Checklist: Control activities not outcomes
It is a simple fact when it comes to sales and sales management, you need to focus your effort on controlling the controllables. And this means stuff you DO not the results of this work.
You cannot control or ‘manage’ revenue, growth, market share or anything else that is an outcome of the sales activity. These goals are very important when setting direction and expectations for the team. However, they cannot be used effectively as a basis of performance management.
It is very difficult to performance manage a sales person for not achieving the revenue growth you expect, or for not winning an order with a customer. But, you can focus on managing the activities that person does along the way to winning the order, to deliver growth.
Focus on managing opportunities.
What are the things that the sales team should do in your business to deliver success?
In my experience of B2B sales, one of the key areas of focus should be how opportunities are managed. After all, this is the role of the sales team: to find/create the opportunity and then manage this through the sales cycle to successful closure. (This is certainly true of new business development reps, though for account managers I understand there are other issues too in terms of delivering the right customer experience.) Because this is so important, I will focus on this for the rest of this message.
Best practice opportunity management ACTIVITIES
The best practice for opportunity management is a team effort, including the sales team, sales management and the broader company, to support the push for a win.
There are some things the sales person should do consistently to improve results. Principally this is focused on making better choices about which deals to invest pursuit effort into. This doesn’t happen enough and means that win rates average 41% (with many companies sub 20%). When it comes to making decisive decisions and qualification, sales people should DO this more often.
Once it is decided that it is a deal worth effort, sales teams must build and execute a winning strategy. This means DOing the right things on each deal based on a clear plan of action. If they get these things right, win rates can improve significantly.
Sales managers must set expectations of things to DO – defining the standard and approach that should be used when managing opportunities in the ‘way’ that is right for your company. They need to identify the right activities (not just outcomes), and this will focus on the approach to assessing deal health, productive reviews and also how to raise the bar on reporting insights.
Sales managers have a critical role in the team’s success. Although it happens too infrequently in many companies, coaching is a key differentiator between good and average performers. Sales management must make the time to DO this more often and better. They must look proactively and critically (constructively of course!) at the key deals that they rely on to deliver growth. And, help the team to advance. Too often review time is taken up with checking data quality issues, and the proactive and forward looking coaching effort takes a back seat. You should look at how to change this, and DO more of it, now.