13 Must-Knows For Sales Leaders

Blog115_13MustKnows_1-1As a sales leader with limited time and resources, how do you prioritize your sales improvement initiatives to ensure you get the highest return on your investment?

And how do you know what kinds of projects are worth investing in and in what priority?

Too many sales performance improvement projects begin with general assumptions about what’s needed before determining the specific root causes of an underperforming organization. For example, sales leaders may assume that their people need to be more consultative, or need to improve negotiating skills to avoid discounting.

While these conclusions may have some basis in fact, the underlying causes and effects on selling success─in your company, in your markets, for your products, and for your prospects─might not yet be fully understood.

As a result, many sales improvement initiatives typically distill down to a “fix the salesforce” training event based on intuition, instead of hard data. What’s more, there’s often little commitment to measuring impact because there’s no defined approach tracking causal metrics and sustaining the change.

How can sales leaders avoid being misled by their assumptions and intuition, and know for certain where to invest time and resources to improve sales?

A new year is here. Are you ready for it? As sales leaders, defining a sound sales strategy and providing clarity for your sales team isn’t always the easiest task. But it’s an important one.

Here are thirteen sales improvement guidelines from Be Ready Solutions™ of MHI Global to launch 2016 as the year of sales improvement. Read them slowly, understand them, and use them to arm yourself, and your sales team, to win more sales, more often.

1. Articulate The Sales Process. In Fact, Make It Crystal Clear.

  • Define sales process stages; map them to prospect buying behavior, so it’s easier to understand the “why” of the buy.
  • Associate activities with each stage—and keep it simple
  • Crystalize the leading and lagging indicators of success for each stage
  • Arm sales managers with high-impact questions that ensure positive adoption and execution
  • Clearly recognize the sales manager role as a multiplier for success

2. Identify What Great Looks Like For Each Role. Use It To Build The Right Team.

  • Implement a talent audit of existing team members to assess their capability against prescribed competencies
  • Recruit/select new hires based on competencies and propensity to be successful in the role
  • Define and implement performance management systems that impact behavior
  • Measure and improve productivity by understanding capacity and capability

3. Talent Needs Development. Provide it.

  • Deploy onboarding programs for sales managers/sales teams to shorten time-to-productivity
  • Provide development tools and manager coaching to overcome knowledge, skills, and behavior gaps
  • Support development with just-in-time tools that help embed skills and new behaviors
  • Define plans to sustain the impact of investments in staff development over time
  • Measure the impact of investments in staff development
  • Develop plans and paths for progression and transition within the organization

4. Engage Executives. Engage Sales.

  • Ensure leaders engage with critical sales initiatives and recognize the importance of impact
  • Communicate clear and consistent messages around the rationale for change
  • Inspect and drive behavior change throughout the organization
  • Hold direct reports accountable for cascading change and creating a waterfall effect throughout the organization

5. Pay Fairly. Reward. Reward. Reward.

  • Design compensation plans that attract high caliber sales professionals
  • Reward and reinforce the right/desired behaviors

6. Define Marketing. Define Sales. Then Align Them.

  • Define the role of marketing in the nurturing process before sales interaction begins
  • Develop service level agreements that clearly define responsibilities/accountabilities of
  • the sales and marketing organizations in lead management
  • Align marketing collateral with the key phases of the prospect buying process

7. Structure Sales the Right Way.

  • Define and articulate the organization structure to align with go-to-market strategy
  • Evaluate multiple dimensions of executing go-to-market strategy (inside sales, hunters, farmers, channels, industry segmentation, product specialization and so forth).

8. Get Territorial. And Plan Accordingly.

  • Assess the current territory plan to understand strengths, gaps, opportunities, and threats
  • Develop growth strategies and action plans
  • Assess capabilities of sales to execute the growth plans
  • Coach sales teams to develop and execute business plans for their territories
  • Establish a cadence to manage the pipeline as a way to inspect business plan execution

9. Create Effective Account Management.

  • Identify high potential accounts that warrant significant resource investment
  • Help the organization clearly articulate an internal and external client-facing account management plan that fosters collaboration
  • Optimize internal resources to maximize the client experience and ensure resource commitment

10. Develop Key Metrics that Matter. And Use Them.

  • Identify lagging indications of performance against activity and financial objectives
  • Define Key Predictive Indicators that are the basis for in-the-moment qualitative assessments of account relationships and opportunity quality
  • Define measures of success in each role

11. Force Forecasting. Master the Pipeline.

  • Develop a cadence, methodology, and discipline around sales forecasting
  • Improve accuracy of forecasting through the consistent use of Key Predictive Indicators
  • Inspect the quality and quantity of the pipeline

12. Adopt a CRM Tool. And Enforce It.

  • Leverage a CRM tool to provide insight into forecasting and sales pipeline
  • Engage sales teams to ensure quality data is entered and updated in the CRM consistently
  • Enforce accountability and usage of the technology through effective methodology

13. Enable Sales. Enable Them Again.

  • Provide tools that are integral to key activities within the sales process, such as playbooks, proposal templates, pitch documents, and best practice resources
  • Identify partners who offer best-in-class content management tools for just-in-time delivery of marketing and proposal support materials
  • Use technologies that parallel solutions to client expectations and buying styles
  • Encourage the use of technologies like CRM application overlays that facilitate transitions from need to solution to scope to pricing to proposal to contract.

That’s a meaty baker’s dozen of thought-provoking guidelines to help you scale new heights in sales leadership, and to help your team experience greater success in sales. If you accept that 45.4 percent of salespeople do not meet their quota─a scary number when you think of all the millions of dollars in products and services left on the table─then you’ll agree, we owe it to our sales teams to train them properly, lead them confidently, and arm them well with the tools to succeed.

See you on the upside,
Bill

For more information on how to simplify the complex sale, go to www.pleinairestrategies.com Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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