by Anneli Thomson, Managing Director, Sandler Training
There’s never a simple answer for how to manage a successful sales team – it’s not a one-solution problem; there’s no magic dust. The complexities of your team require a methodology and process – no good comes from herding cats and sporadically implementing random policies.
Take the time to plan for these four S’s, and mold your sales team into an effective and efficient sales machine.
The first thing to look at is strategy. Do you have a solid sales strategy to penetrate the market place and achieve the goals set for the team? Do you have a plan? When a General wants to win the war, the desire to win is a goal, but the plan is the strategy for the army of sales people. How are you preparing your army? What are the tools they use? Is the strategy that you’re using now going to work in the future? Is it the right strategy? Logically think about the strategy for the team you have now, not a team you had in the past or a team you want in the future. Strategise for the team you have now. Putting a strategy in place takes time, but how much time is it compared to the time it takes to clean up the mess or put out fires of operating ad-hoc?
Next consider structure. Do you have the structure to execute? There are two elements here.
- Do you have the roles necessary to execute the strategy? Perhaps you have always had account managers, and now you need to grow, so it’s no longer about maintaining; now it’s about hunting. Do you need new or different roles? What types of sales roles do you need?
- Do you have the selling systems and processes in place so your whole team is working in tandem? Can you multiply and the leverage the successes and identify the weaknesses? Is everyone speaking the same language? Is everyone being managed the same? Are you leaving good sales people to their own devices and hoping they’ll do well? It is critical to manage your whole team based on a sole structure, and your whole sales team is working on the same system – if everyone is selling differently, you will end up managing every unique selling system. How much time does that waste? Be efficient: everyone should speak the same language.
When you have the structure in place, you need to ask yourself if you have the right individuals in place. Are you maximizing their potential? If there’s a gap, are you hiring the right people? Do you understand their individual competencies? Ask yourself:
- What are their strengths?
- How do you help with their individual performances?
- What do you need to pay attention to?
How are you training your staff? If you go to training, is that enough? Does your team need training? Is something that helped you necessarily going to help your people? Is there reinforcement? If you did train them in the past, was it implemented? Did you and your team retain it? Was it taken to the field?
When assessing your staff, do you identify specifically what each person needs to work on? Each person is tuned differently. Most managers will manage on mass problems they see across the table – but don’t get caught in that trap. Does that effectively solve those problems? It may be more time consuming, but more effective, to train and coach individually. Don’t lose the opportunity to focus on each person so you can improve their efficiency. Sales managers often operate in survival mode and then turn into “super sales person” – perhaps going in to close for their salesperson when they’re struggling. Don’t become a crutch for your sales person. You can’t close all the business.
Lastly we come to skills. These are the tools that your team has and the competencies they develop – the techniques they have to better equip themselves to differentiate from the competition. For those who gold, think of it this way: when you get frustrated, it’s all about the golf club. You change your club depending on the shot and which tool will be the best fit. But professional equipment isn’t the only factor in a successful shot. It’s also about how you use the tool. You have a shiny new driver, but will you use it to score a hole-in-one? Just because you have the best tool doesn’t mean you’re the best with it – skills bridge the gap.
Do your people perform and behave differently than the competition? Do they get thrown into the same pool as everyone else? It’s our responsibility to elevate them and separate them. This is an ongoing journey – our sales team members need to practice or they will get rusty or lose it. Perhaps they have the tool on the shelf, but under pressure, do they have the skill to pull it out and execute? Reinforcement training keeps skills sharp so when they need them they don’t have to go back and relearn them. Continue to work on skills with your sales people - keep tweaking and improving. Revisit and hone the skills continually.
It’s easy to read this and say, that’s something we can implement in 2014. Why wait? Implement the four S’s now and start 2014 on the right foot, and close Q4 on budget.