The Best Practices for Sales: Adapting to the Fast-Changing Selling Environment
How to Improve Sales Performance: Three Core Skills for Sales Managers
As a sales manager, you play a critical role in driving your team's success and achieving sales targets. The constant pressure to improve sales performance can be daunting, but there are key skills that can significantly impact your team's results. These skill focus on three different areas of expertise:
- Sales managers need to deliver the kind of focused coaching that can equip a sales professional to push a difficult sale over the line.
They need the skills to measure the value of an opportunity and ensure that the seller’s efforts are directed towards the deals that meet revenue requirements and are a fit for the solution.
Sales managers need to be able to properly assess the entire pipeline, identify gaps, and overcome blockages so they can help their team deliver on long-term goals.
In this article, we provide the framework on how to improve sales performance within your team. By honing these skills – coaching in the field, conducting opportunity reviews, and managing the pipeline - you will have the tools to empower your team, optimise their performance, and exceed sales objectives.
Coaching in the Field
Great coaches look at the field, not just the scoreboard. Field coaching aims to address a specific challenge within an individual pursuit. With experience working with hundreds of selling organisations, we have identified two key parts to this process:
- 1. Using Preparation to Determine the Response
- In preliminary conversations, the sales leader must equip themselves with the details surrounding the seller’s current pursuit. This information enables the sales leader to identify what skills they need to develop within the seller.
The leader must also use this information to determine what role they will adopt. The sales leader might choose to be an observer who offers feedback following customer conversations. Instead, they could choose to be a model who displays the specific behaviors they would like to see from the seller.
- 2. Taking a Measured Approach to Feedback
- Second, the sales manager needs to provide field coaching and feedback with a measured approach. This means knowing when to step in and when to refrain from intervening. An effective coach only intervenes when the consequences of not doing so are significant.
When providing feedback, sales managers must begin by identifying what went well in the customer call. They should start by giving the seller an opportunity to cite areas where they were effective. This builds confidence in the seller and creates a more open conversation. After hearing the seller’s feedback, the coach can then provide their own assessment of what they believe the seller did well. For the most effective coaching conversation, feedback should be balanced, honest, and direct.
Conducting Opportunity Reviews
To develop efficiency, you need to know where to direct your resources. To do this, sales managers need to follow a consistent approach to opportunity reviews. When applied, sales managers are better equipped to qualify deals with greater accuracy, use resources more efficiently, and close more deals. This repeatable approach consists of committing to a three-part process:
- 1. Prioritise Outcomes Over Activities
- The most effective opportunity reviews focus on two parts. First, managers must take the time to analyse what verifiable outcomes have been achieved. Second, they must determine the specific actions needed to reach the next intended outcome. The conversation must only focus on the selling moves that advance the buyer through the pipeline.
- 2. Choose a Consistent Set of Criteria
- When conducting an opportunity review, sales managers must take an objective approach. To do this, their approach needs to rely on data to back up their decisions. The most important step is to first clarify the criteria they believe are meaningful to the sale. The data stems from the determined criteria. That criteria may include milestones like identifying those with decision-making power in the buying organisation, confirming the customer’s needs, and reaching a verbal agreement.
- 3. Review the Right Opportunities
- It is not feasible for a manager to review every opportunity each seller is pursuing. Sales managers need to discern how they determine which opportunity reviews they will conduct. Doing so means considering the financial value of a pursuit, the fit between the solution and the customer, and the seller’s access to key stakeholders.
- The right balance between deal sizes and number of deals.
- The right mix of products across deals.
- A range of opportunities across stages in the sales process.
- Opportunities that are in alignment with business goals.
Managing the Pipeline
Pipeline management brings early visibility to hidden challenges. Making pipeline management work means first helping the seller understand that it is not just a management practice. It has considerable benefits to the sales professional, as well. To successfully manage the pipeline, sales managers can follow a three-part approach:
1. Getting Clear on the Parts of a Healthy Pipeline
Both the sales manager and the seller need to understand the components of a healthy pipeline. Generally, these components include:
2. Isolate Problem Areas
Sales managers need to then analyse the pipeline for problem areas. These problem areas stem from three main problems: gaps, blockages, and leaks. Gaps are often the result of insufficiently qualified opportunities, improperly valued deals, and a lack of customer questions. Blockages in the pipeline often occur due to pricing challenges, inaccessibility of stakeholders, and a lack of internal teamwork. Leaks in the pipeline frequently start with competitive pressures, poor articulation of value, and an incomplete assessment of needs.
3. Become Consistent with the Pipeline Review
Pipeline discipline is about committing to a schedule. Sales managers need to set a frequency at which they will review progress with sellers. They also need to be aware of common challenges that emerge across numerous pipelines. If there is a common point of failure among the pipelines of numerous sellers, the manager must have the discipline to act early and develop a solution that addresses them all.
As a sales manager, you hold the key to unlocking your team's success and achieving sales targets. Throughout this article, we have explored three critical areas of expertise that can significantly impact your team's results. Firstly, delivering focused coaching to equip sales professionals with the skills to overcome challenging sales situations. Secondly, having the ability to measure the value of opportunities and direct efforts towards deals that meet revenue requirements and align with the solution. And finally, properly assessing the entire pipeline, identifying gaps, and overcoming blockages to help your team achieve long-term goals. By honing these skills - coaching in the field, conducting opportunity reviews, and managing the pipeline - you will empower your team, optimise their performance, and exceed sales objectives. With this framework in hand, you are well-equipped to improve sales performance within your team and drive them towards unparalleled success.
As a sales manager, you hold the key to unlocking your team's success and achieving sales targets. You must always focus on answering the question of how to improve sales performance for yourself and your team. The constant pressure to improve sales performance may seem overwhelming at times, but by focusing on these key skills in each crucial areas, you can make a significant impact. By honing these skills - coaching in the field, conducting opportunity reviews, and managing the pipeline - you will empower your team, optimise their performance, and exceed sales objectives. With this framework in hand, you are well-equipped to improve sales performance within your team and drive them towards unparalleled success.
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