The sales landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade, and continues to evolve at a break-neck pace. Customers are no longer local—they can be found and serviced anywhere on the planet. Every aspect of business—from product design and development to marketing to delivery and customer support—is reliant on technology.
As a result of these and other factors, today’s business problems are complex and require strategic solutions. Sales success in today’s marketplace requires a new and “modern” approach to keep pace with the fast and furious changes. Understanding the root causes of today’s modern business reality is the first step in building a successful sales management approach.
Customers have changed
Today’s buyers can be new to the business or seasoned veterans. Regardless of their business experience, today’s customers are more connected and better skilled than ever before. Customers are quick to spot and reject rehearsed sales tactics and one size fits all solutions that won’t address their complex business problems.
Marketplace and tools have changed
Technology has enabled organizations to reach customers in every corner of the planet which has exponentially expanded the marketplace. Tools such as smart phones, social media, new applications and a wealth of instantly available information has changed the way business functions and the way decisions are made.
Sales teams must adapt quickly to keep pace
Today’s successful sales teams need to be more equipped to help customers identify and clarify problems and establish strategic solutions. This requires a vast and dynamic skill set to solve business problems. Sales teams need to leverage new technologies and be more connected to reach customers and prospects where they live, where they read, and where they search for information.
Simply sending people to training is not a solution. Sales teams need coaching, techniques to remove barriers, and the ability to collaborate with others to draw on the many skills needed to create solutions. Helping upskill sales teams to know how to ask the right questions to understand the problem and how to orchestrate a solution that adds value is the role of the sales manager. So how can sales managers up their game in order to lead their teams? Simple! Learn from the experience of other successful sales leaders!
Some areas sales managers need to excel in building strong performing teams is strengthening pipeline management, managing and selling globally, doing more informed hiring, making an impact developing sales people, and managing the fires, while keeping relationships intact.
Leading and managing global and virtual teams
Teams are becoming more globally dispersed. As a result, their managers require a different focus and a different skill set than managing local and co-located teams. Choosing global team members wisely is a must for a high-performing team.
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing your team members. One key trait is whether or not the personal values of team members align with the company’s values. Skills and performance can be coached and tracked; values are lived and cannot be taught so it’s paramount that these align. It’s also important that team members have a very high level of autonomy and the ability to work through issues independently as much as possible.
With any team, but in particular with virtual teams, managers need to know how to foster informal communication and collaboration among the team members who can’t simply walk down the hall to collaborate. Fortunately, there are a number of communication mediums that enable communication and idea sharing.
The challenge is in knowing when a phone call or email will be effective and when another method is needed to keep team members on track and engaged. Developing a schedule and guidelines that establishes regular communications is a good place to start. Being available and knowing when a team member needs help also is critical.
Managing the sales team pipeline
Managing the pipeline and producing an accurate sales forecast has always been a challenge even though many forecasting models have been developed.
Consider the case of a global commercial bank solution provider that started a specific process to help align their sales pipeline with their sales process. By gathering some data up front, it was understood how teams were communicating with each other about where the customer was in the decision process, what rules were being used to move customers from one stage another, and how managers were adding value throughout the process.
Based on the data, a forecasting model was developed which helped sales reps be clear about where customers are in the process and the milestones to move them along in the pipeline. This provided clarity in discussions with sales leaders who knew what role they could play to move the opportunity forward. Practicing this model and refining the process led to better metrics and ultimately shortened the sales cycle.
Years ago when I was a sales manager, it was expected that each manager spend face-to-face time with each team member each month. Our work load was arranged to accommodate that aspect. We thought we were very busy and it was sometimes difficult to get it done. Now, with managers managing more data, larger teams and span of control, and more complex sales it is VERY difficult to properly develop the individuals on the sales team. To understand what their needs are and aid in getting them the development they need, when they need it, becomes a constant battle of priorities.
This post is based on content explored in the new ASTD Press release, The Art of Modern Sales Management, which covers everything you need to know to be a top sales manager!
Sales management has changed dramatically in the past decade. With increasing globalization and many companies adding more virtual workers, the task of managing these diverse sales teams has become increasingly complicated. In a connected and evolving world it is hard to offer a definitive guide, but this book strives to sketch out a blueprint for managing performance in a changing sales landscape.
Each chapter is written by a sales professional and thought leader, many with experience as both a salesperson and as a sales manager. Learn from their experience and utilize the action plans at the end of each chapter to grow into a better leader for your team, whether they are down the hall or across the world.