So far, we have discussed building a team and motivating each salesperson. But one thing to be aware of is that the market is always in motion, and your salespeople have to learn to adapt to the changes, or you can equip them with more knowledge and sharpen their sales skills to bring more success to the whole organisation.
Generally, this challenge seems to have many approaches, yet these only create an impact on the surface.
Sales teams might have monthly or even weekly meetings to discuss problems and find the solutions together, but this alone is not enough.
Or the sales manager might expect his/her team members to learn on the job by trial and error. This method is good and practical, but it’s time-consuming and might lead to frustration from the employees, who may feel they’re not receiving enough support.
Therefore, we recommend that sales managers take appropriate action to understand team members and be able to provide them with individual development.
But here’s the truth: sales managers spend too little time on coaching and developing their salespeople. Sales managers should spend, ideally, 30% to 40% of their time on this task, but in reality, most of them spend less than 20% coaching.
The reason, according to 70% of sales managers who took part in a survey by SalesGlobe and the Sales Leadership Forum (4), is the burden from other management responsibilities, such as administrative and operative, which have little to no direct impact on revenue growth or team development. Of them, 47% said they’re burdened by sales responsibilities, indicating that they are actually selling rather than coaching.
Read more: 5 principles of effective organisational coaching
But of course, you cannot just use these excuses to refrain from this important task, as after you have spent a considerable amount of time and effort building your sales team, you cannot let them go in any direction they want. Moreover, your organisation could gain greater revenue if you focus on coaching your sales team on selling rather than leaving the selling for sales managers.
Here are three points that you should consider when developing your sales team.
Set up clear goals that align with a stated direction
Each salesperson has personal goals and shared team goals to work towards. For shared ones, salespeople need you—the manager—to set up specific and clear goals so that they know what they are working so hard to reach.
To establish effective goals for your team, find guidance on how to create SMART (Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Time-bound) or SMARTER (Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Time-bound – Evaluate – Revise) goals.
Also, you should clarify the direction of development for your team and help align the members with it. This ensures that everyone is on the right track.
For example, you do not want your sales team members to try to enhance their cold call skills while your real aim is to develop their negotiation skills just because your members are unclear about your direction.
Furthermore, grant your salespeople the autonomy they need to perform and make decisions, as freedom is what salespeople usually seek in their jobs. Yet, always be supportive and available for guidance.
Read more: KPIs - The key to identifying your top performers
Feedback and coaching are necessary to enhance expertise
People have different perceptions of the behaviours and individual displays. Therefore, feedback sessions should be conducted to share these viewpoints and identify gaps as well as actions that should be taken to address them.
More specifically, with salespeople, based on a sales competencies/behaviours framework, you and the salesperson can do a 180-degree survey to assess the individual.
The output from this feedback session can be used for coaching later on in which you will focus on activities to develop the salesperson’s strengths and minimise the effects of his/her drawbacks.
Remember to make sure that these sessions are private and reflect your observation on the sales behaviours/competencies of each individual. Keep in mind that this assessment is to be approached as a learning tool, not as a performance review, which means that the output should merely be used for increasing sales effectiveness, not for transferring or off-boarding.
Read more: Top 10 HR priorities for 2017
Duplicate your top sales performers
All organisations want a stellar sales team that consists of strong salespeople who always produce excellent results. And as with any other team in the organisation, in a sales team, the need to identify and duplicate top performers is considerable.
In fact, it is not difficult to categorise your salespeople into top, middle and bottom performers because KPIs used in sales jobs are quantifiable and rather similar throughout the industries.
Your focus should be on how you use the categorisation of your salespeople to develop them. Your goal might be something like:
- A small increase, of 5% or 10%, to the annual quota to challenge the top performers
- More coaching to motivate your middle and bottom performers to overcome blocks and improve their performance
- Reasonable delegation to take full advantage of each performer’s strengths
For this task, you can use scientific assessment tools to understand your salespeople and better tailor development plans that fit their personalities. Similarly, you can use these tools to identify the pattern of your top performers and then apply it to the rest of the team.
Read more: How cognitive biases make interviews unreliable
To survive, a business needs sales, and to thrive, it needs its sales force to be sustainable and effective over time.
The four challenges we have mentioned in this article are only small pieces in the big jigsaw puzzle of a sales department, but these important items remain neglected more often than we can count.
If you remember only one thing after reading this blog series, it should be, “Do not stereotype your salespeople as being one type. Look at them and care for them as individuals.” Only after you stop considering salespeople as “employees whose duty it is to bring money into the company no matter what,” do you truly start your journey of Building, Retaining and Developing Your Sales Force.
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- Herbert M. Greenberg, Jeane Greenberg (1980, September). Job Matching For Better Sales Performance. Harvard Business Review.
- The US Incentive Federation (2015). Incentive Program and Legislative FAQs. http://www.incentivefederation.org/legislative-faqs
- Holland, J. L. (1985a). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and work environments. Odess, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
- SalesGlobe (2012). Coaching and Developing Your Sales Team. 4-5. http://www.salesglobe.com/sites/default/files/Coaching%20Your%20Team-%20SAMPLE.pdf