A good sales manager drives their company’s success by leading their sales team and leading growth. Success is scarce in a period of strong obstacles. One problem in today’s current environment is that buyers are shunning salespeople and attempting to research their own way to success, a process that often leads to buyer’s remorse. The second difficulty is the high level of uncertainty and unpredictability in the business world.
To lead their teams, sales managers must address several difficult scenarios, including sales target pursuit and achievement, customer relationships, hiring, and balancing individual and team needs as a manager. On a more technical level, managers must also strategically use the CRM, improve sales processes and sales performance, and forecast sales. We will look at all the sales manager challenges, starting with sales target achievement scenarios.
Sales Target Achievement Scenarios
This section covers different elements of achieving sales targets. These elements include team motivation and sales goal setting and adjustment. Reaching sales goals is an important part of this process. When selling B2B, the following techniques can get you there:
- Set realistic targets: First and foremost, sales targets must be realistic. One sales manager I know set a goal for his sales force to double the prior year’s target. After failing to reach their prior year’s goal, his B2B salespeople were demoralized by this unrealistic expectation. His best two salespeople quit, leaving him in an even worse position.
You need to start with a realistic sales target. If you want to encourage more, you can also add a stretch goal for your team. If you want your sales reps to pursue these goals, you need achievable sales goals that don’t ruin your credibility.
- Motivate the sales team to reach their goals: A friend of mine believes that money is the only thing that motivates people. He pays people more than he needs to because he believes that will make his team produce better results. In doing this, he also puts himself in a weak position as a leader.
How do you know someone on your sales team is motivated by money? Answering this question is done by looking at how much money they make and their willingness to chase more. People do things for their reasons, not for your reasons. You need to know what motivates everyone on your sales team. By bundling their primary motivations, you can list them out when you speak to your entire team. Each person will hear their motivation without noticing the others.
- Adjust targets in response to market changes: At the time of this writing, some sales leaders and sales managers have thrown in the towel, lowering their targets. It’s important that you never give up without a fight. Even in a recession, potential customers are struggling with the results you can help them achieve. Whenever you are tempted to lower your sales goals, change your sales strategies and tactics. As a leader, you never want to teach your sales representatives they should give up. In a role where you lose, giving up sets a terrible example.
Sales Team Recruitment Scenarios
Having spent decades in staffing, I have a lot of experience recruiting, including for salespeople. Here are the scenarios that are most important to sales team recruitment.
- Identifying the right candidates for the sales team: Most managers make hiring decisions based on a candidate’s experience in sales and in their industry. It never strikes them that the person with the right experience is no longer working with their last company. It would be rare that such a person would leave if they were exceptionally successful.
I have made this mistake myself and come to regret the decision, so I’ve created a process to help me keep focused. First, create a competency model to assess a candidate’s fitness for your sales role. Second, use this model in interviews by asking candidates about what they would do in real scenarios. This will help you understand how the person perceives the B2B sales process. Finally, consider how much you like this person. You will work with them every day. Here are some additional sales team recruitment best practices. Hire slowly and fire fast when you make a mistake (and you will).
- Onboarding and training new team members effectively: Onboarding a salesperson is often delivered in a way that isn’t conducive for making great salespeople. Often, one of the first sales enablement strategies taught during onboarding is how to talk about the company, clients, and products and services. This is exactly why buyers suggest they want a "salesperson-free buying experience." The better way to onboard a salesperson is to teach salespeople about the problems and pain points their prospective clients are experiencing, including the root causes of why they are struggling. If you want to build great salespeople, arm them with value creation strategies through a modern sales approach.
- Retaining top sales talent and managing turnover: I’ve already mentioned that one sales manager lost his two best reps by trying to force them to do the impossible. His sales force was already badly neglected, and there was no chance he had won their hearts and minds. It was a toxic sales culture, a factor that leads to high turnover. To retain your top sales talent, increase and improve your engagement with your sales team. Make sure they are paid well, without believing it is their only concern. A better sales culture is built on accountability, recognition, and gratitude.
Sales Team Management Scenarios
One of the tougher scenarios is managing sales team performance. This is sometimes a time management issue, but the following strategies can help you lead your team to success.
- Balancing individual and team performance: You have team meetings, individual meetings, and coaching sessions. Your top two sales reps carry the largest part of your revenue every year. They get a lot of attention, including yours. To grow revenue, you need everyone to get the attention and help they need. Your best reps need your help managing their business and the rest of your team needs you to help them improve their sales effectiveness. The best approach is to build a management cadence that provides the time to manage this balancing act.
- Addressing conflicts and maintaining a positive team environment: The conflict may be over an account, a territorial issue, or the financial leaders changing the compensation structure for the third time in two years. In Leading Growth, I suggested that salespeople need to protect their sales force. Always be candid, fair, and transparent, maintaining your positive culture.
Sales Process Improvement Scenarios
There is nothing more important for success than sales effectiveness. The higher your win rates, the better your ability to hit your sales targets. B2B selling isn’t easy, but it’s made more challenging by not addressing the areas where your team or individuals need to improve. If you need help, you can always start with training, development, and coaching. Between the conversations, coaching, and metrics, you can identify areas of improvement.
- Implementing new sales strategies and techniques: Most sales organizations are still using legacy approaches to sales. You can improve your sales performance by using an approach that provides decision-makers with a better sales experience. You can also arm your team with new value-creation sales techniques.
- Monitoring and measuring the success of process changes: You will need to monitor your team’s progress as they transform their approach. Don’t worry about getting it right out of the gate. Take the time to dial in the new strategies and techniques, and eventually, it will be how you sell.
Sales Forecasting Scenarios
Forecasting is one of the sales manager’s key responsibilities. It’s important because it communicates to the sales team and leaders up the chain what to expect.
- Use accurate sales forecasting methods: The worst sales leadership team I ever encountered updates their forecast every day. Unfortunately for them, they were staring at the scoreboard instead of leading and coaching their teams. Another person I know takes an equally ineffective approach. He only forecasts won deals, and he is always accurate down to the dollar. Needless to say, that’s not a forecast.
You need a consistent structure to assess deals and forecast your results without going to extremes. When your company makes decisions around investments, agree on a set of criteria that allows you to commit deals to the forecast or withhold them.
- Adjust forecasts based on market trends and economic indicators: Adjust your forecasts while keeping your sales goals, sales targets, and sales objectives. This is the second time I am reminding you to motivate your team and keep them from wavering on commitments.
Sales Manager Scenarios
Sales managers face a range of challenges in the B2B sales environment, from achieving realistic sales targets to recruiting and retaining top talent, managing team performance, and implementing effective sales processes. Sales managers should understand the motivations of their team members, and to create a positive culture that encourages accountability and recognition. By identifying areas for improvement, implementing new strategies and techniques, and monitoring progress, sales managers can drive their teams to greater success.
Here are five action points for sales managers to consider:
- Set realistic sales targets that motivate your team without undermining your credibility. Consider a stretch goal, but make sure it is achievable.
- Understand what motivates everyone on your sales team and use this information to create a positive and engaging work environment.
- Onboard and train new team members in a way that focuses on problem-solving and value creation.
- Manage team performance by balancing individual and team goals, and by addressing conflicts in a candid and transparent manner.
- Continuously improve your sales processes by identifying areas for improvement, implementing new strategies and techniques, and monitoring progress.