The functionality of Sales is crucial to any commercial organization. Sales do not only generate revenue for a business entity it drives the business. Just like every other business aspect, coronavirus had its impacts on sales leadership too. with companies facing uncertainty about their ability to operate and sell their products, there was a need to introduce new leadership styles to meet the needs of the organization.
A survey conducted by HubSpot, an American developer and marketer of software products for customer service and so on, on over 500 sales leaders revealed that about 40 percent of them failed to complete their revenue targets. Before the pandemic, companies followed a conventional approach in their sales sector. The advent of COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way sales leaders need to engage with, manage, and empower their teams. To keep their business growing and operating, sales leaders need to address the factors preventing them from reaching their revenue targets in today's market. Now, since we’ve entered the post-COVID era, it is time for sales leaders to prioritize their requirements.
In an interview with Suzie Andrews, President, and CEO of Stark and Associates Sandler Training, she spoke that, "Many leaders are motivated to grow their business, but they don't realize what gaps they need to overcome to get there.” Her team works with CEOs, company presidents, and so on providing them solutions for lack of company growth and conditions of stalled revenues. The following article shares Andrews’s insight on how sales and business managers can overcome these gaps to effectively lead their teams through continued periods of uncertainty.
1. Transparency and involvement from company leadership
The responsibility of generating revenue doesn’t lie solely with the sales team. Andrews says, "The ultimate leader of a sales organization is the President, CEO or owner of the company. They should be out in the field with their salespeople because it shows they care." Generally, it is seen, that senior leadership gets involved in sales matters only when an issue arises or sales targets are below.
There is an immediate need for alignment between sales and company leaders. When leaders will be engaged at every stage, there will be fewer surprises, and sales reps and managers would feel more supported throughout the sales cycle. Their interaction with the salespeople will provide the necessary support, reinforcement, and additional coaching and training.
Andrews, in her interview, highlighted the way, her firm tries to bridge the gap between, sales and company leaders. She said, “When working with sales leaders, I'm always going to bring in the President and CEO. They all have to work together and be aligned on their approach.”
2. Model a positive mindset
For every sales manager, having a positive mindset is a great asset, as it influences an organization’s performance.
The mindset of a sales leader has the power to affect the entire organization’s working traits.
According to Andrews," Before a sales leader does anything else, they have to decide what their mindset is going to be. It's their job to create a strong foundation for their organization, and they should get clear about what's required of them, and their employees."
3. Support your sales managers
Being a sales manager isn’t an easy task at all. They are not only accountable to their reps and are often tasked with supporting and coaching them through their daily work, but they are also accountable to the leaders who look to them to deliver on their targets.
It is often witnessed that, a relationship between a sales manager and a sales director revolves around reporting on performance. To change this, information regarding metrics should be made available on a dashboard where leaders can quickly access it. This will free up the necessary time and space required for supporting sales managers.
Sales leaders should prioritize their support towards the sales managers, through constant communication and clear expectations, which will, in turn, improve the firm's performance.
4. Use remote work to your advantage
The transfer towards remote working was a big adjustment for many firms.
People who worked as in-house-based salesperson, had a smoother transition towards remote selling, while those working in the field were offered other opportunities. Sales leaders should focus on finding ways to connect with their remote salesforce in ways they couldn't when reps were constantly out in the field.
With people working remotely, sales leaders do not have to ride along with their reps in the field. They can do this through virtual meetings. Virtual meetings make things like one-on-ones, pre-call strategies, post-call debriefing, ad-hoc coaching, and territory plan reviews much easier to conduct. This information can be then housed on a dashboard that the president, CEO, sales leader, and sales manager, all have access to for accountability.
Also, in a survey conducted by HubSpot, 63% of the responders, who were sales leaders, said that virtual meetings were more effective than in-person meetings.
5. Use the B-A-T triangle
Also known as the success triangle, this is one of Sandler's tools, which sales leaders use to gauge their leadership effectiveness.
The ‘B’ stands for behavior, which is what either the manager or the leader needs to do to be effective in their job. These behaviors should be very specific and very measurable.
The ‘A’ stands for attitude – that's the mindset piece. With everything going on, it can be easy to have a lousy or negative attitude. If my attitude leaves me feeling unmotivated or I start making excuses for why I can't get it done, I’m not going to execute.
‘T’ stands for technique. This involves training our reps on the sales techniques and tools they need to be successful. Many organizations do not spend enough time training their sales representatives, which often creates obstacles for them while dealing with tough times like now.
6. Have a structured hiring plan
In a competitive business environment, hiring decisions have the power to make or break an organization.
It has been witnessed that a poorly structured approach towards hire is detrimental to a company's success. Andrews, in her interview, spoke, "I’ve seen organizations repeatedly mis-hire, which is extremely expensive. When teams don't know how to effectively interview candidates or don't have assessments in place to pre-screen, they run the risk of hiring the wrong candidates."
To cope with this, sales managers should make sure they have the necessary tools required for good hiring. This can include working with them to build out hiring profiles, creating a structured interview process, and revamping onboarding materials as needed.
7. Understand your salespeople
Taking the time to connect with and getting to know the reps in an organization is time well spent. When people understand what their personal goals are, they can do a better job coaching and leading them to reach those goals.
Having regular office hours or skipping-level meetings can be used to connect with team members. "For these one-on-one meetings, we recommend that a rep comes to that meeting, prepared to talk about how last week went, and then share their plan for the next two weeks.”
In addition to this, Andrews suggests the "pick one, fix one method". With an aim for employee development, this method provides an area of opportunity for personal development.
8. Strengthen your communication skills
Constant communication is critical for a healthy sales organization. While creating an improvement plan for an organization, Andrews’s approach is generally to understand their communication style and identify what gaps lie in their competencies.
They have also laid stress on the importance of actual management and not just being effective with tools like data, CRM, or spreadsheets.
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