Great Management Begins with Great Leadership
It is hard to find a leader who doesn’t understand that he/she must invest in the sales function in order to grow. A no-brainer. But what does that actually mean? Usually, it means training for the sales team, investment in systems like Salesforce and consulting on compensation design. These things are all necessary and good, but the critical link that’s often neglected is the role of sales management.
If sales is the engine of the business, then sales management is the driver. Leadership determines which highway to be on and which direction to head, but sales management is steering the car to get to the destination as quickly as possible. Without it, the car will sometimes veer all over the place and sometimes crash and burn.
How to make sales the engine of your business by using management:
There are three things that we believe leaders should focus on in order to optimize sales management and drive top-line growth:
Invest in Appropriate Management
Hire sales managers, not sales people. We like the word “invest” because when you invest in something, there’s a rationale to your investment. You are not throwing darts at a board (we hope), you are deciding which investment fits your profile and then making a conscious decision to go for it. Too often, we see firms just slide people into sales management vs. making a decision-driven investment. “Get Tony to manage the sales team. He’s good at systems stuff.” Wrong. Leadership needs to hire great managers. These are the people who understand how to motivate and inspire a team, how to absorb the inevitable ambiguity that filters down from leadership and keep the sales team focused and on task, how to set stretch goals and how to hold people accountable. These are distinct and different skill sets, and often not found among your top-performing sales people.
Focus on Key Performance Indicators
Research shows that great sales managers have an outsized positive impact on sales performance and higher retention rates, but only when sales managers are focused on developing their sales people and not spending most of their time pushing paper. We always say “develop your people” but we never actually say what this means! What it means is provide feedback early and often about performance skills and discipline. Too often, sales managers run their weekly meetings like this:
“Did you update the CRM last week? No? Okay, do that. What’s coming up this week? Okay, make sure to record that in the system…” If you’re “managing” your sales team this way, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
What they should be doing is scrapping these worthless meetings and riding along and conducting a feedback session after every high-stakes sales meeting. Start by learning how to give feedback. Reviewing proposals for conciseness and fit. Practicing objection-handling. Ensuring that each sales person is telling the right stories at the right time. Giving feedback. Giving feedback. Giving feedback. THIS is what developing people actually means..
Refresh Management When Necessary
Leaders don’t often want to talk about this, but sales managers should be measured by the performance of their team and the overall sales and client processes. If they are performing, they should be rewarded handsomely. If they are not performing, they should be let go. Measures like retention, client delight, and win/loss debrief performance should indicate how sales managers are performing, and leaders should be giving managers feedback consistent with these goals. Many leaders stay with poorly-performing sales managers too long, and this is worse than retaining an underperforming sales person because the impact is spread across the entire team.
Invest, focus and refresh this critical link and not only will you have happier drivers, but you’ll have a hell of a powerful engine.