What is the number 1 challenge faced by sales management? Achieving sales targets…Handling difficult clients…Geographical distance…Managing personality diversity…Motivating salespeople or Keeping clients happy?
Based on the feedback we have received for over the last 10 years the greatest challenge for sales management is how to achieve consistent sales performance from their salespeople.
By the very nature of sales it’s a tough job yet there are salespeople, who quite frankly would be better suited in another role but they are still in sales. The question is why? To amplify the point a research paper written by Julian Griffith, ‘Taking the Lid off your Sales Organisation’ concluded that 74% of salespeople are underperformers, 20% are strong performers and only 6% are in the elite category.
With such a high percentage of underperformers the problem rests squarely with sales management. Quoting from the same paper:
• 18% of sales managers should not be in sales management
• 34% of sales managers are not trainable
• 7% of sales managers are considered elite performers
As a manager responsible for sales, let’s face it salespeople are not the easiest group of people to manage. They don’t like to be held accountable particularly the underperformers who cause most of the headaches and consume most of their sales manager’s time.
In successful sales organizations sales management do hold their salespeople accountable and have the respect of their salespeople. In this environment salespeople will go the extra mile to achieve and surpass their sales targets. They set a standard that others in the salesforce want to follow. The push for higher sales performance comes from peer pressure and not so much from sales management.
Where to begin?
Create buy-in with your salespeople and openly discuss and encourage interaction by using the following sales accountability tools:
1) The measures and performance they will be accountable for
Begin by asking yourself, what is this salesperson capable of achieving and is there anything preventing them from achieving it? When discussing measures and performance let your salesperson know the reason for the sales or other targets by linking them back to the business goals. This will help them to understand why.
Talk about financial incentives and or sales awards on offer and your accountability to them. Your accountability could be the minimum days you will commit to working with them in their sales territory. When they know you are accountable to them as they are to you it demonstrates that accountability works both ways. This often has a motivating effect on salespeople.
Measures and performance need to be clearly defined so there are no uncertainties. Whilst measures should be realistic and achievable there needs to be a stretch factor to make it challenging for the salesperson. Measures can be daily, weekly or monthly units.
- Number of daily sales calls made to existing clients
- Number of daily sales calls made to prospective clients
- Number of on time reports handed in per month
- Percentage profit margin per product
2) Taking personal responsibility
If a sales manager doesn’t take personal responsibility for his or her actions and uses excuses for non performance then how can they expect their salespeople to behave any differently? The leadership you demonstrate and the environment you create can inspire your salespeople to want to follow you.
This can include:
- What you say is what you do
- You don’t use excuses but find other ways to get results
- You don’t accept excuses from your salespeople
- You demonstrate your commitment to your salespeople’s success
- You expect nothing less than the best from your salespeople
- You set the tone and pace of sales performance
If you have a salesperson who doesn’t take responsibility then you may need to mentor them. Focus on their behaviour and the problems it is causing and not on the person. They need to be held accountable for their actions which can include low prospecting activity, not meeting sales targets and low margin sales.
Only when your salespeople fully appreciate that by taking total responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, behaviour and sales results can they experience great success. This is a proactive approach to accountability.
3) A results mindset
There are basically two occupation mindsets:
3.1) Task orientated which leads to much activity but often doesn’t provide productivity gains
3.2)The results mindset that focuses on daily activities that are aligned with the sales target
If you have a salesperson that is task orientated begin by showing them how this behaviour leads to poor sales outcomes and is typically revealed by a low sales call to order ratio. You will need to spend time coaching them because there will be sales skills issues that you need to address, for example not qualifying prospective clients.
It may be tempting to become emotionally involved when holding your salesperson accountable but you need to remain focused or you will lose control of the situation. You are the sales manager so do what needs to be done even if it feels somewhat uncomfortable initially. The bottom line is that you are responsible for sales.
Kurt Newman is the co-founder of Sales Consultants Pty Ltd a firm that works with companies to increase sales and reduce the cost of selling. http://www.salesconsultants.com.au
Kurt’s expertise is in sales strategy, sales management development;