“If you are a Sales Manager, how would you define your role in your company per se to sales management?” It is important that this role is seen in full clarity and that is — an individual who creates an ecosystem for salespeople in the company to perform to their best.
A good Sales Manager knows his or her role vis-à-vis Sales Management which is the process of developing a marketing team, leading a sales team, coordinating sales activities, implementing sales techniques, and analyzing plus correcting this process. Sales management is the pillar of any company’s total marketing mix. The sales leadership is involved in managing the people who carry out sales goals pertaining to creating supply and demand predictions, planning a sales strategy, budgeting, training, recruitment, and selection, setting quotas, and evaluating sales performance.
The Sales Team – Onboarding & Developing
Well, the first step any Sales Manager has to take even before creating the sales team populated with sales representatives is to know inside out about the product or service that needs to be sold and its target audience. The channels to reach the prospects come next based on whether they are present online or offline in their respective geographies. Once the sales plan is put in place, comes the critical job of staffing the sales team. The competency of the sales team has a direct bearing on the balance sheet of a company. Training the sales team thoroughly on the product or service, and the concerned industry along with competitor knowledge is vital.
A good Sales Manager needs to be a good human being as well, as he or she has to understand the pain points of the sales team members. Motivated salespeople make good employees. Building a transparent system ensures that there is no miscommunication. All decisions need to be discussed at length and feedback heard. Setting targets need to be done realistically to avoid dissatisfaction. Remote sales teams can be managed through weekly teleconferencing. Rewards and recognition for jobs well done can be a huge morale booster.
UNDERSTANDING THE EMPLOYEE PSYCHE:
Sales Reps and Sales Process
The ‘Sales Process’ is the set of repeatable steps that sales representatives action with a prospect to move them from a prospect to a closed customer. A good sales process is mandatory for reps to consistently close deals and consists of stages like Prospect, Contact, Identify, Present and Close.
Stages of the Sales Process:
Prospecting is the process of scouting for new leads to begin a sales process with. Prospecting may involve online research on sites like LinkedIn or can even happen offsite at conferences or industry events. Current clients or colleagues can be approached for referrals of prospects who might be interested in your product or service. Prospecting is a crucial part of most sales reps’ daily work life.
Early stage leads are contacted to gather information to establish their worthiness, which takes the case forward. The salesperson goes one step ahead to know about the prospects’ needs, challenges, and business or career goals.
In-depth scrutiny about the prospect, company and even industry is done as the sales rep progresses through the sales process which helps in identifying customer status quo, which sheds light as to whether the deal will close. A passionate salesperson will even approach people of different departments in the client company to get a holistic view of the business. An industry belief is that a good salesperson should understand the client company better than their prospect who works there!
An advanced stage of the sales process is wherein the sales rep undertakes formal presentation or demonstration of the product or service being offered. The presentation should be customized to cater to the prospect’s needs and pain points. The salesperson might bring an engineer or executive to the meeting with them, to help the to-be client understand the product or service better and also to answer more technical questions.
The last stage in the sales process, that is closing of a deal varies widely from company to company and may include activities like delivering a quote or proposal, negotiation, and achieving the buy-in of decision makers. Each salesperson works towards a mutually beneficial contractual agreement between the prospect and the seller. Once a deal closes, the salesperson will receive a commission on the price they negotiated with their client, and the account usually passes over to an account manager.
In a nutshell, a ‘Sales Process’ refers to the specific, concrete set of actions the sales team follows to close a new customer. It is different from a ‘Sales Methodology’ which refers to the framework for how different stages of the sales process are executed.
Sales Process vs Sales Methodology
How a Sales Manager can build a Robust Sales Process:
Look minutely at what the sales reps have achieved, say in the last five deals closed. What were the major steps in the process or client feedback? Map the duration of the entire sales process, and estimate the time needed between each stage of the sales process. Once the timeline is drawn, project the future timeline each rep should expect. It could look something like this:
- One discovery call
- Three-to-five follow-up emails and phone calls
- One demo
- One phone call and between two-to-three emails
- One week of deliberation before a signed contract
- Two warm emails and three phone calls to prospect
This opens up the sales process to expose client motivations and pain points that drove each deal to a close. Mapping different deals closed, in the above manner, can show a common denominator amongst many sales processes. This can be fed into a template to help in understanding how and when future deals can be closed. It is also helpful in designing the sales pitch.
As the years pass, each sales manager can see the evolution of the sales process in his or her company. It can be fine-tuned to bring in greater efficiency to move prospects faster through the sales pipeline. However, from acquiring a lead, to sealing the deal, the sales process is still time-consuming. This is where sales automation comes in.
Tools to handle the Sales Process (Sales Automation)
Sales automation is a technologically advanced system that takes care of all the repetitive parts of the sales process. It is basically software programs. These applications are commonly referred to as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, a platform that centralizes every piece of information on each prospect and prospect-turned-customer. This streamlining and automation of the sales process gives the sales team more time to build and nurture profitable relationships with prospects.
A salesperson is usually confronted by a sales funnel with a mix of hot, warm, and cold leads, which can’t be differentiated until each one is qualified through the discovery process which consists of asking questions to each lead followed by an assessment. This entails hours of manual work that goes into picking hot leads in the sales funnel and ultimately converting them into opportunities. However, in today’s digital world manual lead qualification is a stupendous waste of time, money, energy and a huge sales productivity killer. A manual approach means that 50 percent of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting (Source: The B2B lead). According to Strategic IC, 2017 research; companies which automate lead management are likely to see a 10 percent or more increase in revenue in 6-9 months. Hence, it is vital that salespersons effectively manage leads through the entire sales process without manual intervention.
Major Advantages of Sales Automation:
- Accelerates Productivity
Sales automation saves time for the sales team to focus on more productive tasks like meeting and forging profitable relationships with prospects, by automating email follow-ups. According to industry studies, lost productivity cost organizations $1 trillion each year. A big chunk of that money can actually be recovered through sales automation.
- Creates Time
Statistics tell that sales reps only spend 35.2 percent of their available time in revenue-generating activities. The bulk of their time goes to other tasks they need to take care of like data logging. This is where an efficient CRM comes to play by organizing data, and making data entry and retrieval quick and easy. Sales reps on the field, need not call their base office to get information. All they have to do is log into the CRM from their laptop or smart device and yeah, all the information is right at their fingertips.
- Smart Lead Pairing
Assigning the right sales rep to the right lead is something every Sales Manager finds challenging. And here, a great CRM with lead scoring tools automatically takes care of this challenge.
- Increased Profits
Sales automation results in an increase in profits, not only because it increases productivity, but also because it gives every sales rep a proven success framework to follow.
- Data Mining
Some CRMs can mine more data on the prospect. This data may include their social media profiles and even the last service or product they signed up for. Thus relevant leads can be narrowed down for precision prospecting in a faster manner.
- Lead Qualification
Qualifying leads that are a strong fit with your product or service is manually a tedious process. However, by using lead enrichment tools, you can gather information about your prospect on their current vendors, their industry, and even their unmet requirements. This data will help you build profiles of your prospects, that helps in adequate pitch positioning and also to match the right sales rep to the hot lead.
- Efficient Communication
Most CRMs in the market offer an email template service that allows sending bulk personalized emails. And to go one step further better CRMs will automatically send you a reminder with the details of your prospect, in case you want to talk over the phone.
- Scheduling Meetings
CRMs with an appointment scheduling tool, allows you to send a link to your prospect with the days you are open for a meeting. This prevents cold prospects from losing out on a one-on-one meeting with you.
Sales Automation indeed manages the sales process effectively. However, a well-managed sales process requires fuel in the form of a sales strategy to run it. So, what is a ‘Sales Strategy’? To put it succinctly, it is the company’s unique strategy for selling its products or services to its target market.
Largely, a sales strategy is anything that can get a company more sales. And the reason companies use multiple sales strategies, is that they work at the different stages of the sales process. For example, once a lead is in contact with a salesperson, a few select sales strategies can be very effective. Whereas, once a lead has already converted, they will need different sales strategies to encourage the customer into repeat business. Sales strategies are implemented depending upon the objectives set by the sales management under the framework of Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP). A good S&OP is vital in making the strategy successful as it brings together sales managers and supervisors from the operational departments, to help balance the sales department’s objectives with the organization’s available resources and capacity.
Well, the sales manager can certainly take help, to put wind in the sails of the sales team!