do they go on each week, and how many proposals they send out? The answers to those questions will enable you to establish true sales targets. In the first month, a new salesperson should be expected to make perhaps one-third as many prospecting calls, as a more experienced exec. Remember that once you have set targets, it’s never a good idea to shift the goal posts.
Monitoring sales activities
Tracking sales activity requires a balance between quantity and quality. The way to keep all sales activity numbers relevant is to monitor the conversion rate. Tracking the number of calls made by a salesperson or telemarketer is important, but how many of these are converted to appointments? How many sales proposals are delivered, and how many are converted into a follow-up meeting? How many meetings are converted into deals? Bear in mind that sales is all about results, not effort.
Sales is a tough job, make no mistake. Sales executives encounter a lot of rejection, which is why motivation is particularly important when it comes to keeping your team focused and inspired. Even with all of the sales training in the world, without a strong belief in themselves (and, of course in-depth knowledge of their product or service offering), they will not succeed. Their personal and product confidence will be reflected in their attitude, body language, and results. They have to have a high level of belief in themselves. To keep the team motivated, regular meetings with their manager is essential and will give them the opportunity to discuss problems, issues and successes. They also need to be given opportunities to develop their skills and assume greater responsibilities. Recognition is key in the lives of most salespeople. Cash incentives, prizes and peer recognition are all important ways in which you can recognise and reward the value of your sales team.
A simple customer relationship management (CRM) and sales tracking app is invaluable to any salesperson. Helping to build enduring relationships, it enables sales execs to close more deals more efficiently by organising everything you and your sales execs need to know about each deal. With a simple CRM solution you will be able to customise the stages of your sales process and track every deal as it moves through those stages. You’ll always know how close you are to success at the individual deal level, and you get a big picture view of your team’s progress and the sales pipeline.
Typical CRM systems enable you to manage contacts and leads, track sales goals, produce reports, manage the sales pipeline, and manage the sales team.
CRM for SMEs
Here are some of the most popular – and affordable – CRM solutions for SMEs:
This is a powerful, affordable, easy to use and maintain CRM solution for small businesses. GoldMine has more than one million users and enables them to improve effectiveness and accelerate goal achievement, boost productivity, increase the number of deals you close and retain more customers.
This software makes it easier to gain accurate insights into your company’s operational performance by transforming customer data into meaningful business information. Actionable intelligence helps you be proactive with your business and gain a competitive advantage. Maximizer Entrepreneur for Contact Management is perfect for small business owners. It’s designed to help you maximise your time, improve customer satisfaction and increase sales.
This CRM software enables sales force automation, marketing automation, help desk, customer service, knowledge management, order processing, defect tracking, and project management. A web-based CRM solution, it can be deployed on a hosted or on-premise basis.
Sugar is an affordable and easy to use CRM platform, designed to help businesses communicate with prospects, share sales information, close deals and keep customers happy. As an open-source, web-based CRM solution, Sugar is easy to customise and adapt to changing needs. Ideal for small and medium-sized companies, Sugar can run in the cloud or on-site.
Zoho CRM is a web-based solution that offers all the CRM modules and tools that you might need to run your sales and marketing. It’s charged per month, per user, making it affordable for the small business. You are not bound by any long-term, yearly contracts. Because it’s hosted you do not have to buy expensive servers, software or backup solutions. When you create a Zoho CRM account, you also get access to the Zoho suite of products – from online storage and web meetings to other online business software, such as project management, invoices and more.