What does it take to be an effective sales leader?
According to a study by Neil Rackham, an international expert on sales strategy, teams that receive training but no coaching or reinforcement post-training, experience a drop of 87% in knowledge acquired. A culture of coaching increases productivity because of the active participation of all those involved. And it makes for a more attractive workplace. And having long-term employees who know the company well – and are passionate about their work – accelerates sales growth and helps assure a secure future for the company.
Sales managers can all too easily fall into the trap of managing expenses and monitoring the sales cycle, overlooking the human aspect of the business. The reality, of course, is that the most important responsibility of all is the growth and development of each member of the sales team.
If you’re a sales manager and want to encourage a culture of talent development coupled with maximum transparency and efficiency, here are some useful tips:
- Take the time to get to know your sales team. Find out what motivates them, what difficulties they encounter, what training they need. You can then build a personalised training plan for each member of the team according to their aptitude and professional experience.
- Develop a clear line of vision between sales objectives, sales actions and expected outcomes. Remember that your objectives must be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic y Timebound.
- Make a list of questions that spark an interest in the challenges of the sales funnel. Don’t tell your sales agents what to do. If they question how to optimise their work themselves, they’ll take greater responsibility for it. What type of sales action is more effective for selling each product? How much sales effort is dedicated to opening new markets? For repeat sales, are we up-selling or cross-selling? How much sales time are we investing in each type of client?
- Opt for a one-on-one approach. If you decide to dedicate more time to each of your sales reps, you can tell them what you liked about their performance, and share areas for improvement. Transparency is key: a good sales director creates a culture of talent development by sharing the company’s successes, and pointing out mistakes made so that lessons can be learned. Show that each person is unique – but that together they make an extraordinary sales team.
- Teach through experience. Empathy is one of the most valuable qualities a sales manager can have. Show you know what you’re talking about because some years ago you were in the position of that sales representative. Ongoing training is essential to learn new sales techniques and keep up with technological innovation.
- Make the most of the talent within your team. Your coaching strategy should be based on maximising strengths, offering opportunities for improvement, and teaching individuals to recognise their weaknesses and convert them into challenges. A good sales leader knows how to transform the talent of their team into effective performance.
- Share sales performance metrics with your team. Rank sales representatives by level of activity and sales generated, and sales effort by geographical distribution or time allocation, or type of client. This is essential information for assessing your team’s performance and identifying good practice – or opportunities for improvement.
software, company sales management receives a personalised report they can analyse together with the sales agent. In a constructive and supportive way, they can then give advice on improving performance and results.
- Don’t forget to recognise work done! Reward the team’s efforts with a celebration or an award that recognises individual and collective effort, and dedication for having reached the agreed objective. A gesture of gratitude is a galvanising force, and will help to ensure the team is motivated, happy and keen to continue improving their results.