Hiring a sales staff for your small business comes with the responsibility to provide effective sales management. Learn the biggest sales management blunders and how you can avoid them.
1. Mixing Recognition With Coaching
One common sales management blunder is to congratulate your sales force for a job well done and quickly move to areas of improvement. This tactic can often be interpreted by sales staff as a lack of appreciation. A best practice is to separate the recognition from the coaching. Save the performance improvement areas for coaching sessions. Set up separate recognition of your sales rep success even if it's a small celebration. It's the little gestures of respect and celebrations of achievement that gain the hearts and minds of the sales force.
2. No Sales Plan
Another common sales management blunder is not developing a sales plan to help manage the sales team. A successful sales team requires regular planning tracking, and review to achieve the targeted results. Every sales rep requires their own action plan to direct day-to-day activities and set up accountabilities.
All sales plans have at least 3 requirements:
- Sales Rep Development: Where most plans fail is they are developed by the sales manager not the sales rep. To ensure a high level of plan acceptance, have the rep develop the plan and guide them toward the right objectives.
- Regular Reporting: Sales plans should be established on a weekly basis to provide flexibility in the planning cycle. Reviewing can take place on a monthly basis. Sales management excellence involves reviewing the results against the plan to determine missed opportunities and areas for improvement.
- Sales Metrics: A successful sales plan focuses on results and activities. Establish the proper sales metrics to drive your business results. Metrics can include: number of client phone calls, number of contacts, appointments set, appointments conducted and sales closed. Do not overwhelm your sales staff with excessive tracking numbers. Focus on the few measures that matter the most to your business.
3. No Sales Support
A common sales management blunder is to hire a salesperson without providing them with the level of support required to succeed. Even if your new rep is well-versed in your industry and a top performer, they will still require help to familiarize themselves with your company, products, and markets.
Not all sales reps require the same level of support. For many small business owners, a hands-off approach to sales management is not the best strategy. Successful sales management requires a commitment to sales force training. Regardless of the size of your firm, an investment in sales training and support can pay big dividends on profitability. Spending the time one-on-one and in the field with your sales team will not only provide support but convey a sense of the importance of salespeople in your organization.
4. Focus on Control Sales Management
Many new and unsuccessful sales managers will focus on the traditional sales management by intimidation or control approach. The top sales performers know they have a valuable skill set and will quickly walk to a competitor if treated poorly. Sales management is a partnership between the sales rep and the sales manager. Effective sales management requires sharing in the responsibility to find the problems and bottlenecks in your sales process. Seek the solution together with your reps. Be a champion for helping them achieve their agreed results.
5. Lack of Sales Accountability
There will be times when sales reps fail regardless of the support and training they receive. It is easy to pass off the lack of results to external forces such as competitors, the economy, or poor marketing. Remember the sales rep was hired to bring in sales. When support, training, and market potential are available, a lack of results often means it's the rep's performance.
Who is responsible for the lack of performance? Your sales management program. If your small business lacks a clear policy of sales accountability, it remains your responsibility to implement the process. Creating a culture of sales accountability will not happen overnight. Expect to lose sales staff. Sales reps who have underperformed and will not accept personal responsibility for their own results will leave. This is a good thing. A sales accountability culture only accepts top performers; exactly what your business needs to survive in a competitive market.
Other big sales management blunders do exist. It is vital to have an honest feedback system in place. Alan J. Zell, "The Ambassador of Selling" feels "most sales managers do not have a system of feedback that will allow the staff to have a way to comment back to the sales manager without the fear of being chastised or being known as a complainer."
Growing a small business is hard work. The sales management function is often overlooked by small business owners. Spending the necessary time wearing your sales manager hat will help foster a rewarding culture and build a successful sales team to boost your business to new levels.
Edited by Alyssa Gregory