Coaching: Just like a sports coach, the role of a sales coach is to guide, encourage, measure results, and instill accountability.
Coaching is Leadership
Coaching: An effective coach will guide and encourage their team to develop their skills, refine their processes and grow their knowledge. They need to be able to provide advice in any given opportunity and, where needed, engage with the customer directly. They also need to be able to hold salespeople accountable to their activities and performance. Sales managers must get the best from each salesperson on the team. That means inspecting their activities levels, use of the sales process and ability to execute — encouraging the good, correcting the bad and keeping the salesperson on track to achieve their goal.
Inspect What You Expect!: Measure Financial results — like revenue and total sales — are easy to track and offer a clear picture of sales performance. The results of sales activities are harder to measure, but provide a forecast for future sales outcomes and pipeline values. A prospective sale — or opportunity — changes during the course of the sales cycle. Every customer interaction and activity results in some opportunity movement. Identifying the key activities within each phase of the buying process and measuring their completion helps track the advancement of each opportunity. Capturing anticipated revenue and potential close dates, both of which can and will change, projects opportunities in the future. Forecast accuracy, a key measure of a salesperson and sales leader’s command of their business, is a test of credibility.
The list of sales metrics is long. Each sales leader must determine the metrics that best capture each phase of their customer’s buying process, from demand generation to close and delivery or implementation. Then, in collaboration with finance, they must determine the key performance and cost of sales metrics. Cost of sales is the EBITA of selling. Matching the sales resource to the opportunity and associated cost drives the sales productivity metric. Overpaying for sales hurts margins just as underpaying for sales hurts performance. The challenge for sales leaders is finding the right balance.
Strategy: No one plays a game without a strategy. While smart salespeople build their personal strategy to achieve their goals and maximize their income based on their compensation plan and quota, sales leaders must develop the sales game plan to achieve their goals. Every year, as the business grows, the strategy must evolve. New markets, capabilities and competitors all ride on the economic waves that comprise the economy. There are multiple ways to win any game, just as there are multiple sales strategies that can deliver the number. The creation, communication
and execution of the strategy is the responsibility of the sales leader. Determining the balance of new to existing customers, expanding or exploring different markets, and allocating salespeople and resources must fit into a strategy for this year and beyond.
Building a sales strategy begins with the go-to-market decision of allocating sales resources to territories, customer types and assigned customers. This sets the playing field for salespeople to build their individual strategy to maximize their performance. The manager’s role is to create fair and balanced territories to level the playing field for each sales role. Next is the sales compensation plan, which is effectively the rule book of parameters for how sales will be measured and paid; it is essential for enabling a salesperson to build their winning strategy. Finally, quota is assigned, which becomes the scoreboard that sales is measured against.
People: The strength of any sales organization depends on the quality of their salespeople. In very small companies, the founder or leader usually serves as chief salesperson. As the company grows, it will hire one salesperson and then another — until the need for a sales manager becomes apparent. Selling, like accounting or manufacturing, is a distinct profession with unique requirements for knowledge, skills and experience. As with any other role, you get what you pay for. Salespeople with little experience, skills and knowledge cost less. Salespeople with more experience, skills and knowledge cost more. The highly skilled salesperson will also probably be unwilling to do remedial sales activities, like demand generation of low-margin transactional selling. When making hires, it is important to balance the right level of salesperson with a well-defined sales role. Prior performance does not guarantee future results, but it’s a pretty good indicator. This is why experienced, high-performing salespeople are hard to get and cost more than a “journeyman salesperson.”
When to hire a salesperson is a key question for small organizations. Adding and scaling the sales function becomes progressively more important as organizations grow. Equally important is when to fire a salesperson. This is never a pleasant exercise, but it’s necessary when salespeople fail to perform or are unable to keep up with the evolution of the business. For some, the “a warm body is better than nobody” approach supports a culture of mediocracy. For others, a “make your number or be fired” approach creates a transitory culture with little loyalty. Finding a balance is never easy. But careful and selective hiring, creating clearly defined roles and setting challenging but attainable quotas usually creates the right balance of competition and performance.