Leading a sales team is a complex pursuit with a simple objective: to meet and exceed the sales objectives for the area you’re managing. The variables that can impact your success as a leader are tremendous.
Below is your sales management checklist. Its purpose is to help you stay on top of the primary issues that should have your attention on a regular basis … and to avoid letting the important success factors slip through the cracks. Your particular sales world will likely involve a few more points or slight changes that are specific to you and your team/ company/ industry.
Consistently addressed, these are the sales management fundamentals that’ll put you and your team in front of the pack… and keep you there.
Print them out and review them often. Know them. Put them to use.
SALES MANAGEMENT CHECKLIST
- General periodic discussion & review
- Goals & expectations understanding
- Sales skill training
- Motivation & inspiration
- Knowledge training (product/ service/ industry)
- Promotions/ new roles/ new positions
- Performance reviews
- Activity numbers
- Sales numbers (revenue/ units/ margin)
- Sales process review
- Sales communication review & distribution
- Before- and after-the-sale review (processes)
- Lead generation
- Removing barriers from sales efforts
- Top customer contact & review
- Top competitor review
- Top partner contact
- Management skills
- Additional contributions
GENERAL PERIODIC DISCUSSION & REVIEW
Meet with everyone on your team on a regular basis. This will help you stay current in terms of territory knowledge as well as with any new challenges your team (and ultimately you and your company) is facing. Also, a regularly scheduled discussion minimizes the stress associated with a sudden or unexpected manager/ rep discussion. If you rarely talk with your people and schedule a meeting, it probably won’t be perceived as something that’s going to be good.
GOALS & EXPECTATIONS UNDERSTANDING
Define and communicate (on a regular basis) all goals and performance expectations of your people and be sure to confirm their understanding of them. Leave nothing vague.
SALES SKILLS TRAINING
Help your team become better at selling. Teach them how to ask thoughtful questions and listen better. Coach them on how to confidently handle your most common objections and confidently close a deal.
Don’t assume they know how to do everything well. We all need reminders and ongoing reinforcement (including you). Address a different part of the sales process periodically with your people to help them stay in tune and grow. If you can’t do it, outsource it to a trainer or training company.
MOTIVATION & INSPIRATION
Part of your role as a manager is being a leader. This means you need to help your team stay motivated continually. An exciting compensation plan is one way to the heart, but your ongoing support and example are equally important.
Don’t forget … few professions have more rejection and challenges than sales. You’re one person who needs to be in your team’s corner. Encourage them personally and encourage their teammates to support each other at the same time.
KNOWLEDGE TRAINING (PRODUCT/ SERVICE/ INDUSTRY)
Make sure your team stays sharp when it comes to knowing about your product/ service and industry. Do it for the obvious competitive advantage benefit but also for the benefit of your prospects and customers (no one enjoys working with half-hearted, unknowledgeable salespeople).
Consider holding periodic meetings for the sole purpose of learning something specific about what it is you sell, the industry, and the competition. Do it once or twice monthly and make the meetings 20 minutes or less to be sure everyone stays attentive. Consider standing meetings where no one sits. Choose a different person to run each one so everyone’s involved (teaching encourages deeper understanding and commitment). Reinforce the discussions with a summary by email.
People will leave (on their own or with your help), your company will expand, and people will be promoted or relocated. You need to be proactive in your efforts to know where you can quickly go to find good people.
PROMOTIONS/ NEW ROLES/ NEW POSITIONS
Some members of your team hope to reach the next level. Some hope to move into other areas and roles. Staying in front of the professional development goals of your team will help you with staff retention. Good people enjoy leaders who look out for their growth.
Feedback should be ongoing and frequent, but periodic formal reviews can help your team more deeply understand their individual value to the organization and the areas where they need improvement.
Recognition is a positive motivator. When your people exceed expectations or make outstanding contributions, you should recognize them as individuals as well as an inspiration for the team. Key dates such as birthdays and employment anniversaries should also be recognized when appropriate and if it’s a part of your organization’s culture.
Activity leads to sales. Monitoring and measuring activity trends can help maintain and improve sales results when the information is accurate. A sales pipeline report (and a regular review of it) can be very helpful in monitoring activity and forecasting results.
SALES NUMBERS (REVENUE/ UNITS/ MARGIN)
The ultimate objective: sales (rarely overlooked … by anyone).
SALES PROCESS REVIEW
At a set interval, review your sales process and adjust it as necessary. Everything changes. Be sure your time and resources aren’t allocated to activities that are no longer required or effective. “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” should never be the reason something is a part of your process.
SALES COMMUNICATION REVIEW & DISTRIBUTION
Your team communicates with many different people. Your regularly communicated sales messages (e.g., benefit statements, urgency statements, responses to top objections, email responses to inbound inquiries, closing statements) should be prepared, practiced, delivered, and reviewed on a regular basis if you want to assure a solid and professional sales approach to the market. Don’t allow your team to wing it.
BEFORE- AND AFTER-THE-SALE REVIEW (PROCESSES)
Other departments can impact your sales results. An inbound sales inquiry might be handled by a receptionist. That inquiry may have been created by the marketing department. The product/ service you deliver or implement may be handled by another group.
The occasional and quick review of other areas will help you find things that may need to be improved or eliminated so sales can increase. It will also help you find things you can show appreciation for. When you find challenges or things that are going particularly well, communicate your ideas and praise to those in charge of the specific area.
When business is challenging, no one overlooks lead generation. But when business is good, creating qualified leads for the sales team can sometimes slip through the cracks. To stay strong, keep a proactive eye on creating inbound interest in your product/ service regardless of the business environment.
REMOVING BARRIERS FROM SALES EFFORTS
Sometimes internal company issues or external competitive challenges can create barriers to increased sales. Identifying these barriers will come primarily from discussions with your people. The important thing is to remember to eliminate or minimize them where possible.
Things to consider:
What challenges have been reported to me recently that I still need to take care of?
What challenges do I see on the horizon internally? Externally?
Which challenges can I eliminate or minimize?
Model. Involve. Connect. (it’s that simple).
Rethink leadership with this 3-minute video.
MANAGING EXTERNAL RELATIONSHIPS
TOP CUSTOMER CONTACT & REVIEW
Even if the 80/20 rule doesn’t apply exactly to your sales world (80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers), there’s probably a group of customers that are responsible for a larger part of your revenue than others. Be sure these people/ companies are regularly contacted by your company with something of value. It’s likely a great deal of effort went into bringing in these people/ companies. Be sure you keep them.
TOP COMPETITOR REVIEW
Formally review your top competitors on a regular basis. It will help you be sure you’re in front of some of what they’re doing and also help you assess whether or not you should have a competitive response – in the sales process or from a company standpoint.
TOP PARTNER CONTACT
Contact your top partners on a regular basis to see how you might improve the relationship and learn about anything they may have on the horizon. Stronger relationships create a stronger business.
MANAGING YOUR OWN DEVELOPMENT
In the same way, you should help your team improve, you should work on yourself. You, your company, and your team will thank you for it.
Much of your primary work as a manager will lead naturally to other contributions to the company that isn’t your direct responsibility. These additional contributions (e.g., product/ service ideas, process improvement suggestions, and assistance) will help you advance the goals of your organization and will also benefit your career.