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5 Keys to Effective Sales Management

11 Aug, 2008 By: David Ramos imageSource

5 Keys to Effective Sales Management

Have you ever promoted your star sales rep to manager only to see him
fail? Do you experience sales rep turnover exceeding 50%? Sales management is a
challenging position but it is next to impossible without a formal continuum to
support the manager’s development.

If you think about it, the skills and competencies required to be a
successful sales rep and the skills and competencies required to be an effective
sales manager are completely different.  The sales rep manages accounts through
the sales cycle and the manager needs to select, train, and develop people. If
you want to reduce your sales turnover and improve sales rep productivity it is
critical that you provide effective sales management; not providing quality
management is an extremely expensive and frustrating experience. Here are 5 keys
to effective sales management:

Create a business plan with your sales team at the rep level: A
successful sales team needs and requires regular planning (annually), tracking
(quarterly and monthly), and regular review (monthly) to achieve the targeted
results. Every sales rep requires an action plan to direct day-to-day activities
and set up accountabilities.  These actions should directly link to the key
initiatives that are in their business plans.

Create on boarding schedules and sales support: A common sales
management mistake is to hire a sales person without providing them with the
level of support required to succeed. Even if your new rep is well versed in the
industry and a top performer, they will still require help to familiarize
themselves with your company, products, programs and markets. A formal on
boarding schedule with involvement from your entire organization, creates
culture and leaves the new hire feeling that they made the right decision by
joining your organization.  The process introduces them to every aspect of the
organization like how to use the CRM, how to use the phone system, how to fill
out a sales order, and will ensure a smooth transition and integration into your

All sales business plans have at least three components to be successful:

1. Sales rep involvement in development of the plan: Where most sales
plans fail is they are developed by the  sales  mgr & dealer principal without
the input of the sales rep. To ensure a high level of plan success, have the
sales rep develop the plan &  have the sales manager guide the rep toward the
correct goals and objectives bases off your company’s   key sales initiatives 
for    the year.  Achieving annual quota is the ultimate goal but business
planning at the sales rep level is the how, what, where, when and why of
achieving their quota. 

Common components of a plan are base revenue achievement (revenue achieved
with current customers) & net new revenue achievement (what percent of   the
rep’s  business will  come from new customers & how). Other components can
include initiatives  in  business   color, wide format, print  management, and
professional services.  Whatever the initiatives are, they must be included in
the plan to effectively execute and measure the level of success.

Measurement needs to tie to results so metrics that measure pipeline growth
are critical.  To grow pipeline the focus should be on the number of clients and
net new prospect phone calls, appointments set, and quantity of value
propositions conducted. But do not spend too much time in the weeds—pipeline
growth is paramount.

2. Monthly review: Sales plans should be established & reviewed on a
monthly basis to provide flexibility in the planning cycle. Sales management
excellence involves reviewing the results against the plan to determine missed
opportunities and areas for improvement.  Identify the gaps and understand how
to rectify with specific actions, otherwise the team members get too far behind
achieving plan and cannot make up the miss.

3. Income planners: Let’s face it, the most important metric from a
rep perspective is income. To ensure the rep internalize the planning process
and sees the value tie the results into income, do not overwhelm your sales
staff with excessive tracking numbers. Focus on the few measures that matter the
most to your sales reps’ income & that will lead to productivity resulting in
increased sales revenue.  If it doesn’t lead to more sales and income for your
team, then don’t track it and make it a requirement.

Not all sales reps require the same level of support. However, a hands-off
approach to sales management is not a strategy. Successful sales management
requires a commitment to sales force development. Regardless of the size of your
company, an investment in sales development & support  pays big  dividends  on 
profitability. Spending  quality 1-on-1 time with your sales team will not only
provide support but convey a sense of the importance of sales people in your

Form a partnership

Sales management is a partnership between the sales rep and the sales
manager. Effective sales management requires sharing in the responsibility to
find the issues and bottlenecks in your sales process. Seek the solution
together with your reps; be the champion for helping the sales rep achieve their
agreed results and always tie the process to their compensation plan.

Don’t mix recognition with coaching: One common sales management
mistake is to congratulate your sales force for a job well done and quickly move
to areas of needed improvement. This tactic can often be interpreted by sales
reps as a lack of appreciation. A best practice is to separate the recognition
from the coaching. Save the performance improvement areas for coaching sessions
during your periodic review & planning sessions. Set up separate recognition of
your sales reps’ successes even if it's a small celebration at your weekly or
monthly sales meetings.

Sales accountability: There  are times when sales reps fail regardless
of the support and training they receive. It is easy to pass off the lack of
results to external forces such as competitors, the economy  or poor marketing
but the sales rep was hired to achieve results. If your sales force lacks a
clear policy of sales accountability, it’s your responsibility to implement the
process that clearly provides expectations and a  framework  for success. A
sales accountability culture only accepts top performers; exactly what your
business needs to survive today.

Growing your business in our industry is hard work. The sales management
function is often overlooked from a development perspective. Spending the
necessary time developing your sales manager and sales management framework will
help foster a rewarding culture and build a successful sales team to boost your
business to new and higher levels.

David Ramos is a consultant with Strategy Development, a management
consulting firm.  At


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