You have a sales process in place, but the sales manager and sales people are using separate spread sheets with additional stages, because the current sales process doesn’t meet their needs.
You’ve built a killer sales portal the sales team never seems to visit.
You’ve created an entire library of sales tools and yet the sales team creates their own selling tools.
You have a sales team evaluation process for identifying talent and coaching yet your sales managers don’t have a clue what the strengths and weaknesses of their team are.
You’ve implemented Chatter, while your sales team has been using and continues to use Yammer.
You’ve redesigned the territories that sales requested and sales are still down.
You launched a new commission structure and sales isn’t happy, but you think they are.
All b2b sales leaders have been guilty of at least one of these if not all of them and they are guilty of others not mentioned. Not being connected to the sales team is one of the biggest gaffes sale’s leadership can make and it happens too often, particularly in bigger organizations with multiple layers. At the end of the day it’s about supporting the sales team and giving them what they need to be successful. And that can’t be done if you don’t know what’s going on.
To avoid the dark that comes with living at the top of the pyramid, there are 3 things sales leaders must do to stay in sync with their sales team.
Hold yourself accountable TO the sales team:
Yes! As much as the sales team needs to be accountable to sales leadership, sales leadership must be held accountable to the sales organization. Sales leaders need to do their own quarterly sales state of the union or business review for the sales team. It isn’t OK for sales leadership to not report quarterly on its goals, strategies, initiatives or tactics. When sales leaders commit to a new commission plan, to training, to new territory alignment, to sales enablement, to product support, to sales support etc. the sales team is listening and waiting to see what happens. They expect it will be delivered when you say it will be. They expect it will be GOOD. They expect it will make selling easier. They expect that sales leadership will deliver on what it says it will deliver.
Unfortunately, too often sales leadership makes commitments and promises to the sales team, only to disappoint, disappearing behind the magic screen providing no visibility into the execution and the success of their efforts.
Sales leaders, build a plan, execute on the plan and be accountable to the sales team for the plan. Share and communicate the progress of the initiatives with the sales team regularly. Share what is working and NOT working. Be open about course changes. When dates are missed own it. Acknowledge the impact to the team when things don’t happen like they are supposed to, when the results were not were expected or if initiatives are being re-prioritized. Never keep the sales team in the dark. Sales leaders, you serve the sales team. A communication plan and business review process HAVE to be in place. Be accountable to the sales team!
Put yourself in their shoes (get into the organization):
How much do you know about what it takes to sell your companies products and services? How familiar are you with the challenges sales people face? What do you know about the objections customers are throwing at your team? What do you know about the customers buying process? How well do you know the sales people, not just the high-performers? What do you know about the front line managers. Do you know what keeps them up at night? Do you know what they struggle with day-to-day. Do you see what they see? Have you put yourself in their shoes?
Sales leaders need to build a cadence that allows them to dig into the business. Like a shop manager, sales leaders should go on calls. Yes, even the EVP of Sales needs to find time to sit on calls with some of the sales people and listen. They need to sit in on pipeline meetings. They need to participate in deal strategy sessions. They need to listen in on quarterly business reviews. Sales leaders need to walk the proverbial “shop floor.” Getting into the business first hand is absolutely invaluable. As sales leaders you are making decisions about the direction of the business and what is required to be successful. This can’t be done without digging in and getting exposed to what is really happening, not what is being funneled up and massaged for you.
Get the information you need to put yourself in the shoes of those who work for you. Ask yourself what you would need if you were them? Ask how you would feel if you had to sell for your sales organization, how successful would you be?
Build Feedback Loops:
How do you get feedback from the team? How do you know the team is happy with the new sales strategy? How do you know the new territories are working? How do you find out if too much time is spent on non-selling activities? How would you know if the compensation plan is motivating? How do you know if the market is shifting under your feet? How do you know if sales people are starting to see new competition. How do you know if sales is unhappy with lead generation? You get the point. There is a lot going on in the sales organization. Sales people are smack in the middle of it. They have fantastic vision. Their view points are worth gold. Build feedback loops to gain the sales team’s insight.
Build feedback loops that are multi-channel. Create a yearly sales team survey to understand the challenges of the team. Establish sales “committees” or mini-sales boards with sales people from each of the sales functions and meet quarterly to discuss current sales issues and opportunities. Get active on Yammer, Chatter, Socialcast, or whatever social collaboration tool your company has. The key is to establish as many feedback channels as possible to gain real, constructive feedback and insight on what the team is doing, how they feel , where they are headed and the general state of the team. It’s not OK not know.
Getting and staying in sync with the sales team is vital. When sales leadership and the sales people are out of sync, trouble is immanent. Don’t get out of sync with your sales team. Dig in, get feedback and hold yourself accountable to them. It’s your job.
Do you know what’s going on with your team? You should, it makes hitting your number that much easier!