The current level of sales management is failing companies. It is failing customers and it is failing the employees.
- Average tenure of a sales leader has dropped from 26 months (bad) to 18 months (horrible)
- 80% plus want to meet with a sales person only after they have developed the need and a shortlist
- 6.7% of people say they trust very highly information from a sales person
This is not a problem of salespeople—it is a problem of sales leadership. The way we manage, coach and promote salespeople has led to this problem.
Currently, the mindset of a sales manager assumes all issues are a people problem. Thus almost all sales solutions are people-based solutions. Hire more people, hire different people, motivate them differently, more commission, different commission, accountability, monitor activity, internal competition, special sales training and the list goes on. The assumption: Fix the people, fix the problem. This is false—there are so many variables and so many possible causes. Very rarely is the problem one of the employees.
Sales management is STUCK.
Sales management hasn’t challenged the prevailing style of management. This becomes a chicken and egg situation.
- Stack ranking of employees. Proponents will tell you that you need to drive competition amongst the sales team so they are motivated to do more and improve. I would tell you that when you do something as stupid as stack rankings the only people you can attract are the ones motivated by beating someone else. Furthermore, the idea that stack rankings are the best and only form of motivation is false. Other departments have learned this. Psychology has learned this. Sports have even learned this. When will sales?
- Commissions drive sales and motivate salespeople. Proponents will tell you due to the type of work sales presents you need to motivate them by commission. I will tell you that if you offer below a living wage and commission to make up for it you are promoting short term thinking, and will only attract people who care more about money than quality.
- Quotas are the only way to drive results. Proponents will tell you that by putting a number on the wall you will motivate the employees to ensure they will hit it. To ensure they will drive and if they don’t we can fire them for cause. I will tell you that a quota does not improve how the work gets done, does not improve quality to the prospect/client and does not help the sales person improve.
Again, I could go on and on. Suffice to say I am embarrassed by the current state of sales leadership.
I suggest a transformation to a new form of sales leadership and management. One that is proving itself over and over again. The title isn’t as important as the mindset. The framework can and should be applied.
1. Appreciation of a system
Sales is a part of the organization. It is no more nor less important than other divisions and the impact it makes on the whole can not be said as top line alone.
Furthermore, the role sales plays in the prospects/customer/clients organization can and should be part of the continuous improvement cycle. This will allow for a great impact to both organizations.
Management/leadership has to adjust to the idea that sales is no longer about transactions and top line revenue alone. This means how we lead, train, develop both the employee and how we impact, measure and improve the work they do has to change and be updated.
Sales is a knowledge based position. It needs to be treated as such.
2. Understanding of variation
There is natural variation in all data. There is variation in sales data. There are impacts on that data that go beyond the individual salesperson. The amount of variables in each data set create a need to have a different way to analyze the data. To identify the difference between common cause or issues caused by the system and special case issues.
Understanding both internal and external motivation and driving forces.
External: Developing a relationship from being a supplier to a true partner. Understanding the difference between selling more and solving more. Going from giving them what they want to being side by side to develop the need.
Internal: Transforming from carrot and stick motivation to true driving forces of humans.
Creating clarity for each and every employee including definition of purpose and how the sales role fits in beyond just closing deals.
Being responsible for how the work gets done and having the autonomy to improve it.
Developing deep relationships throughout the organization and client organizations
Rewards going beyond financial games. Holding back fair wage in the hope to get pay to play is not motivation. However, when the company succeeds everyone takes part in the rewards is a true reward tied to purpose. One is short term game and is a key factor in the high turnover rate in sales. The other allows for rewards beyond closing deals and helps develop the company as opposed to just growth.
Recognition of work to help grow the pride of work. Recognition of the impact and the value delivered. Recognition goes a long way.
4. Theory of knowledge
In sales we have little to no ways to improve. The answer is almost always blame the people. This was done in computer development, in manufacturing and in every form of management but those divisions have already started and in many ways matured in their transformation.
Sales needs to develop their theory of knowledge. Sales needs to have a path to learning. Sales needs to have a model of improvement.
To do this we will have to adopt problem solving that goes beyond blaming people and thus develop solutions that go beyond hiring/firing, changing commission and monitoring activity.
This will have to include the scientific method, testing, and data gathering. It will take more effort, more thought and in the end a great investment of time.
We need a definition of improvement that goes beyond more sales. We need a theory of improvement that is tied to quality. Each and every organization will need a definition of what quality means in their sales department.
Change will be hard. You will hear all the common ways people try to avoid growth:
- That is not how it works in sales
- You don’t understand
- My experience tells me
- That is now how we do it here
- That will never work here – we are special
- The salespeople are independent they are a special person
However, with the data we learned earlier the need to deliver value through the sales channel is growing. If we don’t choose to evolve the evolution will be forced on us.
Pipeliner CRM empowers precise sales management. Download a free trial now.