As a B2B sales manager, the performance of your team is ultimately a reflection of your effectiveness.
Wanting to take credit for the victories and avoid blame for the losses is human nature, but as a sales manager and leader, you can’t pass the buck.
You’re responsible for the results. That means you have to be a role model who sets the bar high with your own work ethic and leads by example.
The biggest and most challenging task of a sales manager is to prepare the sales team for the constantly changing marketplace, year after year.
As another year comes to an end and a new one begins, now is a great opportunity to reflect and review.
What did you accomplish? What can be improved? What goals need to be set for next year?
Great B2B sales managers must calmly face chaos, enthusiastically embrace change, and always adjust to whatever tough challenges lie ahead.
What should you be looking at as the year comes to a close? How can you use this information to improve your efforts for next year?
We’ve identified four key areas to look at as you close the sales books in 2019 and prepare for 2020:
Pipeline inspection process
Your coaching process
#1. Sales process
Implementing a sales process isn’t a one-and-done occurrence.
It’s essential to review your sales process on a routine basis to make adjustments and keep it up to date.
Not only do you experience internal changes within your company, sales team, and product, service or solution throughout the year, but you’re dealing with on-going external changes like the evolving competitive landscape and buyer’s journey.
When assessing your sales process, there are many things you can look at but there’s one thing in particular that I want to focus on today:
How aligned is your sales process with how your customers are actually buying?
You can help your team check for alignment by asking these questions:
How are you helping the buyer move through each stage of the buying process?
Does your prospect have all the necessary information at this point in the buying process to make their next decision?
What stage will your buyer enter next, and how can you pave the way for that transition?
Ensuring that your team is moving in tandem with the buyer—and keeping their needs at the forefront of their attention—will ultimately help win the business and delight the customer.
Sellers who align their sales conversation to the buyer’s journey—those who best understand their customer’s needs and tailor their approach to building the greatest value by uncovering unrecognized problems, unseen opportunities or unanticipated solutions—can shorten lengthy sales cycles and ignite urgency to act.
The more closely aligned buyers and sellers are at each stage of the buyer’s journey, the stronger their results in terms of win rates and quota attainment.
Organizations that failed to consider the buyer’s journey achieved quota attainment of only 44.9% according to the Miller Heiman Group.
Sales KPIs are what help you measure the state of your business and the health of your pipeline and just like your sales process, they must be regularly reviewed and updated.
As a sales leader, that means you have to be able to identify, interpret, and use this data to improve the productivity and results of your sales team. So, ask yourself:
Did the sales KPIs I tracked this year give me true visibility into my team’s performance? Did I use those KPIs to effectively drive the right outcomes?
When you’re first defining your sales KPIs, it can be tempting to focus all of your attention on surface-level KPIs like individual lead quota attainment. After all, the end goal of any sales team is to bring in more money for the business.
But these surface-level KPIs won’t provide the more detailed, in-depth picture of how or why you hit (or missed) your targets.
That’s why you need to routinely examine and refine your KPIs. Perhaps you need to look more closely at KPIs like lead flow, pipeline creation, churn, or expansion.
The purpose of tracking sales KPIs is to drive action and insight for your team, not just to display them on a sales dashboard.
For example, let’s say you’re managing a team of Sales Development Reps (SDRs) and notice an increase in sales qualified leads being passed to the Account Executive (AEs) team.
But, you also notice the number of stage one (first appointment) opportunities hasn’t increased.
As you dig into the numbers you could interpret that in one of two ways: either you have more leads of poorer quality, or your SDRs aren’t properly staffed to handle and convert the increased volume of leads.
Is this the information you need?
As a sales manager, knowing this will guide your decisions regarding what actions to take, you need to re-evaluate.
Perhaps the more helpful KPI to track in this situation is measuring the stage-to-stage conversion rate or the close-ratio on provided leads.
Learning to dig past surface-level KPIs will help you identify underlying trends and themes and then use those insights to take the next steps toward faster growth and further improvement for your team.
#3. Pipeline inspection process
Pipeline management is one of the B2B sales managers’ most critical responsibilities, but assessing your entire team’s sales pipeline takes more than simple intuition.
It requires having a consistent system and process, across the whole team.
That can come down to asking yourself one key question:
Did my team consistently use the same pipeline inspection process this year?
Inspection questions are the tools you and your team can and should use to assess each and every opportunity in the pipeline.
Think of them like filters; they help identify what prospect does and doesn’t belong in each stage of your pipeline.
This means when you’re running your weekly team sales meeting and you start to review the opportunities in the pipeline, everyone knows and applies the same “rule” or “questions.”
There’s no “well, this one is different” story because your team knows they can’t make any exceptions. They’re all aligned.
However, there are times when a rep may occasionally be misled.
While the rep may know based on your agreed-upon “rules” this opportunity doesn’t belong, he or she has been misled into thinking the opportunity should be in this stage.
This could have happened for a number of nuanced reasons, which you should discuss as a team. This is a great teachable moment for you, the sales manager, to step in and create a conversation about the stages of your pipeline.
Whether your team has been using your inspection process for a while or just getting started, it’s important to reinforce why you have the process in place and why everyone on the team must use it.
Making sure your team shares these common ground rules and uses the same language will allow you to hold your team accountable. Ultimately resulting in a more productive pipeline meeting for the team and increased accuracy in the sales forecast for you.
#4. Your coaching process
According to a recent study by Knowledge Tree, sales representatives receiving at least three hours of coaching per month exceed their selling goals by 7%, increase revenue by 25%, and increase close rates by 70%.
Who wouldn’t want those results?
While achieving the sales revenue target is your most important goal, adopting a strict results-focused mindset will only take you so far when it comes to coaching your reps.
It’s much more effective to focus on the process and the coachability of your team.
That means you need to consider not only the results your reps achieved but how they got those results.
To do that, you have to ask yourself:
Have I developed the right process for coaching my reps? Or am I simply providing random acts of coaching?
Your system and coaching process will be unique to you and your team, but ideally, you will have to have a formalized way to get your team to commit to improving and then a clear measurable way to provide feedback
A common sales coaching mistake is confusing conversations for coaching.
If your coaching sessions don’t include a commitment, you’re not helping your rep intentionally improve.
Creating and managing your rep’s commitments starts by leveraging the data in your CRM to assess, track, and measure their performance as well as their progress towards improvement.
For example, let’s say you noticed a change in performance for one of your reps after comparing their current results to a previous period.
What did they do differently?
You could take an educated guess, but to understand this change most effectively you can analyze the following things using your CRM:
What activities did the sales rep engage in? Phone? Email? Social? How many of each?
Did any of these activities result in a response?
What activities guided the lead to become qualified as an opportunity?
Once the lead was converted to an opportunity, what follow-up actions were taken to move the opportunity to the next stage?
By assessing these key points, you can actually see where your sales rep is experiencing problems.
When you see the number of activities he or she has engaged in, you can hypothesize the reason for under-performing.
For example, maybe the reason is the lack of activities and your sales rep simply needs to be more persistent in converting leads to opportunities.
Or if there’s a large volume of activities logged with no result, this could be a sign that the sales rep needs additional training on writing more effective emails or asking better questions.
This is great information for you to have for your next coaching session with this rep because you can guide them to make a commitment to record and listen to their phone calls and take a closer look at their emails.
Then, help them analyze and improve upon their strategy.
When you leverage data and hold your salespeople accountable, you increase your chances of helping your reps improve.
Your end of the year action plan
Assessing where you stand at the end of the year is a great exercise because it allows you to reflect on what you’ve accomplished, consider what you could have done differently, and leverage insights from the past year to create a new action plan for the year ahead.
As you build out your goals for next year, keep both your short-term plan as well as your longer-term plan in mind.
While you may be focused on the immediate, such as increasing sales and customers, you also want to slowly move toward where you want to take your team over time.
Having goals is what keeps you on your toes as a sales professional. Make sure you’re constantly working toward bigger and better.
A bigger and better pipeline, that is! Starting with a plan is the first step towards success. Download our pipeline planning tool to help your team streamline their pipeline management.
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