What is Sales Management and Why is it Important?
I remember, back when I was doing my MBA, I was a marketing major, and we had this sales management class. The professor was a curated salesperson with many years of experience. The first question he asked the class was this, “Why are you in this class and why do you wish to learn about the topic”. Many of us gave him varying answers to the effect of “Sales is a fascinating subject”. He was unimpressed, and I’ll never forget the reason that he gave for needing to learn sales management.
“Sales is the stepping stone to a successful career in marketing.”
Over the years, I have come to realize that no truer words have been spoken. As the introduction of this guide announces. being an acute sales person is a skill that everybody in any business has to perfect. If you are a sales manager, then you would relate to every word.
What is Sales Management?
Though all the departments of any organization are indirectly focused on driving sales, sales management as a term applies to that section of the business that directly interacts with lead or prospect and tries to get them to make a purchase. It is the process of planning, staffing, executing and analyzing your sales team and their goals and results.
What a sales manager should do:
Plan the sales process:
Pretty much the first thing that the sales head/manager has to do before you even form your team. You have to know who you are going to be selling to. If you are selling furniture, then you need to know who would buy furniture from you: the decision makers, the influencers, and the buyers. Think of this scenario: a married couple with an 8-year-old child. The mother may decide that the child needs a new study desk, the child may influence the father that they want a certain type of study desk, and the father is the final buyer.
You need to also know what channels your target audience would be present: both online and offline, the geographies where you would need to be present and the method that you are going to use to sell to them.
Hire the right people:
Once you have designed your sales plan, the next logical step should be to staff your sales team. This is vital since the competency of your team would reflect on your entire company.
Here are some sample factors that you may have to consider before you hire:
- If your target audience is more localized, then you need someone in the team who can speak the local dialect.
- If you have multiple locations, you would need sales people familiar with the area.
- If there is a need to travel to different locations as part of the job, then the people you hire should be willing to travel.
- If you are targeting different time zones, then the sales team should be flexible about their timings as well.
Once you have your requirements in place, you can test your candidates for a selling aptitude, and you have yourself a powerful sales team. It is also important to ensure that you train your team well on the product/service that you are selling as well as the nuances of the industry and the competition.
Design your sales strategy:
This is done mostly by individual salespeople, but as a manager, you can always help them out. Set them monthly or quarterly targets. But always ensure that you are realistic about the targets. Make sure that the goals that you set are in line with the plans of the company.
Make the entire process transparent, so that the people in your team know that they are being treated fair. Analyze their performance at every step of the way. Talk to them about shortcomings and discuss at length about any roadblocks that they may face. Reward good efforts to keep them motivated.
Forecast your sales results:
Sales forecasting is a learned skill. By analyzing your sales patterns, as well as industry trends you can predict how much sales you can get in the next sales cycle. Your sales team can help you out with it as well. They could tell how many leads are in the pipeline and how much revenue you can get from them.
By forecasting future sales you can adjust your sales plan and experiment with new methods and audiences, as well as remove things that are not working out for you.
Analyze your sales efforts:
Measure your results constantly. Every new effort and every new idea should be accountable for with data to know how well it has worked. This will help you avoid any major mistakes as well as figure out your optimal sales process.
Create sales reports that will also help your top management make relevant decisions about the future and direction of the company.
How to keep your sales team motivated:
For your sales process to work, your sales team needs to work like a well-oiled bicycle chain (bad comparison eh?). Dissatisfied or unmotivated sales people would make for a poor sales results. Here are some ways in which you can keep them motivated.
Set realistic goals:
Understand the hurdles and setbacks that your team may face while they sell. If the market is larger, then the sales happening in Bangalore may be larger in volume than, say, Pune. Take such factors into consideration and set goals accordingly.
Have a transparent system in place:
The salesperson should always feel included in all the decisions that you make. Listen to the feedback they give and give them impartial feedback on it. If you have a remote sales team, then have weekly team meetings over the phone or other conference platforms. Involve the entire team in discussing future sales plans and product updates to keep them in the loop.
Reward them accordingly:
Celebrate and appreciate the small successes. This could be as simple as a congratulatory email or a well-deserved raise. Ensure that they get recognition for the work that they do. This will keep them from getting disgruntled over petty things as well make them feel that their efforts are being valued.
Keep their interest piqued:
If it’s only sales calls and monthly meetings, even the best sales team may get bored. Conduct occasional contests among the team. This could be something like “the person who brings the highest deal gets a weekend trip for two to Goa.” This will make sure that the process doesn’t get monotonous and they put more effort in bringing in more customers. A win-win for everyone!
Benefits of implementing a sales management cycle:
Imagine just blindly going about your day without proper planning. Most of the time I hardly get things done, as my tasks get overlapped and I don’t have a clarity about what the day is going to be about. However, when I plan my day out well, nine times out of ten, I get a lot more achieved.
That is the same way having a sales management plan would also work. The more clear your goals, the more you would manage to achieve. Here are some palpable benefits:
- The sales person would know what is expected of him and would set his short term targets accordingly
- The sales person would be reassured as he has a clear plan to follow, and would not need to go about it blindly.
- The sales person would have a person or plan to fall back to if something goes amiss
- The sales manager would know better what to expect of his team
- The sales manager would be able to set clear goals for his team.
- The sales manager would be able to analyze the performance of his sales team.
- The sales manager would be able to predict sales better based on previous data
- The top management can set long term goals based on the sales plan.
- The top management will be able to get a clear view of the performance of the company.
(Pro tip: To help yourself manage your team better, get yourself a nice sales CRM )
Now that you know how the entire process works, one of the sales people from my company would like to share how he predicts his sales accurately.