Sales Management Strategies 

Kelli Folse

Sales Management Strategies 

Are you a sales manager with a team that’s failing to hit their goals?  You’re not alone. A Hubspot survey revealed that a full two-thirds of all sales people are falling short of hitting quotas….that’s 66 percent!

Why are so many salespeople not hitting the mark? The reasons are numerous. Some simply aren’t engaged at their jobs. They don’t have the tools they need to succeed, they’re not learning about the products…

But the real answer could be much more significant: they’re not being served by the sales manager or sales management team.

Have you looked at your sales management strategies recently? Do you have a sales management strategy?

If the answer to either of those questions in no, we’re here to help.

What is Sales Management?

In this post, we’ll dive into strategies and how to best implement them to maximize your results. But first, we should take a few minutes to talk about what sales management is.

In the simplest of terms, sales management involves the process of implementing a company’s sales techniques. It also involves overseeing the sales team.

It’s one of the most important disciplines in any company. Why? Because the sale of products and services are the fuel that powers the engine of most businesses.

The primary duties of a sales manager/sales management team can be broken down like this:

  1. Defining goals.
    A sales department with no goals is like a driver with no destination. How will you know when you get there?
  2. Building the roadmap to achieve those goals.
    It’s not enough for the sales manager to know where the team wants to go. He/she has to be the chief navigator as well, adjusting the route each step of the way.
  3. Executing the plan.
    Once the goals are defined and the path to success is mapped, it’s time to captain the ship. The sales manager has to ensure everyone’s moving in the same direction and adjust to any potential pitfalls along the way.
  4. Evaluating outcomes.
    Is the team succeeding? If not, what could be done differently? If so, what could be done to get even better results? A sales management team that isn’t constantly evaluating the data and outcomes is destined to underachieve.
  5. Building the team.
    Making the plan is only part of the process. The best plans will still fail if your troops on the ground aren’t executing them. Hiring the right people and putting them in a position to succeed is vitally important to any sales management strategy’s success. Hiring the wrong people costs money – and can derail your progress.
  6. Training the team.
    As the person responsible for implementing the sales management strategy, it’s also up to you to train the team so they can achieve the goals you’ve set. Too often, we take a laid back approach to training. For example, doling out information in meetings and feeling like we’re done. As we’ll see later, training really needs to be ongoing if your team is going to be truly successful. This means you must not only manage, but teach.

These are just some of the duties the sales management team addresses. It’s an incredibly dynamic position that’s vital to your company’s success.

Without a good sales management team with a fully integrated sales management strategy, you’re leaving sales and money on the table.

The good news is that implementing a sales management strategy isn’t a particularly complex process. It just requires some shifts in thinking, some dedication, and ensuring you’re being the best manager you can be.

What is a Sales Management Strategy?

So, now that we know the basics of sales management, let’s talk about what a sales management strategy is.

Basically, an effective sales management strategy is a multifaceted plan. It’s designed to increase sales by installing systems and metrics. It should also track progress throughout the department.

Sound like something big and complicated? It’s really not – the key is breaking things down into steps and developing processes. Once the system is in place, things operate much more smoothly – but that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. The most successful sales management strategies are ones that are constantly re-evaluated and adjusted to fit your personal needs.

As far as the strategy itself goes, that can be as simple or as complicated as your organization needs. The beauty of the process for coming up with these types of plans is that they can be custom-tailored to fit your goals and objectives. No two companies are the same – and no two sales management strategies should be the same either. Anyone selling you a “one size fits all” plan is pulling your leg.

So, what goes into developing a sales management strategy? Let’s dig in!

Developing a Sales Management Strategy

One of the key goals of a sales management program is to increase sales (shocker, right?), but there’s more to it than that. If you approach your strategy creation with such a broad goal, you’re unlikely to find real and lasting success.

With a good sales management strategy, the devil is in the details.

The first thing you need to do when formulating the plan is get down into the details and craft a plan that encompasses everything. From hiring team members to closing deals to quantifying successes. And also, performing detailed post-mortem analyses on failures.

But before we get down to the core of what your sales management strategy might look like and what it might need to be successful, let’s take a macro view.

Fundamentally speaking, here are four things you should strive for when developing your strategy:

  • A set of clear priorities that everyone involved understands
  • Well-defined outcomes that can be measured through numbers and analytics
  • Guidelines that are defined and understandable
  • Goals that everyone can play a part in achieving

Seems pretty simple, right? We told you – implementing a successful sales management strategy doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, the less complicated it is, the better. Stick with the old K.I.S.S. acronym here: Keep it simple, Sam.

The four elements mentioned above are deceptively simple – yet provide a rock solid foundation to build upon. If you measure every facet of your sales management strategy against them, and they pass, it becomes much harder to fail.

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What are the Benefits of a Great Sales Management Strategy?

At this point, you may be asking yourself if all the work of implementing a sales management strategy is really worth it. We think the answer is a resounding yes. But we also understand that maybe you need more convincing than just taking our word for it.

First, a great sales management strategy can make you money – which seems obvious. If you’ve got some of that 66 percent of sales people not hitting their quotas, giving them a better roadmap could actually increase their numbers. And even an increase of a few sales moves the needle.

But it can also save you money.

Ineffective sales people leave or are pushed out. Did you know that according to a DePaul University study on sales turnover having to replace a salesperson costs a company $115,000 on average?

If you find yourself wondering how, let us break it down for you.

According to the study, it takes a company an average of 6.2 months to fill a sales position. Average representative acquisition costs are $29,000. Average training costs were $36,000.

The real kicker, though, was the lost sales while they were hunting a replacement. That number averaged out to another $50,000. That’s $115,000 – some of it money paid out on the new hire, and some of it lost revenue. Can your company afford that? If so, we’d like to come work for you.

The reasons for turnover in sales are many – but a lot of this could be eliminated with a better sales management program. Many sales people leave their company (or the profession) because they’re not getting the tools and support they need to be successful.

You need a program that follows the four general guidelines we mentioned above. If you don’t have one, you’re running the risk of losing not only sales, but the people who make them happen.

That alone should be enough to convince you of the value of a sales management strategy, but if you’re still on the fence, consider this:

A great sales management strategy can actually benefit your customers too.

When the sales team member has a clear understanding of what they’re doing, what the goals are, and what they’re being judged against, it frees them to focus on what matters most: taking care of the customer.

Customers who get better service from their sales rep are more likely to buy. They’re also more likely to make future purchases. And at the end of the day, isn’t that really what sales is all about?

Sales Management Strategy: Process and Practice

Hopefully, you now see the value of creating a sales management strategy and are ready to jump in.

Let’s start the development process by looking at the key concepts, and how to implement them.

  1. Evaluate your current team.
    Before you actually start building your strategy, the first thing you should do is evaluate your current team. Do they understand the company philosophy? Are they aware of your branding? Are their personalities and selling style a good fit for what you’re trying to accomplish? Are they coachable? If they are, great. If not, think about what you’re looking for and start hiring. While losing salespeople can be costly, it’s easier to implement a strategy with everyone onboard at the start as opposed to having to hire after the process has begun.
  2. Devise a Pay Structure
    If you have an existing sales team, you probably already have a pay structure in place – but is it effective? Are you paying a good commission? Are sales people working with current recurring customers not being paid a commission? Pay is a huge incentive for people (because we all like to eat…). If you’re not using sales pay as a tool to motivate your people in all aspects of the sales process (new business, returning business, etc.), then this is a good time re-evaluate and adjust.
  3. Determine your Quota Goals.
    There’s a tendency to “shoot for the moon” when it comes to quotas. Many times, sales teams simply take a goal given to them by upper management, divide it by number of sales people/regions/timeframe, and call it good. This is really a recipe for disaster. It takes something as complex as individual sales people/products and reduces them to a simple math equation. An unrealistic quota can do more damage than good.
  4. Hire People Who Fit Your Culture.
    At some point you’re going to have to hire new people. Whether it’s at the start of the process, or when your sales management strategy is in place and running like a finely tuned machine. Hiring is always a tricky process, but you want to give it extra attention now. You’re not just looking for great salespeople; you’re looking for great salespeople who are the right fit for your team and your company. It’s better to hire smart than to hire quickly. That’s especially true here.
  5. Mentor Your Team.
    We get it – sales managers are busy. You’re dealing with upper management, you’re dealing with your sales team, and you’re planning this strategy. Additionally, you’re trying to define quotas and putting out a thousand other fires a day. You may feel like you don’t have time to mentor your people. They should already know what they’re doing, right? This is a mistake. You’re a sales strategy manager and part of managing your team involves helping them become better at their job. The team is a reflection of you. Get in there and help them become the best sales people they can be!
  6. Share the Knowledge.
    Part of your sales management strategy will involve creating reports. The numbers contained in those reports will be vital to determining what’s working and what isn’t. Make sure your team understands the numbers in those reports. If they’re up to date on them they can better help you troubleshoot issues and find solutions. Remember, this is a team effort.
  7. Be a Boss, but be a Cheerleader too.
    Celebrate the wins and mourn the losses. But never forget that part of your job as a sales management strategist is to keep your team’s morale high and make sure they feel appreciated. Motivate them, support them, and you’ll be amazed at what they achieve.

Tips to Successfully Manage Your Team

Ready to get the most out of your sales team? Here are seven tried and true ways to push them toward success.

Promote Ongoing Education

Did you know that people forget over 80 percent of the things they learn in training classes within 90 days?

That’s why it’s vitally important to promote ongoing training and education for your sales force.

Yes, you already onboard your people. Yes, you already have your weekly and quarterly meetings. Yes, you have meetings to discuss product launches and quotas. But at the end of the day, you should really be focusing on continuous education for your team.

Those onboarding sessions are often more akin to overwhelming information dumps than actual learning experiences. Instead of doing that – or forcing your team into traditional classes – why not find ways to teach them new things and reinforce the things they’ve already been taught?

Create Playbooks

Remember earlier when we talked about keeping it simple? Take the Marie Kondo approach and streamline your sales process.

Your sales team should be busy selling. But in the modern business world we often ask specialists to become jack-of-all-trades employees. Cut out as much of the red tape and administrative stuff as possible so your team can actually sell.

Taking that even a step further (and building on the previous point) create sales playbooks to help your underperforming reps. These can be filled with situational tips culled from successful sales people. They can help get your team member back on track and allow them to experience the customer side of the equation as well.

Understand the Individual

It’s easy to create a sales management strategy that thinks of everyone as a team member. But don’t lose sight of the fact that the team is made up of individuals. All with different goals, dreams, and pain points.

What works to motivate one person to hit their goals might be completely off-putting to another. Some people respond well to criticism, while others are best handled with kid gloves.

It’s your job to figure out how to best motivate the people you employ to keep them focused and on target. The best sales management strategies in the world are worthless if you can’t get your team to buy in.

Take the time to know them as people and not just employees.

Create Healthy Competition

Sales people are almost universally competitive. Your sales management strategy can use that fact to help increase the bottom line.

Gamify the process – set up a goal, a scoring system, and turn them loose.

The beauty of contests is that the goals can be anything (increase lead generation, close more sales, provide better customer service, etc.). There’s really not much that you can’t make competitive.

The one caveat here is to not go overboard. Keep the contests fresh and diverse and don’t run them constantly. Oh, and keep them fun. Sales is already competitive, don’t add to the stress.

Identify Problems

One key component of your sales management strategy should involve constantly inspecting your processes to find problems.

Problems can take myriad forms here. For example, problems your team is facing, problems an individual is facing, problems with your reporting or goals, and so on.

Problems are inevitable. But if you’re constantly evaluating your strategy, you will find that you can spot many problems when they’re still lurking on the horizon. And catch them before they’re directly on your doorstep. Fixing problems before they become emergencies will keep your sales management strategy running. Running like a well-oiled machine.

Feedback Matters

Once your strategy is in place, your team is onboard, and everything is moving forward, it’s important to make sure you’re evaluating the results and giving the team detailed feedback on their performance.

Are things trending up? Great – how can we be better? Is a member underperforming? Don’t just tell them – show them where they’re missing the mark, and give advice on how they can improve.

Providing feedback matters – just putting the plan in place is not enough.

Plus, an added benefit is that spending time with the employee and providing feedback increases engagement. It provides you an opportunity to understand each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Keep the criticism constructive and don’t forget to praise what they’re doing well. You’ll likely find that you get more out of your people than ever before.

Know Your Competition

Your team should know your offers inside and out, but don’t stop there. Make sure they know your competition’s offers too.

Conduct a SWOT analysis to get some real insight.

“What’s a SWOT analysis”, you might be asking?

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. And boy, do marketing and sales love their acronyms.

By knowing these things about both your own company and the competition, your team is poised to provide customers with better service and highlight why your product is the superior one.

Knowing your enemy can be a key component to defeating them in the marketplace.

Common Sales Management Pitfalls – And How to Avoid Them

At this stage of the article, you should feel like you’ve got a pretty good handle on what sales management strategy is. Also how to implement it and how to figure out if you have the right people and if the plan is working.

That being said, few plans go off without a hitch or two along the way. Here are some potential pitfalls that can derail your sales management strategy.

  1. Hiring and retaining poor talent.
    We talked earlier about the cost of a lost salesperson.  While that figure is daunting, it can pale in comparison to the cost of hiring (or keeping) someone who’s a poor fit for the position in the first place. Remember those 66 percent of salespeople missing their quotas? Well, those missed sales add up. The $50,000 in lost sales when replacing a sales team member could be a drop in the bucket. Especially when compared to a salesperson who misses their quotas for months or years. Motivate and train and encourage when you can, but know when to cut your losses as well.
  2. Settling for Good and Not Striving for Great.
    This is one of the deadliest traps you can fall into as a sales management specialist. Things are going well, numbers look good, everyone’s achieving their numbers – you’re golden, right? Not so fast. While we’ll never be perfect, settling for good without finding ways to improve can keep your sales management strategy from achieving unprecedented success. Doing well is great – but there’s always a way to do better. Never stop looking for it.
  3. Blurring the Lines Between Sales and Management.
    As a sales manager, you often straddle two worlds – sales and management (funny how that works, right?). It’s easy to lose focus and concentrate solely on one to the detriment of the other, but this is a recipe for disaster. A sales manager may still sell (and should – if for nothing else than to remind the sales team you know what you’re doing). But you’re ultimately a manager – so make sure you’re actually managing.
  4. Not Focusing on Costs.
    Taking the previous point a step further, it’s easy to forget that as a sales manager you need to focus on both revenue AND costs. Coming from a sales background often means sales managers think about income first. But as a person running an entire sales management strategy, you’ve got to consider how the cost of everything affects the bottom line as well. Losing sight of costs can be, well, a very costly mistake. Spending more than you make is never a sound financial strategy.
  5. Not Inspiring Your Team.
    A good sales manager is a master manipulator (but not in a nefarious way) and psychiatrist all rolled into one. You have to know how to push the right buttons to get results from everyone on your team, but you have to be inspiring too. However, sometimes it’s more than just what you say – it’s what you do. Lead by example, make sure objectives are clear, and make sure your team knows you have their back. Otherwise, you’ll be doing a lot more hiring.

How Can Technology Make Sales Management Easier?

One of the beautiful things about living in the 21st century is that technology has made many things easier than they’ve ever been at any other point in history.

Sales management strategy is no exception.

Customer Relationship Management tools (CRMs) are widely available and completely customizable to fit everything from giant Fortune 500 companies to small teams of remote workers spread around the globe.

The big selling point of a CRM over something like a traditional spreadsheet is that it’s much more fully featured and allows for easier collaboration between members. Oh, and it’s basically designed to do exactly what you want it to do, as opposed to that spreadsheet you’re building from scratch.

CRMs are great for tracking customer progress through your sales funnel, giving you a macro view of how your strategy is working in real-time.

Choosing the right CRM for you is an article in and of itself, but here are a few general tips to consider if you’re in the market for one.

  • Is it user friendly?
    The best CRM you can get isn’t helpful if no one can figure out how to use it properly. This is the first thing you should look for.
  • Is it customizable?
    Sometimes a one size fits all solution will work – but for most companies, CRMs will come with features they don’t necessarily need or want. Finding a solution that gives you exactly what you need without the things you don’t cluttering up the space is definitely something to strive for.
  • Will it integrate across platforms?
    In this day and age, most companies are running lots of different kinds of software. So, you’re likely to need a CRM that plays nicely with all your other programs.
  • Does it offer sales reports?
    You not only need sales reports from your CRM, but you need accurate ones – in real-time. Make sure any product you’re looking at meets this standard.
  • Is it mobile-friendly?
    Everyone works on their phones these days – so your CRM should be mobile-friendly at the very least. The good news is, many of these software solutions are – but be sure to check in advance. It’s no good to sign a contract and find out that the software doesn’t have a vital feature like this.

As you can see, CRMs are a great way to track your sales management strategy. If you’re not using one and would like to take your sales to the next level, check them out. If you’re already using one, then you may want to look into more advanced sales performance management solutions that can deliver unprecedented visibility.

Careers in Sales Management

Do you possess organizational, analytical, and people skills? Then a career in sales management may be for you!

There’s no one single path to a sales management job. Some people go to college, some don’t. Some start in sales and work their way up, others come from other fields entirely. It’s a position where it’s completely possible to draw your own roadmap to success.

Even leading the sales management team at a company has lots of variables to it. You could be a sales manager, a VP of sales, a director or general manager, or something else entirely. This is the beauty of sales in general and sales management in particular. As a career path, there are a lot of different roads to travel that lead to the same destination.

And that destination is a position that will not only challenge you by making you think about analytics, marketing, psychology, human resources, and management issues, but it will pay you pretty well too.

The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that Sales Managers earned an average salary of $124, 220 in 2018. With the top 25% of earners making north of $175,000 per year.

Glassdoor’s numbers weren’t quite as impressive, but still had the average salary coming in at just under $100,000 a year at $99,299.

Of course, the size of the company, experience level of the applicant, location, responsibilities, and so on will affect salaries. But as these numbers point out, becoming a sales manager provides a decent wage. That’s without factoring in performance bonuses and benefits.

If you have a knack for inspiring others, setting organizational goals, and figuring out how to streamline and refine processes for maximum efficiency, this could be the career for you.

Further Reading

Want to learn even more about sales management strategies? Here are some books on the topic that we recommend:

  • The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation — Matthew Dixon & Brent Adamson
  • To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others – Daniel Pink
  • Sales Management. Simplified. The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results from Your Sales Team — Mike Weinberg
  • The Accidental Sales Manager: How to Take Control and Lead Your Sales Team to Record Profits – Chris Lytle
  • Cracking the Sales Management Code: The Secrets to Measuring and Managing Sales Performance – Jason Jordan
  • The Sales Boss: The Real Secret to Hiring, Training and Managing a Sales Team – Jonathan Whistman
  • Proactive Sales Management: How to Lead, Motivate, and Stay of the Game – William “Skip” Miller

As you can imagine, there are no shortage of fantastic books on the topic – these are just a few of our favorites and should give you a solid foundation as you continue your sales management journey.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, sales management has a lot of different components at work in order for it to be truly effective. Starting by formulating a strategy with clear goals that involves everyone, well-defined objectives, measurable results, and realistic goals to hit the ground running is just the first step of the journey.

Sales is one of the most important departments in any business. So, not formulating a plan and strategy to help your team achieve their goals feels crazy. You don’t make your products or design your services without a plan. So why would you run your sales department without one?

The good news is implementing a sales management strategy is easier than you think. With a little forethought, some internal discussion, and buy in from your team you can have a new strategy in place that impacts your revenue in no time.

In this day and age, where there are literally limitless amounts of information at your fingertips, not utilizing a sales management strategy can be the difference between having teams that hit their quotas like c­­­lockwork every month or a sales force that falls into that 66 percent bracket of underachievers. No one wants to be in that latter group, so use this guide to start making changes for your team. The rewards will justify the effort.

We hope these tips help and inspire you to take your sales team to new and ever-increasing heights! If you’d like to learn more about Accent Technologies Sales Performance Management technology platform, explore our solution page or request a live demo with our team.­­­

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