What is sales management?
Key elements of effective sales management include assembling and training a skilled sales force, streamlining sales processes, setting realistic sales goals, and monitoring progress. By continually refining these aspects, businesses can ensure sustainable revenue growth and remain competitive in their respective industries.
Sales management involves developing a sales force, coordinating operations and implementing techniques to consistently meet or exceed sales targets. It is essential for any revenue-generating business. A successful sales management strategy is crucial for boosting sales performance and adapting to industry growth, especially in a competitive marketplace.
Whether you're an experienced or new sales manager, this guide provides insights to evaluate and gain visibility into your sales force. By monitoring processes and identifying issues early on, you can coach your team effectively and enhance sales performance.
Even if you're a sales representative, you will find value in this guide. It helps you understand how your company manages the sales process, improves team dynamics, strengthens your relationship with your manager and ultimately helps you achieve better sales results.
The three key aspects of sales management
There are three categories to manage within the sales process:
- Sales operations
- Sales strategy
- Sales analysis
The sales process is a dynamic and adaptable system and can vary significantly from one business to another. As you delve deeper into the intricacies of the sales process, the specific steps and approaches may diverge. However, regardless of these variations, the fundamental pillars stay the same.
Sales operations: Building a cohesive team
Once you have a skilled sales manager, it's time to focus on expanding the team. The sales team serves as the company's backbone, acting as the direct link between the product and the customer.
It is crucial to foster an environment where the sales team feels valued and supported. When selecting and onboarding new team members, take the time to provide thorough training and develop their sales skills, regardless of their level of experience.
Why is this important?
Salespeople should not only excel in selling, but also be proficient in selling your specific product and be influential representatives of your organisation, inspiring confidence and trust in customers.
As the team grows, it is vital to ensure all members are aligned and working collaboratively as a unified unit. Implementing a systematic approach will reduce errors and drive greater success for both the sales force and the company as a whole.
To set your team up for success, establish ambitious yet attainable targets that can be tracked to measure future progress. This includes:
- Setting targets: Clearly define the objectives and desired outcomes for the sales team.
- Assigning territories: Allocate specific territories or market segments for each team member to manage.
- Establishing goals and quotas: Define individual and team-based goals and quotas to drive performance.
However, the responsibilities of a sales manager go beyond these initial steps. They also must provide guidance and support throughout the process, ensuring that team members stay on track and remain motivated.
Reflect on the experiences that have motivated you in your own career and use them as inspiration to motivate your sales team. Additionally, share your own disappointments and failures, how you overcame them and offer support during challenging periods. Drawing upon personal experiences, you can inspire and encourage your team to overcome obstacles and succeed.
Sales strategy: Defining the sales process
Once you have assembled a sales team and established your targets, it's essential to understand how to execute the sales process effectively.
Sales can be defined as facilitating a transaction between your company and its customers, guiding them through a series of steps that ultimately lead to an exchange. Every business has its unique sales cycle, consisting of tasks designed to connect the company's product with its users. To navigate these deals successfully, it is beneficial to build a sales pipeline or sales funnel.
What is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline visualises the activities involved in engaging with prospects, starting from the initial lead and progressing toward closing the deal. Simply, a pipeline helps salespeople stay organised and take control of their work. While certain outcomes may be beyond their control, managing activities within their control becomes crucial. By visualising their progress and activities, salespeople are motivated to increase their efforts and overcome challenges.
Sales activities that fall within the control of a salesperson include:
- Lead generation, scoring and qualification
- Conducting sales calls, follow-up emails, social media messages and other outreach activities
- Engaging in market research on new products, target segments and other pertinent information
- Developing product knowledge
In addition to organising and guiding sales activities, sales managers are pivotal in holding sales people accountable for their performance.
Sales analysis: Reporting and Metrics
Effective reporting is vital in understanding how your current sales strategy impacts your company's success and provides valuable insights to enhance your efforts. Whether it involves hiring additional salespeople or redistributing tasks, reporting enables data-driven decision-making.
To ensure successful reporting, it is essential to utilise sales metrics, which are measurable indicators that provide visibility into the performance of various aspects of your sales operations and whether you are meeting your targets. When using the standard sales funnel, you can measure the following four key metrics:
- Number of deals in your funnel: This metric reflects the volume of potential deals at each stage of the sales process, providing an overview of your sales pipeline's health and identifying potential bottlenecks.
- Average size of a deal in your funnel: This metric measures the average value or revenue potential of deals within your sales pipeline, helping you assess your sales opportunities' overall value and profitability.
- Close ratio: This metric calculates the average percentage of deals that are successfully won or closed, giving you insights into your team's effectiveness in converting leads into customers and identifying areas for improvement.
- Sales velocity: This metric tracks the average time it takes for a deal to progress through the sales pipeline and be successfully closed, helping you evaluate the efficiency of your sales process and identify potential areas of optimisation.
By collecting and analysing relevant data, you can identify your ideal customer more efficiently and serve them more effectively. Utilising a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, can further streamline your sales management process and support data-driven decision-making.
What is a sales manager and what is their role?
To understand sales management, it is crucial to grasp the role of a sales manager. A skilled sales manager plays a vital role in guiding the sales team and is responsible for various key tasks, including:
- Setting sales goals and quotas: A sales manager establishes clear and measurable targets for the sales team, ensuring alignment with overall business objectives.
- Motivating and mentoring the team: A successful sales manager inspires and motivates their sales rep team, fostering a positive, high-performance culture. They provide guidance, support and mentorship to help team members develop their skills and achieve their targets.
- Creating sales plans and workflows: A sales manager develops strategic sales plans, outlining the steps, processes and workflows to achieve sales objectives. They establish effective strategies for lead generation, customer acquisition and deal closure.
- Hiring and onboarding new hires: The sales manager's responsible for identifying and recruiting talented individuals who align with the sales team's objectives and values. They oversee the onboarding process, ensuring new hires are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed.
- Organising sales training programs: Sales managers facilitate ongoing training programs to enhance the sales team's capabilities. These programs focus on improving product knowledge, sales techniques, customer relationship management and overall selling skills.
- CRM and pipeline management: Sales managers oversee the utilisation of customer relationship management (CRM) tools to track and manage customer interactions, sales activities and deal progression. They ensure the sales pipeline is effectively managed, optimising efficiency and productivity.
- Ensuring coordination with sales enablement and marketing teams: Sales managers collaborate with sales enablement and marketing teams to align strategies, messaging and resources. They facilitate effective communication and cooperation between these teams to drive cohesive and impactful sales efforts.
- Overall team management: Sales managers are responsible for the overall management of the sales team, including performance evaluation, goal setting, resource allocation and resolving conflicts. They ensure a collaborative and supportive environment that fosters individual and team success.
While these are key responsibilities, a sales manager's role encompasses various other tasks essential to driving sales performance and achieving business objectives. In particular, building a solid team, defining an effective sales process and implementing robust reporting mechanisms are critical areas where a skilled sales manager excels.
Who benefits from sales management?
The evolution of sales management software
The traditional sales database was just a list of names and contact details, with products and meetings loosely attached, if you were lucky. Unwieldy, inflexible and tricky to navigate, those databases contained a lot of information. But much of it wasn’t what you really needed to know.
For a really productive customer relationship, you need to fill in all the gaps: social profiles, online activity, connections with other members of their networks, and all those other vital details that just wouldn’t fit in an old-style customer software package.
But at last, a new generation of sales management tools has caught up with how sales actually works. The ability to focus on customers has seen the boundaries between sales management and customer relationship management (CRM) blurring and in some cases disappearing altogether.
Why sales CRM matters
“Creating a social profile of our customers is the basis of everything. Knowing our customers helps us offer interesting services that will benefit them.”
Customers are no longer just customers – they’re connections. A sales strategy now has to link up with social networks, devices and data. On the high street, for instance, global research consultancy Forrester estimates that by 2018 connected retail - shopping with a social, search or web research element - will influence 44% of European transactions.
That’s not unique to consumer sales; business-to-business is also well on its way to becoming a mobile, intelligent network which runs 24 hours a day and can be handled seamlessly in Beijing, Brussels or Birmingham. The days of nine-to-five, office-bound paper-and-pencil transactions are long behind us, replaced by vast volumes of data stored in the cloud, with a suite of tools to make sense of it all and give you the ability to see a customer relationship from all angles.
An old-style customer database, often not much more than an address book nailed to a transaction list, simply isn’t equipped to handle the amount of information that can now be used to help connect with a customer and turn a one-off sale into a fruitful, long-running relationship.
That’s where real sales CRM comes in; offering a 360-degree view of a customer’s sales history and interactions, social likes and dislikes, wider networks and connections. The end result is a customer-first relationship, where marketing and sales are oriented towards the buyer. You’re not selling at them, you’re co-operating with them intelligently – while also turning sales leads into solid contracts.
“Only 41% of sales professionals strongly agree that their organisation fully utilises their CRM.”
Putting all the pieces in place
Properly integrated sales CRM can give a 360-degree picture of a customer, allowing far greater knowledge of how to handle every sales lead.
When you're tracking and managing activities around your customer there are several benefits
- Increased accuracy of sales data
- Richer data (there are millions of contacts in data.com, for instance – a Salesforce service)
- Ability to be more confident and targeted in driving your revenue and your deal conversion
- Higher sales team efficiency
Mobile is a big part of this – being able to access, update and share data on the run is vital. A cloud-based CRM solution lets your sales team collaborate in real time, whether they’re separated by two desks or two continents.
How big data became a big advantage
There’s been much discussion about Big Data – the ability to capture a previously unthought-of quantity of detailed information. Its possibilities are huge, its potential power enormous. But one challenge of dealing with that amount of information is handling it usefully and sifting out the vital information from the irrelevant details.
One excellent way to manage that is to focus on one aspect that’s particularly relevant for sales leads – like the customer journey. For example, Marketing Cloud is a specialised tool which offers the ability to focus on a customer journey rather than just a single touchpoint.
Let’s say a customer contacts your mobile phone company to cancel a contract. If the customer retention team isn’t able to persuade the customer to stay, that used to be the end of your relationship with that customer. But now you can put that customer into a journey and 12 months later – when their new contract is due for renewal – take action to bring them back in; the software can manage your customer journeys, all the way from first contact to termination and then reactivation.
Technology and smart tools – changing everything
The Internet and cloud computing have revolutionised the whole process of selling, enabling you to put the customer at the heart of the process rather than making them a feature of the product. That ability was pioneered by Salesforce 15 years ago, and the company continues to lead the way in cloud-based CRM systems (read the Beginner's Guide to CRM Systems).
It’s now possible to have a fully rounded view of your customer that’s not limited to their relationship with your product. And the social dimension gives you a further element. You can listen in to clients’ discussions online and use that to drive customer care, marketing or even new sales opportunities.
The next stage is bringing employees into that conversation, enabled by a suite of social technologies such as forums and real-time live chat groups. For example, a customer using social media can raise an issue that gets picked up by a customer service agent, who then uses an internal social network to find an expert answer within the company, making collaboration instant and improving the customer’s experience.
Customising your solution
Cloud-based, extensible solutions allow you to either build your own solution or add extensions, choosing just the functionality you need to meet your business’s needs.
As a fast-growing company you may start with a small but specialised set of needs-- perhaps you’re only adding a few customers a week and you’re still training your team. As you grow, and your needs for customer information and team collaboration grow, you can add more sophisticated and capable functions, even building bespoke solutions into your CRM system. Eventually you’ll have a flexible, personalised system that meets your needs perfectly – and because it’s based in the cloud, it can keep changing to keep pace with your business.