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While there are no magic bullets for sales or sales management, you can achieve a significant lift in results by focusing on sales fundamentals.
Many of you are incredibly talented sales managers who lead and manage your teams with great skill. That said, I am often surprised at the number of managers I meet who get so caught up in what Franklin Covey calls “the whirlwind” of daily activity, that they don’t maximize the results of their team –their primary responsibility.
To maximize results, start by focusing on a simple three-stage methodology.. The three stages are:
Stage 1: Sales Prework
Prework should consist of the following:
Definitions are all over the board, but for this purpose, let’s define sales process simply as:
The stages that your rep and buyer move through, to reach a buying decision.
You should define your sales process stages from lead gen, through pursuit, to the sale, at a minimum. Your sales process should be aligned with your customers’ buying process and include buying process exit criteria.
This is another term which sometimes confuses people. Sales methodology is simply:
The things your reps do in each stage, to move the opportunity to the next stage.
For this method to work most effectively, you should document what your best reps do in each stage as the current best practices. To align with your sales process, what your reps do should satisfy the exit criteria for your buyers.
CRM / Pipeline Tracking
You need to use a CRM or at a minimum, be tracking your pipeline or sales funnel, whatever you call it. I'll call it pipeline.
Most large organizations have a sophisticated CRM; smaller organizations may need to implement a simple one. They come in all shapes, sizes, price ranges and levels of ease or complexity.
For this purpose, you need the ability to track your sales process stages and the conversion between stages. Convince your company to enable reporting on a few specific buckets of performers:
- Top producer averages
- Mid producer averages
- Company averages
- Sales team averages (by manager)
- Your individual reps on your team
Sales process and methodology may take a little more work, but it’s completely possible if you can get some decisions made in your organization.
Stage 2: Sales Pipeline
With prework in place, it’s time to do some very specific pipeline analysis.
The Enabling Dashboard
This may or may not be the dashboard you want for daily use, but when you are looking at how to coach to improve production, this is one of my favorites:
This is why prework is important. (Note: These process stages are made up, and may or may not apply to your world. You need to customize, obviously, so don’t get hung up on that.)
The dashboard includes:
- Across the top: The Process stages
- Down the left: Averages for top producers, mid producers, your team of 5 reps, and then the actual results for your reps (just 2 in this example - and I left off the company averages for simplicity here)
- The number of leads or opportunities being worked in each stage
- Conversion ratios between the stages
If there is any magic involved, it happens here, and in the resulting coaching.
This example hopefully gets the point across quickly. There are several big opportunities in this example, and I've seen every one of them in real life.
Look at Rep 2. Notice:
- She’s working significantly fewer leads than the top (or anyone shown, whether by averages or compared to Rep 1).
- Her first three conversion ratios rival the Top Producers!
- Her ability to move from the Presentation to Close stages (close meaning “wins” here), is far lower than average.
What happens with this rep, if you can help her generate more leads and improve her last conversion stage? Significant lift and possibly President’s Club. Extreme example? Maybe, but I have seen it and seen reps in this situation explode their results with the right coaching.
Another quick example, using Rep 1 this time:
He has lift opportunity in multiple places, but at a quick glance, you can probably get the biggest return for coaching time in two areas, by helping guide the rep toward best practices in lead identification and converting Opportunities to Proposals. In fact, on your own team, Rep 2 can offer some mentoring and guidance, in return for help in improving Presentation to Close conversions from Rep 1. (Of course, you’d be involved, but this is a good opportunity for team members to learn from and support each other. Related: Is Peer Collaboration Missing from Your Sales Coaching Strategy?)
Stage 3: Production
This doesn't mean “production” in terms of sales production, but it will certainly lead to it. Now that you've done your prework and completed your pipeline analysis, this is where you put what you learned to the test, or “put in into production.” This is where you coach your reps and track results.
Very basically, without going deep… a few reminders:
- Make the coaching a partnership and a helpful, collaborative effort
- Share your data and observations with your rep
- Ask more questions than you make statements
- Involve and engage your rep in the process and troubleshooting
- Bring your organizational best practices into the solution dialogue, but remember the rep needs to own the solution, or they won’t execute willingly with discretionary effort
- Have the rep own and create the action plan, and execute
- Track and follow-up to celebrate results and offer additional guidance, as needed
More on sales coaching here:
- Training + Coaching Equals Greater Sales Productivity
- 11 Keys to Effective Sales Coaching
- The B2B Sales Coaching Dilemma: How Technology Can Help
- Sales Statistics: 6 Coaching Stats Every Sales Leader Needs to Hear
Final Thoughts: The Reality of Sales Management
There are many things that prevent sales managers from doing the work outlined above, and most of them can be tracked back to your organization’s leadership.
A few years back, I conducted a sales management time analysis for a client, who was upset that their sales managers weren't getting better results and whose reps reported very little coaching during a 360-degree survey.
When we listed all the activities that sales managers were required or asked to do, and put reasonable time estimates next to them, it totaled 110 hours a week. While many managers were working 60-70 hours, and a few other even more while heading for burnout, none were doing it all.
- Which tasks were most commonly completed? They were the tasks required or mandated by HQ, which got the managers or the VP chewed out, if uncompleted.
- Which tasks were most often ignored? They were the data analyses and sales coaching – which no one asked about or followed up on.
I know people who are nodding their heads right now. You know who you are.
The leaders in my story made the right decisions and a lot of changes. It wasn't easy, but they automated, off-loaded, changed expectations, and morphed their culture. They were rewarded with far better sales results.
Want better results from your sales team? Ask yourself the following 3 questions:
- Do I have the right sales reps and managers in place?
- Do I allow my reps to spend as much time as possible selling?
- Have I enabled my sales managers to spend the necessary time analyzing and coaching their teams to their best performance possible?
If you don’t like the answers - you own them – so change it.
Editor's note: Mike Kunkle originally published this post in July 2014 on LinkedIn.
Ready to learn more? Check out Mike Kunkle's recent webinar, available to watch now: Training + Coaching Equals Greater Sales Productivity