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End of Year Checklist for Sales Management

End of Year Checklist for Sales Management

Are you focused on making end of year numbers? That is only half the job for Sales Management at this time of year, the other half is being focused on planning for next year! We have created a checklist of major issues all sales leaders must work on to ensure the New Year will start off quickly and your goals can be exceeded.

The following checklist is not in any priority format, but simply a quick read list and a set of recommended actions for any executive or sales leader as they plan for 2017. I have attempted to provide a list of resources, downloads or offers to assist in providing value and support for all of our readers. If you have other ideas or suggestions please comment within the blog so that all of our readers can benefit.

  • Evaluate your sales team. What does each salesperson need to enhance their productivity in 2017?  Who are keepers, who are laggards? I like to recommend that Sales Managers create a Personal Development Plan for each person, if you need a template
  • Is your compensation plan working? Did it achieve your goals for 2016? In 2017 are the strategic goals of the company changing? Do I have to alter the sales compensation plan to help achieve the new goals? Take our online Sales Compensation Audit to determine any weak points or check out our blog for new ideas and select Sales Compensation
  • Is your 2017 overall Business Planning in progress? Assess your entire business and develop a score by department using our online Business Assessment.
  • Need to prepare a 2017 Sales Business Plan? Ask me for a template
  • Concerned about 2016’s tendency to not achieve quota each month or your inability to Predict Revenues? Download our List of the Top 40 Actions Sales Managers must activate to build a high performance sales team.
  • How many new salespeople do you need to hire during 2017? Do you have a recruiting marketing plan in place? How strong is your interviewing process and skills? Watch a video on recruiting and interviewing to help improve your organization.
  • If you are hiring, then you must tighten up your new hire on-boarding process, this must be a priority for any sales organization, you can find a template on our Sales Managers Tool Kit. There are over 40 robust tools located in the tool kit.
  • Time to plan your 2017 Sales Kick Off event; you need to have a theme for the year, make it fun, motivational and educational. Set the tone for your team at your kick off meeting, my blog has many ideas for this kind of event or ask for ideas or speakers for the meeting, select Sales Kick Off Ideas category
  • Does your sales team need new formal sales training? Check out two sites for an online video training courses that offer low cost, mobile access and adult training methodology. or Sales Gravy University
  • HINT: at your 2017 Sales Kick Off Meeting you should have your entire Quarterly Sales Training Plan ready to hand out, topics must include: Sales Training, Product/Services Training and Sales Operations.

If you have questions on any if these ideas let me know.

This is the time of the year to evaluate your successes, determine what issues must be changed or improved, and finish planning for the new year and also by the way…… exceed your 2016 quotas!

Have fun and go sell something!

Three Secrets to be Successful from John Wooden

Three Secrets to be Successful from John Wooden

As a Sales Leader or Executive these 3 secrets will help propel your sales organization to the next level. In preparation to speak to an international association conference I had been making notes and clipping interesting ideas from a variety of sources, one of them was from Success magazine.

One article was about a young coach, Dale Brown, and his first actions when he became for the first time a major college coach. He immediately scheduled a meeting with John Wooden, the Hall of Fame former UCLA basketball coach-known as the Wizard of Westwood.

After a full day of discussing a wide variety of topics around becoming a major college head basketball coach John Wooden said at the very end of day that Dale could have saved LSU a lot of money in travel expenses because there are just only three secrets. John went on; the three things that I am going to tell you are fairly simple if you want to be successful. Anyone that has read any articles or books by John Wooden, as I have, would have to read the balance of the article as his ideas are golden.

In Chicago I took each bullet and discussed the specific actions sales management must implement to execute on each element.

First: make certain you always have better players than anybody you play. This is pretty obvious to readers of this blog or have purchased my book “Recruiting High Performance Sales Teams”. One of my recommendations is to analyze each of your salespeople, are they Deadwood, Learners, Good for Now, High Achievers. Decide who to keep, who not to and build a recruiting process that ensures higher quality people. HINT: for every one person you hire, you need to interview five.

Second: make certain those better players put the team above themselves. This was the majority of my program that I called the Effect of Emotional Leadership, Sales Leaders must build a culture of team, of belief in the company/products/services and a focus on team accountability. This action can start with sales games, hearing customer success stories, sales compensation plans as well as genuine conversations. Top performing sales managers have the ability to communicate with positive vision, personal awareness and openness.

Third: don’t be a coaching genius, don’t give your players too much information, always practice simplicity with constant repetition. This secret I thought was very interesting as most sales managers either don’t train enough or train very poorly on sales skills, sales operations or product/industry information. The balance of Sales Managers probably train too much early in the salesperson’s life and then fail to reinforce effectively. What I stressed in Chicago is what I think Mr. Wooden meant-figure out what needs to be done during the sales process/sales call, effectively map it, describe it as to why it should be done and how it should be done and then focus your training on those actions and then practice often.

Just this weekend the University of Tennessee won a football game against the University of Georgia during the last 4 seconds of the game with a Hail Mary play. (A Hail Mary play is when you have 3 receivers run to one spot in the end zone and the Quarterback throws the ball hoping someone catches it, this week it was for 43 yards!) Tennessee’s coach Butch Jones was quoted after the game that they have practiced that play every week for three years and this was the first time he has used it! It worked when then needed it.

John Wooden is a legend in basketball, he was a master teacher and mentor to many. If you have not read his book I highly recommend it.

Build your sales organization around these rules and perhaps you will become a legend as well. If you have further questions or want to discuss other concepts from the Chicago presentation please reach out.

The Three-Step Formula For Sales Management Success

The Three-Step Formula For Sales Management Success

When I speak with them behind closed doors, many sales managers tell me they feel overwhelmed and underpowered. Even though they are competent, intelligent, well-educated and have the drive to make things happen, they’re often frustrated by the real amount of impact they can really make on their team’s performance.

When I ask them why that is, the answer is typically something along the lines of, “There are just not enough hours in the day.”

If you’ve ever read any of my stuff, you know I’m a huge fan of the 80/20 rule, otherwise known as the Pareto Principle. And at RAIN Group, we’re always trying to figure out what top-performing sales organizations do differently.

In our (appropriately named) study on The Top-Performing Sales Organisations, we took a long, hard look at what sets some organizations apart from others. Several factors came out, but one stood out: the quality of their sales management.

Globally, sales managers in top-performing sales organizations behave differently in three key ways.

#1: They prioritize sales coaching activities

When faced with the choice of acting as a sales manager versus a sales coach, top-performing sales organizations choose to prioritize the latter.

Two out of three sellers in these organizations either agree or strongly agree with the statement “Management prioritizes and actively works to maximize the time managers spend coaching their teams versus other activities.”

In “The Rest” category, that number drops down to one in three.

In other words, in top-performing organizations, most salespeople feel like their management really takes the time to personally coach and mentor them. In the others, they feel like management is busy doing, well, something else.

#2: They build supportive, positive cultures

When we asked if they agreed that their culture drives and supports sellers’ motivation to succeed, fully 83% of respondents from top performers said “yes”. That’s compared to 48% for everyone else.

So, top performers have a healthy culture that supports motivation – that’s not all that surprising. What’s more interesting is to look at why that is.

As it turns out, in top-performing sales organizations:

  • Managers are more effective at creating and sustaining seller energy
  • Sellers actively pursue top performance
  • Sellers’ attitudes towards their role and their organization are positive
  • The culture supports motivation

These are organizations where management creates and sustains sellers energy, and their drive to succeed. Meaning sellers actively pursue top performance, and feel good about themselves, their role, and their organization. Resulting in a positive, motivating culture.

This isn’t some “culture change” rah rah. This is how « soft » factors drive hard, measurable business performance (incidentally, the “Elite” category in the study had a 73% win rate, versus 40% for the rest).

#3: They invest in building their (people’s) skillset

Across the board, we found that inside a top-performing sales organization, sellers have much higher levels of skillset across a range of must-have sales skills: everything from filling the pipeline to sales negotiation.


Well, firstly because their management spends more time coaching them (see point #1). Second, because they invest more in sales-specific training and skills building, the quality of their programs is generally rated higher. And finally, because they are part of organizations where there’s a collective sense of pride, people feel like they’re part of a winning team.

In these organizations, the Pygmalion and Galatea effects work together to inspire higher levels of performance for sales managers and sellers alike.

In summary, in top-performing sales organizations:

  1. Management spends more time focused on actively coaching their people (vs “managing”)
  2. Sellers have higher levels of skillset across the board (from training, coaching, and expectations held by others and themselves)
  3. Sellers actively pursue top performance, with a positive view of themselves, their role (“ sales” is very much not a dirty word here), and their organization

Incidentally, there was one more important piece of the puzzle: in top-performing organizations, sales leadership (defined as the very highest levels of the organization, i.e. CxO level) prioritize improving sales effectiveness, and – when they set the priority – it actually gets done.

Or, as John C. Maxwell is fond of saying, A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Chapter 9 of Managing a Social Selling Team: Always Focus on the Buyer

Chapter 9 of Managing a Social Selling Team: Always Focus on the Buyer

In the previous chapter, we covered the vital necessity of patience in social selling. We pointed out that social selling steps may appear passive, when in fact they’re anything but that. Salespeople need to learn this patience well if they are to succeed at social selling—and sales managers must allow them the time and space to do so.

Now we should cover something that has always been necessary, but today it merits a different kind of attention: focusing on the buyer.

What do we know about the buyer today? Due to the evolution of the internet, we’ve seen a radical change in buyer behavior; social networks have become an integral part of the buyer’s journey. Long before they ever contact a sales rep from your organization, they’re (virtually) out there reading independent product reviews, interacting with your customers, finding out for themselves what your product or service might do for their company.

Changes Continue

If there’s one thing you can say about change, it is constant. Hence as the buyer’s journey evolves further, we can expect to see further changes. For example, every buyer in the B2B sphere is also a consumer, and the online consumer shopping experience has given rise to expectations that all purchasing interactions should be frictionless. “Easy to do business with,” “highly responsive,” “great service and great price”—these used to be competitive differentiators. Now, they are nothing more than table stakes, and buyers expect and require them in order for us to be in the game

In another example, buyers only purchase from those, in the end, that they trust. In a 2014 study, United Sales Resources found that 50.1% of buyers said that “trust” was the number one driver for their purchasing decision amongst like providers. We’ve seen many examples of how this trust is earned through social media interaction and through demonstration of salesperson expertise, great products, and great service. This trend will continue to spread and solidify all across B2B business.

These are obvious examples of changes that have come about that will, more likely than not, remain with us and become even more apparent in the buyer journey. But where else might this journey be headed?

Continuing Buyer Research

We could speculate endlessly—and sales pundits around the world no doubt will, just as they always have. But speculation won’t help your sales force move further ahead and become increasingly efficient. That takes understanding. And it now comes back to you, the sales manager, to help provide your team with that understanding.

First, you can talk directly to your customers about their buying habits, and lead the way for your salespeople to do the same. As a sales manager you can simply do one of those famous, “I’m just checking up on our service” type calls, and while you’re at it, ask them about some of their buying habits today. Are there new social media channels they’re checking out? Where are they turning for data? To whom are they listening? What do they expect from a company like yours, in terms of provision of help and information prior to a purchase? What are they doing now that they weren’t doing a year ago?

You can even host events for your customers, at which you can garner this kind of data. You can, of course, host online events as well.

Then, make sure to get your salespeople up and running on these same kinds of questions. You obviously wouldn’t want them doing this while they’re trying to close a deal—but afterwards, why not? They will likely want to check in on their customers anyway, from time to time. It’s how future sales are made. And it can be as simple as a quick email.

At the same time, you as a sales manager should be watching general buying trends. There will be articles about them, and additionally you can peek in at forums and online groups, listening and asking questions, as well. Of course, there is always the personal interaction at conferences, trade shows and the like—and dinners or after-hours gatherings at such events are great places for data collection.

A Pivotal Role

Remember, you as a sales manager are a leader. This doesn’t mean that you are just leading the team in helping and pushing them to make their numbers—it also means you are leading the way in forging new trails, discovering new trends and even creating some. Helping the team stay on top of buying patterns certainly fits in with this role, and will ensure your team is always forging ahead and remaining successful.

The Entrepreneurial Sales Manager

The Entrepreneurial Sales Manager

Condensed from a Pipeliner SalesChat Interview with Andy Gole
Interview by John Golden

Andy Gole has taught selling skills for over 20 years to over 90 clients in a variety of different industries and market conditions. He started 3 different businesses—a sales agency, a product company, and a consulting company—and has made over 4,000 sales calls, both B2B and B2C. He created his own selling process, called Urgency Based Selling, from his field experience, and has taught selling skills at the Fairleigh Dickinson University Rothman Institution for Entrepreneurial Studies for 8 years.

Recently Andy was our special guest on Pipeliner SalesChats, and gave us some amazing insight into how to bring about entrepreneurial sales management.

Q: Most people don’t normally put “entrepreneurial” and “sales manager” together. What do you actually mean by the entrepreneurial sales manager?

A: The entrepreneurial sales manager is a master of change. He or she can help change the sales force and help change what they do in the field.

We say that there are 4 stages of sales management evolution:

  1. The first stage is anarchy where nothing is going on.
  2. The second stage is the motivational sales manager who treats each salesperson like he or she is a customer, and there’s really not much management going on.
  3. The third stage is the rigorous sales manager. What you see in this stage is a manager who is focused on P&L, CRM, and someone who would actually fire salespeople.
  4. The fourth stage is entrepreneurial sales management. That’s the stage where we can effectively develop and change our sales team to get entrepreneurial results, to open more new accounts.

So that’s what I mean by the entrepreneurial sales manager: Somebody who can change the sales team.

Q: I personally believe that a sales manager can be the greatest revenue multiplier in an organization. Why are sales managers struggling so much? And why aren’t they becoming the revenue multipliers that they could be?

A: I think the biggest problem is unrealistic or unfulfilled expectations.

I think ownership and top management is looking for what I have called an entrepreneurial sales manager—somebody who is a master of change. But very often we hire somebody who doesn’t have the full gamut of needed skill sets.

When they don’t, it’s top management’s job to bring it into the organization in another way.

Q: If I want to create an entrepreneurial sales management culture, what are some of the first steps I need to take?

A: What we would really like to hire are entrepreneurs, but they’re in short supply. According to statistics, most are either employed or running their own businesses. There’s just not a lot of free-agent entrepreneurs to go around.

What I have found in my work over the last 20+ years is that there’s another player in the marketplace which we call a hybrid entrepreneur. This is a person who has many or most of the entrepreneurial qualities but needs support. So in my experience, 70 to 80 percent of the average sales team are hybrid entrepreneurs.

Q: So what do they need to be able to get entrepreneurial outcomes?

A: First we need to establish a culture in which bold sales behavior is viewed heroically: going out and facing the unknown, taking the hits, taking the adversity.

Next, we need very powerful selling tools that put the bold vision out there. At the same time, the selling tools have to include a proving kit, because most of the buyers are risk-averse, and we need to arm our sales teams to make what you might call the less risky sale. So there’s yin-yang, an oscillation. First, we’re bold, to get into the new opportunity, but then we have to show that we’re safe. The tools have to express this.

So once we have the culture, and we have the right selling tools, now we need a powerful selling system that’s geared to resolving what we call the 3 fatal flaws in selling. From studying over a dozen different selling systems, I’ve noticed 3 consistent flaws, any one of which will destroy business development.

  1. The first is assuming you’re in a serious conversation. There are 2 kinds of conversations in selling—safe and serious. In a safe conversation, you’re kind of a chump. You’re more or less being brought in as a price check. In a serious conversation, the prospect has a compelling need, and they’re willing to discuss it with you.
  2. The second fatal flaw is assuming the prospect believes what you say. Reliably, in business development, they don’t believe anything you say.
  3. The third fatal flaw is assuming that the prospect knows how to make a good decision. Typically the prospect does not and, particularly, for the infrequent purchase.

So what we need is a very powerful standard sales call—a step-by-step procedure that resolves the 3 fatal flaws. We want to have a standard selling product out there, just like we have a standard product or a standard service.

Q: A lot of salespeople are risk-averse, even though they’re in the riskiest profession, but they have to learn to be bold. How do you get over that?

A: There are 3 exercises we use to transform behavior.

I’ll start with what I think might be the easiest—it’s the sales evaluation grid. It’s based on an idea that’s been popularized by Alan Mulally, ex-CEO of Ford Motor Company. You put your KPIs along the side of a paper, and then each salesperson self-evaluates: green means they’re doing a great job, yellow maybe not so great but they have a plan, and red’s a train wreck.

In sales meetings where we put up each of these on a slide and we see how everybody’s doing, The people who are doing it really well coach those that aren’t. Then in the following week, we have 1-to-1 coaching where we really zone in on the areas that need improvement.

The second idea is the battle plan. We have a 2-page battleplan that kind of synopsizes all the key principles of Urgency-Based Selling. When an opportunity is important enough, we have salespeople fill out the battle plan, and we pick something where there’s a challenge, and then we share the battle plans in a group meeting, everybody reads it, and then we discuss it.

The third method, which I think is the strongest but it’s the hardest, is that we diagnose sales calls just like you used to diagram the English grammar of a sentence in the 7th or 8th grade. We have sales team members diagnose each step of the sales call, present it to their peers, and then we discuss the case.

In all of these 3 methods, we’re constantly bringing out the best practices of the team, and trying to make it the practice for everybody. And when we do a program like this, which goes on for 4 to 6 months, we keep on increasing the skill and competency level week after week.

So these are 3 tools that you could use to change the culture.

Q: Great, thank you! How can people get in touch to learn more about your selling system the entrepreneurial sales manager?

A: By all means, feel free to contact me at any of these methods:

Phone: 732-563-2700

“Sales Management vs. Sales Coaching”—and Other Falsehoods

“Sales Management vs. Sales Coaching”—and Other Falsehoods

I recently heard a sales podcast that put forth a concept I was very surprised to hear: that sales coaching is more important than sales management.

I asked myself: Did I really hear that? Then I recalled that in the last year or so I’ve been seeing this same kind of message said in different ways—that basically pigeonholed sales management as one task, and separated out other functions such as sales coaching as others.

This is complete, in polite terms, horse pucky. Sales coaching is not more important than sales management. Sales coaching is part of sales management—it is only one of the many roles of this job you have to perform.

An Analogy

Let’s take an analogy outside of sales: parenting. A parent, at different times, must perform in different roles:

  • sometimes as a teacher
  • very often when the kids are younger, the role of nurse or doctor
  • in sports and other activities, a coach
  • often when they grow older, a role like that of a policeman
  • when they grow to be young adults, you very often slip into the role of a judge
  • and sometimes, to comfort your child, you even take on the role of a priest

Parents out there reading this may actually come up with a number of other roles they play quite in addition to these! But at the end of the day they, I and any other parent will tell you that they are purely being a parent, and all of the above roles are combined in parenthood.

The Truth of the Matter

The podcast I was listening to basically said that a sales manager is doing nothing but issuing quotas and making sure numbers are made. That’s all they do, and coaching is much more important than that.

Here’s the truth, known by veteran sales managers the world over: coaching is part of sales management! Any great sales manager knows that—and also knows that those numbers aren’t going to be made unless efficient and excellent coaching is also done on members of the sales team.

Hence, any competent sales manager has effective coaching as part of their skillset. This was true yesterday, is true today and will be true until the end of time. The sales manager might hire others to do this coaching work, or possibly outsource it—but they will still be very aware of the coaching being done, and quite willing to step in and do it themselves if need be.

Management vs. Sales Management

It’s not just an issue of coaching split off from sales management, though. What’s really fascinating, at least to me, is that sales management is considered a completely separate subject from management.

The truth is that great management is great management, whether it be company management, department management or sales management. There are basic principles of management that apply in every single case.

Stated simply, there are only 2 kinds of management: good or right management, and wrong management. There is nothing else.

Focus on Strengths

Part of being a manager is being a trainer or a coach, no matter the area being managed. Why? Because one of the vital principles of management is to focus on strengths. When a sales manager is focusing on the strengths of a sales rep, for example, the manager is making that rep more skilled and valuable.

Focusing on strengths is a far more effective form of management than trying to prop up or fix weaknesses. You’re already half the way there—the person is already good at it.

For example, if you have someone in a sales team that’s a great closer and a lousy cold-caller, why pound on that person to become a better cold-caller? Pick what that person is strong in. They’ll probably never be good at cold calling if you coach them from now until the end of time. But great closers are always needed—and you’ve got one right there.

I believe that everyone has some kind of real talent, a strength, and a manager has to build on that. It’s usually what the person really likes to do.


In that podcast stressing that “coaching is more important than sales management,” the podcaster also stated that they would never have anyone on their sales team that “wasn’t coachable.”

This was something else I couldn’t make sense out of—and once again it ties back into holistic management.

What if you have a salesperson that’s a real star, that’s making their numbers, that’s selling the product and the company vision—but isn’t coachable? Are you really going to dismiss such a person?

This salesperson is probably arrogant and missing humility. I personally may not like such an individual. But as long as he’s bringing the result, and helping the company to the next level, coachability is not the issue. Management is the issue, and management in that sense is: Is he violating trust? Is he doing something wrong from a compliance point of view? Is he not reaching his goals? If he’s on target and he’s succeeding, but isn’t coachable, then I have to learn to work with that.

Otherwise a manager (and I use the term loosely in this case) is trying to turn the members of a sales team into a bunch of uniform puppets, that will all do only what the manager wants. I don’t know about you, but that certainly is not the kind of world I want to live in.

Getting Back On Track

Let’s all return to the correct standpoint here: coaching is an integral part of sales management, and sales management is nothing but great management with some specialized functions.

The sooner we do that, the better our sales efforts will be!

Pipeliner CRM is the perfect empowerment for real sales management. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

What Are the Three Magic Questions a Sales Manager Must Know?

What Are the Three Magic Questions a Sales Manager Must Know?

In the 20+ years we have been working with sales managers and salespeople, a constant need is sales opportunity strategy advice. One of the main roles of a Sales Manager is to help train your salespeople on how to stay on track during a sales cycle. Each company will have unique domain, market and competitor background but fundamentally, in each case it is knowing what questions to ask.

During any sales opportunity coaching sessions consider asking these three questions with any sales opportunity:

  1. Why do anything?
  2. Why now?
  3. Why with us?

Let’s explore these, acknowledging the answers can’t all be known at the beginning of a sales opportunity but focusing on answering them is critical to maintain focus and winning the sale.

Why do anything?

Any person and organization has a myriad of priorities. Going through a buying decision whether for marketing services, new equipment or office space, is a major commitment that may include multiple people and maybe competing with multiple priorities. So how will your prospect justify the effort and invest the time? Often, the buyer has latent pain – they know they need to do something but they may not know what they need to know or how to decide. They almost certainly don’t want to speak with a salesperson without a strong sense of what they need and whether it is affordable. This presents your first challenge – how to help the potential buyer to answer the questionWhy do anything?

Therefore, marketing and sales campaigns which provide the prospect with honest content where the buyer can educate themselves is vital. Your sales team’s prospecting activities (emails, phone calls) should leverage this content and assist in identifying the issues and required capabilities. Blogs, webinars, case studies as all examples of content that may be beneficial to the prospect as long as it is not overtly self-serving.

Once they engage with a prospect, top sales professionals know they can both help the prospect and increase their company’s potential sales success through a deeper discovery phase. Exploring unexpressed potential needs, linking the implications of the current issues with other functions within the enterprise and tying the project to corporate objectives will both help the prospect build momentum internally and differentiate your offering. This is critical to begin to build your “business case” for taking action.

Why now?

Consider again the myriad priorities within the prospect company and the limited availability for executive support and investment capital or expense. To win the business requires more than beating your competition – you need to help your prospect communicate the importance of this initiative and gain internal approval. Perhaps this project is critical to retain a key customer, or comply with upcoming regulations. It may require a formal cost justification and follow a capital approval procedure. If the prospect does not have experience or insight to elevating the importance of your sale within the company and how to navigate the approval cycle, you will either have to help them or accept the consequences. Tools to assist your prospect such as payback models, use cases and template presentations can be both valuable and appreciated.

Timing is important, as knowing when the solution to fix the “pain” must be implemented and begin operation can drive the prospect’s sense of urgency to purchase.

Why with us?

Successful salespeople develop a competitive strategy starting at prospect qualification, refining and adjusting through the Discovery stage. What are the issues and capabilities that your company has helped the prospect uncover and how do you prove the ability to deliver? Are they unique and important to the prospect? Can the competition respond?

Often the committee will meet many days or weeks after all the vendor presentations. Summarizing the issues, the capabilities you offered and how these were received by the team and communicating to all of the committee members could be your last opportunity to stand apart. Whenever possible, these documents should be personalized.

As a Sales Manager, is it important to have your team act professionally, staying aligned throughout with the prospect’s buying process and possibly added value as it has progressed? Remember, as the point of vendor selection nears, the buyer’s sense of risk rises. How you understand and respond to this state may be the deciding factor amongst the prospects choices.


During the life of any complex sales opportunity it is sometimes difficult to for a salesperson to keep their arms around the abundance of information, questions, insights and tactics. Consider these three questions as their guide. Regularly reviewing each opportunity with these questions and honestly facing the answers, will provide the salesperson and sales manager the insights to adjust the opportunity strategy. Training your sales team to crisply communicate opportunity status to executives within your company via these three questions will both be appreciated and demonstrate your team’s competence and professionalism.

If you would like an additional set of “Magic Questions for Sales Managers”,

For the Future, Sales Management Requires Virtues Part 2

For the Future, Sales Management Requires Virtues Part 2

For our final 2 blogs in this series on sales management pain points, we’re discussing a very fundamental quality for someone’s successful conduct in life—that of virtues. In keeping with our topic, these virtues are, of course, for sales managers specifically.

Perhaps more than other, more average fields, you really need virtues in sales management. The bottom line: if you don’t clearly understand how a sales manager needs to be poised for the future, you reduce the chances of creating value and growth. It is for this purpose I have laid out these virtues.

In Part 1, we covered in detail why these virtues are necessary, and the first 2 sales management virtues themselves. Here, we cover the last 5 virtues.

Virtue 3: Hope (Latin: Spes)

Most people think of hope as something done in the mind, with no action. But that is not what I mean by this particular virtue. In this instance, hope includes action. The kind of hope I mean includes and is connected to action.

For example, you as a sales manager will be issuing quotas, and working with each member of the team to get them achieved. Hope is that ingredient of optimism that communicates to the reps that you indeed believe they will make those quotas.

Your hope for the future, combined with the actions that you take to actually shape that future, are what, in the end, will bring that future about.

Virtue 4: Moderation (Latin: Temperantia)

As we all know, moderation is a term the business world does not generally like to see. And it’s true—we certainly don’t want to “moderate” our financial results.

So how does moderation apply to sales management? It very aptly applies to the oceans of data that come into a sales organization. It applies especially to businesses that have no plan, and that let too much information be collected. That data, in turn, can no longer be retrieved or processed.

Moderation is therefore required when obligating employees to collect data. It is needed when using instruments and processes to increase the value of information that is collected, found and used. Moderation extends from the parameters set for data collection, through to the specific technology utilized for the collection, storage and analysis of that data.

Virtue 5: Fairness (Latin: Iustitia)

Fairness is a broad subject that relates back to the age-old subject of justice. Justice, as we have seen in today’s world, can go quite astray. So fairness and justice are very important subjects.

A sales manager must establish fairness, but not the kind of across-the-board fairness that some political candidates are calling for today. That kind of fairness—the same equality for everyone everywhere—just doesn’t exist.

In sales, there are different kinds of fairness in all different areas. Their fairness to your team, the individual, in compensation, in commissions, to the customer, and to the other parts of the company.

Fairness, like wisdom and like just about any other virtue, requires responsibility. You must take that responsibility to be able to see what fairness is, and how it would be applied in any given situation.

In my opinion a sales manager, if they are good, tries to balance between the different types of people in a team. You never have only superstars—you have good ones, you have middle ones, you mediocre ones, you have bad ones.

There is an old maxim about hiring: “Hire the best and fire the rest.” While that sounds great, it doesn’t reflect reality because you can’t hire only the best. You’ll always have people that are better, and you’ll always have people that are not that good—they might perhaps regularly fulfill their quotas but never outperform them—but you need these people, too.

You utilize fairness in dealing with each of these different types.

Virtue 6: Charity (Latin: Caritas)

What is Charity? Is it when you don’t fire the person that is constantly underperforming? No. The reality is, charity has nothing to do with someone who is lazy. Charity stops before laziness.

But if you see someone who is really trying, it could be you might give him or her another chance. Charity certainly does mean giving people chances, giving people options—but only when they deserve it. When they don’t it makes no sense to keep them.

An example of where charity should be applied might be when someone is in a job they are not doing well at, but are really and truly trying yet struggling. At least for their effort they deserve the opportunity to be placed in another position in which they might excel.

Charity also extends to the qualities of partnership and respect needed to deal with your team and your colleagues. It also includes the spirit of collaboration with other departments and partners.

Virtue 7: Trust (Latin: Fides)

Then we get to Trust, which is the most important virtual of all.

In a conversation recently with my sales team, I said that the most important thing that you have to do with the buyer is understanding the perception of the buyer. Once you understand that, the next thing you have to build is trust. When you build trust with the prospect, the prospect is telling you their fears, their problems, what goes into the selection process, and why they are evaluating solutions.

For the prospect, it could be about security. Maybe they’re worried about choosing a solution that doesn’t work and they might get fired. You don’t know. So when you as a seller have built trust, the buyer will start telling you what the real issues are. In that moment, you sell within the framework of trust.

In sales management, the most important thing is to build trust with your reps. If they don’t trust you and you don’t trust them, how can you be a team?

As a final word on trust, I will quote renowned management expert and economist Fredmund Malik:

“What is meant by integrity of character? What is a personality with integrity? Books could be written on this subject, and indeed many have been. Much of what is written is terribly obscure, impenetrable and metaphysical, and very complicated. All the philosophical discussion of this topic boils down to something very simple: People must mean what they say, and act accordingly.

Consistency is just as important as predictability. Most people understand trust as a general, somewhat unclear emotion or feeling. Through trust may be accompanied by emotions, this does not necessarily have to be the case, and emotions are, above all, not particularly dependable. Trust is built on the foundation of predictability and dependability.”

I hope these virtues can assist you in better performing your role as a sales manager.

The best CRM to keep sales managers and sales teams totally focused in this digital age is Pipeliner CRM.

“A Sales Manager Walks Into a Company…” Part 2

“A Sales Manager Walks Into a Company…” Part 2

In Part 1, we began diving into some very specific pain points for a sales manager—those encountered when a sales manager is newly hired into a company. Here we tell the rest of the story.

It starts like many old jokes–“A sales manager walks into a company…” But it certainly isn’t one–just ask anyone who has been there. When a new sales manager does walk into a company and is hired, he or she is expected to take the sales team—and the company bottom line—to new heights.

It is a tough position. All eyes are on sales manager–the company executives from above, and the sales reps from below.

That sales manager is going to be faced with a number of pain points. This is part 2 of the list, in roughly the order which the new sales manager should handle them.

Note: For the sake of this blog, let’s assume that our sales manager is not inheriting a drastic situation, in which sales and the team are both doing awful. We’re going to assume that they are at least capable and somewhat successful.

Also for the sake of this blog, we’ll assume our sales manager is named Lisa.

Marketing Support

The next thing that Lisa should check up on is marketing support. As we’ll cover in more detail later, a large number of leads, inbound leads, come from marketing.

Sales also require collateral materials such as customer case studies, competitor studies, price sheets, and many others, to assist in making sales. These also come from Marketing.

To ensure sales is fully receiving Marketing’s backup, Lisa should meet with the executive over Marketing to see how well Sales and Marketing are aligned. She should work with that executive to make sure they are.

Support from Support

Lisa is also going to need to check into how Tech Support backs up sales.

Any sales rep will tell you that the last thing needed while a sales is in progress is tech support issues while the product or service.  When such an instance arises, tech support must be instant and near-perfect. That’s the only way sales are consistently made.

But great tech support must continue after the sale is made, and all the way down the line. If it isn’t, there will be no repeat business.

As a note, sales are divided into pre-sales or SDR sales, sales, and then afterward they come under the Customer Success Manager. Because a sales team in creating new business has no real time to devote to existing customers, existing customers need to fall under the Customer Success Manager. We’ll be talking about the Customer Success Manager in the near future.

The Pipeline

Lisa is also going to have to pay strict attention to the structure of the sales pipeline itself. This means the sales process and its various stages.

The effectiveness of a sales process can be estimated by the number of sales that make it through to a close. When there are 1 or more stages where opportunities tend to stall, or which tend to be skipped over because they have become outmoded or useless, that sales process is losing its efficiency.

A sales process can be evolved from a actions performed by a company’s most successful reps. But once you’ve got a basic process, be ready to try it out, monitor it carefully, and change it as needed. Which leads us to our next point.

Once that process is up and being used, and for the moment is as correct as can be, attention needs to be paid to what salespeople are doing within each step of the sales process. You could say that the sales process is the horizontal process, whereas the vertical process is what occurs within each stage. The tasks and activities that make up each vertical process are every bit as important as the horizontal processes.

The sales process is another hefty subject, and we have created a lot of material on it. At the end of this article we have listed links to several of them for further reading.


The Dynamic Sales Pipeline

As anyone who has been involved with it very long knows, sales is always subject to change — it is a dynamic activity.  The is true of every  business,  and even of economies. Your products and services are also constantly evolve.

All of this means that your sales process will need to change as time goes by. Your sales pipeline must be as dynamic as the environment through which it flows

The sales manager pain point here is not only having a dynamic sales process, but also having and using a CRM solution that is just as dynamic, that can be instantly changed as needed. Most CRM systems are not that flexible—and Pipeliner specializes in it.

Pipeliner is the most flexible and dynamic CRM solution available. Try it today

To learn more about the subject of sales processes, check out these further resources:

“A Sales Manager Walks Into a Company…” Part 1

“A Sales Manager Walks Into a Company…” Part 1

In our continuing series on the pain points of being a sales manager, we have explored the categories of sales manager pain points, the primary pain point of being a sales manager, the technology a sales manager really needs and the vital subject of management.

Now we’re going to dive into some very specific pain points for a sales manager—those encountered when a sales manager is newly hired into a company.

It starts like many old jokes–“A sales manager walks into a company…” But it certainly isn’t one–just ask anyone who has been there. When a new sales manager does walk into a company and is hired, he or she is expected to take the sales team—and the company bottom line—to new heights.

It is a tough position. All eyes are on sales manager–the company executives from above, and the sales reps from below.

That sales manager is going to be faced with a number of pain points. They are listed in this blog post (and in its Part 2) in roughly the order in which the new sales manager should handle them.

Note: For the sake of this blog, let’s assume that our sales manager is not inheriting a drastic situation, in which sales and the team are both doing awful. We’re going to assume that they are at least capable and somewhat successful.

Also for the sake of this blog, we’ll assume our sales manager is named Lisa.

Making That Quota

Closing Ratios

Now that Lisa has come into her new position as sales manager, her first concern will be making the quota that has been set for her, and her team. She’ll need to figure out if that quota can be met, and how it can be met.

To start with, Lisa will need to know the closing ratios for each one of her sales reps. Let’s hope they’ve already been calculated—but if not, she is going to have to get busy and figure them out.

Once individual closing rations are obtained, they need to be summed up into the closing ratio for the whole sales team.

Number of Opportunities

Closing ratios will go into figure out the next raw figure Lisa will need: the number of opportunities needed in the pipeline to make the quota.

If the quota for a quarter is $2 million, and the closing ratio for sales team closing is 25%$8 million in potential opportunities  will be required in the pipeline in order to make the quota. If the average opportunity value is $25,000, there would need to be 320 opportunities in the pipeline.

Number of Leads

If those opportunities aren’t already in the pipeline, then Lisa is going to have to work backwards to leads. She needs to discover, for the team, the conversion ratio of leads to opportunities, for each individual rep and for that sales team. That will allow her to understand how many leads are need in order to obtain that required number of opportunities.

If the lead conversion ratio for the sales team is 1 in 10, then to achieve 320 opportunities in the pipeline, the sales team would need 3,200 leads—or 960 leads per month.

Other Factors

There will be other factors that come into play, that Lisa may need to take into account. For example, a larger-than-normal deal size could mean that the sales velocity—the time it takes from lead to a closed sale—might be longer. A larger deal size can also have an impact on closing ratio. Or if a particular source of leads proves incredibly abundant, lead qualifying will really have to be applied so that nobody is working a bunch of suddenly worthless leads.

Lisa will work all this out, because we know she’s smart, and she really wants to make a great first impression and meet or beat that first quota.

Watch for “A Sales Manager Walks Into a Company…” Part 2

Pipeliner is the most flexible and dynamic CRM solution available. Try it today.

The First Thing a Sales Manager Must Know: Management

The First Thing a Sales Manager Must Know: Management

Previously in this series, we’ve covered a sales manager’s primary pain point, the technology vital to being a sales manager, and the pain point of people. Now we turn to a crucial subject for sales managers: that of management itself.

It might seem to be a self-contradictory statement: “The first thing a sales manager really needs to know is management.”

But a closer look will show this to be the truth. Most of the time, a sales manager becomes a sales manager by being promoted out of the salesperson position. A salesperson was a top producer on a sales team, and was then promoted to sales manager to run that sales team.

Unfortunately, though, only being good at selling will never make a person a great sales manager. A sales manager is a leader. To take an analogy from an unrelated field, it would be like taking a ship’s navigator or a ship’s steward—both of whom might be really fantastic at their jobs—and attempting to make one of them a captain. They’ve never commanded or led or motivated people. How are either of them going to fulfill that role?

Sure, being great at sales helps—in fact, salespeople may not even listen to them if they aren’t—but that is only the beginning. There are many other skills a sales manager must have, chief among them being management itself.

If you are a sales manager and are reading this, and are ready to throw this book across the room because you yourself were promoted because of being a great sales rep—please realize I’m not slamming anyone that has been through this. I’m simply saying that just being a great salesperson isn’t enough to be a great sales manager—and if you’re a great sales manager, then you already have a number of the management qualities I’m about to cover.

If you’re having difficulties as a sales manager, though, perhaps you might gain some insight from what I am saying. That’s certainly my objective.

Management is Management

Today there are many books out there on the subject of “Sales Management.” But the truth of the matter is, management is management. There is good management and bad management. And either way, it applies rather equally to all endeavors, including sales.

Here at Pipeliner, we follow a form of management that comes out of a school of thought proven over 150 years. Its principles apply to sales, as they apply to every other form of business. Hence we have not seen the need to invent our own form of management.

The 5 Parts

The biggest misconception about management is that it simply consists of telling others what to do. According to renowned management consultant and economist Fredmund Malik, whose management approach we closely follow at Pipeliner, there are 5 basic aspects or parts to management:

1) Learn to manage yourself. If you can’t manage yourself, you can’t possibly manage others. Management of yourself includes properly organizing your job and your time. It includes self-discipline. To manage yourself you have to become aware that you are learning to work very efficiently with your own time, to accomplish what you want to deliver each day.

2) Managing Your Boss. Once you have learned to manage yourself, you need to learn the 2nd point which is managing your boss. We all have someone above us that we have to learn to manage. Managing your boss means understanding what is important to the boss, and consistently and competently delivering that. Even if you’re totally freelance, you’re still reporting to stakeholders. Everyone has a boss.

3) Others Inside and Outside. Then come the others in the company with whom you work—other people in other departments on whom you depend, and others outside the company such as customers, partners or vendors.

4) Management of your peers. This can be a tough one, as peers generally don’t report to you or aren’t above or below you in the organization. You must peacefully coexist with your peers, while also maintaining as productive a relationship as possible.

5) And Lastly…Subordinates. Only after you have learned to manage the first 4 can you manage this last one—which everyone always thinks is the first and only one—subordinates. If you have managed the first 4, this last one is easy.

The 6 Basic Management Principles

Also according to Malik, management consists of 6 primary principles, explored at much greater length in my ebook Theory Made Real: Pipeliner CRM Puts Principles Into Practice. Interestingly, because the results in sales are so black-white (you’ve either made the sale or you haven’t), these principles are even more obvious in sales.

Briefly, they are:

  1. Focus on results. Sales are either being made, or not!
  2. Contribution to the whole. A sales manager must be able to see how each rep contributes to the overall sales goal, and also how the sales team contributes to the greater company.
  3. Concentration on a few things. In order to cut through noise and distraction, any manager must decide which are the most important factors, and focus strictly on them.
  4. Utilizing strengths. This was covered in the last chapter. Basically, it is far easier and more rewarding to bolster the strengths of people, rather than trying to strengthen their weaknesses.
  5. Positive thinking. This is an important point for any manager, but a sales manager will never survive without thinking positive. The main reason is that salespeople, in order to succeed, must constantly think positive themselves. Their leader must also.
  6. Trust. Stated last, this one is actually the most important. You must trust in those you lead, so that they will trust you. You must make yourself worthy of their trust, so that when times are hard they will come through for you.

When you follow these principles, you already have the strong foundation to lead your team. Then the technology frees you up and gives you the insight to become what you should always be: the real mentor and coach of your team.

So as you can see, management is a profession unto itself. It absolutely needs to be learned by a sales manager, for that sales manager to be successful. The good news: It is there to be learned, and it can be learned!

Sales Management: The Pain Point of People

Sales Management: The Pain Point of People

In our previous blogs, we’ve covered a sales manager’s primary pain point and the technology vital to sales management.

Now let’s cover a topic near and dear to a sales manager’s heart: people.

Changing People

Have you ever really tried to change someone? Did you succeed? A “no” answer to that second one would put you in the far majority. This would be doubly true for attempting to change someone on a job level.

It is very common for sales managers to manage by attempting to strengthen weaknesses in salespeople. For example if a sales rep’s strong point is bringing in leads but weak in closing, the sales manager works frantically to make that rep stronger as a closer. In another example let us say a salesperson is a great closer, but isn’t so great it nurturing leads and making them hot–so the sales manager heavily focuses on strengthening that rep at lead nurturing.

This isn’t a criticism of that sales manager–after all, the sales manager’s motivation is to make a better sales rep. But what might make life easier for both the manager and the rep is this: if someone is truly great at something, why not simply make them even stronger at what they’re great at? Returning to our previous example, how about making your lead expert even greater, and bringing that many more leads? And you’ve got a great closer on board–why pester them about lead nurturing?

So as regards people, a sales manager would do well to not to try and change people, but instead to help them to continuously improve at being who they are, and doing what they do best.

Measuring Ability

To do so, you need to be able to accurately measure what each of your reps are doing right. For example:

  • How many leads does a rep bring in? Of what quality?
  • What percentage of leads does a rep “heat up” and make ready for prime-time sales?
  • What percentage of leads does a rep convert to opportunities?
  • What is a rep’s closing ratio—percentage of opportunities closed?

To answer such questions you should be able to turn to your CRM, through which you should be able to see how reps perform in each of these areas, and more. Pipeliner does that—and in fact we’re the only CRM that even provides an Archive through which you can instantly see why sales were won or lost, where they stalled in the sales process, and any other data you need to analyze lost sales.

A Worthwhile System

Now that you’ve got your reps moving along in areas in which they really win, you should now create a system that motivates your salespeople to sell. If you’ve ever seen a salesperson who is really happy with a particular commission structure, you know that when they are they will bend over backwards to sell. The primary benefactor is, of course, that salesperson’s employer.

This is especially important as regards your top producers. If a rep is already outstanding in performance, and you ask them to do even more, their first thought is going to be, “Why should I?” If they’re already at the top of their game, and the system isn’t something they’re totally happy with, why should they put in the effort?

But It’s Up to Them, Too

In the end, though, given a decent system, an even mildly healthy market and a worthwhile product, it is up to the reps to sell. It is their job, after all. While you’re monitoring their performance to see which area they excel in, you should also watch for those that just aren’t cutting it.

If you think they deserve it, by all means give them chances. Mentor them. Coach them. But if you do all that and still see no real improvement, you have to be willing to let them go. You cannot grow otherwise.

Building a Team

The end goal of a sales manager, through mentoring, coaching and evaluating, personnel, is to build a team. That team is constantly shifting as people come and go, so in addition to the other skills already named, hiring and firing must be in a sales manager’s skillset, too.

In summation: You hire the best you can find, get them into the position they’re great at, into a commission structure they’re happy with, and get them all fired up and selling. The ones that don’t make it, you cut loose. The ones that do, you help all you can.

Pipeliner CRM is the perfect tool for precision management of a sales team. Try it today.

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