Sales management is a challenging, exhilarating (often stressful) role — but you don’t need me to tell you that! With so much pressure (and emphasis) on achieving targets, it’s far too easy to get distracted by the headline number. As a result, you risk overlooking other performance indicators that increase your team’s performance and help you hit quota.
Have you got your eye on the ball? These five simple sales enablers could significantly boost your team’s performance…
1. Check the accuracy of sales forecasts you receive from your reps.
One of the biggest issues sales managers face is working with inaccurate sales forecasts. Inaccurate forecasting usually happens because reps predict sales using their own methodology OR because they’re overly ambitious.
An inaccurate forecast undermines the integrity of the entire pipeline management process. After all, how can you make well-informed decisions if you can’t trust the data your team provides? But that’s not all. Inaccurate forecasting also results in far too much reactive management – with dire results. If potential shortfalls are NOT identified in advance, it’s far harder to implement an action plan to get an individual (or even the entire team) back on track, which in the longer term can negatively impact the business.
Your role as a manager is twofold. Firstly, ensure EVERYONE forecasts in the same way. In practice, this means:
- Clarifying the sales pipeline to ensure each rep is clear on the different stages
- Ensure each rep understands the different “gates” customers must pass through as they move from stage to stage
Secondly, you need to manage the expectations of your sales reps. It’s not unusual for reps to inflate their forecast either to create some breathing space or because they genuinely believe they’ll close opportunities. Reps need to feel they can be honest with what’s really happening.
2. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your individual reps.
Every sales rep in your team has different strengths and weaknesses. As a sales manager it’s your job to understand them and ensure any strengths are exploited to benefit the business.
The easiest way to access this information is to use pipeline performance reporting tools, along with observations. Look for successful practices so you can share these with the rest of the team and incorporate them into your sales playbook. In addition, pinpoint where individuals are losing sales, where their pipeline velocity slows, or where prospects leak out of their pipeline.
With this level of detailed information, you’ll gain a far tighter understanding of how your overall team is performing.
You can also personalize the coaching you offer individuals. Based on what you discover you may even decide to restructure your sales process and enhance the productivity and efficiency of your department as a whole.
3. Take quality time to review the opportunities of your individual reps.
The average sales manager spends as little as three minutes to review the sales opportunities that individual reps have in their pipeline.
This is a BIG oversight and paying attention here can increase forecasting accuracy and boost performance. In three minutes all you can judge is whether or not the number of opportunities is sufficient. This is NOT enough time to dig deeper to discover what opportunities are likely to progress and close. Remember – sales reps are instinctively optimistic!
If you take the time to review the opportunities of your individual reps you’ll be able to get a feel for the accuracy of their sales forecast. In addition, you can also provide coaching to maximize the chance of a close. For example, you could check your reps are asking the right questions and talking to the right people. This focus will make your sales forecast more robust. Because your reps have talked over the sales strategies and techniques they’re planning to use they may be more focused and able to close more often.
Bonus benefit: More accurate sales forecasts = a happier C-suite!
4. Collect the data needed to talk about progress against the sales target quantitatively.
Imagine being able to speak authoritatively and with accuracy to your boss about the predicted performance of your sales team!Too many sales managers are unable to do this because:
- Sales forecasts are inaccurate
- It’s too difficult to get at the analytics needed to have this conversation
Clearly, if you want to have an impact on the performance of your sales team, you need quick and easy access to performance metrics that lift the lid on what’s really happening in your pipeline. That way, you can anticipate shortfalls in advance AND talk quantitatively about any predictions and expected issues.
An understanding of the following four key metrics will allow you to have those honest, accurate conversations. Does your CRM (like Pipeliner CRM) allow you to calculate and report on these?
- Number of Leads – The number of quality leads turning into opportunities (not just raw leads)
- The Average Deal Value – How much revenue each sale generates, on average
- Drop off/Win rate – The average number of leads that you need to secure to close a deal (by organisation/team/individual)
- Pipeline Velocity – The length of time it takes a deal to progress from lead to closure (or the length of time an opportunity typically spends at each stage of your pipeline)
5. Promote and support sales and marketing alignment.
As a result of the huge amount of information available online, customers’ buying behaviors have changed.
In short, many B2B customers are delaying commercial conversations with potential suppliers and are turning to self-education — especially during the early stages of the buying journey. Customers are increasingly reliant on social search and online content to inform their decision making and identify the problems they need to solve. As a result, the traditional role of sales is changing — leading to a renewed push for sales and marketing departments to align.
As a sales manager, one of the easiest things you can do to drive revenue is to champion sales and marketing alignment in your business. In practice, this means encouraging closer liaison with your marketing counterpart to ensure content that will help your salespeople sell is being produced.
Remember, marketing material will have a big impact on the future conversations prospects have with your sales team. In fact, it will often influence whether any conversation happens at all — so make the effort to share your front-line insights. This will increase the usefulness of marketing content and could have a positive impact on sales.
What do you think?
Do you watch these five sales enablers? What do you think is missing from the list? Please share.
Related posts by our CEO:
- For the Sales Force, It’s the Age of Trust
- The Importance of a Free Market to Sales Management
- Sales Management: What Comparative Advantage Can Do For You