There are so many complex moving parts that make up the key responsibilities of an effective sales manager that they could be forgiven for missing one or two essential elements. However, some of these sales management mistakes are so crucial – and basic – that they simply cannot be allowed, lest they continue sabotaging the sales and growth prospects of your company. Here are three of the most common, yet important, sales management mistakes to avoid.
Lack of a clearly-defined and focused selling structure and process
This is a crucial sales management mistake, especially at younger companies or startups. All sales reps need a clear understanding of every aspect of the uniform sales process. Is the sales process mapped to the buyer’s mindset or your company’s, the seller’s? How many calls are they expected to make each day? What characteristics are they looking for when qualifying prospects? What type of information should reps be logging into their CRM? How are lead statuses defined and managed in Salesforce? How long are leads allowed to spend in each stage before they progress to the next one or are deemed to be dead? What’s the demo phase like? How much contact is there between the client and the rep during the trial stage? With a focused selling structure, all reps should be able to give uniform answers to the above questions.
Sales managers need to have a clear visualization and outlined methodology for the path that all leads take on their way to becoming converted opportunities, as well as how their team of sales reps are working on these leads. More importantly, your team of sales reps needs this stability. A more focused selling structure that is fully grasped by all members of the sales organization will be more streamlined, more efficient and ultimately more effective.
No focus on coaching or development of sales reps
Sales managers often forget about or ignore the coaching or developmental aspects of their jobs. The truth is that coaching should comprise a big part of any sales manager’s day-to-day responsibilities. Providing guidance, mentorship, encouragement and inspiration for sales reps and employees can help them facilitate their own discovery of the right path and process. That’s the magic of sales coaching – instead of telling reps what to do, managers should coach reps on how to do it. As the old adage goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Teaching anything – fishing, sales, whatever – requires certain tools and techniques. The most productive sales coaching sessions are facilitated by extensive data-driven sales performance metrics. When sales managers can turn to sales performance data to support the changes they are seeking among their sales teams, reps will be that much more receptive to being coached and improving.
Are Jack’s conversion ratios of dials that convert to demos and eventually to closed-won deals slipping? Maybe he is not qualifying leads for demos correctly, or maybe he needs to tighten up the presentation of his demos. Is Jill keeping her prospects in the trial phase for too long? Point out that winning deals typically spend about half the time in the trial phase that her prospects do and suggest that she tweak her process. With these types of actionable insights in hand, sales managers should focus more heavily on coaching and developing their sales reps.
Erroneous sales forecasting systems or metrics
Having an accurate sales forecast can make all the difference to a sales manager and organization – accurate sales forecasting leads to more efficient business decisions, more effective pipeline management and appropriate delegation of sales reps and resources. Unfortunately, most sales managers make the mistake of sales forecasting using a finger-in-the-wind approach, instead of tracking key sales performance metrics and performing the necessary analysis that leads to accurate data-driven sales forecasts.
The most commonly used (and inaccurate) sales forecasting methods rely on qualitative systems that are mapped to sales forecasting stages, instead of more accurate quantitative sales forecasting techniques that track opportunity stages. The subjectivity of sales forecasting stages is naturally inaccurate, as reps with “happy ears” or those who disingenuously sandbag deals to pad their own numbers are asked to analyze their own sales pipeline opportunities. Instead, sales managers are better off establishing a set of quantitative milestones or benchmarks that reps are required to fill in uniformly. Concrete opportunity stage definitions and an established process prevents reps from blurring stages or manipulating data.
Additionally, most sales managers make the mistake of tracking the wrong sales performance metrics or not being aware of their sales forecast killers. Time, average deal size, lead source and level of engagement are all important metrics and factors that can either lend themselves to a more accurate sales forecast, or sink your forecasting efforts if they are not properly considered.
Eliminating these sales management mistakes from your company can make an immediate and significant difference, as well as establishing a more effective foundation for future success. Implement a data-driven culture from top to bottom and don’t be the last organization left standing making these egregious errors.