2 Highly Effective Approaches to Sales Management

Option 1

Overall Principles

While results in terms of revenue and profitability are important KPI's, there is too much focus on the financial results in sales management and not enough focus on activity management.

A key principle is that sales activity should be directly linked to the business plan and specific result areas. In this way if the activity is undertaken then the results will flow. A good example of where this is not applied is where the business expects a different result (read increase) and yet does nothing to adjust the activity we completed the year before.

Within the business planning framework priorities must be set around specific objectives with the tools of segmentation and differential management used to align resources, account management and activity.

Sales activity in most organisations must be focused around four key activity areas:

  • existing customer maintenance and development (increase penetration and loyalty).
  • new customer acquisition (contact and building sales presentation)
  • new customer conversion (proof of concept and move to buying mode)
  • marketplace management (market research and targeting)

The management and measurement of activity forms the key driver of performance.

Sales tools and automation of the process remove the burden of paper and free resources to concentrate on revenue generation or customer retention activities.

Automation also gives senior management the tools and data to manage performance, activity and customer interaction.

People Management

Key to people management in the sales environment is an active role in coaching and development.

With a direct linkage to activity planning there are specific activity "metrics" and revenue targets established with all sales staff, which are reviewed through an informal / formal review structure built around team meetings and individual reviews.

Formal quarterly reviews precede similar review meetings with customers and form the basis of a gap analysis covering perfomance, skills and experience.

A strong program of joint visits and supervision supplement the formal skills and knowledge training. Key skills development would focus on the sales process and the formulation of specific customer value propositions.

Wherever possible automation is also used to supplement the knowledge base through the provision of product and compliance information (this also helps where there is turnover in staff).

Motivation must be generated via a compensation package that balances security with challenge and again must be linked to activity as well as result areas. Structure and responsibility must reward perfomance with a career path readily available for high achievers and equally for farmers (those working the current field of clients).

Issue management with staff must be put through a formal escalation process supplemented by training and mentoring where possible, but with defined expectations and outcomes within a specific time frame.

Option 2

This approach also has 2 parts to it :

  • people management
  • customer relationship management.

People Management:

People management is staff management. If people are not happy, motivated, focussed and winning then they will be disorientated/disillusioned people which equates to low sales and low morale. It is important to have the team focussed in achieving realistic targets and all singing the same tune.
It is critical that a manager know what makes their people tick ie

  • their strengths - knowing everyone's strengths is key . This is an opportunity for everyone to share their experience, new ideas, successes etc with the other team members. There is no room for show ponies or individual workers in a true team. The team should have sales targets that need to be achieved and a will to achieve them a lot faster by helping each other.
  • their weaknesses - this would give the manager an opportunity to put an agreed plan in place. Together, the manager and sales person would sign off on it and monitor it (6 monthly). The plan can be finding them a different job within the organisation, extra training, joint customer meetings with constructive feedback, creating a buddy system with another salesperson etc
  • what they want from this job - do they like the customer relationship side, good bonuses etc
  • their future aspirations - study an MBA, become a manager or team leader etc

The sales manager also needs to know what their people are doing to ensure that it is in the right direction. Having weekly "one on one" meetings with each operative (the same time every week). This is an opportunity to talk about issues, roadblocks, brainstorm ideas and share experiences. Also have fortnightly or monthly team meetings. This is where the talk would cover how sales are tracking compared to target, discuss common issues, share competitive information and product updates (presented by marketing, R&D, etc.). It is also an opportunity for one member of staff to present a success story, so all can learn from it.

Customer Relationship Management :

  • To develop a relationship with your customers you need to :
  • know your products, its benefits, the limitations, the technology, the competition and the market you're targeting and why.
  • know your industry and your customers industry
  • know your customer ie who are the decision makers, what is the decision making process, what is your customers budget availability for your products, what are your customers planning cycles, how do your customers make money and who are your customers customers. You may have to build the relationship from the bottom up and it may be a slow process but sales are not made overnight and expectations should not be there to avoid disappointments.
  • be professional in looks and presentation. First impressions always matter. Be prepared by having a set agenda and time frame designated for the meeting. Proposals should always be carefully prepared and professionally presented.
  • have regular meetings with your customers ie monthly or quarterly. This is an opportunity for you to know of any changes with your customer and for you to update your customer with new products/pricing etc. Knowledge is key.
  • have a good CRM system that tracks sales sold, sales opportunities and customer information.

As a sales manager it is always a challenge to start in an existing team. The pleasure is starting to see your team working well together and start achieving results. It is also a great feeling when the team begins to identify themselves as being a part of their customers. It is only then, when you know that customer intimacy is starting to happen and sales will begin to flow.