Six Steps to Better Sales Manager Coaching

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Improve your sales manager coaching skills in six actionable steps

As a sales manager, you aren’t just responsible for direct interactions with customers. Studies have shown that your coaching skills have a direct impact on the overall performance of your team, transforming their sales successes. Becoming an effective sales coach can help your entire team do a better job of reaching your target audience, increasing conversions, and improving customer interactions. These strategies will make you a more effective sales coach.

Step One: Observe Your Team

sales manager coaching observeA critical part of any coaching experience is observing the key players–in this case, the members of your sales team. In order to provide effective advice to the members of your team, you need to see how they’re interacting with customers. Get to know their personalities and their skills. See what they’re doing right and where they need a little extra work. In some cases, you may discover that the members of your sales team have more capability than you realized, including techniques that you may want to pass on to other members of the team. In others, you may find that they’re lacking some basic sales skills that you’re able to provide as a result of your observations.

Note that during your observations–which should be frequent and spread across your sales team so that you can get a good idea of how each member of the team interacts with your customers–you should avoid taking over calls or interactions. You should leave the customer interactions in the hands of sales team members so that they can develop their skills, rather than getting in the habit of sitting in the back seat or handing things over to you.

Step Two: Schedule Coaching Sessions

In order to become a more effective sales coach, you have to have time to work with the members of your team! Make sure that you’re scheduling time into your workday to work with members of the sales team and provide them with the new information they need in order to be successful. In order to provide more effective feedback, make sure that you’re taking into consideration their accomplishments as well as their shortcomings. Congratulate sales team members who are able to meet their goals with enthusiasm and reward progress. The more regularly you work with members of your team, the easier it is to offer feedback that will allow them to make small corrections, ultimately improving their overall performance.

Step Three: Develop Practice Strategies

For some people, the art of sales comes naturally. They’re able to effortlessly make connections with customers, provide them with the information they need, and coax them to make the right purchase decisions. In other cases, however, you may find that the members of your sales team need more practice in order to meet their sales goals. Just like you would in any sport, give your team members the opportunity to practice outside the “game”–that is, when they’re away from the customers who need to make critical buying decisions. This may include offering video-based training, providing sales team members with content to read, or working through scenarios with them in an effort to improve their understanding of customer needs.

Manager to Seller 1-1 meetingStep Four: Develop One-on-One Meeting Habits

Sure, it’s easier to address your entire sales team at once. “Everyone” needs help with a certain aspect of sales, whether it’s upselling or closing the deal. Unfortunately, this strategy can leave your sales team struggling to gain the vital skills they need in order to improve their sales results. When you develop a habit of 1:1 meetings and interactions, you can substantially improve the performance of your sales team and give them the individual attention they need to make real progress. With a single meeting, you can improve an individual’s performance for up to two weeks, making this a valuable investment of your time.

Whenever possible, you should have a clear plan in place before stepping into a meeting with the members of your sales team. They should have a good idea of what to expect from your meetings, and you should both be able to follow the basic structure of the meeting. You should also avoid canceling meetings if at all possible as this can leave your sales team feeling undervalued and as though their performance isn’t important.

Step Five: Keep It Simple

When you’re in the middle of a meeting, it can be easy to shove too much into a single interaction. You want to share as much information as possible with your sales team, after all, whether that means giving them an arsenal of new tools or providing them with information about new sales goals or incoming products. It’s important, however, to keep your individual meetings short and sweet. Avoid giving team members too much information to sort through, which can lead to confusion or a focus on the wrong pieces of information. Your meetings, instead, should retain focus.

Step Six: Discover What Motivates Your Sales Team

When you work with athletes, it’s important to know how to positively motivate them–and that’s just as true for working with your sales team. You need to know how to motivate your employees: what incentives they want, the type of advice they need, and what feedback model works best for encouraging them to perform their best. Each member of your sales team is an individual and may have individual preferences in this area, so you’ll need to learn how to customize your dealings with your employees to the way that motivates them most. As you discover what motivates them, however, you’ll find that it smooths your interactions with your employees and makes it easier to meet your goals.

If you’re struggling to motivate your sales team, becoming a more effective sales coach is the best way to meet your goals on the sales floor. As a sales coach, you aren’t responsible for the sales themselves. Rather, you’re responsible for providing the tools and motivations needed by the people who interact with your company’s customers every day. By utilizing these steps, you’ll discover that you’re in a better position to encourage your sales team and provide them with vital feedback.

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The One KPI Missing From Your Sales Ops Dashboard

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“There are two reasons you can fire a CEO. Firstly, you can fire a CEO because they’ve done something really naughty and they’ve been caught. The only other reason you fire a CEO is they didn’t meet the forecast.” – Neil Rackham, SPIN Selling

And so CRM software was born in the early 90s—the first meaningful piece of technology used by salespeople. As Neil explains in The Story of Sales, Chapter 6: Technology’s Impact on Sales, it was not to help salespeople or the sales process. Many salespeople don’t like using the CRM to this day. It was to deliver forecast accuracy that would give the CEO job security.

Today, use of the CRM goes well beyond forecast accuracy. We can measure activities, conversion rates, pipeline size, pipeline velocity and much more. In summary, there are more and more metrics at our fingertips to determine the productivity of our sales teams. Yet, sales leaders still bias toward the age-old formula:

MORE SALES CALLS = MORE REVENUE

Sales Leader’s Mantra: Do More Sales Calls

“Big shots are only little shots who keep shooting.” – Christopher Morley

Sales leaders are right to pull this quantity lever. Without enough “at-bats” no sales team will deliver its quota. But without another lever to pull, this refrain becomes old and tired. It has been hammered into sellers to keep doing more sales calls to build enough pipeline and deliver their quota. A sales leader who manages from today’s CRM will be tempted to pull this lever again and again. Don’t ever expect to hear a sales leader say: “Guys, congratulations, we’ve got enough pipeline!”

Quality Matters

Sales has been slow to catch up to other business functions who realize more is not always the best answer. But it’s not for lack of effort. What gets measured gets managed and let’s face it, the quality of the sales calls a team is having has traditionally been very hard to measure.

Not so for other functions. Take engineering for instance. The quantity of software produced, often referred to as velocity, is a key measure of productivity. But an engineering leader would never manage a software team without some understanding of the quality of software being produced using a management dashboard. After all, an excess of buggy software is a good way to run a business into the ground.

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A New Lever You Can Pull

Salespeople are tired of hearing the same old “do more sales calls” refrain. Message received!

What they want help figuring out is how to be more effective in the sales calls they have. And there’s nothing in the CRM that teases this out. Sure, we can see that one rep may be more effective than others based on their conversion rates…but why?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have another tool in your management toolbox? Instead of “do more sales calls”, imagine being in front of your sales team with a message that says: “do better sales calls”.

But for this to actually be more than a nice break from the norm, the quality of sales calls needs to be consistently measured. And the way to measure quality is not whether an opportunity gets created or advances. This is the result of a quality interaction, but causation is not sufficient.

Quality is measured by how effectively a seller demonstrates the necessary behaviors to advance a sale within a given stage in the sales process. For example:

  • Discovery is a behavior required at the beginning, accomplished by asking multi-layered questions.
  • Tailored Value or Vision is a behavior required in the middle, accomplished by taking what information the seller has gathered and using it to present how the prospect’s pain will be addressed.

What Gets Measured, Gets Managed

Whose job is it to observe and coach to these behaviors? The frontline sales manager of course. Where should your frontline managers be spending their time? Sales leaders say upwards of 50% should be spent coaching sales teams in the field. Sales managers report in some cases spending as little as 15% of their time in the field.

Why?

For starters, managers don’t have a good way to capture their observations, so they bias toward trying to advance the sale rather than coaching the seller. Second, there is no consistent framework to coach and give feedback, so that is left up to each managers interpretation. Finally, there is no easy way to track progress over time so the value of a managers’ observations don’t build upon one another.

If we could solve these three problems, we’d have a willing participant on the other end to help build this quality data set. And it’s this KPI that is missing on your sales ops dashboard today. It should appear right next to the number of sales calls your team has done and the resulting pipeline being built.

Tired of feeling like the only way to make your number is to keep asking the sales team to work harder. Eventually, this message falls on deaf ears. Maybe it is time to start empowering them to work smarter.

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How Good Managers Use Sales Coaching to Improve Rep Performance

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Being a frontline sales manager is tough. Like any sales job, it comes down to the numbers you can produce. But the production is mostly out of your hands, you’re reliant on your sales team to get the job done. You can only control so much of what happens. If your reps are underperforming—or even if they’re doing an acceptable job, but you think they’re capable of more—it’s often unclear what the best tactics are to improve their sales numbers.

Thanks to research done by Google and CSO Insights, we know that improving the coaching skills of frontline managers does produce a measurable improvement in the performance of their sales teams.

Know What Makes A Good Manager

sales coaching skill developmentIf you want to be a good manager, you need to know what a good manager does. Fortunately, Google recently published some serious work in discovering what good management entails at their own company. The top eight habits they found to be the most effective in management are:

  • Be a good coach
  • Empower your team and resist the urge to micromanage
  • Express genuine interest in the success and well-being of employees
  • Be productive and results-oriented
  • Be a good communicator and listen to your team
  • Help employees with career development
  • Have a clear vision and strategy for the team
  • Possess key technical skills, so you can better advise the team

Before they did this survey, Google had been promoting the most technically proficient employees to managerial positions, so they were quite surprised to find technical skill was the least useful ability for a manager to have.

Promotion on the basis of technical ability or product knowledge rather than communication and people skills. Does that sound like an awful lot of companies to you?

Perhaps you’re one of those managers whose strength is in technical knowledge. If so, you may have already noticed that all of your competence does little to help your employees directly. If it does help, it’s when you’re able to communicate it effectively to your reps so they can put it to use—in other words, be an empowering coach and a strong communicator, three of the traits higher on the list.

Although every point on this list can be discussed in depth, some of them are more self-explanatory than others. For example, there isn’t much to explain in regard to expressing interest in the well-being of your employees. It may help to talk about how you can become more genuinely interested, but the concept is immediately understandable.

Therefore, in this post, let’s stick with the top two: how to better coach and empower your employees.

Good Sales Coaching Equals Empowerment

sales coaching motivationThe great majority of us are most familiar with coaches in a sporting context. The coach is responsible for determining what the players need (knowledge, motivation, skills, practice) so the players can better do their jobs. Nothing really changes when you move this idea into the sales world. Sales managers are responsible for imparting the necessary knowledge, motivation, and skills to their reps so they can close more deals.

And good coaching offers empowerment, not as a bonus, but as a necessity. If your employees expect micromanagement, they can’t act effectively on their own. And you don’t have time to walk them through every slightly odd situation they’ll face! You need them to be good, independent actors if they’re going to meet their numbers. Broadly speaking, there are five areas that you can focus your coaching on to help your reps improve.

1. Help reps discover their motivation

People get into sales work as a job, but not everyone’s primary motivation is money. When money is the only focus of a sales manager, some employees with the potential to be good reps become disillusioned with the manager’s focus and mentally check out.

When you find a rep doesn’t seem to care much about bigger bonuses or the importance of ever-increasing sales goals, don’t write them off as hopeless. Talk to them about what makes them interested in day-to-day life, and find a way those motivations apply to the job. Understand that you may end up with a rep whose motivations don’t align at all with sales, or this particular sales job. If you’re honest with them on that score, your willingness to be honest can be incredibly motivating for them to do their best for as long as they’re on your team. Remember, your job isn’t just to push the biggest sellers; it’s to make sure everyone, top to bottom, is keeping up.

2. Use the rep’s motivation to help define his or her goals

Too many sales managers rely on standard goals to push their reps and ignore the importance of employees’ intrinsic motivations on how well they do their jobs. What does the rep get out of this job? Do they like being part of the company? Is there something about the products they enjoy that helps them engage with customers? Are they purely in it for the money?

Whatever the answer, set an individual goal for the rep based on her motivation. For example, if a new product is released that she’s particularly excited about, set a goal for her to try to sell it to fifty or a hundred people in a certain amount of time. You’re not telling her to make more sales; you’re telling her to talk to people about something she likes, and that personal interest will result in more sales without her even thinking about it.

3. Actively teach reps strategies that will help them reach their goals

sales coaching mentor trainingMany managers see what their reps do wrong and offer corrections. This can work when the rep is ready to hear it, but more often than not, what makes sense out loud is forgotten all too quickly.

If you find a flaw in your rep’s technique that you a) know is losing sales and b) you have a way to improve, don’t settle for repeating yourself until the message hopefully sinks in. Show them what you have in mind, with a real customer and stay with them while they try it themselves. Make the time now, and you’ll save yourself more time later by not needing to say the same thing again and again.

4. Offer direct advice when necessary

Part of empowering your employees involves not handing them every answer they need. Often the best response to a question is to guide the rep towards finding the answer herself. Not only will she better learn the answer she needs at that moment, but she’ll feel better about searching future answers out on her own.

However, you must also recognize when direct answers are correct. For example, an experienced rep will often have everything put together in their minds until the customer throws them a curveball; all you need to do is fill in the blank, and they’ll understand how to incorporate that into their sales technique going forward. Understand the moments when a rep doesn’t need full guidance, just an answer, and those moments of guidance will be all the more effective.

5. Personally commit to coaching and developing your reps

Reps have different strengths. Some are charismatic speakers, some are deeply knowledgeable about the products, and some can ad lib responses to questions better than other reps recite memorized answers. Rarely are they strong in every attribute necessary to close the deal.

It’s easy to say that coaches should help employees shore up their weaknesses. They should, of course, but development is more than that. Acknowledging employees’ strengths reminds them that they are capable people, which creates a morale boost. More importantly, however, by showing that you see their strengths, it portrays you as a manager who sees reps as full people. If you focus on their weaknesses, you can appear to only have an interest in tearing them down, even when that’s not the case. And a rep sees you acknowledge her as a person, you become a manager who wants to help her develop as a person, not just an employee.

A brand-new rep may need help on all five, which is a relatively simple situation. More experienced reps may usually do well, but struggle in ways that don’t obviously apply to one of these five categories; this is your challenge, to know your reps and understand which aspect of the sales business they need help with to better succeed.

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Opening Pandora’s Box Reveals the Truth in Manager to Seller 1:1

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The manager to seller 1:1 is a critical interaction that takes place in every sales organization, and yet it is a black hole for sales leaders

“90 minutes of your time can enhance the quality of your subordinates work for 2 weeks or for some 80+ hours.” – Andy Grove, CEO & Co-founder at Intel

The manager to seller 1:1 meeting is a proven management practice that, when executed well, creates happy, healthy, and productive teams. In fact, the 1:1 may be the single biggest leverage point a manager has to impact team performance.

But today’s overwhelmed and underdeveloped frontline sales manager may not have gotten the memo. The tyranny of managing to the number leads to choosing what’s urgent over what’s important and being reactive versus proactive. 1:1s commonly get pushed, lack preparation and structure, and have no clear outcomes. This dysfunction of such a critical management activity creates a hole that is hard to dig out of.

The desire to help sales managers has led us to study the manager to seller 1:1. In doing so, we’ve come to realize that this may be the single biggest unmet need in today’s sales organization. If you’re ready to open Pandora’s Box, let’s dig in.

The Purpose of the Manager to Seller 1:1

Manager to Seller 1-1 meetingWhy are we here? Without a clear purpose, there’s no alignment on what would make the meeting successful.

This is where the issues start. Because managers themselves aren’t sure what the purpose of the 1:1 is. They know that every manager does them, and they are supposed to, too. But why? And how does it fit into their goal to get their reps to their number?

Most frontline sales managers have not been trained on how to run a manager to seller 1:1. So they make it up as they go along. Often, each 1:1 is a bit different. In my experience, the typical flavors of a manager to seller 1:1 are:

  • Forecast review
  • Pipeline review
  • Deal review
  • Coaching

But what if I told you the most common type of 1:1 isn’t any of these. It’s actually all of them combined into one meeting!

Successfully executing any of these interactions with a seller requires practice and discipline. Trying to accomplish them all in one meeting is downright impossible! The discussion jumps from topic to topic and quickly becomes a disaster that is a testament to the fact that no one is sure what the purpose of this meeting actually is!

Managers must establish a set agenda for their 1:1s and develop a cadence with their team that allows them to focus on each of these interactions separately at various points in the month and/or quarter. Get this simple, but often overlooked, piece right and you are on your way to better 1:1s.

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Failure to Take Off and Land

Without a clear purpose, we’re off to a rough start. But a well-structured agenda will still make this meeting work. Extra credit if the manager has transferred ownership to the seller to own the agenda and it’s documented in a way that creates clarity and structure.

Without an agenda, the meeting is likely to meander aimlessly into irrelevance. Fear not, you can still make it worthwhile if there are clear actions items that come out of the meeting. Actions could include:

  • Submitting a revised forecast
  • Executing on agreed upon pipeline goals
  • Inviting manager to a call
  • Drafting an email for review
  • Scheduling an internal meeting

If you are a sales manager with 8 to 10 direct reports, this can be pretty hard to keep track of. Don’t be surprised if these actions float into the ether, never to be seen again.

After establishing a purpose, take off and landing the meeting tend to be the lowest hanging fruit to be addressed that will also provide the biggest payback.

Manager and Seller Should Feel Good

“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” – Albert Einstein

A sales managers’ list of tasks includes rolling up the forecast, managing the pipeline, and closing business. That’s the easy part! What differentiates an average sales manager from a great one is their ability to remove roadblocks for their sellers. But while the manager may parachute in to save the day from time to time, this is not a scalable strategy for success. Helping the seller come to his or her own realization to solve a problem is.

When a manager is using the appropriate mix of guiding versus telling, the seller learns not to come to the manager for a solution, but rather with a problem that can be solved together. The same basic discovery and active listening skills that make for an effective sales conversation are a manager’s friend in the 1:1. There is typically at least one issue that, if solved for the seller, would make a big difference in the coming week. Isolate and focus on it.

If this sounds like more art than science, it is. But it’s also critical. A manager can get the mechanics of the 1:1 right, but if there is no trust the seller will be more likely to see the manager as in their way rather than a partner.

One simple way to find out is to ask! How was this meeting? Was it useful? Why or why not? What should we keep doing or start doing? Seeking feedback is an unnatural but highly effective way to instantly make this meeting better.

Conclusion

With limited direction outside of “get to your number”, it’s no wonder the average sales manager can get lost. When manager to seller 1:1s lack a clear purpose, fail to take off and land effectively and don’t feel good for either party, it’s a recipe for dysfunction.

Think of it this way: if your sales calls were to resemble anything like this picture, would you expect to sell anything? I don’t think so.

The manager to seller 1:1 is the key force multiplier moment an organization has to lift sales team performance, and it’s time we start facing that reality head-on.

 

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How to Master Data-Driven Sales Management

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A holistic approach to optimizing your sales team with data-driven sales management

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

~ Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers

In sales, it’s the close that gets all the glory. When that deal gets marked “Closed Won” and the gong is rung, for a bright and shining moment the people rejoice.

But, for most companies, making a sale isn’t a one-time event. That one shining moment was preceded by weeks or months of drudgery and hard work. That new customer was once but a glimmer in a sea of data and noise. Then they surfaced through an ad campaign or a cold call, and the struggle to reel the account in ensued.

High-performers make a habit of consistently executing each activity, no matter how inglorious, they need to move leads through the funnel efficiently and effectively. And frontline managers who use a formal, data-driven approach to managing and coaching develop more high-performing reps within their teams.

Some sales organizations focus on managing the activities of their sales teams. They set KPI goals on how many calls to place, emails and InMails to send, and connection requests each seller should complete in a given time period and track to that goal. Other companies focus on conversation management. They set specific standards for how sellers should speak during the discovery call, present the demo, and close to next steps and they track how well each seller stays within their set talk-track.

Truly forward-thinking sales organizations focus on sales manager development to optimize their sales teams. They recognize that the frontline sales manager is the catalyst to improving rep performance, and they take a holistic approach to enabling them with data-driven sales management tools and processes. This approach integrates tracking both activity and conversation data to inform their management and coaching interactions.

Data-Driven Sales Activity Management

leveleleven data-driven sales management_300pxSuccess in sales isn’t just about the close. It’s the consistent, collective activities that each member of your team must deploy on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis to keep your pipelines healthy and active. Most of these activities get none of the glory, yet are the foundation of every successful close.

Activity management sets and tracks the rhythm of every sales rep’s day. It’s the number of new prospects, cold calls, emails, follow-ups, etc. that they must execute to guide potential customers through the funnel.

As Bob Marsh, Founder of LevelEleven, puts it, “No matter how good you are at selling, you’re not spending all day closing deals. You’re spending 99% of your time on the behaviors and activities you’re hoping are going to lead to sales.”

Sales activity management provides the data your sales managers need to determine if their reps are performing these activities as expected. This activity data provides your sales managers with visibility into what their high-performers are doing with their time, versus the activity of their mid or low-performers.

Visibility informs your sales managers on how to coach reps to improve the level of activity they need to perform in order to be successful. Data-driven sales activity management also helps sales organizations track and determine what activities create value for your company (and your customers) and which ones do not.

Data-Driven Sales Conversation Management

commercialtribe data-driven sales managementActivity data is critical to improving your sales team’s performance, but it is not the complete story. Conversation optimization closes the gap that is created between efficiency and effectiveness. If two of your reps are making the same number of phone calls and sending the same emails, yet one is outperforming the other by 20%, what is the cause?

Data-driven sales management isn’t just about inspecting activities logged in Salesforce. It also requires cracking open the conversations your sellers are having with prospects and customers to understand where gaps exist within these interactions.

In fact, on average, your reps are wasting 25% of their qualified opportunities once they do get one on the line. This trend is due to several factors

  1. Lack of defined sales process and messaging
  2. Lack of data-driven sales management development and coaching
  3. Lack of a formal sales management cadence

Data-driven conversation management enables sales managers to help their reps make every sales interaction count. It gives managers powerful insights into what their teams are saying and doing within their activities. And it helps them identify what areas each rep needs coaching in to improve each conversation. It also provides your sales organizations with critical intelligence into what your high-performers are doing, so you can apply what is working well to the rest of your team.

Optimize Your Sales Team

A holistic approach to data-driven sales management uses both activity and conversation management systems to give managers and leaders the best view of what variables improve performance—and how to apply them to shift the middle.

Taking a data-driven approach to formalizing your team’s sales management processes helps build a healthy pipeline, optimize pipeline velocity, and gets your team to goal. Contrary to average sales teams, where each quarter is a mad dash to the finish line, data-driven sales teams consistently sustain quota attainment and revenue growth into the future.

Data-driven sales management is not a one-time event but requires continued observation, measurement, and coaching to develop the behaviors that get your team to goal. The good news for today’s busy frontline sales manager is that sales technology now enables data-driven sales management more efficiently and effectively than ever before.

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How to Build Your Sales Management Cadence

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Great sales leaders have a sales management cadence that sets the rhythm of their team.

The idea of a sales cadence is not new. Sales organizations have been using the concept for years to structure how and when sellers deploy touchpoints with prospects and clients throughout the buyer’s journey. Rarely, though, is a sales management cadence used to build formality into frontline sales managers’ schedules.

In his article, Great Sales Leaders Have Incredible Sales Cadence – Do you?, Josh Horstmann explains that in his experience consulting with a great number of organizations, the one thing that separates great sales leaders from average ones is the quality of their sales management cadence.

What is cadence? Cadence is defined as “The flow or rhythm of events, especially the pattern in which something is experienced.”

Building formality into the flow of your sales team’s management rhythm provides sales managers with the framework they need to succeed and sellers with the coaching and development they need to reliably hit their number.

Why You Need A Sales Management Cadence

sales management cadence why 300pxFrontline sales managers today have a lot on their plates. They are hiring and firing, training and coaching, they have new products and messaging to bring to market, CRM data to maintain, reports to pull, meetings to attend, pipeline reviews, joint calling… The list of activities seems endless and they are all high-priority. In this environment, it is difficult for even some veteran sales managers, not to mention your newbies, to know exactly how much time they should be spending on each task or activity. A sales management cadence provides your managers with a framework for success.

Your sales management cadence also helps you set expectations with your managers so you can focus on optimizing these activities, rather than worrying about whether or not they are happening and to what standard. This level of activity management is often deployed for rep performance management, but rarely for frontline managers. With a documented sales management cadence, your managers know exactly what you expect them to do and how often you expect them to do it. There is no ambiguity nor surprises when the time comes for one-on-ones and performance reviews with your managers.

Finally, a sales management cadence gets your entire sales team pulling together. In his article, Horstmann relates the concept of a sales management cadence to rowing a boat. He writes:

It can be such a struggle – as you fight choppy waters, you can’t keep the boat straight, and your progress is stunted. The key is just to find the right rhythm. Once you find that rhythm, the momentum of your entire team will increase, and you can all ride smoothly. All of a sudden you realize that you’re moving at 100 mph, but it feels effortless. All that you notice now is the cool breeze on your face and all the other teams in your wake.

If you have ever rowed a boat, you know exactly what Horstmann is referring to. That feeling—sometimes fleeting—when everyone is in-sync and cutting across the water almost effortlessly. When you build your sales management cadence, you are putting the framework in place to get to the point with your sales team. It takes work and discipline, but it is possible.

Building Your Sales Management Cadence

sales management cadence tool 300pxTo get your team on the same rhythm, you need to take the necessary steps to lay the foundation, create the framework, and then implement your cadence throughout the team. For established sales teams with tenured managers, this process can take some time. Remember to stay focused on the long-term goal and be patient with the process.

Step 1: Start by downloading this free sales management cadence builder CommercialTribe created to help our sales manager enablement customers formalize their management processes.

Step 2: Determine which management interactions are important to your team. You may want to collaborate with your sales enablement and operations teams to align on what interactions are important to the organization as a whole and determine the desired outcomes.

Step 3: Select the desired frequency and duration of meetings for your team. Should frontline managers be doing weekly one-on-ones, bi-weekly pipeline reviews, and so on? Clearly document the specific cadence of these activities in your sales management cadence.

Step 4: Share your new sales management cadence with managers. Note that it is not enough to simply attach it to an email with the ol’ “have at it”. Sit your managers down and outline specifically why you are implementing a sales management cadence, what it means for them and how they should use it, what your expectations are, and how you will be tracking that they are using it.

Expect to coach your sales managers on how to use your sales management cadence on an ongoing basis. Check in with them during your one-on-ones to determine if they are using it and to what standard, listen to and understand their feedback, and offer course-corrections when needed.

Common Mistakes Sales Managers Make with Sales Management Cadence

1. Managers take over sales calls

Joint calling exists so managers can observe their sellers in action, assess their capabilities, and provide coaching. But this cannot happen if every time a manager joins a call the seller barely speaks. That sales call may go well, but what about the thousands of others the manager is not on? It is OK for a manager to have a clearly defined partner role on any sales call, but taking over calls will ultimately impede seller development.

2. Managers observe too few sales calls

Spending time with their team in real-world calls and meetings is a critical sales management activity. Not only can they help close business, but it also allows managers to be attuned to their sellers’ development needs. Inexperienced managers will just join the calls of their newer sellers and trust more tenured sellers have mastered the conversation. This is a short-sighted view of seller development and coaching.

3. Frequently rescheduling or canceling internal meetings

For sales managers, there is always a critical call to join or activity that feels urgent. The temptation is to push regularly scheduled internal meetings to “fight fires”. Instead, sales managers must set the expectation that recurring internal meetings are the most important events on the team’s calendar.

4. Internal meetings lack purpose and agenda

When sellers don’t know what is expected of them and the manager is not prepared, regularly scheduled internal meetings end up wasting time. If this happens enough, trust erodes and everyone takes the time together less seriously.

5. Trying to do too much in one meeting

A sales manager’s favorite catchall is the 1:1. This (often weekly) meeting may be part forecast review, part pipeline review or part deal review—sometimes all at the same time! While lack of time is a real challenge, each of these meetings can be meaty subjects in and of themselves. It’s helpful for both manager and seller to separate these conversations into different meetings to create clarity in how the time will be spent.

The impact of building (and, importantly, maintaining) a sales management cadence is improved sales performance through clarity, structure, and consistency in the interactions between your frontline managers and their sellers. Once your team hits its rhythm, you will experience a renewed flow.

 

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The Proven Secret to Empower Better Sales Managers

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Improve the quality and frequency of conversations between reps and managers with calibrated leadership teams

How do you spend an entire day in a room with sales enablement, sales operations, and sales leaders? In constructive conflict of course!

Throughout 2017, my team and I hosted a series of Sales Manager Effectiveness Workshops across the country. From San Francisco to Dallas, Chicago to Boston sales leadership, enablement, and operations all showed up because there is one key thing they can agree on: We need to help frontline sales managers become more effective.

Though each of these functional areas have a common goal, they all agree with this statement for different reasons:

For Sales Enablement, it’s far easier for managers to kill any change initiative than support it.

For Sales Operations, key business metrics like forecast and pipeline become unreliable without managers who regularly inspect and coach to them.

For Sales Leaders, a sales management cadence looks great on a piece of paper, but when managers are consistently under pressure to choose the urgent over the important it is not well executed.

Calibrated assessment aligns the needs of all three of these stakeholders to help frontline sales managers become more effective by providing the coaching framework they need to succeed.

The Power of Calibration

Jim Collins said: “Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment.”

When we’re talking about assessing sales teams, calibration is really code for alignment. When you get sales enablement, sales operations, and sales leaders together in the same room the way we did during our workshops, you get a wide variety of perspectives on the skills or attributes that sales managers need to be successful.

Calibration helps sales organizations work past this noise to align with what the company as a whole needs in order to hit the revenue goal. Stakeholders in each functional area will have their own ideas on how best to get there, but no one group can go off and accomplish goal attainment alone.

Calibration also helps the leadership team build trust and buy-in from their frontline sales managers. Think about it: What if your management team agreed on how they were going to manage? I’m not talking about them being told how to manage, but that they are bought into a unified process of management—and they live it every day. This is the power of calibration.

Calibration Empowers Sales Leaders

Think about your job as the sales leader. You spend a great deal of your time strategizing, planning, organizing and motivating. But at some point, your team has to go out and do the work. And this is where you are rendered almost powerless because you simply cannot be in all places at all times.

Calibration empowers sales leaders to move from just being an average or a good leader to a great one. With calibration, you can rest a little easier knowing that your management team is managing each of their sales teams with consistency in quality and timing. This is often referred to as a sales management cadence.

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Once your organization has aligned with the attributes and activities that are important to your sales management process, a cadence helps keep everyone on-track throughout the month, quarter, year, and beyond. It sets the framework by which your sales managers are expected to spend their time in field travel, joint calling, 1-on-1s, team meetings, forecast, pipeline and deal reviews, among other activities.

And while cadence informs the quantity of these interactions, calibration informs the quality.

A good example here is the 1-on-1 meeting between a frontline manager and a rep. You could say that you expect your sales managers to 1) have a clear purpose and agenda (forecast, pipeline, deal, skill building); 2) practice active listening; 3) provide constructive feedback 4) practice guiding vs. telling; 5) close with action items.

When you know that each of your sales managers are managing their teams the same way, and to a similar standard, you’re empowered to let go of the day-to-day of these interactions and start focusing on improving them.

The key to helping your frontline sales managers hit their quotas is making them better at coaching their reps within the meeting and activities that are already on their calendar. Improving the efficacy of these interactions is the greatest lever you have as a sales leader in influencing better outcomes for your entire organization.

Calibration Empowers Frontline Sales Managers

Without a framework to manage, your sales managers will struggle to succeed.

Chances are that your sales managers are largely making it up as they go. They’ve been promoted to the position and given a ton of responsibility, but they were never provided with a framework for how to accomplish their goals. Sales organizations put a lot of investment into training their sellers but very little (if any at all) into training sales managers. As a result, sales managers simply attempt to apply the knowledge and skills that made them successful from their days as sellers. This means that you likely now have a management team largely comprised of Lone Wolves.

If you have read The Challenger Sale then you’ve heard of the “Lone Wolf”. Lone Wolves are deeply self-confident and have a natural ability to succeed on their own instincts. They break rules, are hard to manage, and do things their way or no way at all. They are the least common profile of all salespeople, but they are the second most common among top-performing salespeople.

And what do we do with top-performing salespeople? Promote them to managers!

You’ve tolerated your Lone Wolves because they perform. But are they really impacting your long-term revenue goals positively and effectively? Are your Lone Wolves effectively coaching and developing to improve the performance of their entire sales team, or are they spreading bad habits by just focusing on the ones who emulate their style the closest?

Calibration begins to drive consistency in sales management processes and enables frontline sales managers by providing them with the framework they so desperately need (whether they know it or not). It informs them of what behaviors they need to expect in their teams and how to coach individual reps to close performance gaps.

For example, to run an effective discovery call, your sales organization may agree on a few critical behaviors: 1) set the agenda; 2) deliver an insight; 3) ask discovery questions; 4) present the value proposition; 5) close for next steps.

When you provide frontline sales managers and their reps with these criteria, they have visibility into what will make them successful, what is expected of them, and what they can work on to improve performance.

Furthermore, managers know specifically what areas they need to coach and develop individual reps on to help them improve—whether that rep is a top, middle, or low performer. Rather than simply riding their star sellers to goal each quarter, calibrated assessments enable frontline sales managers to level-up everyone on their team to produce more.

Your frontline sales managers need your help. They need sales leadership, enablement, and operations to align with expectations that drive successful interactions to get at the true root of underperformance. They need a defined management cadence to bring clarity to the activities on their calendars, and they need a process that provides visibility into making those interactions effective. This is where calibrated assessment really makes a difference. Because when you can improve the behaviors of your managers, they improve the behaviors of your reps. That is the impact of a force multiplier throughout your sales organization.

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Do Your Sales Managers Need A Motivation Makeover?

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How Core Drives Can Deplete Or Increase Sales Manager Motivation

This guest post was originally published on yukaichou.com: Why Sales Manager Motivation Needs A Makeover

Previously, we explored the core drivers of motivation in the sales organization and why our traditional coin-operated, compliance-driven sales culture may finally be ripe for disruption in Why Seller Motivation Needs a Makeover.

Conventional wisdom suggests that we place more training and development emphasis on the seller. Look no further than the budget spent on training sellers vs. managers. In this article, let’s explore why the frontline sales manager is actually the key to change, their current sources of motivation, and how to disrupt the status quo to build a sustainable revenue generating machine.

Sales Managers’ Complex Task List

Most sales managers started as great sellers. Then, they are promoted into a management position where we expect them to gain a completely new skill set than the one that made them a successful seller overnight. Here are just a few of the common tasks sales managers are expected to perform on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis:

  • Field Travel or Joint Calling
  • 1on1s and Team Meetings
  • Forecast Reviews
  • Pipeline Reviews
  • Deal Reviews
  • Account Plan Reviews
  • Territory Plan Reviews
  • Win / Loss
  • Quarterly Business Reviews
  • Performance Reviews
  • Hiring and Recruiting
  • Rewards and Recognition
  • Training

The sales management hierarchy uses Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance to drive compliance and ensure these tasks are happening on schedule. Are our reps doing effective discovery? Join the sales call. Forecast needs to roll up. Better vet it. Is a key deal we’re forecasting to close qualified? Deal review time.

We expect managers to perform these tasks. But doing them well…that’s another story. Try sitting in a forecast review and you may be less confident about the forecast, but you will learn more about that particular seller’s upcoming weekend plans!

Don’t Miss Your Quota

Managers, like sellers, are on a variable comp plan. But, instead of being responsible for one quota, managers are responsible for a team quota. The average sales manager gets about 50% of his sellers to goal, but that is not going to cut it. So how do sales managers make plan? Most managers have a couple stars they can count on to overachieve and maybe they even sell a few deals themselves.

The quota system relies on Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience as managers race to capture their earnings opportunity for the time period before it evaporates. It’s no wonder busy sales managers feel justified abandoning some of the tasks we previously explored that don’t help them draw a straight line toward delivering their number this quarter. For everyone in the sales organization, the short-term pressure to hit quota can feel overwhelming. What’s a sales manager to do?

Overreliance on Black Hat Core Drives is Fatiguing

sales manager motivation burnoutCore Drives 6 and 8 are Black Hat, making us feel obsessed, anxious, and addicted. While they are very strong in motivating behavior, in the long run, they leave us feeling fatigued because we feel like we have lost control.

For the sales manager, this often means managing their team feels more like a game of Survivor than a successful career. When half of your reps are underperforming, you have an open headcount and one of your best sellers is threatening to quit, it can feel like the job never ends. It’s no wonder managers are left feeling overwhelmed and underdeveloped. As a result, the tasks we expect them to perform to help their team hit quota are either sub-optimized or abandoned entirely.

Getting More Of Your Sales Managers To Plan

The sales manager role has gotten far more complex over the years, but we are still using the same motivational drivers to try to achieve our goals. With today’s millennial-minded sales manager who is looking to be developed and not just hit a number, these forces threaten to either burn people out or churn them out of your organization entirely.

Sales and enablement leaders need a thoughtful plan to counteract these forces that drive long-term engagement and skills mastery. These are known as White Hat drivers. White Hat drivers make us feel powerful, fulfilled and satisfied. It may sound obvious, but consistently getting more managers to plan relies on getting more sellers to plan. And the only reliable way to get more sellers to plan is to develop your sales managers into coaches.

Light The Coaching Fuse

We’ve all had a coach at some point in our lives. When effort meets opportunity it feels like anything is possible. That’s what it feels like to be coached. On the flip side, coaching has its own rewards. Phil Collins said: “In learning, you will teach and in teaching, you will learn.”

Use Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling, to help your sales managers realize their higher purpose beyond just delivering their team quota. The best way to tap into their inner Tony Robbins is to coach the coach. Observing sellers in action to provide coaching is commonplace through joint calling or even field travel, but for some reason, we don’t apply the same philosophy to our managers. Help them realize their calling by sitting in a one-on-one between manager and seller. Don’t talk, just listen, and then use this observation to coach the coach. Coaching your managers to become better coaches will light the motivational fuse that reminds them why they became a sales manager in the first place!

Learn More About Yu-Kai Chou’s Octalysis Gamification Framework for Improving Behavioral Design & Team Engagement >>

 

Give Your Sales Managers A Choice

sales manager motivation coachingTo many, coaching is one of those disciplines that is way more art than science. But if you are going to democratize coaching for all your managers, you will need to demystify what the best coaches in the world do intuitively.

Use Core Drive 3: Empowerment and Creativity to not only get all your managers on the same page but also make them feel enfranchised in the process. To do so, look no further than the list of activities expected of sales managers we discussed above. I’m sure you have a point of view on what should happen during those activities. Build a list of criteria.

Now here’s the magic: Put those criteria in front of your sales managers and let them choose which criteria matter to them. What they choose may be different than what you intended but by giving them a choice, they are FAR more likely to use them to coach their teams.

Time for Your Motivation Makeover

The Black Hat core drives that motivate sales manager behavior aren’t going away anytime soon. And even the White Hat techniques discussed won’t be sustained without becoming part of a larger system that makes managers feel like coaching isn’t such a deadlift each time.

Think about what drives motivation for your sales managers. Is it time for a sales manager motivation makeover? Try integrating these White Hat techniques into a quarterly plan focused on improving one interaction within the team’s workflow. For your sales managers, the goal is to establish a system that puts sales team development on autopilot.

 

 

How To Structure Sales Manager Enablement To Crush Your 2018 Goals

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Three key insights into sales manager enablement that will help your sales organization reach (or exceed!) 2018 goals.

There is a deep-rooted problem in today’s sales organizations. Frontline managers are trapped in a vice created by the traditional approach to sales: Hit the number at all costs. The status quo has sales organizations lurching from quarter to quarter, barely keeping ahead of the game, and rarely pausing to improve. There is a mantra in leadership theory that we have to “slow down to speed up“. But this is a luxury that sales simply cannot afford in their quota-driven world. As forward-thinking organizations are just beginning to build sales manager enablement programs, the burning question is how to structure programs that sales managers will actually want to use.

This year, CommercialTribe hosted five Sales Manager Effectiveness workshops around the country. In the beginning, we weren’t at all sure how this concept would be received by the market. There wasn’t much work or research being done that focused specifically on the frontline sales manager role, and part of our intent was to see how important and relevant sales manager development is to sales organizations, and to work with some of the most progressive sales organizations in the country to understand how they are structuring solutions to the sales manager enablement issue.

Who Needs To Be Involved In Sales Manager Enablement?

sales manager enablement trust alignmentThe interest in sales manager enablement cuts across all the main stakeholders of an Enterprise sales organization. We began our outreach by focusing on the sales enablement function, thinking that these leaders are most familiar with the benefits realized by training and development. We quickly realized how important the topic is to sales operations and leadership as well. Each function has a slightly different stake in it, but all recognize the acute need for developing better sales managers.

Sales Enablement

Sales manager enablement is much bigger than training—it’s the next generation of enablement. Creating buy-in and measuring the impact of initiatives is a perennial issue for sales enablement. Sales manager development helps enablement create a bridge between their central function and the field. It is a catalyst for leader-first enablement, where sales managers become force multipliers by enabling their teams in the field through coaching.

Sales Operations

Sales operations leaders care about sales manager enablement because they recognize that the data they need is only as good as the people entering it. This data entry, of course, largely falls on the shoulders of frontline managers and reps in the field. They recognize that a well-developed, highly professional sales manager has a greater appreciation for the importance of data-driven management. Further, they need sales managers to consistently and effectively coach their reps on how to enter data correctly in order to maintain (or, in many cases, create) data integrity.

Sales Leadership

Forward-thinking sales leaders want to create a sustained revenue generating machine. This goal is easier said than done, and there are many parts to building such a machine. But sales leaders we talked with quickly recognized how improving the effectiveness of their sales management team multiplied the impact of improved rep performance and productivity. The ability to develop their entire team—to “shift the middle”—is central to their ability to build and sustain their revenue engine.

The purpose of the Sales Manager Effectiveness Workshops was to show these stakeholders how to align their needs to create a successful sales manager enablement program in their own organizations. Three key insights to making sales manager enablement succeed in your organization came out of these workshops: trust and alignment in creating a sales manager enablement program are critical, sales manager enablement cannot solely be solved centrally, and teams must focus on developing specific interactions—in workflow—rather than training on skills. Let’s take a look at each of these insights in greater detail.

1. Trust & Alignment Are Critical For Sales Manager Enablement

The fact that you need to be able to observe, assess, and coach to develop a team is basic. But what you really need to do this effectively is trust. What I mean by trust, in this context, is not about trust in individual people or managers (though that is important, too). It’s that everyone in the organization trusts the criteria that they are being evaluated against, and how that criterion manifests in their coaching.

Unfortunately, this trust is largely missing from most sales organizations today. The reason it is missing is that it’s extremely difficult to get all the stakeholder groups in a sales organization aligned on the skills that they believe drive results. When you think about the three main personas profiled above and what their stakes in sales manager enablement are, getting each of these functions, as well as all the individual people within them, to agree is no easy task. There are very few organizations that have aligned on key skills to assess for their sellers and even fewer that have accomplished this for their frontline sales managers.

The exciting part about this is that sales organizations are truly beginning to understand the importance of doing this and they are working on tackling this issue of trust by aligning around sales assessments. But it’s one thing to talk about it, another thing to actually put it down on paper, and a completely different world to put it into practice in a sales manager enablement process by measuring the effectiveness of coaching and development.

So, how do you create trust in your organization around evaluating the right skills and then coaching to develop them? The key to accomplishing trust is a step in the process of building a sales manager enablement program we call Calibration. In this context, calibration is code for alignment. It’s how you create alignment in all layers of the organization, including enablement, ops, and sales leadership, as well as sales managers and reps who all need to trust in the evaluation criteria and the coaching process.

If your organization—in particular, your sales managers—are not aligned with the assessment criteria and how to coach, the program becomes a mess. People don’t know what to expect, they have different experiences. And when there is no consistency in how people are being coached and evaluated, there is no way to pull real insights out of the data to enable effective, targeted coaching at scale. In this environment, there is no way to get coaching and development to stick.

2. Sales Manager Enablement Must Happen Within The Team’s Workflow

sales manager enablement in-workflowSales enablement creates great training and practice programs using their LMS and/or learning paths that provide the sales team with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the field. The problem with this in sales manager enablement is a time management issue. Frontline sales managers will do anything to get their team to hit the quota, but they are starved for time in their daily lives to “slow down to speed up”.

In reality, sales managers have very little time, and often less desire, to participate in enablement-lead learning and development. They need coaching and development that is timely, highly relevant, and succinct. They need development that happens within their daily workflow.

What do I mean by this? Sales managers and their reps already have scheduled meetings—many of which happen on a regular cadence (hopefully). The most effective sales manager enablement initiatives will work within these meetings to evaluate interactions and provide relevant, timely feedback on how the manager, seller, or both can improve. Sales manager enablement that happens within workflow helps to create trust in the process, improves engagement, and significantly increases the performance of sales teams.

3. Focus Sales Manager Enablement On Developing An Interaction, Rather Than On Skills

This insight is so beautiful in its simplicity that it’s difficult to think that very few organizations are doing this today. Most sales training programs focus on skills development. They create a skills-based framework and try to train the field to develop all of these skills to apply to their interactions. At first, this makes sense. After all, if a manager or rep develops active listening skills, for example, she can apply that skill to each of her interactions whether it’s a 1-on-1 meeting or a discovery call or a negotiation.

The critical reality is that this type of training is simply too much information for a global sales organization to internalize and apply in the real-world with any great impact. We know from research that only about 30% of training content is retained by participants. When they go out into the world they end up simply reverting to old habits, putting hundreds of thousands of training investment to waste.

Instead, focus your sales manager enablement program on improving specific, real-world interactions they have in their daily lives. For sales manager development, consider focusing on 1-on-1, pipeline review, deal review, or forecast meetings. For sales reps, this may include interactions such as the discovery call, the demo, or negotiation call.

The message is clear: sales organizations need to focus on sales manager enablement by providing them with the training, tools, and coaching they need to coach and develop their reps. In so doing, we create force multipliers within the sales organization who can help create agile, sustained revenue-generating sales teams now and in the long-term.

 

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4 Sales Leader Resolutions That Will Fail (And The One That Won’t)

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Why Do Sales Leaders Make Resolutions That Are Bound To Fail?

How did 2017 end for you? Did your team smash their goal, barely squeak by, or fall apart? As a sales leader, your success is based entirely on your team’s performance. So, no matter what happened in the past year, I’m willing to bet that you’re making some resolutions to be a better sales leader—to improve your team’s performance.

Benjamin Franklin said: “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”

If you want improved performance (and what sales leader doesn’t?) you need to change something. But what will you resolve to change this year? What can you resolve to change this year that will have an impact?

sales leader resolutions goalsChange is hard. The most common New Year’s Resolutions fall into three main buckets: being healthier, self-improvement, and better financial management—all worthy desires we can all attest to wanting. But research (and common knowledge) says that 88% of us fail to achieve our goals, illustrating that the desire to change alone is not sufficient to actually achieving goals. What do the 12% do that the rest of us don’t? Read on.

For sales leaders, change is an even more daunting task. Every year (and quarter, and sometimes even month) is Groundhog Day. Remember Bill Murray? Wake up and go knock down the number all over again…

For many sales leaders, this pressure gets handed down to the team and can make it feel like nothing else that matters. Hit the number. Hit the number… But while the number will be how you are measured, the process you follow to get to it is what you can improve.

So, did you resolve to be better this year? In the spirit of new beginnings, here are four resolutions I know you’ll have trouble keeping, and one that you actually can.

Sales Leader Resolution Bound for Failure #1

I will spend more time developing my team.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an absolute advocate for developing sales teams. It’s what I’m passionate about. But the pitfall with this common sales leader resolution is that, without the proper structure in place, you will eventually let sales team development slip as daily pressures and competition for your time intensifies.

Steve Jobs said: “The most precious resource we have is time.” We often don’t think about it that way, but time is scarce. To do something is to take away something else. What are you going to take away in order to spend more time developing your team? What will your managers and reps have to give up?

Here’s a list of stuff the average sales team does on a routine basis: Sales Calls, Field Travel, Forecast Reviews, Pipeline Reviews, Deal Reviews, Territory Reviews, 1-on-1s, Team Meetings. Then there are the fire drills that constantly derail everything.

Keeping all the trains running on time in and of itself is a significant undertaking. Finding more time outside of these settings to develop your team is not likely to be sustainable. Eventually, your focus will flounder and the time you put aside for development will revert back to old habits.

Sales Leader Resolution Bound for Failure #2

I will be a better coach.

Coaching is a skill that can be learned. Getting better, like any skill, requires repetition. You’ve probably read a lot about the multiplicative impact of coaching, so you’re ready to dig in. But how will you be better?

First off, you’ll need to carve out the time and space for coaching in an already chaotic schedule (see #1 above). You’ll need to be able to identify not just how to coach your team but, more importantly, what to coach them on. Your high-performing managers will need to develop different skills than those that are struggling with high turnover and under-performance. Then you’ll need a feedback mechanism to help you understand if you’re making progress toward becoming a better coach.

Better sales coaching is a critical need in today’s business, and working to become better is certainly a worthy goal; however, you’re likely to abandon it when it feels hard and the impact is unclear.

Sales Leader Resolution Bound for Failure #3

I will build a great team culture.

sales leader resolutions team cultureThere’s a famous Peter Drucker quote that says: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You may be feeling like the key to success is a better team environment. There’s nothing more fun than being part of a team that loves coming to work each day. But cultures are lived, not made. Nor are they easy to measure and identify. How will you do it?

For many leaders, more time as a team outside of work is an answer, including team building events or everyone’s favorite boondoggle. These are time-tested tactics that can have an impact but may not necessarily change how your team performs on the job.

Culture means different things to different people, and building a great culture is certainly a worthy sales leader resolution. But it’s bound for failure if it simply revolves around happy hours and forced “team building” interactions.If you want to build a great culture, think about how your team interacts with each other every day. Think about what your people value, what their professional goals are and how they are empowered to work toward those goals.

Sales Leader Resolutions Bound For Failure #4

I will mint more stars.

Every sales leader has their stars. And every sales leader wants more of them. On the best sales teams, star managers and sellers push everyone else to be better. On the worst, the team’s performance is overwhelmingly reliant on them. So how do you get more of them?

There is a severe shortage of sales talent out there, so you can either hire them or you can make them. The problem with hiring them is that they are tough (and expensive) to find, and they often come with baggage. Making them is far better, particularly for growing sales teams,, but it’s not like flipping a switch—developing stars takes time.

If you want to mint more stars, put a plan in place today but don’t expect anything to come to fruition overnight.

What Do These 4 Sales Leader Resolutions Have in Common?

Time.

None of these sales leader resolutions are bad goals to have. But remember we’re talking about resolutions here. And the #1 reason resolutions fail is because YOU’RE TREATING A MARATHON LIKE A SPRINT.

In the sales world, time is currency and managing it leads to long-term success. Small changes are more likely to be achieved because they aren’t so intimidating and they can happen within your sales team’s existing workflow. The last thing you want to do is shoot for something big, only to find out you don’t have a realistic plan to attain it.

So, what is the one sales leader resolution you can actually keep?

The One Resolution You Will Actually Keep

I will make my team better at one activity they are already doing.

Now hear me out. You can do this. There’s definitely something that’s gnawing at you coming into the new year. Has your team ever missed a forecast? Ever feel like you’re handing down a goal and praying the team can build enough pipeline to hit it? Have you ever joined a sales call, only to cringe at what you hear?

Whatever it might be that’s on your mind, your team can get better at it. Pick the one activity you want to improve and then go to work. Where do your people already do that one activity? Is it the forecast meeting or opportunity review? Perhaps the discovery call or demo? The most critical activities for your sales team to improve are already on everyone’s calendar every day, week, and month. Pick the event and start observing to understand what’s actually happening.
What you’re probably going to find is there aren’t clear expectations, leaving it up to each individual’s interpretation of what “best practice” looks like. Or maybe you’ve set those expectations but your team struggles to apply them, but now you know why. Either way, you’ve got a coaching path to solving the problem.

One final piece of advice and this is important. When you start showing up to meetings and calls that you never used to before, people are going to think its about performance. Nothing puts people more on edge than feeling as if they’re being evaluated and that evaluation will be used against them in a performance related discussion.

You can help alleviate this natural anxiety by communicating your positive intent. Your mantra is to pick everyone up, not bring them down. If you set it up right, you just might start to chip away at some of the other failed resolutions we explored earlier.

We will probably never stop making resolutions. It’s in our optimistic human nature to continually strive to be better. But why go to all the trouble of trying to change if you can’t actually follow through? Shrink the size of the change and create a clear plan to execute. Focus on making it as easy as possible for you and your team. If you have to think too hard or do too much, you’re off track.

Do you want to build a team that is capable of taking on bigger goals every quarter?
Do you want a great culture that attracts and retains the best talent?
Are you tired of taking your team out of the field for training with questionable impact?
Do you feel like you can’t add any more non-selling work to your team’s plate?
Do you want a SUSTAINABLE REVENUE MACHINE?

 

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