Proper sales management ensures that sales teams make the most of their potential. Without effective management, the talent on a sales team is unfocused. It’s still talent. But it’s raw.
A great manager can turn that raw talent, and every sales rep, into a coordinated sales force. But how do you actually go about managing your sales team? What sorts of resources do they need? What should you be focusing on in your meetings? The answers aren’t intuitively clear.
Whether you’re a new sales team manager or an experienced one, these seven tips for sales management strategy, will help you make the most of your team’s talent.
1. Hire reps that will succeed.
The process of good sales team management starts before you have a team. When you’re hiring salespeople, make a point to look for traits that will help you as a sales manager.
For example, you’ll want to hire people who love receiving feedback. Not everyone is happy to hear about how they might improve their skills. Even today, some salespeople prefer to be largely on their own.
To succeed as a manager, though, you want employees who are interested in receiving coaching, want to learn and improve, and enjoy getting feedback. That’s the kind of team that will benefit the most from good management.
Of course, you’ll still want to look for other qualities like empathy, responsibility, and optimism. But keep in the back of your mind the fact that sales team management goes two ways: you need to be a good manager, and you need employees who are willing to be managed.
2. Have an onboarding and training plan.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of onboarding. You’ve hired an all-star salesperson, so what’s left other than to let them get to work?
A lot, actually.
Without a solid onboarding and training plan, you’re missing out on a lot of significant benefits, including reduced ramp-up time and better performance. So it’s important to onboard and train your reps.
You probably have some sort of onboarding and training in place. But it can always be improved. Here are a few things to consider:
- Do you have training materials available for sales reps to access for further learning?
- Are you running trainees through in cohorts?
- Using the latest roleplaying and sales simulation tactics?
- Placing a strong emphasis on the basics, like empathy?
You can always improve your onboarding and training. Getting off on the right foot and helping your reps succeed is a crucial part of being an effective sales manager.
3. Prioritize one-on-ones.
One-on-one meetings are a hallmark sales management strategy. Meeting individually with your reps gives you insight into what’s working and what’s not, both in your management strategy and your sales process.
But it’s easy to get distracted and not schedule meetings or just conduct them via Slack or Google chat. You might also not be fully present at these meetings. And that means you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity.
Be sure to check out “How to Make Your One-on-Ones With Employees More Productive” from Harvard Business Review for tips on how to get the most out of these meetings.
And don’t assume that monthly one-on-ones are the best way to go. There are some very compelling reasons to have more than one one-on-one with each rep every month. This is one of your most important touchpoints with your team. Invest your time and energy in it.
4. Create transparent metrics.
How are your reps doing? Are they selling enough? Have they improved over last quarter? How do you know?
If you can’t answer these questions, your metrics aren’t clear enough. And if you don’t have the answers to those questions, your salespeople don’t know either. Salespeople are highly motivated, but if they can’t tell whether they’re succeeding, their drive to improve could suffer.
The metrics you choose will depend on your company and your goals. But quotas, closing rates, average deal sizes, and number of calls or emails made are all good metrics to keep in mind. You can get a good idea what to track by watching our webinar, “6 Sales Metrics You Should Be Tracking (But Aren’t).”
And by making those metrics transparent, you can foster a healthy sense of competition among your team. Leaderboards, dashboards, and other ways of public recognition are great for motivating your team.
5. Make it easy for your reps to succeed.
One of the main parts of your job as a sales manager is to make sure that your sales reps have the tools they need to succeed.
Sales playbooks, for example, include a detailed overview of the sales process, talking points for calls or emails, information on your company’s products and pricing, and a variety of other information. As a manager, it’s your job to make sure your playbook is as useful as possible.
That means keeping it up to date, making it easy to access, and taking suggestions on how to improve it. The sales playbook is your responsibility. If you manage it well, it will increase the productivity of your sales team.
Pro tip: use your sales playbook as part of your sales enablement process. Include marketing materials, online content, and any other resources that your reps can take advantage of to close their sales.
Another way you can set your reps up for success is by getting to know their strengths and weaknesses. Every rep has unique skills and situations they’re most effective in. Playing to your reps’ strengths is a crucial part of team selling and building valuable relationships.
For example, you might have a rep that works best with clients in a particular industry because of their experience. Take advantage of that by assigning that rep to clients in that industry.
Or you might have one rep that’s especially good at building long-term relationships with leads. That skill set is going to be more useful on some projects than others. Of course, you should also work on this rep’s fast-closing skills. But if someone excels in an area, it makes sense to get the most out of their expertise.
6. Set up a sales CRM to save time.
A 2018 survey found that sales reps spend less than 40% of their time selling. That means over 60% is spent doing things like administrative tasks, researching target accounts and contacts, and attending meetings.
Sales reps are only making money when they’re selling. So it’s in your best interest to make it easy for them to sell. That’s where a good CRM comes in.
That same 2018 survey found that sales reps only spend 18% of their time in a CRM. Which is surprising, considering how central the CRM is to sales success. When well-executed, a sales CRM automates much of a sales rep’s job, freeing them up to do what they’re best at—selling.
By ensuring that your CRM sales management software is automating as many tasks as possible, you can save your reps time every day. For example, we’ve seen sales reps get as many as 15 selling hours back when using Copper, as well as a 35% shorter sales cycle.
A CRM that’s not working well or isn’t automating tasks can be a big time waster for your reps. Make sure that your CRM sales management software is making your team more efficient, not less.
7. Focus on retention to build a long-running successful team.
Salespeople have a remarkably high turnover—some estimates are up to 27%. And that’s a big problem for companies. Experienced sales reps are valuable: they know your products and pricing, have relationships with your customers, and have developed effective sales practices.
To reduce your turnover and get more out of your sales management, place a focus on retention. For example, you might offer a retention bonus that rewards reps for staying on at two, three, and five years.
Find ways to increase engagement. For example, you might ask a salesperson to take on a task outside of their normal job description to foster a feeling of responsibility. Or take a slightly more hands-off approach with veteran employees to increase their sense of autonomy. Offer training opportunities throughout the year. Show your team you care and make them feel valued beyond just their ability to sell.
There are unlimited ways to encourage reps to stay on longer. Find the ones that work best for your team and start getting more out of your management.
You’re the linchpin of the sales team.
For a sales team to be successful, it needs effective management. As a sales leader, you’re the linchpin in the entire sales process. If you’re managing well and supporting your team, you’ll see good results.
But you’ll need to intentionally work on improving your management skills. Use the tactics above and stay in close communication with your salespeople to find out what works best for your team.