It has never been easy to lead a sales force, but it is increasingly difficult today. The idea that sales is broken is a way to describe the slow reaction of sales organizations who don’t recognize how buyers have changed. Those who still practice a traditional sales approach lose opportunities that require a modern sales approach.
If it feels like it is more difficult to get meetings, it’s because buyers receive an overwhelming amount of communication, mostly via automation. As a sales manager, you are responsible for reaching your goals. The only way you can succeed is by ensuring your sales force hits their sales targets.
Ensuring you and your team succeed requires strong and intentional leadership. The first-line sales manager has the crucial role in high-growth sales organizations. In this article, we’ll look at the skills sales managers need to effectively lead their teams, the common challenges managers experience, how to build a successful sales team, how to focus on customers, and develop sales strategies.
What Are the Key Skills Required for B2B Sales Managers?
- Leadership: The first and most important skill for sales managers is leadership. The job isn’t about taking reports from your team on their activities, even though you will do that. It’s about helping each person on your team to reach their full potential. This means training, developing, coaching, and motivating your sales team to succeed. It also means developing the qualities of a good sales team leader.
- Communication skills: Leaders know that communication is a key skill for sales managers. You can’t hide behind a CRM dashboard and expect your team to succeed in the field. Instead, you must communicate your priorities, making them your team’s priorities. Most managers communicate too little, even though there are plenty of conversations that will help improve your team’s results. Let’s call this relentless communication, and it is how you motivate a B2B sales team.
- Strategic thinking: A large part of a sales manager’s role requires that they practice strategic thinking. This applies to sales strategies, deal strategies, and competitive strategies. All of these need to help you achieve strategic outcomes.
- Analytical skills: As a sales manager, you need to analyze sales performance metrics and select the most important sales KPIs (key performance indicators). These analytical skills allow sales managers to recognize areas of improvement that can push their team’s results to the next level.
- Industry knowledge: The first industry knowledge you need relates to sales, not the industry you sell in. Because you are managing salespeople, you need to be an expert on sales to help your team. Great sales managers also need to know about their industry.
- Time management skills: You must master time management to do this role well. Time management for the B2B sales manager is one constraint that makes it difficult to succeed. Make your team your number-one priority and give them your largest time.
What Are the Common Challenges Faced by B2B Sales Managers?
- Limited budget and resources: You will often have fewer resources and a budget smaller than you would wish for, so sales managers must be resourceful. Success generally allows you to add more resources and increase your budgets. Your ability to reach your goals will find you in a place to request more resources.
- Dealing with a long sales cycle: As the B2B sales process grows longer and less linear, selling B2B is more complex and complicated than it once was. Sales managers must help their teams to shorten those longer sales cycles by teaching them to lead the client. If you are unsure how to teach your sales team to lead their clients, reach out to us here.
- Building relationships with customers: Even though you are not selling to clients and closing deals, there are several potential customers that will need to know you. These are large clients who want to ensure they will get the attention they need from your company. You will learn a lot about how to help your team learn and improve by having the right sales enablement strategies.
- Managing a team of sales representatives: From taking reports and forecasting to working on deal strategies and motivating your B2B sales team, you must find time for each individual sales rep and time for team meetings and huddles.
Tips for Success in the B2B Sales Manager Role
It’s up to the sales manager to build a strong team. Without the right people in place—and the right elements to support them—you won’t succeed.
- Hire the right people: To build a strong team, the first thing you need to do is to hire the right people for your sales roles. To make this easier, you can start with a competency model that identifies the skills and competencies you need from the B2B salespeople on your team.
- Provide training and development opportunities: Every salesperson on your team has untapped potential you can harness through consistent training, developing, and coaching. Because your team is engaged in competitive selling, you need them to be better prepared to win deals and displace their competitors in a contest. The right sales training programs help develop these skills.
- Set clear expectations: Each member of your sales team must know what is expected of them. This is why sales managers need great communication skills. The more your salespeople understand about selling effectively, the better your results.
- Creating a positive team culture: There is nothing greater than a positive culture of accountability when it comes to leading a sales force. If you need help with this, pick up a copy of Leading Growth.
Focusing on the customer is critical for success in B2B sales. If you are self-oriented, you won’t do well in the modern sales environment.
- Understand the customer’s needs and pain points: One of the reasons you need to be strategic is so you and your team can understand the client’s needs and their pain points. You should know about this without having to ask your client.
- Develop customized solutions: Over time, buyers, and decision-makers have demanded solutions designed specifically for their company. This is still true, and it’s important to adjust to deliver the results your clients need, in the exact way they need them.
- Build trust and rapport: Build relationships with B2B customers and clients. Building rapport with someone helps your team succeed and helps your clients make a confident decision. It also keeps you up to date on what your team experiences in the field.
Sales planning and goal setting in B2B sales starts with strategy.
- Conduct market research: You need to know what the market needs, how your competitors deliver value, the total addressable market, what the industries you serve struggle with, and how to help them improve their results. Understanding this can help you determine how your strategic outcomes align with your clients’.
- Identify key accounts: You need to know all the key accounts in every territory and make them a priority for your sales team. Larger accounts are better than smaller accounts. A strategic prospecting process can support this goal.
- Set sales goals: Sales goal setting can take place over both shorter and longer spans of time. Short-term sales goals create urgency and lead to your longer-term goals. Figuring out how this comes together is part of your conversation about priorities.
- Create a sales plan: You might start with your sales objectives, identifying your target market, your sales strategy, tactics, and techniques, your sales budget, and your sales metrics. You may not get this right on the first try, so be prepared to pivot if necessary. Following a strategic sales plan template can help.
Leverage technology to help your team increase the time they have for selling and training.
- Use CRM software: You need one source of truth, so make it your CRM. More and more, you will find the information here valuable for your team and other departments. Your CRM is no longer Big Brother. Rather it is a tool that can help you succeed.
- Automate processes: You must be careful with automation. Don’t automate prospecting, but automate anything that can be done without harming your results.
- Stay up to date with the latest technology trends: There are always new tools, so stay up on what’s available. But remember that your sales tech stack isn’t as important as a sales force with a high sales effectiveness.
- How can I increase my sales performance as a B2B sales manager? Proactively lead your team and spend more time training, developing, and coaching them. Your team needs to be more effective for you to improve your performance.
- What are some effective ways to motivate my sales team? You need to know each member of your team to know their motivation. You want to speak to what each individual already wants.
- How do I build relationships with difficult customers? Start with strategic empathy and become the best listener the client has ever met. Don’t give up or stop spending time with the person, and don’t retreat from the conflict. Your persistence will eventually put you in a better place with the client.
- How do I manage sales representatives who are underperforming? Use a competency model to identify the areas where they need help and provide them with development opportunities. Occasionally, you may have to check in on a poor performer to see if they are having a personal challenge that harms their results.
- What metrics should I track to measure sales performance? Always start with win rates, as there is nothing more important than sales effectiveness. Following that, measure their progress towards their quota. Add deal size, sales cycle, and any other data that can help you improve your results.
B2B Sales Management 101
Sales managers are responsible for setting the tone, leading their team, and driving success. To get started, they need to understand their team, continuously train and coach them, and stay up to date with the latest technology trends. With the right combination of motivation and metrics, B2B sales managers can create an effective team and reach their goals.
- Understand your team and their individual motivators.
- Implement CRM software as a single source of truth.
- Automate processes that can be done without harming results.
- Stay up to date with the latest technology trends.
- Measure sales performance with metrics such as win rates, quota progress, and deal size.