How Sales Managers Can Transform Their Teams’ Sales Effectiveness
Whether you’re a numbers person or not, advances in technology and data management are continuously creating new opportunities for improving an organization's sales effectiveness.
To understand how sales managers can improve their teams’ sales productivity, we spoke with Mike Kunkle, founder of Transforming Sales Results and VP of Sales Transformation Services at Digital Transformation, Inc., a new digital transformation division of Fast Lane Consulting and Education Services. Mike is an internationally recognized sales force transformation expert with over 20 years experience designing sales learning systems and guiding companies through all aspects of sales transformation.
The problem with performance management programs
Mike points out that sales managers often lack an analytical approach to management which prevents them from seeing the forest for the trees. This should be of particular concern to sales leaders of fast growing companies as often the need for sales analytics increases with the size of the team. Research suggests that poor tracking of individual and team metrics is often the primary cause for low sales productivity.
To achieve its full potential a sales team needs to have reliable data available for analysis. While simple in theory, this is often trickier in practice, particularly for teams in which CRM adoption is relatively low.
For those teams, Mike recommends they make the move from CRM to DRM, from “Could Really Matter” to “Does Really Matter,” by ensuring that the CRM implementation, policies, and usage benefits the sales reps, as well as management.
In addition, most B2B sales organizations track team performance by focusing on low level activities such as the number of calls made or emails sent by sales person. And while the quality of these activities is often hard to measure, they can have a direct impact on how sales managers assess their team's performance.
To address declining team performance many organizations turn to performance management programs. Dealing with performance improvement initiatives can often be challenging for certain sales organizations. When presented with more scientific approaches to sales management, sales leaders tend to stick to their tried and tested ways.
Spend more time coaching and less time reporting
To help a sales team achieve its full potential, sales managers need to spend more time coaching and less time reporting. This can be complex at a collective level when a company has a culture that values “managing up” more than “getting things done”. This can also be challenging at the individual level because sales managers are typically gifted at selling, but not necessarily at managing and coaching.
Part of this, explains Mike, involves getting to know your team members better by measuring their results vs. objectives, their activities (what and how much), and their sales methodology (how they do the activities - or the quality of the activities). Mike calls this the ROAM method (Results, Objectives, Activities and Methodology).
To improve team performance, you need to identify who needs coaching and what type of coaching is needed for each person, to close key performance gaps. A simple way to do this is to measure conversion rate across the different pipeline stages. Create a dashboard of the recent historical averages of top, middle, and bottom producers and compare the conversion ratios to a specific sales team or individual. This will allow you to see how each rep on a given team is doing at each stage of the buying process and identify the biggest opportunities for improvement, whether it’s help with generating leads, moving deals from stage 2 to 3, or closing.
Management needs to be coached too
Sales managers often get caught up focusing on 'making the numbers' when sometimes it's their very own skills that need improvement. Management coaching often gets neglected because senior leaders tend to operate with a specific playbook in mind that was developed in the past. But the right thing for a sales team to do yesterday may not be the best way forward today.
The biggest risk in sales management is failing to recognize that contexts, people and businesses change.
Use AI to identify what works
Sales leaders need to rethink how they support and enable their teams. Supporting an effective learning system is one way sales leaders can improve their team’s productivity. Another way is to implement AI and machine learning to help isolate each factor that influences the sales process.
While there are a lot of tools to help sales reps be more productive, few are geared at helping sales teams as a whole. Implementing new sales tools and training salespeople to use them is far from trivial, emphasises Mike. The key is to incorporate the tools and training into a coherent and usable process that helps sales professionals rather than drags them down. If they can achieve this, sales managers can make better business decisions and their teams can enjoy greater levels of effectiveness and success.
About Mike Kunkle
Mike Kunkle is a renowned sales transformation strategist, practitioner, speaker, and writer and the founder of Transforming Sales Results. He’s spent 22 years as a corporate leader or consultant, helping companies drive dramatic revenue growth through best-in-class learning strategies and his proven-effective sales transformation methodology. Today, as VP of Sales Transformation Services, he is working with the Fast Lane US team and their new division, Digital Transformation, Inc., to launch a sales transformation practice, inside their current technology learning and consulting practice.