One of the big challenges for leaders within the technical B2B sector (such as technology, industrial products or services) is how to best manage the ‘revenue engine’ – or sales function – of the business.
Sales management is a tricky responsibility at the best of times. There are so many hard and soft factors that need to be managed concurrently to achieve success.
You’re at the control panel, but which button should you press?
To complicate the situation, for technical and services companies often the people doing the selling are the same technical ‘experts’ or specialists who also provide advice or technical services. They can have conflicting feelings about selling and might struggle with maintaining a focus on revenue opportunities.
Unfortunately sales leaders are often from a similar technical background, with little experience in managing a sales team or being accountable for revenue.
And with the focus of many tech companies being on the quality of the product, developing more functionality, or providing an even better customer experience, aspects of sales management can easily get overlooked.
Gaps in sales management processes create obstacles
Whether it’s due to lack of experience (as a sales leader), or being too busy meeting other responsibilities, gaps can appear within the sales management process that will create obstacles to increasing the performance of the sales team and achieving future revenue growth.
From working with sales leaders and teams across many companies, and seeing common situations occur in different businesses, I suggest there are three main zones that together create the Sales Improvement Ecosystem™:
- Sales Management – the way you create expectations and manage individuals
- Sales Methodology – the framework for how sales are conducted within your company
- Sales Skills – the way your sales team interacts with clients
Step 1: Assess your current state
As a sales leader the first step is to determine the current state of your Sales Improvement Ecosystem, and which factors may need more urgent attention than others.
Note: the Sales Improvement Ecosystem diagram above shows the main factors that are commonly the focus of improvement efforts. There may be other contributing factors you should also consider for your situation.
Consider all the factors and reflect on how thoroughly each factor has been addressed in your company. If you need some help you may find this Sales Management Improvement Analysis a helpful starting point. (It’s free)
Even if you haven’t paid attention to the management of your revenue engine in the past, you will still have a Sales Improvement Ecosystem (you cannot not have one). But it may be operating ineffectively. If there has been an extended period of inaction by management it might be realistic to expect to be working on numerous factors across multiple zones.
Step 2: Change must happen from the top
If there is a problem with the performance of a sales team there are often problems with the way the team is being managed. When looking at your Sales Improvement Ecosystem you’ll probably see the zones are interconnected. For example it would be unrealistic to expect a change in the Sales Skills zone if there isn’t a corresponding change in the expectations of individuals on the team, which is a factor of the Sales Management zone. (Why? Because people need a tangible reason to change their behaviour.)
Sustainable change happens from the top. Sales leaders must be prepared to change and must take responsibility for being the guardian of their Sales Improvement Ecosystem.
Step 3: Involve your team, and be part of it
Successful sales improvement initiatives are always a team activity. As a sales leader you may have your sight set on a certain outcome. But that can only be achieved by getting your team on board and having everyone work in the same direction.
Importantly, the sales leader must be part of the change.
A simple example:
Many times sales training is run to improve the skills of the sales team. The intention is to increase the effectiveness of the team and thereby increase revenue. It’s easy for the sales leader to engage a sales trainer to run the program. While that may be a smart move, it’s often all the sales leader does.
A far more effective approach is to create a plan for the desired change in selling behaviours that includes sales coaching by the sales leader (or other suitable person), as well as the training, and to ensure the main elements of the training – including the specific new selling behaviours – are revised at regular intervals such as at monthly sales meetings.
This means the sales leader must be an integral component of the change and be willing to adapt or improve their own sales management behaviours as part of the overall development program.
Why not ask your team what they need to be more effective? You don’t have to implement every request but it’s likely you will uncover some useful ideas to consider. If you do introduce new ideas suggested by the team, be sure to communicate clear responsibilities and hold team members accountable for their own individual results or progress.
And ensure you maintain a good team atmosphere with regular communication, celebrating wins and opportunities to get to know each other. One of my clients (with an inside sales team) insists, in a nice way, that new team members bake their own cake and bring it in for the team for morning tea. That creates a bit of buzz, a bit of fun, and gives insights into each others character that maybe you wouldn’t normally get. To maximise the ‘team’ impact they share photos of the event on social media; which is also a great brand building opportunity for the company.
Get organised for sales improvements
The Sales Improvement Ecosystem is an organised way to think about the often unorganised field of sales management. Everyone is busy and sales leaders are no exception. If you really want to see significant improvements in the performance of your sales team, and in revenue results, make time to review your sales management activities and create an ecosystem that helps your team to thrive.
If you would like help to identify and assess your Sales Improvement Ecosystem request a no-fuss, no-pressure complimentary consultation.
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