As a sales manager, your job is to drive growth. The best way to do that is to develop the right behaviors in your sales reps. In other words, you can’t just be a sales manager. You have to be a sales LEADER.
How do you do that?
There are many things that can drive revenue growth within your company, but as a sales leader, it all starts with your team. Here are five key areas to challenge your team on in order to grow both them and your company.
1. Sales Performance
One of the most obvious areas for you to challenge your team on is their sales performance. Start with their monthly or quarterly performance.
Start asking questions to determine where your team might need to be pushed.
Are they hitting their quota?
Have you seen growth in their conversion metrics?
How about referrals?
One key component that often goes unnoticed is referrals. Too often, asking for a referral is an afterthought for salespeople. This needs to change if your team wants to see growth.
Asking for a referral from a happy customer should be a habit.
By forming the proper habits around generating referrals, your company can see accelerated growth. Referrals are also a good sign that customer retention is in a good place, because unhappy customers are not likely to give a referral.
Once you’ve determined an area where your team is lacking, challenge them to improve. This is where your leadership comes in. You need to determine what’s holding back your reps and coach them to improve their numbers. Give them smaller goals and metrics to lead them in the direction you want them to go.
One of the best ways to drive performance from your reps is through competition.
You can leverage competition by having them compete against themselves. Reward them for beating their own personal records.
You might also try implementing contests centered on various aspects of daily operations where reps compete against their colleagues.
Sales is a competitive field, so you’re counting on each rep’s ego to drive them to perform better.
However you do it, as a sales leader, it’s your job to track the numbers, determine where your reps need help, and figure out how to help them.
Personnel development and company growth are directly related. This holds true in the negative direction as well as the positive, so be careful. Lack-of-growth amongst team members will, in the best case scenario, lead to stagnation in individual and overall performance metrics.
This means that, as a sales leader, you need to constantly encourage a culture of self-improvement and development. You need to regularly spend one-on-one time with individual members.
A true leader is able to develop other leaders, and part of that is making sure they are not only developing the traits of a successful rep, but also those of a successful leader.
Focus on developing leadership, creativity, business acumen, emotional and social intelligence, and salesmanship.
Trying to bring out the best in your team is an exciting challenge. Take them outside of their comfort zones to stretch their capabilities, and see how they respond. The more often you are able to get reps outside of their comfort zones, the more you will see development occur.
When a company stops being creative, they are set for failure. There will always be another company out there who is being innovative, generating ideas with the potential to destroy your business model if you slow down.
A great way to produce creativity in your team is to focus on being customer-centric.
When every decision you make considers how the customer will be impacted, you will be attuned with your customer’s needs, pain points and factors that are trending around their business. This will naturally keep you at the forefront of innovation, and lends itself to creative contributions from your sales team.
Your sales reps are on the frontline. They’re a crucial component in carrying out a customer-centric approach.
Discovery calls provide an opportunity for your reps to ask questions relating to customer needs and how to remain competitive. Furthermore, your reps are interacting with hundreds of similar companies, allowing them to see patterns develop.
Challenge your sales executives to speak up during marketing brainstorms to provide creative insights that impact the future of your company. Their frontline experience won’t help if they don’t share it.
Additionally, creative thinking from your reps leads to more closed deals. Whether it is bringing a third-party solution to close a deal, or offering customized accommodations, sometimes thinking outside of the box is the best way to ensure you don’t miss out on a deal.
4. Critical Thinking
A salesperson cannot be passive. This is a sign of carelessness, weak sales skills, or both. Passivity will generate mediocre results, if any results at all.
This passivity can include lack of drive within a company, or lack of desire to push back against a client when there is a better solution.
Challenging your clients may not be comfortable, but it is sometimes necessary. You are the expert on your solution and the problem it solves, allowing you to see things they might not.
If you allow your sales team to be passive with clients, their customers will begin to dismiss them. Once this happens, they will begin looking elsewhere.
Obviously it is best to try to identify these characteristics before making a hire. However, that is easier said than done. Not to mention, most reps don’t start out this way. This is a mindset that often develops over time.
As a manager, you have a responsibility to fight this kind of sales apathy.
One of the best ways to prevent this is by challenging your team to think critically. The ability to actively problem solve is one of the most important attributes for a sales professional.
Critical thinking and problem solving is like a brain game to keep the mind active. It staves off apathy by continually engaging your rep in interesting problems that stretch their capabilities.
How do you promote critical thinking?
Train your team to participate actively in their customer’s strategy ideation process. Then push them to find creative solutions for your customers. Depending on their experience this may require more or less hand-holding.
However, if you’re constantly stepping in to solve problems for them, they’ll never stretch those critical thinking muscles.
This doesn’t mean they will always make the right decision. But with each mistake, your team can grow and develop leadership capabilities.
Challenging critical thinking in your reps also makes your life easier as a manager. If the people underneath you are careless, then you have limited potential for your own growth, let alone sales growth. If a sales leader’s head is constantly in the weeds, they aren’t able to focus on growth initiatives.
Traditionally, professionalism is talked about in the context of dress code, punctuality or how you present yourself. These are all true, but these aren’t the only characteristics of professionalism that are important for your reps.
Time is everyone’s most important asset. It is the one thing neither you nor your client can get back. This means you must safeguard it to the best of your ability — both your rep’s time and the client’s.
A salesperson’s ability to drive revenue growth directly correlates to how they protect their time. You can coach your team members to plan out their week and turn off distractions like their smartphone, but that only goes so far.
The biggest time-sink for most reps is client engagement and preparation for meetings.
Have you ever spent hours prepping for a call only to have the prospect not show?
This is inevitable for anyone in sales. Rather than be frustrated, instruct your reps to demonstrate professionalism by acknowledging the missed appointment in their follow-up message.
The note should bring attention to the prospect’s absence in a way that shows empathy and understanding, but also responsibility for each party to respect the other’s time.
Another key aspect of professionalism is domain expertise.
A great way to drive revenue growth is by penetrating specific verticals one at a time. Word-of-mouth will increase as your company becomes more relevant within that specific space. The more concentrated your brand is, the more you will begin to have customers coming to you for those specific reasons.
As the sales leader, it is your responsibility to train your team to become domain experts.
There are many ways to develop your team to be leaders in a specific industry.
The first, and perhaps most obvious, is training. Make sure your reps have been trained on the details of the vertical they’re selling into.
Remember you aren’t going to be able to sell to a client you don’t understand.
Have your team fill out a Business Model Canvas for a company archetype, or the specific company you are selling to. This framework is an efficient way to understand how a company is run and what it values. By understanding the foundations of a company, you are able to sell better.
You also need to ensure your reps are having in-depth discovery calls with your clients. The goal of the discovery call is to understand as much as you can about the client company, their present situation, key players, and company pain points.
The more you have these conversations with clients, the more you’ll start to see trends that will help you sell to other clients in that vertical.
Being professional is too often overlooked because it’s viewed as obvious. In reality, this is arguably one of the most important attributes of a sales professional’s career.
Challenging your sales team to grow and improve can directly impact the top-line growth of your organization. As a sales leader, it’s your responsibility to challenge reps and develop your team to generate a positive return on investment.
If you focus on challenging your reps in the five key areas above — sales performance, self-improvement, creativity, critical thinking, and professionalism — you will begin to see improved revenue metrics and a transformative culture.