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As a sales leader, you’re only as good as your team, and it starts by managing a team effectively. It’s important to create a process to systematize the way your reps generate, manage and close opportunities. To encourage the right behaviors, you must provide evidence that shows your process is effective, and straightforward. A team of some of our top customers recently brainstormed ideas for how a sales leader can institute an effective, data-backed rep management process within their organization. Here are the top five tips we discussed:

1.Get Your Champions Lined Up.

The Visionary: The sales leader, such as a vice president, structures weekly 1-on-1s with managers based on reporting and analysis, and the managers follow the exact same structure for their 1-on-1s with reps. However, open minds are critical. What kind of questions can you ask your managers to create a productive conversation around, “What does top-notch sales management look like?” Once they see the difference between where they are, and where they want to be, they’ll be ready to swallow the tough lessons that the reports will teach them about how to better manage their teams.

The Expert: With so many individuals relying on data, you need an employee, preferably in sales operations, to be responsible for the following:

  • Clean data. Your expert needs to know which reports are critical to your team, so they can determine which data needs to be cleaned for those reports to work correctly. They can run a one-time clean-up of that data, and establish processes to keep the data clean.
  • Rapid answers. The expert must understand a manager’s and reps’ needs intuitively so they can answer real-time questions immediately.
  • The agreed-upon reports. The expert will understand every nuance of your organization’s dashboards and reports. They can keep your team on track by suggesting which employees should use specific reports, and recommend tweaks based on feedback and changing needs of the team.

2. Break Down a Dysfunctional Pipeline.

When a rep isn’t on track to hit their goal, use the reports to help them build their path to the goal. Questions to consider asking during the 1-on-1:

  • Back-of-the-napkin forecasts. For opportunities with close dates this month, what stage are they in, and what’s the win rate for opps in that stage? Based on this information, how close will the existing pipeline get the rep to their goal?
  • Get the most from your current pipeline. What can be done to get the best possible close rates on the existing pipeline? Can other team members or departments help? Are there high-value opportunities that are early-stage, which could be accelerated?
  • Get the pipeline you need. If there isn’t enough pipeline, or it’s full of the wrong kind of opportunities, how can that change? Can marketing help?
  • Watch out for repeated close date pushes. What makes the rep so bad at determining how long it will take to close a deal? There are specific steps they can take to be more accurate, and the whole forecast hinges on a reliable close date.

3. Get Involved in Dysfunctional Opportunities.

When an opportunity displays a key warning sign, it’s time for a manager to get involved, or a vice president for high-value opportunities. Questions to consider:

  • Low momentum. Why isn’t it getting worked? Did it get dropped in the handoff? (A doubly dangerous warning sign is if it’s set to close this month, and it’s approaching the end of the month.)
  • Well above-average days in stage. What will it take to get it past this stage?
  • Can’t afford to lose. Watch for opportunities with high value, or strategic value. Let management play a bigger hand in them than normal.

4. Deliver Good News.

When a rep has a well-built, well-maintained pipeline with well-managed opportunities, and is booking deals and hitting their goal, use a leaderboard to make it publicly and painfully obvious. Your top performers deserve to be celebrated, and the rest of your team needs to know that it’s possible and what it looks like.

Even if a rep only has nailed one piece of the puzzle — for example, sourcing a pipeline that puts them on track to hit goal — their manager should explicitly recognize it while reviewing metrics in their 1-on-1.

5. Deliver the Right Information, at the Right Time.

We don’t want to inundate our reps with too many reports, dashboards or data. We need to give them the information that matters the most to help them effectively deliver the right results. Here’s a few points to consider when building and delivering reporting to your team.

  • Control the message. Build dashboards for your managers and reps. Spoon-feed them the metrics that matter; don’t make them invent the wheel.
  • An assist, not a requirement. Once a rep understands that the reports are watching out for their weak spots, they’ll seek them out. They’ll pay closer attention once they realize that their manager will be asking about those exact weak spots in the 1-on-1s.
  • A simple message, delivered slowly. The numbers can be a lot to take in. What do you expect the rep to be looking out for? Keep it simple, plus the manager should use the 1-on-1 to be a partner in interpreting the numbers. Consider spacing out different topics over the course of each week — forecasting vs. loss review, for example. Support your team even more with lunch-and-learns to reinforce key metrics, or features of the tool.
  • Leverage the strengths of scheduled reports:
    • Shame. Exception reports should be empty. If your CEO gets the email to your team listing opportunities without an amount, for example, and then follows up with the reps who show up on the list, then your amount data is going to be great.
    • New lessons. At the beginning of every month, you will have exciting news to share: What happened last month? Send your management team the loss reasons, deal sizes, industries, etc. They should see the same metrics every month, to drive their strategy in sales and marketing.
  • Segment your reporting. Opportunities at different stages need different types of attention, so build separate areas of a dashboard for each stage. Junior reps (and especially BDRs) may be doing the wrong activities, so include activity reporting in their metrics. What other opportunities or team members deserve to be managed differently?
  • Be hospitable to both late adopters and leading adopters. Some people won’t log into the tool unless you sit them down in a room and force them to click buttons. So, make sure that those sessions happen, and that everyone attends. Other reps will be naturally talented at managing themselves with metrics. Support them with channels to learn more, so they can do their own deep-dive analyses, for example, into the kinds of opps they need in their pipelines.

We know there are many more rep management best practices out there — what are some of your favorites?

Erin Rohr
Director, marketing communications
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