In an article written for the Harvard Business Review, author Steve W. Martin points out that sixty-nine percent of salespeople who exceeded their annual quota rated their sales manager as being excellent or above average. The conclusion that should be drawn from this study is simple- an excellent sales manager can lead the sales team toward higher turnovers.
But like it or not, there is a catch. Over the years, the question- ‘What does it take to be a successful sales manager?’ has been revised, dismantled, and rebuilt to fit into the evolving business ecosystem. Typically, the sales manager came from the ranks of top salespersons and was given a leadership role as a reward without sufficient training.
These days, sales managers may still be hired from among top salespersons, but they are expected to engage with their salespeople, coach them and make way for higher profit/loss ratios. Most sales managers struggle to keep up with this ever-changing demand of the role resulting in an exhausted sales team with a significantly low output. The good news is that there is a remedy- well-researched strategies!
So if you are a sales manager looking to boost sales performance, here are some proven strategies to help you do just that-
- Hire the ‘right people’
Traditionally, hiring meant recruiting the ‘best talent’. But let us get this straight. For businesses today, ‘Best talent’ does not refer to individuals who just possess the hard skills to do the job. While this may work in other professional settings, sales is a whole different arena. The people on your sales team are the foundation for enhancing sales performance. Therefore, start by asking yourself if a potential salesperson has the personality traits that make them receptive to your training efforts. Even though you are the interviewer, a little preparation goes a long way. Simple efforts on your side like putting down your expectations on a piece of paper before hiring someone will help you recruit a team member who shares your vision. Here are a few questions to get you started-
- What are some of the core qualities that you expect in a potential salesperson? Do you want them to be empathetic? Do you want them to be good communicators? Do you want them to hustle?
- Make a list of some standardized questions that you will ask all potential team members. This will place them on a level-playing field and make it easier to compare their candidatures.
- Keep going back to the values of your company and see if a candidate embodies those values.
But more importantly, don’t be obsessed with looking for the ‘perfect candidate’! It is okay to hire someone with a little room for improvement if they have the drive.
- Actively engage with your sales team
Merely familiarising yourself with your team members’ names and faces will not cut it. You need to actively engage with them on a daily basis to understand how they approach sales. Make it a point to talk to your team members about their selling styles, weaknesses, and strengths. Some proven ways to increase engagement have been shortlisted here for your reference-
- One-on-one coaching sessions: Have a sit down with your team members on a weekly or bi-weekly basis in order to discuss their sales strategies, output and limitations. Because every salesperson is different, coaching should be tailored to the needs of the individual. Individual sessions will also foster a two-way trust between you and those you lead resulting in a more transparent and ultimately more productive sales climate.
- Set realistic individual and team goals: Thinking big sounds great! But if you set unrealistic goals, you risk demotivating your team members instead of enhancing sales performance. The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bounded) goals framework can be a great checklist.
- Be consistent and lead by example: Being consistent is more than just being on time. Make sure you are consistent with your expectations as well along with being regular with team meetings and email threads. Similarly, it is easier for a sales leader to show their team what it takes to negotiate and close profitable deals rather than telling them.
- Work on creating a healthy work environment for your team members: Now more than ever, employees are demanding healthy workspaces. Comfortable remote working spaces, mental health days, and menstrual leaves will lead to better sales performance due to employee satisfaction.
- Work on developing sales strategies that work
Modern markets demand sales managers be bold with their sales strategies. So don’t shy away from experimenting with new ideas and discarding what does not work. Communicating your strategies with your team members is as important as coming up with good strategies. With a sound frame of ideas and a goal-driven team, you’re good to go!
Let’s walk through some of the sales strategies that are guaranteed to boost sales performance-
- An effective CRM (Customer Relationship Management) strategy that keeps track of calls and clients, while at the same time ensuring a constant supply of new leads is indispensable in today’s sales climate.
- Being a lone wolf will not take you anywhere! Work in close collaboration with other departments, especially marketing and customer service. This inter-department approach will provide your team with the opportunity to understand your customer more intimately and consequently boost sales.
- Experimentation is key but also stick to some basic strategies that work. One of these would be personalising your customer’s experience. This may seem daunting at first, but preparing foundational content aimed at different industries and people will make it easier for your team to communicate effectively with a diverse set of people.
- Exploring new channels is yet another easy way to increase your sales pool. Train your sales team to pitch new ideas in specific industry events or while navigating a completely new social media platform. The more activated your channels are, the more are your chances to meet new buyers.
- Be data-driven and take out time to analyse sales results and metrics. Ask yourself pressing questions when looking at the data including- Who are your top salespeople? Which products are easier to sell? What sales processes and models are working?
Boosting sales performance does not need to be hard, small steps are the key! However, there is no denying that it takes a research-driven sales leader to put these steps into action to make the sales ecosystem a good place for both their sales team and the customer.