Managing Your Sales Force

Posted by David Wallace on February 3, 2010

Five key elements help you manage effective sales teams and grow a successful business:

  • Well-defined plans
  • Clear communications
  • Processes and tools
  • Performance metrics
  • Flexibility and adaptation

Well-Defined Plans

Well-defined, precise plans are roadmaps to success.  They present your goals and strategies for how you will achieve those goals.  Success follows when you develop specific plans for each part of your business:

  • Overall business – business plan
  • Functional areas – marketing plans, product plans, human resource plan, financial plan, etc.
  • Sales – territory plans, customer plans
  • Individuals – personal performance plans.

By documenting your goals and the strategies for achieving those goals, you’re in a better position to reach your goals.  This holds true at all levels within your business.  Without a plan in place, you are less likely to focus on your target and on what you need to do to succeed.  As Lewis Carroll wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

Clear Communications

It’s important to involve your team.  Once the plan is developed, successful execution depends on communicating it and getting “buy in” from the team that will implement it.  Clearly define your goals for your sales teams, management team and across the organization.  Deliver progress reports and communicate results of short-term and long-term actions. Clear communication establishes your expectations for every person in the company.  If every employee knows their role, they will work to perform it.

Early in my career, I limited access to business plans, goals and progress reports to a small number of key managers and executives.  I was concerned that my business plans were proprietary.  If too many people knew of them, I would be at a competitive disadvantage.  Similarly, I was reluctant to share financial information – information about how we were doing as a business, information about product lines that were losing money, information about lines that were very successful.  I didn’t want my team to be distracted by bad news or become complacent with success.  This approach doesn’t work.

This information must be made available to the employees who drive your success.  You need to trust your team to think and make decisions based on clear goals and plans.  You will experience greater success when you provide employees with the information that helps them measure progress toward their goals.

Processes and Tools

Efficient sales processes and sales enablement tools can yield highly targeted sales efforts and broad sales effectiveness.

Sales processes are the systems you put in place to collect data, share information, and provide customer-related decision-making tools for your organization.  They facilitate customer relationship management, gathering key account information, and making field sales forecasts. Successful sales processes are designed with two principles in mind.  First, design them to work seamlessly with your sales reps’ existing processes.  This reduces disruptions to their work habits and will make them more likely to use the new processes.  Second, design processes to deliver useful and valuable resources back to your sales reps.  Your processes need to save reps time and provide them with valuable customer or market information.  When reps perceive your processes as having value, they are more likely to use them.

Sales enablement tools also affect your sales team’s performance.  Provide your sales reps with tools that will improve their efficiency. These include:  technology (wireless communications for voice, email, Internet access; laptop computers with current software tools), presentations, collateral (both hard copy and electronic), proposal templates, contract agreements, pricing tools, and configurators. If these tools make the sales rep’s job easier, they will sell more effectively to their customers.

Performance Metrics

Performance measurements are a key element for motivating your team.  Plans, communications, processes and tools give your team direction, tell them how they can reach their goals, and give them the tools they need to execute.  But it’s the performance metrics that show your team that you hold them accountable for their success and failure.

Like a GPS in your car, performance metrics provide you and your sales reps with feedback telling them whether they are on track to reach their goals.  The more granular your metrics, the more closely you can help your team steer a path to success.  At a high level, important metrics include:  revenue, expenses vs. budget, and deals won or lost.  At the sales rep level, you can measure:  sales calls made, proposals delivered, new customers landed, and revenue by product, by customer or by geography.  At another level, you can measure:  the effectiveness of individual web pages, number of dials per day made by inside sales reps, or inbound calls generated per dollar of advertising spent.

Your key to success is measuring the specific activities that drive desired performance, balanced by the cost of measurement.  Measurements should cost little to gather, but provide valuable information on your team’s performance.

Flexibility and Adaptation

Finally, you need to be flexible and adapt your goals, plans, strategies and tactics to take advantage of changing market conditions.  Your plans should be dynamic documents, open to change.  The economy may grow faster or slower than you forecast.  New markets may open for your products.  Your customers or sales team may identify new applications for your products.  In situations like these, you must adjust your goals, adapt your plans, and demonstrate flexibility to move with your market.  Sticking with a plan, simply because it’s “your” plan, can have disastrous results for your business.

For more information, contact Wallace Management Group at (203) 834-0143 or email David Wallace.

© 2010, David P. Wallace

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