3 Ways Generative AI Will Help Marketers Connect With Customers
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Think of sales management like a sports team. Have you ever heard of a top-ranked sports team without a coach? Of course not. The coach provides the guidance, inspiration, strategy and training that enable players to make big wins. The best sales managers operate the same way, inspiring, educating, and guiding their teams to maximize revenue.
The result? Consistent sales growth and a happy team, not to mention sizable commissions and happier, more loyal customers. In this article, we’ll explore sales management best practices, critical skills, and tools to help build your sales team.
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Sales management is how sales managers organize, motivate, and lead their sales reps while tracking — and improving — team performance. This includes hiring top talent, training sales staff, coordinating operations across the sales department, creating sales management strategies, and implementing a cohesive sales strategy that drives business revenues.
As part of the sales management process, a sales manager does the following:
To ensure the sales management process is executed well, managers need specific sales management skills and strategies. These can be gained through on-the-job experience or through training modules like those available through Salesforce Trailhead.
There are more than a dozen types of sales management roles. From business development to sales manager to account executive, each role has its unique responsibilities. These include:
Sales managers are one of the key roles in an organization. They oversee a team or, if they have a larger role, multiple teams. Sales managers, regional sales managers, and national sales managers coordinate sales efforts, set goals and strategies, and hire and mentor sales staff. They typically report to a sales director.
Sales directors manage multiple sales managers. Directors have a wider purview, looking at a company’s overall sales goals and progress. Directors also set company-wide sales goals and establish new procedures and report back to the executive team.
Inside sales managers and channel sales managers do everything a traditional sales manager would do except their lenses are narrower. An inside sales manager focuses on a team that sells a product remotely via telephone, email, or other online channels. Channel sales managers work directly with resellers such as distributors and partners.
Sales operations managers support a company’s sales teams by optimizing and improving processes and making sure everyone on the team has the tools they need to best reach customers. They may implement software and services such as sales performance management, sales lead management, and sales management systems as well as customer relationship management (CRM), analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. They are also responsible for making sure sales managers and other staff train everyone on the technology offerings and often work closely with the information technology team.
To ensure effective sales management, sales managers should focus on mastering the following skills:
Setting targets, assigning areas of coverage, and designing lead generation tactics.
Leading day-to-day operations and offering feedback and guidance. Hold meetings with your team virtually or in person on a regular cadence. Don’t forget to check in often to see if salespeople are having difficulties or need help.
Addressing concerns and issues as they arise and finding solutions quickly. This includes interpersonal problem solving, especially as people have shifted to remote or hybrid work arrangements.
Analyzing strategy success and team performance. Tools such as artificial intelligence, analytics, CRM, and sales performance management systems can help.
Keeping staff motivated and working hard with the right incentives and realistic but ambitious targets. Offering mentorship and upskilling opportunities, and provide detailed, actionable feedback regularly — not just when yearly reviews come around.
When all these elements are in place, sales managers can help their team achieve their targets and have a positive impact on the bottom line.
Effective sales management contributes to:
According to our 2022 State of Sales Report, 82% of sales reps say “they’ve had to adapt quickly to new ways of selling,” while still being held to their targets. Effective sales management needs to focus on helping their teams succeed in challenging conditions by providing training, feedback, and accurate and realistic forecasting.
Let’s take a deeper dive on what techniques a successful manager should leverage to ensure their sales team is productive:
The first step to ensuring successful sales is finding, hiring, and retaining the best sales staff. Recruitment is an expensive process, but managers will save money on recruitment and training if they spend the time upfront to secure the best people for the job. The best candidates are both a good cultural addition to a business and are aligned with team goals.
Once the right people are on board, managers should invest in their growth. Successful sales organizations have regular training and professional development, both to stay on top of industry trends and to help motivate staff. Sales reps need to be updated with new product knowledge, information about the competitive landscape, and new avenues for leads. They should also receive regular training on industry best practices and regulations.
There’s no denying it: The sales profession breeds independent, highly competitive workers and they’re not always the easiest to manage. The good news is effective sales managers can take that competition and use it to motivate everyone on a sales team.
For example, a sales manager might encourage friendly competition by highlighting a top performer on internal communication channels, like Slack. This spurs the rest of the sales staff to increase their own sales and secure shoutouts.
Sales managers should also give positive feedback to the team as a whole. This emphasizes the value of teamwork and provides an incentive for leveling up. Individual, constructive feedback is also important as is checking in with team members to see how they are feeling about their job and their co-workers. According to our 2022 State of Sales Report, sales professionals largely say they value coaching from their manager, but only 26% get 1:1 coaching at least weekly.
Providing this kind of regular feedback is easier than ever with modern sales management systems, which enable real-time sales tracking and instantaneous feedback. Employees can get updates from sales managers wherever they are, respond in the moment, and compare their performance with key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure their own progress.
The third key technique used in successful sales management is a combination of forecasting and tracking. Sales managers need to forecast revenue for deals that are “in the bag” as well as likely sales from future leads. This determines what sales goals should be set for future quarters. Also, forecasting should pinpoint holdups in the sale pipeline so the sales team knows whether to focus on lead sourcing, relationship building, or closing deals in the months ahead.
To ensure there is no confusion, the sales manager should track the same metrics each quarter and make their forecasting transparent. Everyone should know how the team is performing, preferably in real time. This allows both sales reps and sales managers to understand the team’s progress compared to quarterly goals while also allowing them to pivot when priorities change.
A sales management system (also referred to as sales management software or sales CRM) is a program that’s designed to make the sales management process simpler and sales data more accessible. Salespeople can use the system to manage contacts, track deals, generate reports, forecast future leads and revenue, and easily complete administrative tasks so they can focus on sales calls.
Today’s sales management systems are sophisticated, often incorporating a wide range of customer and prospect information, including social profiles, online activity, connections within online networks, and other details. Artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics are common features, too, allowing staff to generate sales predictions and lead recommendations within seconds.
AI, for example, can be used to analyze, automate and optimize various sales activities, such as lead scoring, customer segmentation, personalized messaging, and sales forecasting. It enables businesses to make data-driven decisions, free up time, and improve sales effectiveness.
Generative AI can use prompts to help support the creation of various forms of sales copy. For example, it can support the creation of prospecting emails that are critical to an efficient sales process. Since reps currently spend only 28% of their week actually selling, per our State of Sales Report , AI can take some of these time-consuming manual tasks off their plates to allow more time for customer conversations. Predictive AI can also help you prioritize deals based on lead potential and opportunity health. AI can also save time overall by automatically capturing and syncing relevant customer information from your email and calendar, reducing or eliminating the need for manual entry.
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An effective sales management system helps managers prioritize tasks and assign them to the right rep for the job. For example, the system could help a sales manager identify a new lead and send contact details to a rep with a request to set up a product demo. Sales management systems can also filter leads to help focus on those that are most likely to generate revenue for each product. AI makes this process faster and more exact since customer segmentation, lead management, and forecasting is faster and more precise. But the true power of AI comes from its intelligence. For example, our AI prioritizes the deals most likely to convert and recommends a follow-up action to keep it moving.
With sales management software, all communication with or about a customer can be stored in the same place, allowing team members to see their complete history. This type of overview ensures there’s no time wasted covering old ground. More importantly, sales staff can use this information to engage each customer with a personal touch. In addition, salespeople who use AI-enabled systems identify and act on key customer insights from every conversation — like objections, competitor mentions, and pricing — and recommend a next best step.
A sales management system keeps reps focused on sales, not distracted by mounting admin tasks. Most systems can identify important follow-up information in calls and flag it for sales rep action. Many will also create calendar events or reminders for more accurate task tracking. Not only does this ensure active leads and loyal customers receive timely communication, but it also allows sales reps to connect with stale leads and customers who haven’t reached out in several months.
For decades, report generation and forecasting was a cumbersome, manual task. Fortunately, modern sales management systems can assess sales pipelines, revenue, sales cycles, and more – often with just a few clicks. AI makes this function even faster and more exact. For example, by analyzing lead-to-conversion ratios, sales management software can assess sales rep performance and identify areas that need improvement. AI powered systems also compile data to automate sales forecasting and improve future pipeline management by identifying where effective lead sources are coming from and where sales opportunities are lost.
Steve Jobs once said that “if you give [people] tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” He was talking broadly about technology, of course, but the same idea holds true in the world of sales. The best sales management software allows sales reps to connect to their team, customers, and leads remotely and in real time. This includes sales management systems, videoconferencing hardware/software, social media management platforms, intelligent automation tools, and presentation tools.
You may be wondering: What about in-person sales (also known as field sales or outside sales)? While there are some analog tools still used in field sales, many field reps are swapping clipboards and business cards for laptops and smartphones. Our 2022 State of Sales Report highlights this reality: Nearly six out of ten of all reps interviewed said that buyers prefer to engage with companies via digital channels. Another crucial fact: Nearly one-third of deals are closed completely virtually. It’s no surprise, then, that cloud and mobile apps make up most of their toolkit.
The best sales management systems combine functionality once spread across different tools or apps. Look for platforms (typically CRMs) that include the following:
With all of this centralized, sales staff can complete tasks like customer follow-up, team check-ins, workflow updates, and contract approvals both in and out of the office – as long as they have internet access.
Perhaps the best way to expedite all of this is to leverage intelligent automation. Ideally, this technology will be folded into your sales management system so you don’t have to fuss with call logging, voicemail drops, and follow-up email sends. Just set up a “macro” – or trigger – for the system to take a desired action and you easily eliminate manual tasks. The best software also lets you automate tasks and manage all of your sales processes and information in one place, so you have a single source of truth.
Oh, and any sales management system worth its salt should have an intuitive mobile app, too. Key mobile features include geolocation that supports navigation in the field, push notifications for in-the-moment updates on accounts, and, of course, AI-driven bots that can complete basic tasks with simple vocal or written commands.
With virtual selling the name of the game, reps must be equipped with quality cameras, audio equipment, and videoconferencing software so they can conduct professional sales calls. In some cases, built-in laptop cameras, speakers, and microphones will suffice, but it’s always a good idea to test your equipment to make sure it delivers a high-quality experience for prospects. If not, consider upgrading to high-definition, high-fidelity equipment.
Also, be sure to set up reliable, intuitive videoconferencing software for your team. Ideally, pick something that doesn’t require prospects to download new software just for a sales call. If that’s not possible, pick software that’s highly rated and widely used.
You can also use AI to help unblock deals and identify next steps in video calls. With Einstein Conversation Insights, conversation intelligence is built into your CRM, automatically transcribing recorded video calls and flagging key moments so you can see what customers like and dislike about competitors — without listening to the entire call.
A 2023 study by Global Web Index found that 78% of internet users turn to social media when looking for information about brands. And where customers are, sales reps should be, too.
A variety of social sales tools help reps track customer activity on social media. These are often called “social listening tools.” Reps can simply plug in keywords or topics they want to follow and track a regularly updated feed of customer comments and questions about the topics they’ve selected.
Other apps can help sales staff generate and curate applicable content to post online, either in company feeds or in response to clients’ posts. In fact, Salesforce has its own cutting-edge tool in this space that’s part of our Marketing 360 platform.
Sales call scheduled? Now it’s time for your team to polish their presentation. Too often, however, this ends up being tedious and cumbersome. To make life easy on your reps, roll out a drag-and-drop presentation tool so they can create decks in minutes. Be sure to pick one with a large image library and lots of easy customization options so each deck can be tailored to the prospect.
Now that you know the core skills, techniques, and tools of sales management, it’s time to put it all together. The key to managerial success is consistency and commitment — take the classes you need to skill up, test techniques to see what works best for your team, and experiment with the tools that fit your unique needs. Management isn’t a “one-and-done” project, so be sure you revisit your goals, strategies, and strengths/weaknesses every quarter to find ways to improve. Onward!
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