I’ve always maintained that a truly great person responsible for a team of sales professionals doesn’t “manage” at all.
Traditional sales “managers” spend their time enacting what the sales discipline prescribes.
Their intent is to move the sales team up the learning curve on sales fundamentals to make sales individuals better; to improve their performance.
- how to make a cold call
- how to spot a good lead
- how to manage their sales funnel more productively
- how to author a good sales proposal
- how to uncover customer needs
- how to overcome sales objections
Performing these practices may make the sales team more proficient at selling, at least in terms of adhering to the rules of engagement defined by the sales “experts.” And compliance to industry rules and processes may entrench the sales team in the professional sales herd who all aspire to improve themselves at performing the fundamentals.
But conforming to these sales standards does nothing to make sales more effective in adding strategic value to an organization.
Furthermore, following best practices does nothing to help the organization stand out in a crowd of competitors by offering long term relevant, compelling and unique value to their customers.
Sales management shouldn’t aspire to make salespeople get better; they should be held accountable for equipping them to transform the organization into a force that cannot be reckoned with in the market.
Sales management should be focused not on improvement but on transformation.
These tactics will help sales managers assume their dutiful role as leaders of sales transformation.
Define the strategic sales role
Don’t just be a sales function; be an expert on the game plan of the organization and translate it into what it means specifically for sales. What is the specific sales role required to deliver the organization’s chosen direction?
If you don’t understand the strategic direction of the organization intimately, you will never be able to define the strategic value sales must deliver.
Focus on the longer term
Strategic value is not created by monthly myopia. Raise your head and look beyond the immediate sales cycle. Balance the need for short term sales and creating long term customer.loyalty.
Sales value is not synonymous with flogging products to clients in the moment; rather it is creating the environment where clients choose to transact with you forever.
Pay for relationship building
The sales compensation plan needs a major overhaul in order to encourage sales behaviours that add strategic value. A critical move in this regard is to reduce the emphasis on pushing products and add the client relationship building component.
In my role as VP Business Division for a major telecom company, I set the sales bonus plan at 40% for achieving product sales targets and 60% for establishing meaningful client relationships. As the measurement tool for relationship building, I introduced what I called the Client Report Card where the client rated their salesperson on how effective they were at performing this task.
Build teamwork with marketing
Marketing is close to the strategy of the organization so it makes sense for sales to be closely aligned with the marketing team. The benefits of a tight sales – marketing relationship are largely twofold: first, sales are afforded a unique insight into what strategic value they can add to the marketing effort; second, by building strong currency with marketing, sales is seen as a team that the marketers should support in terms of product training, advertising and promotion cover and sales tools.
Enhance strategic skills
An effective way for sales to add strategic value is to be competent at strategic thinking and to apply the skill to helping clients build their own strategic game plan. This solidifies the salesperson as a strategic partner of the client with privileges to acquire business accordingly.
The ultimate proof of a salesperson providing strategic value to their client is having an office on the client’s premises; I was fortunate to have several in this category.
Recover from service blunders
Making mistakes is (unfortunately) common in organizations, but if the right response is taken the OOPS! can be transformed into a WOW! by the salesperson with the result that client loyalty is actually enhanced. In fact, service recovery is so effective, the client forgets that they were screwed over in the first place!
I hosted sales events that recognized sales recovery champions—it was that important to sales’ strategic value. After all what can be more important strategically than building client loyalty?
Create lateral moves for high potential salespeople
Strategic value offered by any employee is in large measure a function of their breadth of experience in the organization. The more positions they have held the more value they can offer through a lens of what matters to other departments.
Even though no sales leader wants to part with their most valued employees, it’s necessary with long term value creation.
Lose a sale
For sales, adding strategic value boils down to doing what’s right for the client. PERIOD. Pushing the organization’s agenda by caring only about your quota and how many products are sold is counter productive to long term growth and survival.
It’s a bit perverse, but sales value increases when a sale is lost because it was the right thing to do for the client. The qualifier, of course, is that the salesperson finds a way to broker the sale even though it might require another supplier’s solution.
The principle at play is: lose the sale but NEVER lose the client!
Sales managers who are obsessed with efficiency aren’t doing their organization any favors; those who look at the job with a value bias are worth their weight in gold.
Pipeliner CRM totally empowers great sales management.Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.