The next “book” on the shelf, in our “Back to Sales School” series deals with the complex issue of managing sales. To treat this subject in its entirety would require volumes. This blog merely attempts to provide an overview. Many of the points we make will be expanded upon in future blogs. In some cases, we will be asking guest experts to cover topics such as managing and motivating sales people.
The focus of this introductory blog on managing sales will deal with organizing your sales team, and then offering an overview on some of the management tools you should possess to obtain the best sales results.
First, let’s look at organizing your sales team. We’re going to use horses and their stalls as the analogy to illustrate this and to help you envision your sales organization. The stalls represent the tactics we discussed in our prior blog covering lead generation (lead generation strategies and tactics). In this case you have decided what tactics (stalls / skills) you need in order to achieve best sales results. (this can be done objectively without considering the horses or ponies you already have). Once the stalls are built, then you decide what horses or ponies should go in each stall. (the stall equates to skills / talents, whether you will choose to do it in-house or outsource, etc.). This brings us to an interesting juncture in this writing: has the current economic situation brought you to the point of rebuilding your “stalls”? If it has, or if you are beginning to think about it, then you are ready to review some of the sales management considerations to be sure your “horses” achieve the best results. As you orchestrate your sales team, they need to understand how they fit and what role they play in pulling the company’s sales wagon. As the driver of the wagon, you need to provide clear and specific direction covering several key areas:
- Provide specific sales volume goals. These goals should be quantifiable and could be top-line sales and / or sales margin and established in meaningful timeframes for your sales situation (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual). Sales cycle time for your product or service might affect what a meaningful timeframe is for your sales team.
- Set up and utilize sales activity goals and reports. These are the key sales activities that are done in order to realize the sales goals from #1. These are critical because they are things your sales team is in direct control of. For the most part these can be weekly activities that are tracked. Examples of these activities are cold calls, phone or face-to-face appointments, quotes generated, quotes closed. Tangible, measurable activities that are easily put into reports (S∙I∙R’s CRM has it in an automated format). Conversion rate analysis can be set up to allow easy management of the sales team (and even encourages “self-management” by the sales people).
- Develop a visual understanding of the funnel / pipeline. Our next “book” / blog deals with integrating the use of a funnel / pipeline pathway (chart to depict this is available) At this point, we are simply emphasizing the need to be able to visualize and clearly understand where a prospect / customer is in the sales process. There are several reasons to be able to visualize this:
- So you have a tangible way to discuss with your sales team how close the prospect / customer is to making the purchase (cold call, appointment, quote, close ).
- To identify where there are “leaks” in the pipeline so they can be “plugged”. This is done in ways such as adding “coverage” or via sales training (again, more to follow in our subsequent blog).
- Understand how social media / automated marketing fit in as a part of your sales “team”. Social media has its place in the sales process especially to channel prospects into the front of the pipeline (or top of the funnel). It also needs to be understood how and where human interaction should be utilized within social media. Does the inquiry require only an automated response or is there a need for human judgement and “discussion” to take place? These are things we will cover in more detail at a later blog. (social media / automated marketing-metrics vs. money).
- How to aim and target your sales team and sales tactics in order to “hit the bullseye” in the marketplace. This stems from developing and using a well thought out database and data mining methodology. There is a lot involved to do this well. So much so that we will post a future blog (use of targeted sales / marketing to maximize sales) to offer more specifics. Our strongest point to make is this: learning how to identify the database information you need, the means you will use to capture that data and then to mandate that your sales team is attempting to secure it is what we will emphasize for now.
- Managing a sales effort also needs to include using the right “horses” in the right places. In other words, to be sure you have adequate “coverage” to penetrate your chosen markets. This coverage analysis would include several things, a couple of which are: geography (regions, states, specific sales territories, etc.) and specific vertical markets that could be broken down into that vertical’s need for specific products / services you offer either now or in the future. Each vertical could require different sales skills / tactics or “coverage” techniques. To ensure proper coverage will probably demand a combination of tactics we listed in our earlier blog (lead generation strategy and tactics) so it’s not necessarily an easy decision to arrive at. It’s one that needs to be made, however.
Managing sales is complex which is why we said at the onset you could write volumes on the subject. We hope this has offered some useful points to consider and that we are letting you know how future blogs will attempt to give you more detail.
For now, since we aren’t sure where you are in your sales management journey, we can offer a few options for you:
- Call or reply to let us know specific topics / tactics of special concern or interest to you.
- Call or reply if you have a topic (or need) we haven’t touched on that you would like us to address (we can invite other specialists to offer input via this blog – your identity will remain anonymous).
- Call or reply if you just want to kick around some ideas and “pick our brains.”