Eight Top Sales Management Success Factors
By Kirk Heiner

Many sales managers struggle to get the sales results they want. Are you one of them?

If you are tasked with the responsibility of making sales happen and are looking for the industry’s best practices, read on.

I was recently engaged by one of the world’s leading kitchen and bath products companies to perform sales training. One of my targeted deliverables was to help showroom owners hire correctly and manage their sales teams. Part of my journey was to uncover the keys to hiring, motivating and retaining the best sales/design talent. Here’s what I discovered.

There are eight key factors of sales management that directly influence a sales manager’s success. These simple keys are proven to deliver great sales results. If you get these right, then your results are a given. If you get them wrong, you’ll suffer.

No. 1 – Hire Right

You must have good people and guide them toward greatness.

Starting with the wrong staff makes your work difficult and creates an uphill battle. A team of lack-luster players cannot be developed into a winning team.

Having the correct players makes it easier for you to create solid sales results. The first step is to know each team member’s ability. Get to know the sales potential of your team.

I’ve met many struggling sales managers who don’t know their sales team’s true potential. There are three types of players: winners, losers and potential winners. Knowing winners from losers is the key. Potential winners need to be developed by intentional effort.

Winners are obvious. They make tons of sales. They may be easy to manage, or challenging, but the bottom line is, they deliver results. A lot of them! You need a team of winners if you want the kind of sales volumes that are reserved for winning teams.

Trying to increase sales with a team of so-so salespeople leads to stress, frustration and unmet sales goals. So, following the first rule of hiring the right people can make all the difference.

No. 2 – 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; then provide whatever is necessary for them to burn white-hot!” Wow, that’s brilliant!

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.

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.

The bottom line is to do what is necessary for each team member.

No. 3 – Let Bad Apples Go

Letting go of the losers is also important. Those 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 and developing the potential in those who want to win is part of the equation. Ending the time wasted with those who blame everything and everyone for their results is also key.

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.

No. 4 – Measure What Matters

There are generally a handful of key metrics to pay attention to in sales. You must regularly measure those key performance indicators (KPI). They can include: the number of new leads, the number of meetings with prospects, closing rates of each team member, average sale (for each person) and total sales volume, just to name a few.

You want to regularly gather data on the key numbers and tweek accordingly. More than data, you need to measure your team’s strengths and their ability to get the job done.

If you want to increase sales, you must consider taking the time to measure the potential of each team member. Where are they strong, and where do they need to improve?

An old proverb states, “Be careful to know the condition of your flock.” You too need to know the potential of your sales team members.

Imagine trying to compete in a major league sport with a sports team full of all stars versus a team of mediocre players. It may be hard to do, but letting some staff go to be replaced by better players can be the best thing for everyone involved.

No. 5 – Attitude, Ability, Actions

Attitude, ability and actions are the three things to watch. Where are they mentally? Where are their skill sets? And what are they doing?

Your sales team’s attitude affects their performance. You must create an atmosphere that keeps right-minded people in a mind set to optimize sales. The wrong people can’t help themselves and will often drift into a negative mentality. However, even the best can be tainted with an environment that allows for too much negative talk.

Remember, you have a powerful ability to shape the attitude of your sales team. Encouragement and a sense of appreciation are the key. Sales is a tough business, and it’s easy for salespeople to feel discouraged, especially if those around them are constantly focusing on the negative.

You are in charge of their performance. Their performance will be driven by their ability. With a winning mind set, sound skills and proper actions, it’s nearly impossible to fail.

No. 6 – Watch Them in Action

You need to know your team’s key strengths and weaknesses. Failing to help your team overcome its weaknesses, those big areas that hold team members back and cause them to struggle, is not an option.

You must spend time with them while they meet with prospects to see how they’re doing. Watch reactions of the prospects to your salespeople’s conversations. Note the questions they ask. More importantly, note the questions they fail to ask.

Many sales managers fall into the trap of simply measuring numbers from their desks. It’s critical that you spend time watching and coaching salespeople’s performance and gently guide them into great performance. You can’t do that from your office.

No. 7 – Systems, Systems, Systems

I am currently working with a company to dial in their selling systems. Systems are the key to sales management. You must have a systematic way of selling and positioning your company against the competition. You never want to leave it up to each team member to make it up as they go.

There is a best way to speak about your company and its offering. This needs to be taught to each team member. Everyone must know the most important things to mention to create buyer confidence, build value, differentiate and close the sale.

I watch companies closing 60 to 70 percent of their prospects. That should be your goal, too.

Business Guru Michael Gerber of the E-Myth book and business training series says, “Your job is to develop the perfect system of doing what you do.” You’ll never be done. There’s always room for improvement.

Continuously work on your sales systems.

No. 8 – Written Wise Plans

Nothing beats a well-executed, well-thought-out plan. Most managers have no written, realistic action plan to reach their goals. It is critical to invest the time to write out your plans to hit your sales targets. It must include achievable goals, as well as time frames.

Your plan must also include specific methods for team development and a plan for hiring, on-boarding, developing and retaining the best sales staff.

Sales expert Chet Holmes used to say, “Ninety-eight percent of CEOs are tacticians not strategists.” The strategist will slaughter the tactician every time. If you want to understand what this means in day to day practical solutions, email me — [email protected].

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, KBIS, the National Kitchen & Bath Association and many more. Heiner can be contacted at [email protected] and more information can be found at KBShowroomSales.com.