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6 Tips For Managing Your Sales Team More Effectively

Sales is like no other department. They often work autonomously, and you may not know how exactly they are spending their time. This usually leaves sales leaders in the dark about how best to manage salespeople. Here are six ways to better manage your sales team.

Start with Hiring 

Finding the right salespeople for your team is difficult, but it’s also crucial. Having the right talent on your team helps keep your productivity high and allows you to manage more effectively.

There are similarities relating to hiring sales leaders and salespeople. Different skill sets are associated with hiring salespeople, such as hunters vs. farmers, experience selling to big accounts vs. small accounts, inside vs. outside, selling direct vs. through resellers or distributors, etc.

It would help if you defined what your company needs, what your team needs, and who will fit in your company culture.

Start with identifying what your company needs. Do you need a salesperson who will focus on developing your client relationships? Or do you need a salesperson who will hunt down new business for you?

Use the initial interview sessions to dig into the specifics and ask questions based on them. Clearly define the job and requirements. Get specific about the culture, explain the selection process and tools, and learn more about candidates’ talents, skills, and strengths. You can then use the gathered intel to make informed decisions when adjusting positions and responsibilities.

Managing your sales team is more effective when the person you hire knows your hiring role and will fit into your company culture.

Set Clear Expectations

There is nothing worse than telling your salespeople you want them to add data to the CRM, and then they don’t input the right data, enough data, or any data.

You may expect your salespeople to put all the “correct” data into the CRM because it’s evident to you what data to add, but chances are it’s not apparent to them.

Expectations, hidden or vocalized, are persistently in the background of your daily life. Whether people are attuned to them or oblivious to them – which too often is the case – they are still there.

You have a sales team of people with different upbringings, who have lived in different areas, and have a wide variety of experiences. Yet we often expect them to do things exactly the way we would do them, without saying anything.

Before expecting someone to do something, ask yourself, “Does my team know that’s what I expect? Have I told them exactly what I want? How clear was I?” It may help to have them reiterate what the expectations are so you know whether or not they truly understand.

When you can answer those questions, then you can start expecting more from your sales team. By telling them in advance what is expected, you help set them up for success.

When to Define your Expectations

The simple answer is NOW.

You can even define some of your expectations in your hiring process.

Sit down with your team and get specific about what you want them to do and why you want it. Go the extra mile and call out all the salespeople who are great at doing it well.

Explain to them why it’s essential, not only to you but to the team, that they all do this. Tell them that going forward you expect to see their data in the CRM, and you will be reviewing it each week.

Make it a habit and reward them when they do it. Be clear and concise, and to make it stick, reward their actions by showing recognition and appreciation.

Managing your salespeople only works if they know exactly what you expect out of them.

Communicate Frequently

You can’t manage your sales team without effective communication.

Sales departments run on relationships and communication. From the opening pitch to closing a deal, your sales team needs to communicate with their clients. But what about communicating with you or their team?

Sales communication is defined as the process and messaging that keep sales teams informed, engaged, and productive while encouraging feedback.

You and your team both understand the importance of communication when it comes to prospects and clients. You know it’s not possible to close a deal without effective communication.

But communication among you and your team can be more challenging. Here are a few ways to better communicate with your salespeople:

  • Don’t Dominate the Discussion 
    • Sales leaders can fall into the trap of talking too much during a meeting. It is possible for a sales leader to talk too much, but it’s rarely possible to listen too much.
  • Match Verbal and Nonverbal
    • Be mindful that your verbal and nonverbal messages are in alignment. Simple things like head-nodding and eye contact speak volumes.
  • Ask Questions
    • Asking questions not only shows you were listening but also confirms that your team understood you.
  • Offer Feedback
    • Providing positive feedback is a great way to improve workplace communication, culture, and good habits. It also helps people view you in a better light and encourages open communication and trust.

These are just a few ideas when it comes to improved communication.

Master Remote Communication

Remote work comes in many different forms. Some people work remotely a few days a week or month, and for others whose companies are hundreds of miles away, their entire job is remote. So, mastering remote communication is critical.

A key component to better remote communication is how and when to use communication tools. Figure out when your team should use chat groups or messenger apps. What specific information do you send via email? At what point do they pick up the phone?

An example of this would be sending vital opportunity information via email because it can be easily filed and saved vs. in a chat group. A call is excellent for clarity, and a chat group is great at reminding people of tasks or small changes.

You can’t manage your in-person or remote salespeople without effective communication.

The Importance of your One-on-One

One of the best ways to manage your salespeople is to continually meet with them weekly in your one-on-one and reinforce good behavior.

One-on-one meetings allow you to tailor your attention to each salesperson, since each member of your team has specific strengths and weaknesses and each is likely motivated by different things. One-on-one meetings that are run well can be effective in driving behavior and are motivating for the salesperson.

There are three areas you need to stay in tune with when you conduct your one-on-one.

  • Goal: Drive team member behavior and performance, while providing individual accountability and motivation.
  • Focus: Evaluate team member performance against goals and standards established and agreed upon by both parties.
  • Role: Both parties must be clear on what is expected of them during these meetings.

This meeting may be one of the easiest meetings to delay or cancel as other things start getting busy. But by doing so, you are removing accountability and a leadership opportunity. If it is not a priority for you, it will not be a priority for them.

Make sure that your one-on-one meeting stays focused on specific goals and objectives from the weekly reporting process and does not transition into a pipeline review and discussion about deal strategy – this happens all the time but should be handled in separate conversations.

The benefits of one-on-one meetings are that they make managing your team’s goals and actions better, and they increase your team’s productivity and quality of work.

Hold Your Sales Team Accountable

It’s not enough to have great talent on your sales team. Even if your salespeople have excellent selling skills, real success comes when everyone is aligned with the goals and expectations set by the sales leader, while also being motivated and held accountable.

Accountability is defined as being held responsible for doing the things that are expected of you.

There are many negative connotations about “being held accountable,” especially when things go wrong. But accountability can also be a good thing. You should use the word “accountability” openly and frequently to remind your salespeople that they are being recognized for their success and not just negative things.

If your team does not feel responsible for their results and does not get recognized for them, why would they be motivated to do any better?

Rewarding your team for their hard work can drive good behavior and accountability. When it comes to sales, rewards don’t always have to come in the form of compensation. A shout-out to the team about a specific action or win can greatly affect accountability and activity. Personal recognition from the sales leader or the CEO can go a long way. Merely knowing that the executive team is looking at your performance can be a huge motivator.

When your salespeople know their actions are being recognized and held accountable, they are likely to be more productive and transparent with you.

Follow-up Like a Boss

It doesn’t matter if it’s a one-on-one, a team meeting, or a weekly email; most meetings will have a set of takeaways, deliverables, or actions. Be clear on what those items are and how you will follow-up on them.

A follow-up email is a perfect opportunity to encourage more sales communication as well. Just like in your meeting, you want to have a goal in mind.

Following up with your team reinforces excellent performance and behavior and provides necessary feedback. If you fail to “inspect what you expect,” people will pick up on that quickly and be less compelled to do what is asked of them. Following up keeps everyone on track and allows for solid accountability, transparency, and team building.

In Closing

When it comes to managing your sales team to success, it may feel impossible. However, if you follow these six tips, you'll have a much easier time.

Start with hiring the right salesperson for both the role and culture, set clear expectations, and communicate frequently. Then consistently maintain your weekly one-on-one meetings, hold your team accountable, and follow-up.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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