As a sales manager, you are always looking for ways to improve a field sales teams effectiveness. Especially as a year draws to a close and another, with new sales targets, is on the horizon.
If you’ve got a team on-target, then the main challenge is keeping that momentum going into the new year. Making sure deals are closing quickly and a new pipeline is getting off the ground.
However, if you’ve got a team that is currently off-target, then you need to double down on efforts to hit targets, and make sure next years pipeline is strong. In this article, the five steps outlined will help you achieve both goals.
#1: Focus on activity first then outcomes
As much as we wish we could, we can’t control if or when a sales prospect is going to say yes.
Sure, there is a lot we can do to move a deal closer to sign-off. But sales people and managers always know there is a limit to what can be done.
So instead, focus on activity instead of worrying about the outcome of every deal. If you’ve not got enough deals in the pipeline then every single deal matters, and one dropping out of the pipeline or going quiet for 6 months, or saying no, could have a noticeable impact on whether or not a sales team hits target.
Getting more deals in the pipeline means there is an improved chance that more of them will convert, and some are going to convert quicker than others. Thereby, reducing overall reliance on too few potential deals.
#2: Provide active coaching in real-time
Sales managers that rely on a CRM for how sales leads are going are on the back foot.
Instead, make sure you’ve got a way of getting real-time data from your field team on how meetings/calls went. Whether they email daily, or you use an app, such as i-snapshot, have your finger on the pulse.
This way, you can coach and guide them more effectively. Encourage your team to make more calls, if there doesn’t look like enough effort is being made to get more into the pipeline. Doing this during the week, instead of weeks after the fact, means salespeople can take action that week, thereby improving the chance they’re going to hit target that month or quarter.
#3: Keep a closer eye on pipeline assumptions
Sales pipelines are built on assumptions.
Sales people are naturally optimistic. Which is fine, as optimism and reliance make sales people better equipped to cope with the stress any job in sales produces. But when those assumptions are incorrect, a sales pipeline can easily collapse like a poorly constructed house of cards.
When leads are qualified the right way, that isn’t as much of a problem. When sales managers ask the right questions and get data on sales prospects in real-time it reduces the risk of leads founded on weak assumptions featuring too prominently in the pipeline.
Qualifying more effectively and reviewing the actions a prospect takes stops us relying on assumption, gut feeling, and whether or not a meeting went well. Positive meetings might still take 6-months of follow-up, so it’s always safer to rely on more than just assumptions when it comes to the pipeline.
#4: Make sure marketing and sales are aligned
Modern buyers are more purchase ready than ten or fifteen years.
Providing your company has a proactive inbound marketing team, or at the very least, a team equipped and able to send through warm inbound leads, you want to take full advantage of these opportunities.
Being aligned shouldn’t take a full day to work out a strategy, or anything as complex as this. It should simply mean that once inbound leads come in, these are passed along to the relevant sales member straight away. It could depend on where the lead is: in which case, ensure these are passed onto the right team member in the same area as the lead.
This way, a potential prospect should get a call from one of the sales team in their area, making it quicker and easier to set up a meeting.
#5: Use sales training more strategically
Would it surprise you to know that 90 percent of sales training makes no impact after 90 days? For such a massive industry with a sales focus, it’s surprising that sales managers and directors put up with such a low ROI.
Instead of hoping external and expensive sales trainers will solve problems, focus on what you can do as a sales manager. Provide more timely and proactive coaching. Make sure your team are asking the right questions and qualifying leads more effectively. Then only bring a trainer in to solve specific problems that will produce a noticeable ROI.
Avoid spending a sales training budget without planning for the upside. Know what you want to solve and what results are needed before signing-off on the next sales budget.
Combining these five steps should go a long way towards improving activity, overall performance, and the number of leads coming in and being converted to customers.
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