Sales Management III – What Works

“A Sales manager’s job is to move sales people to do what works.” This is Part III of the key elements – “Move” (I), “Do” (II), and “What Works” (III)

A very wise sales guru once told me, “If a sales person is unruly, not conforming to policy, etc., but really selling well, keep him (or her) and deal with it.” Whatever this bad apple is doing is working and you want to keep him going. The point: Don’t mess with what’s working well.

Strange at it may sound great sales people (the 10% or less in you sales force) are far more open to suggestions and help than the other 90%. These people are aware times and conditions are ever changing and they know they have to keep improving to compete successfully. That’s why they are all ears when it comes to training, coaching, new ideas and other suggestions.

However, managing great sales people is not why you are reading this. So let’s concentrate on getting the other 90% of your sales team to a point where they can repeatedly do “What Works” well.

What Works

“What Works” means the skills, techniques, strategies, and tactics of actually selling and managing a sales territory or product segment. “What Works” means actually implementing those skills to close business. But “What Works” means more than just closing sales. “What Works” means walking away and avoiding wasted time and resources. It means managing large accounts so they continue to buy more. It means cross selling, up-selling and pursuing referrals. “What Works” means promoting the company’s brand and maintaining the company’s goodwill.

A Selling Process Makes “What”… “Work”

Every sales person and sales manager has a selling process, a system, an approach. The question is how well does it work? Is it efficient? Are sales taking too long to close? Could there be up-sells, cross-sells or add-on’s while the customer is buying? Is it effective? When he’s there, is he selling or is the customer buying? Is he cultivating new prospects and closing them?

Then do the processes of the sales people align with the manager’s. If they don’t, the manager is constantly trying to corral cats. He’s always managing chaos because each sales person is doing what he feels comfortable, which for 90% is probably not working so great.

If your process is not effective and efficient and/or not aligned, you as the manager are constantly listening to all the stories, rationalization and rambling status reports. You probably throw in a few interrogative questions to see if the sales person is on track, but then listen to reasons of why not or, “It’s been tried and probably won’t work.” Finally, they wear you down. You hope for the best and let the sales person go. The sales person leaves relieved because he has survived another review.

Gain Control

A sales process that Works give sales people the map for success; the leverage elements that make sales happen; and the realization of an attempt that won’t close. A sales process gives the manager the visibility to inspect what’s to be accomplished before sales calls; analyze and strategize sales opportunities as quality information is delivered and; have assurance that sales people are doing what you want them to do.

Sales process provides a common language so you can eliminate the fluffy stories and get to the meat of the sales criteria, i.e. are you dealing with the decision makers, when will this deal close, and what problems (red flags) are holding it back from closing immediately? Sales process eliminates all the excuses, rationalizations, and flack. Sales process makes expectations clear so that everyone knows what they have to do, what they have to report, how they will be measured, and what happens if all goes well, and not so well. Sales process is repeatable. Everyone can do it over and over again and it works efficiently. Sales process is predictable. It provides metrics that can accurately predict successes or failures.

Proactive CRMs

Since the “What Works” of selling involves many aspects – closing, upselling, large accounts, etc., the sales process has sub processes -sales strategies, sales calls, getting to the right people, managing relationships, prospecting and territory management. All of these must have language, rules, order, expectations, reports, metrics, etc. CRMs can be very helpful, but must incorporate the selling process and be proactive rather than a story collector. In other words, if your CRM prompts the sales person to do the process and informs the manager ahead of sales calls, quotes, presentations, etc. of what the sales person plans to do, then the CRM can assist in the implementation of the sales process which is what makes the “What”… “Work”.

Knowing You’re on the Right Path

If your sales process is working, your sales people will come to your sales reviews saying,

“Boss, I know what you’re going to ask. So before you say a thing, let me explain the problems and these are the actions I’m doing and going to do and this is when each action will be completed. Now boss, what other suggestions or advice do you have?”

When your team reports to reviews like this, your life will be much easier and successful. Sale process can do this for you. That’s the good news. However, it requires you making it happen and this requires patience, focus, discipline, and stamina – one-piece-at-a-time.

One Piece at a Time

There are a lot of good selling processes (possibly your own) and each has many elements. Everyone on the team needs to know the elements and how to implement them. Therefore, as the manager you must train (teach him and her “What Works”), coach (tell him and her “What” to “Do”), mentor (show him and her how to do “What Works” if he’s struggling), and hold all accountable for the effective selling behaviors. Metrics are the indicators that they are doing “What Works”. Sales people must “Do” what they’ve learned and been told to “Do” and measure up. If not, the manager must determine how to “Move” (See Part I) the sales person to “Do” (See Part II) “What Works”, or recruit a new sales person.

The key to training, coaching, mentoring and holding each accountable is to do a little at a time.

Every element of the sales process, or what you expect your people to do, must be taught, coached, mentored, and reviewed for accountability. Stick to one element at a time with each individual until s/he has got it. Never assume when he nods his head he’s got it. He may understand it, but usually he’s a long way from being able to do it. So always ask him to repeat back to you what you said, or better yet role-play. Get him or her to commit that it will be done. You have to confirm he has it before you can hold him accountable.

Have faith. It is not as daunting as it sounds from the above example. Many already do some elements well. You may just have to make the sales person vividly aware of what s/he is doing correctly per your process, and what needs changing and/or improving. A sales person with potential and desire can learn quickly (See “Move” Part I). Believe it or not, sales people want to please their boss. So as long as you keep asking for what you want (managing your expectations), they will all eventually give it to you – even the renegades.

Putting a selling process that “Works” into place will make your sales skyrocket.

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