By definition, the function of sales management implies you are measuring some level of sales performance.
It still amazes me that some companies don't have a unified process for tracking and forecasting sales opportunities and measuring their team's performance.
Here are two pieces of advice I can offer, after decades of working with sales teams:
1. Make sure everyone on the sales team is fluent in your internal sales language.
Nearly every sales team talks about opportunities in different sales stages. It could be Pipeline, Forecast, Upside, Booked, or Sales Stage One, Two, Three, Four. Name it what you like, then stick with it.
If you want to be able to accurately measure your forecast, you need to be sure that every opportunity is accurately assigned to the right stage in the sales process based on meeting very specific criteria.
It is up to you to determine exactly what the criteria are for each stage, then communicate that clearly to the team. For example, if "Upside" is part of your business vocabulary, everyone needs to be clear about what that means.
Print it out, laminate it, make sure that every sales rep has that in front of them, whether they're in the office, working at home, or on the road. It needs to be somewhere visible and easily accessed.
Every single person on the sales team needs to know that the difference between a sales stage two and a sales stage four is big. For example, they can't just say, "Well, if I put it into a sales stage two, it keeps it out of the weighted pipeline report." If they have gotten verbal confirmation from the person that they're ready to sign, then that's definitely a sales stage four.
Take all the guesswork out of it. Every stage needs to be based on what your organization has already outlined as far as policies and procedures. That is your internal sales language.
2. Instill a regular operating rhythm around business reviews.
You can't manage what you don't measure.
That old management adage rings especially true when it comes to managing a sales team.
- If sales performance isn't defined by measurable goals and governed by consistent, regular business reviews, how can you ever manage it?
- More importantly, how will your salespeople exceed expectations or be held accountable for underachieving expectations?
I like to use the Olympic sport of pole vaulting when describing the feat of any sales executive and performance benchmarks – after all, this is a competition, and these athletes are in it for the Gold. Using this analogy, the Olympic Committee is the governing body or Sales Management function in your organization.
- First, you need to set the height of the bar but also communicate it to your athletes!
- Second, you need to communicate the importance of jumping over the bar.
- Third, you need to instill a culture that rewards your athletes but also holds them accountable for their performance.
By identifying performance issues early, you will have time to coach your athletes and give them the tools they need to be successful.
In most cases, coaching to an end result is a lot less expensive than hiring a new salesperson – especially if you end up in the same predicament four quarters from now. In the sport of pole vaulting, three consecutive missed vaults eliminate the vaulter from the competition, and there are no surprises by the third missed attempt.
Ok, enough about pole vaulting – but you get my point.
Regular business reviews of actual performance vs. expected goals are critical to instilling a culture and sense of importance around effective pipeline management and your success as a sales manager.
Crowe has helped hundreds of organizations simplify their sales operations by identifying the right processes and marrying them with technology.
From a salesperson's perspective, it's easy to use and accessible from any internet connection or right within Outlook. For a sales manager, it gives you the visibility and control you need so that you can focus on growing your business.
By Ryan Plourde, Crowe, a Microsoft Dynamics 365 Gold Partner
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