Eight Essentials of Successful Sales Management

By Kirk Heiner

Whether you manage a sales team of three or 103, sales management can be challenging. Doing it right has, can and will determine the financial health and success of your company. Your ability to successfully manage your sales staff affects the job security of every single person in the organization.

The BIG Challenge

So here’s the biggest challenge. There are hundreds of things you could do to affect your sales team’s results. It’s like a roulette wheel full of options that may or may not work.

The problem is that there are so many old and tired methods of sales management and team development that simply don’t work. How do you choose where to place your focus, energy and efforts?

The idea here is to distill it down to the eight most important essentials. These are the key factors affecting your sales. Focusing on these fundamentals can give you predictably better results.

Sales success requires having the right mix of the right people, doing the right things. That task isn’t easy. But it can be simple, if you focus on these eight key areas.

Here are the eight essentials you need to laser in on, if you want to get better results from your sales team.

The Eight Essentials

1.Assess your team

2.Examine your hiring and onboarding processes

3.Perform ongoing training and process improvement

4.Develop a world-class sales process

5.Understand that metrics matter

6.Set clear goals

7.Have written plans

8.Focus on communication

Let’s take each of these eight essentials and unpack them.

1. Assess Your Sales Team

As the old proverb goes, “Know the condition of your flock.”

Your sales team, not to mention all of your other staff, are under your care and guidance. You need to know their real potential, and their individual strengths and weaknesses if you are to be able to manage them into success.

A few years ago I was brought in to assess a sales team and to determine each person’s potential and current level of ability. The management team had become so close to their people, they could no longer see the forest for the trees. Who’s good? Who’s not?

It had become impossible to distinguish ability from likability.

My job was to advise them on who would be best to continue to develop, and who might be best to let go. That’s a tough job for anyone.

So how do you determine a sales rep’s true potential?

Assessment Tools

There are numerous ways to help you assess your salespeople.

There are several great online assessment tools. Their question-based format helps assess a candidate’s or employee’s personality traits and overall aptitude in sales.

Some of them are free and some charge a fee. The best ones do a great job at determining whether a candidate has natural abilities that are typically shown to be predictors of success in selling.

The top attribute you should look for in a salesperson is drive. You want salespeople who are driven to win. The people that have strong potential are those who are working at getting better all the time.

They set goals, are disciplined and push through in order to win.

Everyone wants to be successful. Top salespeople not only want to win. They need to succeed. It’s in their DNA. They are never satisfied with getting average results. They are determined to excel.

Peaksalesrecruiting.com says:

“Interviewing salespeople is a lot like peeling an onion – it involves peeling away the superficial layers and getting past the conditioned sales responses to learn about their capabilities and traits, and determine whether they will fit with your sales team culture and produce superior results.”

Ultimately, you need to know the current condition of each member of your sales team. Whether you bring in an expert, use online tools or come up with some other way, this is critical. And yes, some may need to go on to another department or even a different job.

You also need to understand what they need in order to succeed. It may be encouragement. Or, it may be training or mentorship. Knowing your team helps you do what you need to do to maximize their individual sales.

2. Examine Your Hiring and Onboarding

How’s your current hiring and onboarding process? Are you attracting the best to your company? Do you have a clear, written process for bringing new recruits into your organization?

You always need to be attracting, adding and cultivating top talent.

Take the time to look at how you bring staff into the fold from their perspective. Is it professional? Is it organized? Are expectations reasonable and attainable? Are goals and processes clear?

Do you have a plan to develop your team? Are you clear on how you will maximize their potential and their results, all while experiencing high job satisfaction? Few things are worse than adding top talent only to lose them soon after they start.

You don’t want to lose good people because they don’t feel they’re being supported or developed into success.

The Art of the Start

It starts from the ad and recruitment tools that you use to engage the right type of person. Does your offer stand out from others seeking to hire the same talented individuals?

You want to be crystal clear on the type of person you need and the results you’ll expect. In your ads you want to pleasantly repel the time-waster. People who aren’t suited to your company culture or your process can be filtered by well-crafted ads.

And don’t forget the WIFM factor. WIFM is an acronym for “What’s in it for me?” Every talented job-seeker is looking for this. Make sure it is part of your recruitment efforts.

Many companies list all their requirements and duties and never talk about salary, income, earning potential or work environment. That’s a massive mistake. Top talent today is in high demand, especially in sales. You need to stand out to attract the best.

3. Perform Ongoing People and Process Improvement

Your job as a sales manager is to develop your team and its processes to deliver maximum results. The best way to do that is with continuous improvement. That needs to be planned.

There are only three types of people you can hire: Winners, losers and potential winners. Potential winners are your diamonds in the rough.

Once you have the right people — winners and potential winners — you must provide them with the necessary oxygen and fuel for them to burn hot and stay on fire for you. I’ve been involved with sales managers who actually quench the fires of sales. Spend time thinking and learning about what fuels your team and individual salespeople in advance to avoid making this mistake.

Once you’re onboarding the right people, you need to plan their success. Each brings a series of assets and drawbacks. Your mission is to train the team and provide processes that are constantly getting better. The first question to ask is, “Where do my salespeople need help?” You have to determine where they can be better.

Remember, breakthroughs come from finding what’s missing.

Let Bad Apples Go

Letting go of the losers is also important. It sounds harsh, but in the long run they should be doing something they enjoy and are good at, and you have a whole staff that counts on you to make the tough decisions.

Sales reps who are not interested in doing what it takes to become a winner need to go. We’ve all heard that rotten apples can spoil the rest of the bunch, and that holds true with creating a winning sales team.

You’re creating an all-star team. Supporting the strong ones and developing the potential of those who want to win is part of the equation. Stop wasting time with those who don’t give their all to achieve positive results.

Sometimes you have to cast overboard the weight that holds you back. Some people are better off working for your competition, or in another line of work.

Give Them Oxygen

I once asked a wildly successful salesperson and sales manager his best tip for sales management. He said, “Find the people with the right kindling, and then provide whatever is necessary for them to burn white-hot!” Wow, that’s brilliant!

You have to provide the necessary ingredients for each individual to soar. That may mean leaving one alone to do what they know to do well, while providing extra support to the ones who want to win, but need a little help and guidance.

Team development matters. You need to invest in your team. Holding regular meetings that inspire, guide and equip them is important. People hate meeting for meeting’s sake, but crave time spent that equates to skills development, equipping with sales knowledge and inspiring and encouraging them to win.

Good sales management requires providing them with skills training, sales tips or even helping them plan their success. It also involves regular meetings that motivate and equip them.

You want to have regularly scheduled times both as a group and individually to train and develop your team. You’ll want to watch them in action, talking with prospects and doing their discovery.

It may be once a month or once a week. Do what works for you and your salespeople and what will provide the results you want. Make it fun. Consider short, eye-opening sales training videos. And lastly, keep the meetings brief, concise and engaging. I call them quick-meets because you want them looking forward to your meetings, not dreading a long-winded, boring event with management.

The key in developing your team is to focus on creating right habits.

4. Develop a World-class Sales Process

You must have a sales process — a clear path every rep uses to progress the sales conversation. Never let them just wing it, but also recognize different types of clients may require different types of processes.

A sales process helps you to take prospective buyers on a journey and gives sales reps a road map to the sale. It helps you build your case and makes clear key points at critical times throughout the conversation. If you are not using a sales process, you need to be doing so.

The top attribute you should look for in a salesperson is drive. You want salespeople who are driven to win. The people that have strong potential are those who are working at getting better all the time.

Whether it’s a five-step process, or a 10-step one doesn’t matter. The point is, you need a clearly defined process to take potential customers through a pathway to purchase.

There is a logical path that makes sense to most buyers. Your process should fit that path. Don’t make the mistake of letting everyone make up his or her own process. There is one that is best for your company. Develop it.

They can do the process in their own style, with their unique personality, but they shouldn’t be making up the process. You should do that based on what works with which types of clients.

If you need help with process development, reach out to someone professional. Our company provides help in this key area of sales development; feel free to email us.

5. Understand That Metrics Matter

Numbers don’t lie. They provide a clear picture of the road you are on. They can also help you be proactive instead of reactive.

However, if you don’t measure, you don’t have the data you need to drive results. You must establish a few Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. These will tell you how you are doing.

Most people in sales don’t know their closing rate. Many managers have feelings, but don’t truly know the real closing ratio of their reps. You need to not only know these numbers, but you also need to share them with your people. Are they selling one out of three? Is it four out of 10?

Everyone should see the numbers and be accountable. Now here’s the rub. One of the numbers that also needs to be measured is how many new leads each rep is talking with. If there aren’t enough new leads, they can’t be expected to close the volume of sales required to reach their target. Your company may place that burden on the rep, or you may provide the leads. Either way, you need to share this critical number as well. It should be tracked weekly and monthly. And everyone should clearly know how many new prospect conversations are necessary to meet the sales goals.

Other Metrics That Matter

Sales is a numbers game, but it’s not the type of numbers that most people think. It’s not the number of leads times the number of conversations to simply equate to your total sales amount. It’s also about the quality of communication in those conversations.

It’s a multiplied number of many soft skills and factors.

How were the salespeople feeling when they went into the meeting? What was their expectation? Did they walk in frustrated? Were they confident? Did they come across as competent? Did they do a great discovery to understand the prospect? Were they an expert or an authority, or just average? Did they make clear points that mattered to the prospect? Was it clear WHY they should choose your company over everyone else?

All of these are the multipliers in the sales equation.

That’s why ongoing training is so valuable and critical to your success. Small increases in each of these areas equate to massive changes in the bottom line.

Consider the following example:

If a rep is 10 percent better at creating rapport, and 5 percent better at performing discovery with their prospects, and just 3 percent better at asking for the sale, all those multipliers can increase your sales by 50 percent.

The race horse that wins 1st place only needs to be a split second faster than the horse that comes in 2nd. And here’s the hard truth. There is no prize for 2nd place in sales. It’s all or nothing.

6. Set Clear Goals

You can’t hit a target you don’t see. You must have goals. And so should salespeople. Goals are critical to your success and that of your team.

You need to have written goals for your company. Each individual sales team member should have his or her own goals as well.

Here are the most important aspects of goals:

■They must be written down.

■They must be believable and achievable. (You can’t just make up a number and say, “Hit it.”)

■They must have deadlines.

The single most important aspect to goal setting and achievement is writing down your reasons WHY you want to attain them.

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, recently studied the art and science of goal setting. She stated:

“You become 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals and dreams simply by writing them down on a regular basis.”

Their WHY is the fuel that will help your team achieve their goals. That’s why they need to set their own goals. You cannot give their goals to them. You can establish a quota, but that’s different than a goal.

Types of Goals

A sales rep might set a financial goal of how much in sales they want to make or it may be an income level they wish to reach.

“Without goals and plans to achieve them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.”— Fitzhue Dodson

This brings us to essential No. 7

7. Written Plans

Nothing beats a well-executed, well thought out plan of action.

Most managers have no written, realistic action plan to reach their goals. It is critical to invest the time to write out your plans if you want to hit your sales targets.

There are few people who are better known for creating success than Tony Robbins. I had the privilege of working for him in a company he created with sales expert Chet Holmes. These men were driven. They took action and expected success.

“The key to success is taking massive determined action.” – Tony Robbins

But there’s a secret GOLD NUGGET about success hidden in the quote above: Taking action is one thing, but taking determined actions, are quite another. They key word is determined. It implies that the actions are pre-planned.

Sales is a numbers game, but it’s not the type of numbers that most people think. It’s not the number of leads times the number of conversations to simply equate to your total sales amount. It’s also about the quality of communication in those conversations.

Tony’s business partner, Chet, who was perhaps one of the smartest guys on the planet when it comes to sales, success and business, taught me that 99 percent of CEOs are tacticians. That means they come up with random actions to create results. He went on to say that “strategy” is the key. The strategist will slaughter the tactician every time.

So what does that mean for you?

If you run or manage a business, or are simply in a career in which sales and right actions affect your income and your future, you need to think like a strategist, NOT a tactician.

And that means creating an action plan!

8. Focus on Improved Communication

If you want to take your team to the highest level in the shortest amount of time, this last essential will be your key.

Improve your team’s communication. This means striving to improve communication at every point — yours, theirs, your marketing efforts and website. You must focus on every single point of communication.

Great communication is simply this: Have something good to say; say it well; and say it until it sticks.

Good communication takes effort. It requires clarity. You have to think.

Great salespeople communicate better than poor ones. They craft their words to influence and create impact. They are persuasive.

Often salespeople say things hoping they will persuade their prospects and in the end they don’t. Why? Because they didn’t communicate well.

If everyone on your team came up one rung on the ladder in his or her communication, do you think it would impact your sales?

In their rapport building, discovery with prospects and every communication point on the road to the sale, help your team to be able to communicate great. Teach them about the power of their first impression. Hold a quick meeting about the impact their body language can have on a prospective client.

There are a hundred simple little nuances they can learn. And all of them can affect both their success and your bottom line.

One of the most powerful things I’ve learned about communication is that good salespeople speak well, but great salespeople listen well.

If your people ask better questions, then listen intently, prospects will give them the keys to making the sale. Most people won’t listen.

Plan for Success

Having a successful sales team should not be left to chance. You must make it happen. If you focus on these eight essential principles for sales management success, it will become easier for you to create the momentum you need that can take you to your goals.

About the Author

Kirk Heiner has more than 30 years’ experience in the kitchen & bath Industry. He helps showroom owners and managers increase market share by becoming radically customer driven. He’s conducted training events and seminars for corporations like Lowe’s, DuPont, Danze, Stock Building Supply, AWFS, KBIS, the National Kitchen & Bath Association and many more. For more information or to contact him, visit www.KBShowroomSales.com.