Most managers wait until the end of the year to reflect on their sales team’s accomplishments (as well as the roadblocks, speed bumps, and detours encountered), analyze their findings, and identify areas for improvement in the coming year.
That’s a good strategy. But, why wait until the end of the year. Following are five things YOU can do at any time—right now, for instance—to help your salespeople and ensure their success.
Fine-tune Your Selling Process
Would you characterize your company’s selling process as both effective and efficient? That is, does it prescribe a course of action to systematically progress through the development process in a defined and measurable manner? Does it require that specific information is obtained and specific criteria met at key points during the process in order for the pursuit of the opportunity to continue?
Fine-tuning your selling process to more stringently qualify opportunities in the early stages of the pursuit will help your salespeople weed out unqualified prospects more quickly and thereby minimize the time they waste with people who can’t “take them to the bank.”
Many sales managers focus too intently on results rather than the requisite activities that lead to the results. You have little, if any, influence over the end results—whether prospects say “yes” or “no” at the conclusion of your salespeople’s presentations. But, you can (and should) have a significant influence on your salespeople performing a sufficient number of the activities that lead to presentations and closing opportunities.
Run the numbers for each salesperson and determine, on average, how many new opportunities he or she must initiate in order for one of them to reach the presentation stage. Also, compute his or her closing ratio. Then, using those numbers, monitor your salespeople’s daily and weekly activities and hold them accountable for initiating a sufficient number of new opportunities to meet quota. Also hold them accountable for moving existing opportunities forward and closing the file on those opportunities that have reached an impasse.
Help Your Salespeople Grow Professionally
Tweaking your selling process will accomplish little if your salespeople aren’t able to competently implement the system. Helping them build skill through a program of regular supportive coaching (perhaps, supplemented with formal training) pays compound interest. The more skill they develop, the more confident they become—which in turn increases their courage and willingness to stretch outside their comfort zones and pursue loftier goals.
Help Your Salespeople Grow Personally
Even a fine-tuned selling process backed by appropriate and skillfully executed activities is still susceptible to one devastating roadblock—limiting beliefs. People will generally attempt to accomplish no more than their existing beliefs will allow. For example, if a salesperson believes that his sales quota is attainable, he’ll go after it. If, on the other hand, he believes that the quota is unrealistic, at best, he will make a half-hearted effort, fully expecting not to reach the goal.
During your coaching sessions, invest as much time inspiring and encouraging your salespeople to stretch beyond their comfort zones as you devote to discussing process and strategy. Helping your people transform their self-limiting beliefs into empowering ones is the most significant contribution you can make to help them achieve higher levels of success.
Examine Your Performance
Are your leadership and management skills up to par? Is there room for improvement? Are there areas of responsibility that you’ve been neglecting?
Many managers are much too focused on the numbers—prospects in the funnel, presentations scheduled, proposals submitted, sales closed, revenues collected, profits generated—and often spend an inordinate amount of time collecting, documenting, and analyzing them. Consequently, they have insufficient time to train and develop their sales teams. Even managers who recognize the value of developing their teams typically don’t have a formal process in place to do so. Don’t allow yourself to become so fixated on the numbers that you neglect the people who are generating them.
Your job as sales manager is a crucial one. You are the central point of influence for your salespeople. Make sure that you are investing sufficient time coaching and encouraging them; providing training when necessary; and directing their efforts toward those activities critical to the accomplishment of department goals.