Your CRM can capture dozens of metrics. It can record each salesperson’s activities, document opportunities as they progress, and provide you with a dashboard to rival NASA on launch day.
Sales leaders have up-to-the-minute data, so they do not need to ask their salespeople for information. The CRM, however, doesn’t create accountability, and if you try to use it to do so, it will reduce the conversations managers have with their teams. This is like a football coach sitting in the locker room and looking at statistics while their team is on the field.
Lack of Communication
There are several factors that have made it more difficult for leaders to communicate with their teams. First, many organizations have reps living in their territory, so they aren’t regularly in the same space as their managers. Second, the number of transactional communications that take place in sales is overwhelming and requires time and attention. Between emails, text messages, chats, phone calls, Slack, and social media, it is impossible to keep up. On top of this, sales leaders receive communications and requests from their organizations, leaving them with too little bandwidth to take care of their teams.
Internal communication encroaches on the time managers spend with their teams. A recent survey suggested that, more than anything else, salespeople want personal coaching from their managers, but managers complain they don’t have enough time to coach their salespeople.
The Power of Self-Reporting
Of all the technologies available, the two you need are a CRM and a source of data. How you use the CRM also matters. It should provide you with information that allows you to have better, more productive conversations with your team. It should not prevent important conversations or take the place of face-to-face interactions.
Logging activities and outcomes in a CRM isn’t self-reporting. Self-reporting is when the salesperson reports their activities and outcomes to their manager out loud. Overreliance on a CRM allows the salesperson to avoid important conversations.
There is a power in self-reporting that doesn’t exist when a salesperson logs their activities in the CRM. The power of speaking your outcomes to your leader creates accountability. Imagine the board of directors of JP Morgan Chase canceling their board meeting because they have seen Jamie Dimon’s results on a spreadsheet. Eliminating self-reporting also eliminates the ability to ask questions, discuss challenges, and have conversations about what might need to change. If Dimon must report, why wouldn’t you require this of your team?
If You Want More Opportunities
Most pipeline meetings are a waste of time. Jimmy will once again tell you he is still working on the giant deal with a large manufacturer. This will be his eleventh week using this slow-moving opportunity as a shield to protect him from having no new deals. Jenny will share the three deals she has been pursuing over the last two months, adding nothing new. Charles reports he is also still working on his two small deals, which are both old enough to get a driver’s license.
If this is your pipeline meeting, cancel it. This dispiriting approach doesn’t work and wastes everyone’s time. To improve your pipeline meeting and increase the number of new deals your team pursues, change the meeting agenda to forbid any mention of previously reported deals unless they have moved into a new opportunity stage.
Instead, have each salesperson report the new meetings they had in the last week. Follow that by discussing the new opportunities they created. When salespeople must speak about their results in front of their peers, they will not feel good if they don’t have any meetings or new opportunities to report.
Finally, never accept a prospect as an opportunity until the salesperson has a second meeting. Too many first meetings aren’t followed by a second meeting.
Even though you can see each salesperson’s activities, asking an individual to walk you through their activity over the prior week is impactful. It establishes a level of accountability and makes it easy for you to have an intervention if there is too little activity. Anything you allow will continue until you interrupt it by raising your standards.
Sales managers in the cult of efficiency believe technology can save them from poor outcomes. They would be better off ensuring their workforce uses their time well. One bad week isn’t likely to harm your overall numbers. Multiple weeks with little activity and outcomes will cause bigger problems, like missing your sales goals and objectives.
Staring at a dashboard full of data isn’t engagement; it’s Big Brother. It’s as though your salespeople are Winston Smiths who you talk to through a piece of glass. If you want better results, you need greater engagement with everyone on your team. You can have a more positive impact by increasing your engagement with your team.
Don’t use self-reporting to embarrass a salesperson. When a salesperson is struggling, tell them they’ll do better and invite them to a meeting where you can coach them or build a plan to get them the sales training and development they need to improve their results. In team meetings where reps self-report, you want everyone to recognize you will not chastise a rep having a tough time. Instead, they’ll see and hear you offer support.
The Importance of Self-Reporting in B2B Sales
As our communication becomes more transactional, those who want better numbers will need to communicate in a better, more personal way. Self-reporting is one way to improve your results and up your engagement with your team. It also allows you to set standards for your sales force.
One company I know presents each salesperson’s results at the start of their sales kickoff. At one event, the CFO was mortified that everyone could see how the entire team ranked. The senior sales leader had to explain that everyone already knew where they ranked because they reported their results out loud every month with the rest of the team listening. In a positive sales culture, this approach can build accountability and ensure your team feels supported.