Sled dogs work in teams. Just like your sales team.
The human giving directions to the sled dog team is called the “musher”. And the musher is much like the CEO, MD or General Manager giving the orders about which direction the company must travel.
However, for the sled dog team it’s actually the lead dogs who make the final decision about which path to take. (Yes, these dogs are that smart.) They have the confidence to disobey if they know the mushers commands will send them over a cliff or onto bad ice.
The lead dogs have the responsibility to:
- Listen to the directions given by the musher, but use their natural instinct, experience and powers of observation, smell and touch to make the final decision.
- Set the teams pace.
- Keep the gangline taught between them and the next dogs (called swing dogs) which motivates the others to keep following.
In the same way a great sales manager must be out in front of his/her team, leading by example and using their experience and market-place intelligence to set the pace and keep their sales team moving forward.
Without a proactive sales manager a sales team will stagnate
Especially for field based sales teams it’s important for sales managers to be out “on the trail” with their team. There is no better opportunity to train, coach and motivate than being on live sales calls with team members.
If a sales manager doesn’t assume the role of lead dog for their team the ramifications can include:
- Lack of clarity around sales goals, with team members spending their time on the wrong type of activities (for example over-servicing the existing accounts, because it’s an easy call to make).
- Lack of a competitive spirit, with team members gradually losing their “hunger” and settling for the routine of low risk sales opportunities and customer visits.
- Lack of urgency about their role, often displayed by an inability to provide timely reports or lack of follow-up for new business opportunities.
- Lack of sales results, due to team members hesitating to push to close new deals and overcome the inevitable obstacles involved in winning new business.
How can a sales manager create a high performing sales team?
Creating a high performance sales team requires the sales manager to take specific steps and be committed to the process. It will not happen by accident, or by taking an arms-length approach.
Step 1: Create a culture of revenue growth
Step 2: Include revenue responsibilities in Position Descriptions
Step 3: Define a sales process and tools that work for your business
Step 4: Implement sales reporting against objectives
Step 5: Be an effective ‘sales’ manager
Step 6: Provide training and coaching for your team
Step 7: Stay in touch with the market
For a complete explanation of these seven steps, and a sales management checklist and improvement action plan, download the guide: 7 Steps to a High Performance Sales Team.
This guide also includes tips on sales reporting, leading versus lagging indicators, and the three skill sets you need to manage the ‘revenue engine’ of your business.
A critical responsibility of a sales leader is to maintain a schedule of effective sales meetings.
Sales meetings are an opportunity for the sales leader to:
- Reinforce important team and company values.
- Give individuals an opportunity to hear what others in their team think/feel/say.
- Assess the performance of individuals based on their level of preparation, knowledge and input during the meeting.
- Encourage team members to take the lead by presenting or sharing particular information.
- Ensure the team is up to date with key information about the business and the market.
- Prevent individuals from feeling “invisible” which can easily happen when team members are predominantly in the field working independently (often with only sporadic contact with the office).
The role of Sales Manager is far too important to leave to chance
Yes, many companies are not big enough to warrant employing a full-time sales manager, or the sales manager role is combined with another senior management role. In this situation maybe an outsourced sales manager may be suitable to fill the gap and provide the missing component of sales leadership.
Or in some cases for expertise-based businesses (such as professional services, science or engineering) there may not be a strong “sales” ethos and therefore a “sales” manager role may not be seen to be a priority. No matter the name of the role – Business Development or something else – there is still the need to manage the sales process and the sales team (that is, the specialists or professionals working with the client and generating future revenue).
Not managing the sales team will create a competitive disadvantage, and will cost your business sales, clients and team members (because the good ones will get frustrated or disappointed and leave).
12 tips to be a modern sales leader
For help to review the status of sales management in your business or to assess opportunities to improve your sales management capability request a complimentary initial consultation.