Managing a sales team can be an incredibly satisfying experience when you do it right. In such a results-focused role, any successful team manager should always be considering how to optimize their team by staying on top of best practice and what works best for the business. If you're looking for ways to make improvements to your sales team, here are four considerations to get you started:
1. Good management
While evaluating the way you work is important, you also need to know precisely how to manage your team and unfortunately there’s no hard or fast rule on how to do this.
An open and honest dialogue from the moment you walk through the door will help to both build trust, and give you insight into how to approach individual personalities. Having a team that trusts you will help you squeeze that extra percent from them when the chips are down.
It's also important to be direct - ask people how they like to be managed and what motivates them, as well as what they expect from you. It’s the most efficient way to find out information that is essential to you achieving maximum productivity. Even something as simple as knowing a person’s motivating factor can give you the edge when you need to push them further.
2. Looking at leads
It sounds simple enough, but it's very important to dedicate time to research your leads. You can have the world’s best salesperson on your team, but if they don’t have the freedom to do their homework, they’ll waste inordinate amounts of time on blind chases.
Whether you’re researching the company you’re selling to or the actual decision-maker, putting the effort in beforehand gives more consistent results than simply trying to bluff your way through a conversation.
Building rapport doesn’t start when the phone is first answered, it’s a process that begins long before that. The most successful sales calls are always from team members who appear to have a genuine interest in what the business does.
Make sure your team are afforded the space to do their own homework and are chasing up good quality leads. In time they’ll hone and refine this process and produce better prospects that they can follow up to produce consistent results.
3. Setting the right goals
We all have targets that we’re working towards, but making them realistic and achievable is key to consistent performance. They need to be broken down into attainable goals, so that people have something they’re continually aiming for. Sky-high figures may be exciting initially, but without a feasible pathway they can quickly weigh teams down and actually demotivate those supposedly trying to realize them.
Create mini incentives within your team to keep people energized. Again, knowing what drives the group will inform what’s necessary for this to really work. Sometimes, even a small gesture, such as an extended lunch break, can give team members some extra incentive.
Having a two-way relationship with your marketing team is often overlooked when managers are trying to boost the efficiency of their salespeople. When used properly alongside your own direct reports, your marketing team can help to attract potential customers into the sales funnel, whilse also improving the quality of those leads and keep them warm. This requires good communication and a clear understanding of each other’s roles, but having sales and marketing working in tandem will always help produce better results.
They can also provide better resources for your sales team to work with — why succumb to the temptation of having your sales team trying to write their own materials? If you have a quality marketing department, utilize that and work together to ensure they’re helping you in the periods where you aren’t in direct contact with your customers. A marketing team is a huge contributor to the sales cycle, whether that’s producing thought leadership pieces that consultants can share, or creating content that is used directly during pitches.
In short, it’s about knowing—and communicating with— all the intricate parts of the business. Remember to also always stay open and honest with your team from the start. When they know exactly what you expect from them, they’ll do their best to deliver that. They’ll also give you direct feedback on exactly what they want from you, which in turn will help you make sure you’re getting the very best from your sales team.
About the Author
Ian Clark is Head of Americas at niche IT staffing firm Frank Recruitment Group, having started his career as a trainee recruitment consultant. He has more than 15 years of experience in the industry, having graduated with a first class honors degree from Oxford Brookes University.