Drawing on over 20 years’ experience of running sales management training courses, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 challenges for sales managers who want to build high-performance sales teams.
1. Prioritising tasks
How you prioritise your work has a direct impact on the effectiveness of your sales team and your role as a leader, so it’s important to take the time to get it right. Only by focusing on the tasks which are most likely to lead to success will you and your sales team be successful.
When evaluating the tasks on your todo list, ask yourself: “Will this action have a positive impact on sales performance?”. Speak to your line manager for guidance, critique your job description and ask your sales team what support they need from you. Also consider using task prioritisation systems such as the Eisenhower Matrix or productivity expert David Allen’s Getting Things Done system.
2. Time management
Once you’ve identified your key tasks, the next challenge is to manage your time effectively so that these tasks get done on time.
Effective time management requires you to regularly analyse your workload and focus your energy and resources on completing important tasks before less important ones. Sales managers who are excellent time managers are generally more successful at building effective sales teams and, as such, it’s a vital skill to master.
3. Deciding on a leadership style
Different workplace environments demand different leadership styles. However, whilst being adaptable is often seen as a virtue, so is “being yourself”. Nobody likes a fraud, so don’t try to be something you’re not. Newly promoted sales managers who are trying to assert their authority over a team they were once part of often fall into this trap.
4. Motivating your sales team
Highly motivated sales teams tend to be successful sales teams, and good leaders know how to keep morale high whether a company is profitable or struggling to stay in business. Motivating salespeople – and keeping them motivated – requires strong communication skills and a tailored approach to staff development.
Motivating people to build client relationships and close sales is a complex and challenging tasks, and can require advanced communication skills and an in-depth understanding of the key motivational drivers in your team. Different people will have different motivations: recognition, being part of a team or managing prestigious accounts. Whilst financial reward is an important factor for most people when they take on a new job, it’s rarely important in the day-to-day business of “doing the job”. So, take the time to find out what motivates and drives your salespeople.
5. Developing your sales team
A sales team can just be a group of individual salespeople that goes out to visit their customers each day, prepare quotations and close deals. However, the most successful sales teams do so much more, and the challenge for any sales manager is to get the most out of their team.
Individuals might share sales strategies and insights with other members of the team, help sole problems or take responsibility for finding out about a competitor and reporting back to the team. This makes the team a much more powerful entity, and a good sales manager should, wherever possible, seek to encourage activities that facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing.
6. Managing sales meetings
One of the less obvious challenges faced by sales managers is how to make the most of sales meetings.
A poorly-managed, disorganised sales meeting isn’t just a waste of everyone’s time – it’s a missed opportunity for improving the sales team. A well-organised sales meeting, on the other hand, offers a great opportunity for your team to collaborate, communicate, solve problems and celebrate individual and team success.
Some of our top tips for running a successful sales meeting include:
- Restrict the meeting to a maximum of one hour;
- Inform people of your agenda beforehand;
- Allocate time for sharing success stories;
- Only address items that apply to everyone; and
- Include skills-building or educational content
7. Coaching your salespeople
To leverage the power of a sales team, it’s important that a culture of constant improvement is established and bought into by the group. Coaching is a key skill for a sales manager because it allows you to support sales people in order to produce better results and, when implemented correctly, can be highly motivating for the salesperson.
8. Managing individual and team performance
Managing sales team performance is one of the biggest challenges faced by sales managers. In fact, according to a survey carried out by Hubspot, approximately 66% of salespeople are not achieving their sales targets.
There are a number of reasons why your sales team may not be performing, such as:
- Lack of professional sales training;
- Lack of motivation and drive;
- Your company’s service or product is not clearly understood;
- Poor communication skills; and
- Poor customer service.
So how do you help your sales team find success?
There are numerous strategies that can be employed to help salespeople reach their full potential and meet their sales objectives, such as:
- Encouraging continued learning
- Streamlining the sales process;
- Understanding the personality differences within your sales team;
- Promoting internal competition;
- Cultivating a winning mentality;
- Identifying and removing barriers to success;
- Creating effective sales strategies;
- Providing detailed performance feedback;
- Identifying team and individual goals; and
- Staying abreast of competitor developments.
9. Appraisal and assessment
Of all the challenges faced by sales managers, carrying out appraisals that lead to meaningful and positive improvements in your salespeople is one of the most difficult to achieve.
Managers and employees tend to complain about appraisals and their value, but sometimes, putting in a little bit of extra effort can yield much better results.
Investing the time to develop a formal process for assessing an individual’s progress against agreed objectives allows you to accurately monitor progress and prevent any nasty surprises down the line! It allows training needs to be identified, forecasts to be discussed and activities prioritised. In nearly all cases, appraisals and assessments should be a useful motivator for the salesperson.
10. Recruitment of salespeople
Although HR staff are increasingly involved in the recruiting process, a good sales manager should know exactly what type of experience or key skills they are looking for in their sales executives. When interviewing candidates, the questions asked should reveal specific evidence in support of (or against) the candidate’s suitability for the role.
Recruiting and appointing your own sales team makes it easier to establish a loyal bond with the salesperson from the start. Because of that, it’s highly recommended that you invest as much time in the recruitment process as possible.
About the author
Richard Claessens is an experienced sales professional and a Director of Ontrac Training. He has sold a diverse selection of products over the last 35 years including machine tools, directory advertising, websites and business services. In his spare time he volunteers as a qualified athletics coach at his local Club.