Sales management is the process of hiring, training and motivating sales staff, coordinating operations across the sales department and implementing a cohesive sales strategy that drives business revenues. Sales are the lifeblood of any organisation and managing the sales process is one of the most important functions of any business.
In recent years, that process has changed dramatically as the vast majority of sales take place online or over the phone instead of in person. And in response, sales management systems have become more technologically sophisticated.
An effective sales management process will encompass lead and opportunity management, sales forecasting, and reporting and management techniques that empower sales representatives to meet and surpass their targets.
The term sales manager could reasonably be applied to a number of members of an organisation, including marketing executives, managers of field sales forces, district managers and product line sales administrators. But the purest sales manager is someone who directly controls and supports a sales force.
Their primary strategic role involves:
- Setting goals for the sales team
- Formulating a sales management strategy to achieve those goals
- Executing that strategy while managing and motivating staff
- Evaluating and reporting on results of the strategy
While every member of the sales team contributes to the business’ overall commercial efforts, it is the frontline manager that will directly impact their performance on a daily basis and can make or break the team.
A manager with an effective sales management model in place will give employees consistency and predictability in how they should plan and execute sales, help them to prioritise activities and link those activities to sales objectives.
Sales management models also allow managers to analyse and assess sales success.
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.
The benefits of effective sales management include:
- Increased sales revenue and profitability
- Improved sales forecast reliability, thereby reducing revenue variability
- Better satisfaction and loyalty both from customers and staff
- Reduced staff turnover and therefore reduced recruitment and retention costs
- Increased productivity per staff member
Three sales management techniques that should be used to drive successful selling include:
- Talent management
- Feedback loops
- Tracking and forecasting
The first step in good management is finding, hiring and retaining the best staff. Recruitment is an expensive process, but managers will save money in the long run if they pay out upfront to secure the best people for the job.
Choose highly skilled staff and match candidates carefully to the social and organisational goals of your business.
Once the right people are on board, invest in them. Successful sales organisations have regular training and professional development, both to stay on top of the industry 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, as well as professional training.
The sales profession breeds independent, highly competitive workers and they’re not always the easiest people to manage. Effective sales managers know how to take that competition and use it to motivate everyone, for example by posting updates on internal social network feeds to make high performers a spur to others. Wins can also be celebrated as soon as they happen, so giving everyone a boost.
Modern sales management systems make real time tracking and instantaneous feedback possible, allowing the sales team to work together and with management more effectively. Employees don’t have to stop what they’re doing to check that it’s going well and other team members or managers can help and collaborate on deals as they happen.
Most importantly, managers can make sure that key performance indicators are clear and concise. Sales staff need to know exactly what is expected of them and exactly what happens if they hit or miss a target.
Sales managers need to work on forecasting a wide range of numbers, not just quarterly sales for deals that are practically in the bag, but pipelines for the future development of sales or leads as well. The sales team can work more effectively if they know which of their activities are deal-making, lead-sourcing or relationship-building, so communicate that as part of ongoing training.
Putting together key sales metrics and creating a completely transparent environment helps to drive motivation. Everyone should know how everyone else is performing and how the team as a whole is succeeding, preferably in real time.
Keeping an eye on the numbers and developing a standardised process on them helps the team to know how to work with customers. But there needs to be some flexibility built in too. Again, real-time tracking and interaction with sales reps can help by letting managers make last-minute adjustments in a dynamic sales environment.
A sales management system, also referred to as sales management software or sales CRM, is a program that’s ultimately designed to make the sales process simpler. Salespeople can use the system to manage contacts, track deals and clear tedious administration tasks off their desk so they can focus on driving sales.
That’s the simple model, but today’s sales management systems are considerably more sophisticated, often incorporating a wide range of data including social profiles, online activity, connections with other members of their networks and other details. When new technologies like artificial intelligence are applied to that data, sales staff get predictions and recommendations based on their unique business for smarter, on-topic customer relations.
A sales management system can drive team effectiveness by minimising admin tasks and centralising customer information. The system allows the sales manager to assign tasks to the right rep and prioritise good leads, as well as improving forecasting and analytics.
The key benefits of a sales management system include:
- More granular prioritisation
- A detailed overview of customer history
- Automated workflow and reduced admin
- Improved forecasting, analytics and reports
With the internet at their fingers, customers are more sophisticated than ever and they expect companies to meet that level of sophistication. They want to be able to communicate with and source information from businesses quickly and easily; they want customer service online and through social networks as well as over the phone.
Sales representatives also want and expect advanced tools to help them do their job well. Cloud and mobile applications and access to high quality, real-time customer information have moved from nice-to-have to essentials of the sales toolkit.
Taking sales management systems into the cloud gives you all the benefits of the software, accessible from anywhere. That means that sales staff can complete tasks like collaboration, monitoring their performance, managing partner programs and viewing workflow and approvals both when they’re in and out of the office.
Many cloud-based sales solutions also offer sales management tools as applications so employees can access them from their mobiles.
It’s not enough to be able to just access cloud-based systems on the go. For the best functionality, sales software needs to offer native mobile sales management applications with mobile-specific features that are intuitive and easy to use. The best of these will also work offline so sales staff can continue to input data in black spots and that data will later be synced up to cloud when they reconnect.
Mobile apps can also offer nifty additional features, such as using smartphones’ geolocation features. Geolocation can help sales staff to plan efficient routes when they’re visiting clients in person, map customers to visualise their sales region and even sync with car GPS to get quick site nav directions.
Both CRM and sales management have changed significantly in the Internet age, as customers are busier, smarter and more connected than ever. Today’s clients do their research online and pay attention to customer reviews, ease of access to information, both through search and on a company’s website, and how quick and easy it is to communicate with companies.
For sales managers, that means that the best way to connect with existing customers and prospective leads is often socially.
There are a variety of social sales tools available that can help reps reach customers, nurture relationships and mine for leads. Some tools track company and contact news along with social activity, for example, providing salespeople with a “newsfeed” of up-to-date client information.
There are also applications that can help sales staff generate and curate applicable content to post online, either in the company feeds or in response to clients’ posts, and tools that analyse social media in real time to suggest leads based on who’s talking about your company or industry.