Communication Is Key With Your SOS
A Sales Operating System (SOS) is the rhythm or cadence in which your sales team meets and communicates. Many organizations have not formalized their sales operating systems and are running their sales teams in an ad hoc manner. We hear things like, “I talk to my team all the time” or “They will come to me if they need anything.” That is true and it is good that sales leaders are talking to their team members often, but when was the last time any of your underperformers approached you asking for help? Not very often, if ever. How well are you communicating within your sales operating system to spot coaching opportunities and provide direction?
Benefits of a Sales Operating System
With a good sales operating system, you will have:
- Increased effective communication
- Clarity on expectations to keep people accountable
- Access to how well your team is actually doing (beyond just looking at their results)
- Opportunity to coach your team
- Positive reinforcement that shapes behaviors
- Sound information to share with your boss
Communicate With Each Other
Most people can agree that effective communication is a critical skill. The Majority of workplace conflict is due to poor communication. Every salesperson and manager brings their perspective into the workplace, which can lead to misunderstandings, personality clashes, and miscommunications. The Society for Human Resource Management cites a study that determined “people take comments or actions personally about 70 percent of the time,” so even when employees and leaders believe everything is going smoothly, tension maybe building.
Communication is a skill that needs to continually be honed, improved, and adapted, like lifting weights to keep your muscles strong. A sales operating system provides the framework for sound communication. Even if you have not perfected your communication skills, you will dramatically increase your team’s communication effectiveness.
Clarify your Expectations
Within a sales operating system, there are a variety of meetings and processes. Each one has its own purpose, intent, and desired outcome. According to, Conflict Courage, “The most common miscommunications reported involving the clarity around which teams or individuals are responsible for tasks, the urgency of those tasks, and expected delivery timelines.” There are clear roles and expectations for preparing what needs to be accomplished and the assignment of tasks upon completion. The results are often complied as MITs or Most Important Things. If you want more information on MIT’s, check out our blog on, “Remote Onboarding – Best Practices.“
The action items in each meeting and process have someone assigned to complete the task and a timeline. The more people understand what is expected of them, the more productive they will be. If you’re struggling with expectation, look at our blog, “Are Your Employees Living Up To Your Hidden Expectation?“
You will want to make sure your sales team is well prepared for meetings and that they have enough time to do what you are asking them to prepare. If you have them present in a meeting, it may be a good idea to have a practice run before the meeting, especially if it’s a new topic or if executive leadership will be attending. You want to ensure you are setting them up for success.
Coach Not Tell
The sales leader’s primary role is to coach and develop their team, not just tell them what to do. It can be challenging, especially for new sales leaders to do this well. One of the main issues is the sales leader may not have given specific enough direction on what they expected from their salespeople, and it is much easier to “do it yourself” or simply tell the salesperson what to do.
Coaching becomes more comfortable when you have data to reference. A meaningful way to get firsthand data is to watch your salespeople when they engage with customers in a ride-along, listening to a phone conversation or video conference call. When you can see firsthand how their sales call is going, you can give specific feedback on what worked well and opportunities to improve. This is most effectively done by asking the salesperson questions about what they did or didn’t do well, the things they learned on the call and things they would do different. When conducting a 1-on-1, reviewing leading and lagging metrics with the salesperson and asking them questions about things they need to do differently is very valuable. If you want to enhance your opportunities, you may want to check out our guide on “How To Run Your Sales Organization With Only 3 Numbers.“
One of the most common pitfalls we see with sales leaders is not communicating up effectively. They want to appear like ‘they’ve got this’, and sometimes they do. They often hold on to valuable information without knowing it because they haven’t had a conversation about what information their boss needs. Or they are waiting for things to change, until they have ‘better’ news. Bad news does not get better with time. Sales leaders who are prepared with the relevant information their boss needs are invaluable. According to Provoke Media, “Companies that have leaders who are highly effective communicators had 47% higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years compared with firms that have leaders who are the least effective communicators.” Sharing important news and up to date data is very important for effective communication.
The pandemic fractured many things, one of them is our sense of a schedule. Now more than ever, it is vital to have a sales operating system. If you already have one, you may want to reevaluate it.
There are times to change your sales operating system, and during a pandemic is one of them. With the combination of uncertainty and remote work, the cadence of meetings should be more frequent. If you were meeting weekly, consider daily. If you were meeting monthly, consider weekly.
Think of fun ways to engage your team in these meetings now that many are virtual. How can you overcome the lack of affinity (sense of belonging and purpose) that happens naturally when people meet in person? Make sure you leave time to talk about what happened over the weekend or the night before. Consider the conversations that occurred before and after the meeting. Be intentional about helping people feel connected. When people have that sense of connection, they naturally communicate more and are motivated to perform well.
Having a sales operating system increases your effective communication, provides clarity, and allows you to coach with data. It helps your team have a sense of structure and consistency which is important, especially during this uncertain time.
If you want to find out more about how a Sales Operating System can help your team, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 952.226.3381.