Managing the Sales Team
Set the Sales Targets & KPI’s. Set the periodic sales targets for individuals, teams and the company. These could be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, half year and annual. They should be stretch targets but achievable. Not too easy not too hard.
Autonomy. Having interviewed many sales people, the most common frustration they have is being micro-managed. Below I outline how to approach internal sales meetings which are pivotal to getting the most out of the sales function. Beyond that, let them have ownership and accountability of their sales area. Be there to support and guide but don’t get in their way.
Understand the Motivation behind Sales People. Sales people are typically very driven and singularly focused individuals. They get a massive kick out of the “thrill of the chase” and “closing the deal”. They are generally motivated by sales turnover and their earning capacity including commission. Understand this in motivating and driving them.
Pay Structure. This would be the number 2 frustration of sales people. Agree on their base pay, superannuation, benefits, bonus scheme or commission structure at the start. Then measure, monitor and make good on all of these to the letter. Make sure payments are on time within predetermined lead times. If you can’t explain the bonus or commission structure in a few minutes on 1 page, revisit the basis of calculation. This is absolutely critical.
Let Them Sell. Sales people are there to sell. Don’t burden them with financial or administrative tasks unless they are Sales Managers leading a team. Outside of the internal sales meetings which are critical, let them do what you employed them to do.
Weekly Sales Meetings. Weekly Sales Meetings should be laser focused, short, sharp and direct. Use an agenda. No waffle. Discuss current leads, open order status, business development opportunities and other current prospect/customer status. If weekly sales data is available, report it quickly against pro-rata budget. Keep product, training and HR/admin issues for the Monthly Sales Meeting. A good productive meeting may only run for 20 minutes or less.
Monthly Sales Meetings. Monthly Sales Meetings include a review of prior month’s individual, team and group sales performance against budget targets. Use an agenda. A monthly spreadsheet detailing sales turnover and key performance indicators against budget should be tabled and analysed. Report the news. Relevant product/service updates, training and general business administration issues should also be tabled. Commissions and other performance criteria should be reviewed and resultant follow up actions noted.
Quarterly Sales Meetings. Quarterly Sales Meetings are to review the prior quarter’s performance at an individual, team and group level. Break your year into four quarters and report Q1, Q2, Q3 & Q4 results. They should be quantitative and qualitative. Customer data and feedback should be included as well as sales team needs and gap analysis. This may also include marketing and business development initiatives. What went well and what went badly in the prior quarter? What can we do in the next quarter to be even better?
Annual Sales Meeting. This is the big macro review to conduct each year. This includes a full detailed review of prior year. It includes setting or tabling of the following financial year’s sales targets and marketing plans. This meeting is often done off site with a structured agenda.
In-Person Communication. Define your expectations in regard to personal grooming and dress code for client meetings. Have a consistency and professionalism in the way you present your sales force in person.
Email Communication. Review your email etiquette. I recommend a standard greeting and close. Ensure a consistent e-signature is used on all email correspondence. Advise the team what “should and shouldn’t be said” in emails. The casualness and ignorance surrounding email communication can pose a genuine business risk. Work on minimising this risk.
Written Communication. Develop a solid knowledge bank of standard letters and proposal/sales precedents. This not only creates consistency and best practice but delivers massive sales productivity gains.
Phone Communication. Appraise your telephone communication. Who answers the phone and in how many rings? How often do you need to transfer calls? What does the customer hear on hold? What’s your standard greeting? How friendly and helpful are staff in taking calls? If your answers to these questions aren’t solid, hold an internal session on telephone communication.
Marketing Materials. Have hard-copy and soft-copy versions easily available to the sales team so that they can quickly prepare correspondence and get back to prospects and customers. Examples include product/service brochures, product specifications, samples, FAQ sheets and quote/proposal templates.
Customer Feedback. Develop systems and processes for capturing customer feedback and report this in your internal sales meetings.
Customer & Prospect Response Times. Have clear expected response times to customers. How quickly do you respond to prospect enquiry or customer contact? Educate staff on these maximum response times and advise your customers. Measure and manage expectations.
Sales Process. Is your business’ sales process clearly documented, understood and followed by the sales team? Do you effectively educate your customers on that process and manage their expectations?
Back Office Support
Payment of Variable Sales Remuneration. Have strong systems in place to ensure that sales people are paid their bonuses, commissions and benefits accurately and on time. This is key for maintaining morale and motivation within the sales team.
Sales Administration. Ensure the back office delivers on what the sales team have promised. Implement systems to process purchase orders and invoicing on time. A shabby back office can quickly damage your reputation and sales channel.
Debt Collection. Make sure the appropriate person makes contact with customers regarding collection. Draft a collection process so that everyone knows the steps involved. Keep the sales team in the loop and always “ask questions first” when in doubt before making customer contact.
Darren Bourke, Business Influence, 2008. You are welcome to “reprint” this article online as long as it remains complete (including the “about the author” information at the end).
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