Explore the new role for the sales force in sales management and how the CRM is changing the role of the salesforce.
As discussed in our previous blog posting, business has traditionally followed a military “top-down” model.
It was only the people at the top making decisions; everyone else was simply expected to follow orders. This model is still in effect in many businesses, especially large corporations. The unfortunate side-effect is the virtual untapped gold mine of talent and innovation existing in the lower ranks that simply goes to waste.
Because this modus operandi has been true for overall companies, it has of course been true for every part of those companies as well. This includes the sales management-sales force relationship, and in fact, has special significance and peculiarities in that relationship.
Traditional Sales Force Roles
The conventional model on which sales management is conducted with the sales force has been one of “pushing the numbers.” Quotas are set for salespeople and the salespeople are expected to meet them. The sales manager regularly checks to see if the reps are making those quotas and push them along and also checks to see that there are enough leads for salespeople to work. The reps are simply expected to sell, to enter data into CRM, and to provide reports; they have little to do with analysis, forecasting, or innovation when it comes to creating their own sales. Forecasting and analysis rest on the shoulders of the sales manager, reps are told how to sell and given very little latitude, and it’s very much a “leader-follower” type of arrangement.
In such a scenario, sales reps become little more than data entry clerks who also sell. When you examine the actual qualities it takes to become a successful salesperson, this is a serious mis-utilization of talent—but it is, unfortunately, the case in many organizations. When compared to a more modern approach, its shortcomings can be clearly seen.
Revealing the Inner Entrepreneur
An entrepreneur is a highly unusual, innovative, and creative person. If you take a closer look at the qualities of a sales rep, you’ll see that salespeople and entrepreneurs share much in common. Both are “self-starters” in the extreme. Both would rather live or die by their own self-created incomes. Both can see the opportunity that most others would miss. Thus you can see that sales reps are actually “entrepreneurs in the enterprise.”
Given that sales reps possess these characteristics, it can be seen why it is that forward-thinking organizations are beginning to treat salespeople as such. They are being allowed input into marketing and sales campaigns and even product development. They are being given the capacity to fully view and control their own pipelines. They are being provided the tools to analyze and forecast their own sales. Through these tools, they are being allowed to cut down on the amount of needless data entry they have had to do, and as well the number of reports they have had to create.
What kind of tools are needed to empower a sales force in this way?
Without a leading-edge CRM solution, this kind of salesperson empowerment is impossible.
First, such a CRM must allow a clear view of a sales rep’s pipeline. In order for that to happen, the CRM application must be highly flexible and reflect the company’s sales process. With such a solution in place, the sales force—and anyone else who needs it—is given a highly useful tool for the management of their own sales. The data they do have to enter is data that is truly useful, so the “data-entry clerk” aspect of their jobs disappears.
Second, such a CRM solution provides analytic capabilities so that sales reps can quickly analyze and forecast their own sales. Not only does this functionality lead to far more control for the salesperson, but it also ultimately leads to a changing of roles for the sales rep and sales manager.
The Changing Roles
If the members of a sales force are fully in charge of managing, analyzing, and forecasting their sales, where then does that leave sales management?
Forecasting and analysis have traditionally been the purview of sales managers only, and have been a great portion of their responsibility. It has required weekly meetings with sales reps and a compilation of all the data collected. But with sales reps now being able to easily perform these functions, a sales manager can simply take forecasts and analyses sent by the sales reps, automatically combine them into one report and forward it on—another feature of leading-edge CRM solutions.
The sales manager becomes more of a coach. Where needed, the sales manager also. In short, the sales manager is seeing the quality of the salespeople and their performance, not simply worrying about the quantity of their numbers. The combination is far more effective in moving a company toward its goals.
See our other articles on the changing roles of the sales force and sales management.