One of my go-to “truisims” when speaking about inside sales is that frontline sales management is THE busiest job in the world. I find myself saying this over and over because “Give it to the Sales Managers” seems to be a go-to phrase in leadership, but sadly is oh-so-wrong. Why?
Managing a team of 10-15 front-line sellers requires an above-average proficiency in interviewing, coaching, problem-solving, team building, customer service, motivation, babysitting, and juggling.
If you’re new to sales management or coaching those who are, here are my top five tips to get your house in order fast:
Create your cadence
We’re all familiar with a sales process, but not many have a set management process. The management cadence is your series of meetings and touchpoints with your team. It consists of sales huddles, performance reviews, pipeline meetings, team meetings, call coaching and more. If we don’t proactively decide what we’re covering in each meeting, who attends, how often they happen, and the prep required from all parties, then we wind up covering all of this information 1:1 and reactively. What’s wrong with reactive management? Two things:
- The line at your desk
- The people waiting for you at home
A management cadence helps you get control of your own day and stop firefighting. It remains the number one favorite class Factor 8 teaches and has held this position for over five years. Make your plan, inform your team, get it into outlook, and then hold on to the plan for dear life. Why? Because it will seem that your entire team of reps, your peers, and your director are conspiring against you in your first two weeks it’s in place. Great segue to the next tip…
Teach them to fish
That line at your desk? It’s full of customer issues, product questions, sales stories (we all have the rep who needs to tell you the complete blow by blow, right?) and more. And EVERYONE thinks their request is urgent, right? So it’s up to you to teach them when you will be handling these requests (hint, it’s NOT right now). For example:
Rep: Help! I have Janet at Bensley Co on the line and she said that she tried to use the discount code and it didn’t work…
Manager: I know that’s important to her – and a good customer of yours. The procedure is to get customer success on the line with her and walk through. . .
You have to teach your team how to work with you. What should be brought to a meeting? What can be delegated to another department or team member? What should the Rep solve himself. Salespeople are like water. We will ALWAYS travel the path of least resistance.
Sales people are like water. We will ALWAYS travel the path of least resistance.
If you have a line at your desk, it isn’t because you’re the best manager on the floor. It might mean you’re being a bigger pushover than the others. Teach them to fish…and be vigilant with when you hand out fish to protect your cadence – and your sanity.
Team go-to sheets
If you’re new on the job, there’s a LOT you don’t know yet. And unfortunately, most companies don’t budget for new sales manager training. So quit going it alone. Work with your team to develop your internal areas of expertise and list them out!
The story goes like this. I was 23, the new manager of a B2B Outbound Enterprise Sales Team in the Tech Industry. I was hired from outside the company and received no new hire training. This means I didn’t know the product, systems, people, processes…NOTHING. (wondering now why they hired me). So every request that came to my desk was met with, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” I ran myself into the ground. I cried driving home. I drank a LOT of wine. Enter team go-to sheets.
Sean was incredible and getting decision makers to call him back
Randy could configure the solutions
Melissa knew the people in product management to get specs
Pat knew the folks in operations to get deals invoiced
Tammy knew the CRM inside out
I invite you to do a better job naming your reference sheets & also to do some team building around it. Create a team name! Do this offsite with some beer! The outcome was amazing. We felt less helpless, we bonded together, and when one of us was going to miss quota, we all worked together to get them there. It’s good for the team AND for you.
Don’t treat requests equally
Everyone’s favorite class in #GirlsClub was “Own Your Day.” It’s time management for sales managers and all about carving out more time to be proactive with your strategy and less time being reactive. The foundation of this course is the Urgent vs. Important matrix (often called the Eisenhower Box). For every request, ask yourself:
- Is there a deadline associated with this? (Urgent)
- Does this activity lead to revenue? (Important)
Your questions may vary slightly, but you get the gist.
If it’s urgent AND important, you do it now.
If it’s urgent but not important (e.g. customer complaint), you try to delegate it.
If it’s not urgent but important, you schedule it (e.g. rep coaching)
If it’s not urgent and not important, you delete it (e.g. watching the cat video Larry sent you)
It takes some practice, but I now attack every to-do list this way. How do I decide what requests to take and meetings to reschedule? Is there a deadline (could be a monthly target) and what will help me meet goals the fastest.
A clean pipeline is important
We all have pipelines full of crap. Why? Because cleaning them out is neither urgent nor important (see what I did there)? But my tip for new manager is to establish that it IS important to you. When we let the pipeline get out of control, we stunt our upward mobility as sales leaders. Why? Because you can’t forecast the number and you don’t know what levers to pull when you get behind. The very best sales managers are consistent sales managers who have their business managed within an inch of it’s life. If you’re hitting your numbers but didn’t know what deals saved you, you have some work to do here because hope is not a good long-term strategy. How to do it?
- Move your pipeline meetings to team meetings. Use the team tension to show who’s doing it well and who is messy. They’ll clean it up fast!
- Do 5 spot checks a week on deals. Pull it up, check the close date, check the stage, and call them out.
- Start every performance 1:1 with a pipeline cleanliness review
- Quiz the team during huddles. Give the situation and have them tell you the stage. Then reward the team member who did it right. If your culture can handle it, also call out the one who didn’t.
Word will spread fast that you expect the stages to be decided on consistently, all deals to be updated, and each member to know his or her business.
Now, your pipeline can be a management tool/resource for you. Where are deals getting stuck? Who is having the most trouble closing in stage two? Where do you need some marketing coverage? Where do you need coaching and training? And when is it time to pull in the performance improvement engine or the sales contest engine to hit the number. With a clean pipeline, you can analyze and make smart decisions – before it’s too late!
Like these tips? You might also like our step-by-step guide to better intros. Grab it here.