Easy - the sales manager’s job is to drive their team to make sales. It’s that simple, right? Wrong. It’s big and it’s complex.
This role is made up of many tasks, functions and disciplines involving psychology, sales skillsets, psychometrics, mathematics, human resources management and communication.
Where does it start?
It starts with the team and who’s in that team, who you have and who you recruit, and how you do it. As with any team, the first task of a sales manager is to ensure it can deliver, is competent, and can be relied on to make sales that make up the target number. The sales manager can’t do it on their own, so they need a team that can.
Recruitment is arguably the most important skill, because if you can recruit great people, you’re in with a good chance of succeeding. If you choose - or have - the wrong people, your chances of success are greatly reduced and you will always be seeking better results – from people that probably can’t provide them.
So what shape does your recruitment take? Does it follow a structured process that’s consistent between hirings? Or is it an on the fly process you often don’t seem to have time for? Is it based on a series of seemingly un-structured interviews and reference checks (wrong answer), or is it based upon a consistent set of behavioral and situational questions, with a big dose of real role-playing and psychometric and aptitude testing? (right answer).
If you get recruitment wrong, there is evidence to suggest the cost to the business is 2.5 X their salary. That’s a lot of money.
Does the whole team have clear targets?
Not just their budgets, but also a clear understanding of what the important leading indicators are that drive sales success – call cycles, prospect targets, qualification meeting frequency. What are the activities that make up the sales funnel and ultimately lead to closing business? What are the metrics that drive to sales success, and are people being managed to them? The sales manager needs to be publicly reporting on these indicators.
Is the team motivated?
Does the manager understand each team member’s motivations, and how do they use this knowledge to drive their behaviour? Is the entire team clear on what the company is trying to achieve – not just the revenue target – but how they are trying to achieve it and why? What’s their role in the overall business?
Are sales meetings designed to refresh, educate and motivate the team?
Or are they used to manage pipeline and forecast revenue for the month? How much education is built into them? Sales meetings should add value to the team by being largely “practice sessions”, just like a sports team uses practices to get plays right and to improve. Sales meetings have the attendees with the combined knowledge and talent of the sales team that can be used to improve every aspect of the sales process – from how to qualify to how to present to how to ask for the business. If the sales manager can get slight month to month improvement from middle of the pack team members, imagine where they could be by year end.
A key task of all sales managers is also to train newcomers, not just around the products and the company processes, but also regarding steps in the sales process, ie, what are the best, and correct, conversations they should be having, and what specific questions should they ask to qualify a prospect? How should they best run a product demonstration or site visit, and how should they present your proposal? A sales manager needs to have your sales model or process documented so it can be used to bring newcomers up to speed as quickly as possible.
They need to be technology savvy too. There are a myriad of tools (see Nancy Nardin’s smart selling tools website for a very complete list) that sales teams can and probably should be using. Whether it is simply CRM or nurtured lead generation, many are applicable to even small teams.
Forecasting projected revenue
Sales managers need to forecast projected revenue. They need to be able to build as accurate a forecast as possible every period to report “up” so the business has a good idea of what it needs to plan for and produce, and have an accurate idea of required resources, stock and raw materials.
And of course, they need to train and coach. Not just at sales meetings, but all the time. Chances are the sales manager was one of the best reps at some stage, so they need to impart this knowledge as best and as effectively as they can. This never stops.
What about remuneration?
The sales manager (generally along with the finance team) needs to make sure the remuneration plan will drive the right kind of behaviour. Does yours? Does it attract the right people, does it reward them for the right types and amounts of sales?
It’s a big and important job. Not only is the sales manager responsible for a cost base of salaries, expenses and commissions, but it’s all about the opportunity cost. They drive the business, they make the sales and revenue that pays the bills and hopefully leaves lots to spare – to re-invest or reward shareholders.