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7 Pet Peeves That Keep Sales Managers Up at Night
Blog / Sales Management / Feb 23, 2015 / Posted by Bruce Boyers / 8555

7 Pet Peeves That Keep Sales Managers Up at Night

No matter how you slice it, sales management is a tough job. The sales force is the front line of revenue. Company management doesn’t put that pressure on the salespeople, though: they place it squarely on you, the sales manager. The sales manager is the person responsible for meeting sales quotas, figuring out how they’re going to be met, and forecasting them. All of that is in addition to managing salespeople—certainly not the most management-friendly group to try and run.

In order to assist sales managers to survive in this tough environment, we’ve isolated 7 of their top pet peeves and offered solutions to those issues. We hope they help!

Peeve #1: I can’t meet my sales quotas.

Unless a sales manager is lucky enough to inherit a sales force that is already thriving in a booming market, meeting sales quotas is usually a sales manager’s first pet peeve.

There can be reasons a product isn’t selling well: Maybe the product isn’t actually right for the market. Or the price is wrong. Perhaps the right actions aren’t being taken to counter competition. A marketing campaign can be off. All of these reasons, though, fall outside a sales manager’s ability to correct. So let’s focus on the actions a sales manager can take to radically improve a sales force’s efficiency in meeting targets.

Know Your Buyer Well — Build a Buyer Persona

How much to your reps know about your ideal buyer? What kinds of issues do these buyers normally encounter, and how does your product or service address them? What characteristics does your product and service have that makes it uniquely helpful to these buyers?

In addition to answering the above types of questions and creating a general buyer persona,  you must also create an individual buyer persona for each sale your reps make. They have to know the individual buyer’s pain points. They also need the pain points of the buyer’s organization, in order to determine if your product or service can resolve them.

The more accurate your buyer persona, the more successful your sales are going to be. If you haven’t created this persona—or, if it’s not accurate—get this done as a matter of priority. You won’t start meeting your sales quotas with any regularity until you do.

Hone Your Sales Process Stages

A sales process is a series of steps a sale takes from lead to close. How accurate is yours? Many companies pay the sales process a kind of passing attention. For example, a lead comes in (step 1), it gets assigned to a sales rep (step 2), the rep does a demo (step 3), the sale closes  (step 4), the money comes in (step 5).

But if you were to sit down with your experienced sales veterans, you may find that the sales processes is much more involved. For example, a rep might meet (in person, on Skype or on the phone) with the prospect prior to a demo, to make sure the prospect notes relevant benefits. They might need to send marketing collateral materials during or after the demo stage. The rep might also be speaking with other decision-makers in a stage.

If your sales process seems a bit “loose and floppy,” sit down with your proven closers and find out exactly what they do. Sketch out a rough process, and have your reps try it. Hone it down through trial and error, and get it working efficiently.

If you don’t have a sales process, or a sales process you’re happy with, our sales pipeline checklist can be of great assistance.

Investing in Coaching and Mentoring

Your sales reps are doing their best to close sales with the skills and abilities at their disposal. But if they’re not regularly improving, they’re not becoming better salespeople and it’s not becoming any easier for them to attain the targets you set for them.

The only way that’s going to happen is through your coaching and mentoring. That is, monitoring their pitches and interactions with buyers and suggesting improvements. Sharing the most successful practices of your proven reps, either verbally or in writing. Holding events in off-hours, such as seminars or webinars with proven sales experts.

NOTE: If you are like many sales managers, and one of your pet peeves is lack of time for coaching and mentoring, keep reading. We’ll cover that problem in Pet Peeve #2 below.

Your Crystal Ball: Accurate Analysis and Forecasting

You won’t be able to accomplish regular quota attainment unless you have a firm handle on timely and accurate sales analysis and forecasting. Get this factor sorted out, and your sales quota attainment will not only improve, it will be far more consistent.

If inaccurate analysis and forecasting is your issue, once again keep reading. We’ll take that up as Pet Peeve #5.

Peeve #2: I can’t find the time for mentoring and coaching.

Numerous surveys of sales managers surface a top complaint, “Lack of time for coaching and mentoring.”

It’s no wonder. Sales managers are under steady pressure to make those numbers and, in order to find out whether or not they are making the numbers, they must constantly chase them up in meetings and through a steady flow of emails and verbal interaction with the reps.

It stands to reason that if you could sort out that constant chasing up of data, and trim down the time to do that so it’s manageable, you’d then free up the time for coaching and mentoring. The solution to that is an efficient CRM solution, so that sales data is instantly to hand; no need to be constantly trying to find it.

An efficient CRM solution also makes it much more possible to coach and mentor your reps—for you can see right in CRM where they’re falling short.

Peeve #3: I still find myself needing to participate in the sales.

Often a sales manager was promoted to that position because they were a great sales rep. So sales reps in your charge naturally bring you the sales they can’t seem to close. It’s one thing when you are brought into a sale as a “voice of authority”—but it’s quite another when you’re regularly being tossed sales that others just can’t close.

If you aren’t able to shed your role as a salesperson, you’ll never have the time to be a sales manager and provide the coaching, mentoring and managing so critical to success.

Remind yourself that salespeople need your guidance to prove themselves and close their own sales—it’s their job on the line, not yours. Simultaneously do your job as a sales manager and coach and mentor them so they become better closers.

Peeve #4: I lack accurate data to manage effectively.

Most sales managers know how many leads they’ve got, and know how many sales have been closed and their value. But often the sales manager is hazy on what exactly is happening in between the lead and the close, and spend virtually all their time interacting with each rep to find out.

The answer is to:

a) Formulate an efficient sales process

b) Make sure the sales process is accurately reflected in your sales pipeline—that is, your CRM solution.

When you coordinate your sales process with your pipeline, you know where each sale stands, where sales are hanging up, and how each rep is progressing. You’ll have all the basic data you need to manage.

Peeve #5: I can’t rely on the accuracy of the sales forecasts.

Many surveys of companies over the years have also revealed “lack of accurate sales forecasts” as a top concern. This is another agonizing pressure that comes down squarely on the sales manager’s head: It’s not only up to the sales manager to meet constantly increasing targets, but to accurately forecast them.

Our own analysis of the forecasting issue revealed many problems—but they boiled down to the lack of a reliable sales process, and not having access to the right tools. Without both, a sales manager is never going to have that forecasting issue nailed.

For creating an accurate sales pipeline, have a look at our sales pipeline checklist.

As to the right tools, you’ll need a leading-edge CRM solution. If you want to give ours a spin (which of course we highly recommend) we’ve placed the free trial link at the end of this blog.

Peeve #6: I find managing salespeople very challenging, and sometimes frustrating.

Being a manager over any group can be quite trying. But managing a group of self-determined, self-responsible, highly opinionated, and very capable salespeople can drive one to madness faster than being a preschool teacher.

Many sales managers are promoted to management from the ranks of top sales producers. While they certainly deserve the promotion, many then become lost due to the lack of an essential bit of experience: management!

Note carefully that we said “experience” and not “skill.” Management skill is not something a person is born with—it must be learned through education and experience. So if you’re a salesperson who got promoted to sales manager and then found yourself lost in terms of management technique, don’t feel that there’s something wrong with you. Anyone else who got good at it had to learn it, too.

We recommend 3 things:

1) Read some books on the subject—but only by people who have successfully managed salespeople. There are tons of books out there on the subject, but many have been written by professors, authors, consultants, psychologists and others who have never managed a live sales rep in their lives.

Here are some suggested resources:

2) Find a successful sales manager, preferably outside your company (so your reputation isn’t tarnished). Pick their brains as to how they do the job.

3) If at all possible, actually shadow a successful sales manager throughout several days of work.

The upshot: Learn to be a manager. It’s not an overnight proposition, but it’s the only way you’re going to survive.

Peeve #7: I find it difficult to align the sales force with Marketing.

Marketing sends you leads. Your salespeople complain about lead quality. You complain to Marketing. Marketing fires back that the leads are just fine—it’s your salespeople that are at fault; they’re just not doing their jobs.

This is an age-old issue in companies. In today’s lightning-fast world of commerce, we no longer have time for this petty internal war. You should follow the lead of many forward-looking companies today: Run up the white flag and actually partner up with Marketing. You both work for the same company, so start acting like it! Combine your efforts and the winner will be your company—in sales and revenue.

You’ll find that the first thing Marketing and Sales need to agree on is the definition of a lead. When that agreement is hammered out, Sales will know beyond a shadow of a doubt what to expect in terms of a lead, and Marketing will be providing it.

Another byproduct of the Marketing-Sales truce should be the answer this question: What happens to the leads that don’t immediately qualify for Sales? Today lead nurturing is the answer, which can be done by Marketing, by SDRs (Sales Development Reps) in Sales, or a combination of the two.

Marketing and Sales alignment also means bringing Marketing into the sales pipeline. They should be providing materials at each stage that assist Sales in moving that sale along.

The Right CRM Solution

Throughout this blog post we’ve touched on the need for the right CRM solution. The right tool to manage your sales from leads through to close will greatly assist in eliminating these pet peeves. We’re biased in favor of Pipeliner CRM. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

About Author

Bruce is a freelance writer and a 20+-year marketing veteran. During his career he has worked very closely with salespeople, achieved an understanding of how they can best be assisted by marketing, and gained a keen insight into the innate and singular abilities they demonstrate day in and day out.

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