Sales management plays a big part in this. Leaders with a dictatorial management style can set unrealistic demands which result in the people in their charge adopting a ‘what do I do next?’ attitude and in doing so, often restrict the ability to tap into and leverage their team’s latent potential.
Conversely, sales managers who adopt a more democratic leadership approach by actively seeking more accountability with suggestions and consensus rather than statements of intent, might see more engagement but potentially a reduction in activity and output.
In my experience of spending over twenty years in the B2B sales environment, my best results were always achieved when responsibility was jointly owned by both myself as the sales leader and equally by my team.
Here are just a handful of the many ways that I’ve found that both parties can increase responsibility and improve sales results.
Responsibilities of Salespeople
1. Prioritising and prospecting
Allocating tasks on the ‘To Do’ list, into three specific areas; admin, strategy and revenue creation, will significantly help focus attention on doing more of the right things. Admin and strategy are a fundamental part of the sales job but allocating the correct amount of time spent on these is crucial. Priority must be given to activities which ultimately bring money into the business, so that means anything that results in a sale.
Make prospecting a daily activity. Even more so when things are going well and the pipeline is healthy, so that your narrative and demeanour is based on confidence rather than desperation. Follow up on actions quickly and do what you say you’ll do, and you’ll become known by your customers as someone they can trust and rely on and someone, they’ll happily refer to others.
2. Manage the direction
Take control of leading the sales process with the customer – it will deliver a more meaningful outcome for you both. You will naturally have the customers best interests at heart, so provided your solution demonstrates value, they will have no objection to being shown the direction you would like them to travel, for them to achieve that payback.
Begin every scheduled call or meeting with a verbal agenda. Agree why you’re meeting together and what you collectively hope to achieve. Share your three key objectives and why you want to discuss them and ask them to share the reasons behind theirs. At the start of the meeting insist on mutually agreeing to take action at the end – there is no greater sales crime than leaving a sales meeting without a call to action.
3. Spend time on the people that matter
Spend more time with existing clients. Clearly, those who already know, like and trust you are better placed to provide you with new opportunities. Also, bear in mind that not being able to retain existing clients is worse than not growing organically. For sure, you are going to lose some and on occasions, there’s not much you can do about it. Maybe they make a strategic decision that eliminates the need for your product or service, or perhaps your loyal contacts leave and their replacements have their own relationships.
Nonetheless, it’s your responsibility to not allow your clients to leave for reasons that you CAN control. To do this, you must be close to them, their organisation and their industry. You have to know the conversation that’s going on inside their head today and have a solid awareness of the trends that will impact them (and therefore you) in the near future. This information can be used to deliver back valuable, strategic advice which will keep you very much in their future plans.
Responsibilities of Sales Management
4. Manage diligently
Get in front of your team and give them your undivided attention. Listen to them and establish exactly what you need to do to help them outsource or delegate some of their administrative tasks. This will free up more time to focus on more valuable things like strategy and sales revenue activity.
Set up regular 121 sessions with the individuals in your team and find out what’s going well, celebrate and recognise their success and then ask how you can help them do more. Understand what they could be better at, reassure them that it’s OK to fail provided a lesson is learned, and build a plan of how to correct things. Document agreed actions and set a follow-up date to review progress.
5. Keep them focused
Protect them from distractions like customer service issues, account management and office politics, all of which contribute towards diverting a salesperson’s attention away from the responsibility of winning new business.
Although, a key role of an effective sales manager is to reduce these so-called external distractions, sometimes it’s the internal ones which are harder to police.
So, look out for and enquire about the personal wellbeing of your team. Ask about their health and whether they’re getting enough sleep and be aware of their feedback when you ask about their personal relationships. These internal distractions are of equal, if not greater importance and will have significant consequential impact if not diagnosed early. Use the time at the start of the 121 sessions to check-in and discuss these.
6. Show them the aims, then let them go!
Hold the team accountable. Once the quarterly targets are set, a salesperson has a huge amount of freedom and without regular contact, a heightened risk of missing target. It would be great if the entire sales team were totally self-accountable for their results, but the reality is, not all of them will be. Your salespeople generate awareness and updates, not accountability – that’s your role as their sales manager.
Create a goal-orientated sales culture. Set goals with them not for them. Show them how they can achieve their goal so that they clearly see a logical path towards it. Explain what the benefits are for achievement and the consequences if not. Ask for their reaction, acceptance and ultimately their agreement to adopt the process. Then stand back and let them get on with it, knowing you’re there if they need you.
The concept of personal leadership and the ability we have to hold ourselves accountable is critical to how we spend our time and our outcomes in life. If you’re willing to take more responsibility and are able to surround yourself with others who can help you, then you’re on the path towards some pretty stunning results!