One of Sales Ops Toughest Jobs: Managing the Managers

Guest blog by Joe Rodden, Sales Systems Manager at Catalant Technologies

In previous posts, I’ve discussed how to avoid the most common traps that lead to systems issues, and how to identify when the problem you’re solving really is a training issue. On to the last lever: Management. Some of the toughest problems to solve in sales operations are management issues. Why? Because we typically have the least direct control over solving them. This doesn’t mean we should give up, and not try though, there’s some common tactics we can employ in order to drive solutions to management issues.

Train Managers, Too

Commonly overlooked when rolling out new processes or changes to existing processes is the training for the actual managers. In many companies I’ve worked for there is typically one training done for all members of the sales team, seller and manager alike. While this works in some cases for any major overhauls that are going to require management to enforce going forward, it’s worth hosting a separate training only for the managers. Think of it as, “Here’s what we’re rolling out to your reps.” and “Here’s what we’re asking you to help us accomplish.”

Reporting Is Your Friend

A majority of the output created in a CRM system is designed to be reported on. Ensure your team is coming up with actionable metrics that the sales team can actually use. A common one is determining the output of sales activities, how many are typically needed to make X dollars. This information on hand allows you to provide a guidepost to managers such as, “If you want to book $X then your reps need to be making X calls, X emails, and having X meetings.” Stats like this give managers something to actually manage to. All too often you’ll see managers trying to manage to a business result which is impossible to control. No matter how hard you wish, you can’t make customers spend $1,000,000 with you to hit your goal. They can however have their reps make 60 prospecting calls a day to drive new revenue. See the difference? It’s on the sales ops team to make sure they have this information.

Manage Up With Facts

We’ve all run into a scenario where a certain sales team is not following process, or not performing well. Emotions can sometimes run high in these scenarios but it’s important to stick to the facts. If you have one sales team in your org that refuses to follow the process, looks for shortcuts, and generally is affected by management problems stick to the facts when attempting to resolve these issues. There is a difference between saying, “Your reps never forecast correctly!” and saying, “I’ve noticed that on these couple of deals it appears that your reps are creating and closing them the same day. Did these deals really have a one day sales cycle?” Highlight these insights using data and open the conversation up. If needed, escalate these issues up the chain using the same approach.

Partner For Results

The best and most effective processes I’ve rolled out came as a result of a cross functional effort. Sales managers will always have valuable input and for many initiatives to really succeed you need their buy-in. If something gets rolled out from the top of the sales chain that the managers don’t believe in, it turns into just another box to check and not a valuable selling tool. It will be perceived as a time waster and although they may fill in that field or check that box the real value won’t be realized.

Regardless, if your CRO is running a new initiative, take the time to poll the line managers and get their input. It may take time to foster an honest level of communication but if they realize that you’re really listening to and incorporating their feedback, they’re going to be excited and energized to work on the process with you. They should have as much input on what you’re doing as you do (when it affects their teams).