Sales leaders who can solve the most common sales problems will increase their productivity and improve their performance.
Today, Charles Bernard explains how a disciplined system for selling and managing can remove barriers to performance for sales leaders.
Bernard founded ‘Criteria for Success,’ an organization that develops online sales playbooks and provides leadership and sales management training. Charles was a top performer in his division with General Electric and has run several businesses as well.
Caught in the middle
Charles believes that the number one issue facing sales managers today is the feeling of being caught in the middle between the CEO/Management and the sales team. Sales managers must bring in the numbers, on one hand, while acting as a micromanager on the other. He compares it to having a target on his front side with another on his back.
Charles finds that pressure from above is unfiltered and passed directly down onto the sales teams, whether it’s justified or not. And, he says, the sales teams hate that.
If management feels that something is wrong or that people are not doing their jobs, for example, it is the responsibility of the sales manager to balance the push/pull of the situation. She must absorb the pressure in order to adapt the message – without losing the importance behind it – to empower the team.
Passing the pressure from management to the team does nothing to motivate or incentivize sales.
Many times, leaders fall into the trap of thinking they must have all the answers for how things should be done. An enlightened manager should be able to pull the boss and the team together. He should encourage conversations that promote transparency and foster teamwork.
Charles prefers for his sales teams to hear directly from the bosses and he often facilitates meetings to allow for such interaction. It allows each side to learn the concerns of the other and to work as a team.
Pulled in different directions
Charles cites the challenge of staying focused as another common issue facing sales managers. Don’t engage in too many meetings or with multiple different initiatives. Lack of focus prevents the managers from spending time in the field and with their sales teams.
It was a struggle but Charles eventually learned how to say ‘No’ to those who people who weren’t impacting sales.
Charles recalls numerous instances where he was asked, for example, to intervene with an upset client. He had to put his foot down and direct those calls to others in the organization better equipped to handle such situations.
It is understandable that sales managers want to prove their worth to the company. But it is a mistake to do so by getting involved in matters that do not pertain to their job or to assist with sales if the team is underperforming. It only serves to further scatter the focus a sales manager needs to succeed.
The purpose of the sales manager is to be available to the team. It must be the priority.
Inability to set goals
Sales managers often don’t have the time to spend on the proper vetting of the forecasts. As a result, they are often unable to create realistic forecasts and to set goals.
The need for realistic forecasting is obvious. The problem arises when the decisions made on that forecast – where the growth is coming from, how much we will grow, what the profits will be, and how the funds will be reinvested – are very linear and rigid. There isn’t a lot of thought behind it.
Charles believes that people should not think about what they are going to sell in a year. People tend to miss things like backlog, which is probably going to give you the most wind behind your sails.
If forecasting in 2018 for 2019, for example, you must see all the deals that didn’t close, at the individual and team sales levels. You want to know what stage they are in because that backlog will give you a jump on each quarter.
What is your backlog going in? What is your backlog coming out?
If you begin with a strong backlog of unclosed business and put that into your forecast, you can then see where you are short and what you need to do each quarter. It is very important to have a notion of forecasting that includes backlog. Without it, you are already behind at the start.
- Rank your sales team. Who are your A’s? Who are your B’s?
- Rank your customers. Who are your partners and who are your advocates? Who buys on a whim, or transactionally?
- Build a playbook. Take all the knowledge in the company and make it available for everyone to access.
“Solve The Most Common Sales Problems” episode resources
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