Contributer: Patrick Stakenas, President and CEO, ForceLogix Inc.
There are many challenges to selling, and even more challenges to managing the people who sell, and even greater challenges to managing the people who manage the people who sell. Companies that recognize these challenges and that have taken the steps to truly get their sales teams engaged are typically the companies with higher sales, greater profits, lower turnover and high morale.
The sad comedy of the situation however, is that many senior level operational executives, chief sales officers and sales vice presidents are painfully unaware of the lack of engagement their sales teams have - often leading to their own demise.
It is up to senior management to take aggressive moves within their organizations to engage or re-engage their selling teams. As management teams get together each week and scratch their collective heads to try to figure out what to do next to generate more sales, they need to start with understanding what is happening at the ground level.
As an past executive for several large corporations, I can detail firsthand the would be engagement efforts senior management required each and every quarter, which by the way, was far from ground level. In fact, it was just the opposite. They typically began with communicating the results of recent performance and then continued with the ensuing message of vision, posterity and guidance. Board speeches were most often far from electric, and then the trickle down of the messaging would begin: CEO to senior management; senior management to middle management; middle management to sales; or even worse - the dreaded company meeting where each senior level executive gets up and spreads the word of company.
Engaging the sales team is greater than a speech or presentation illuminating the sales contributions from the prior period, whether they are good or bad. Engaging the sales team requires management to have information, field level information that illustrates the health of the sales team, the understanding the sales team has of the corporate vision. Are the marketing messages being delivered as you had imagined them? Is product knowledge sound? Is the sales methodology being followed?
Understanding this ground level information provides the insight and power necessary to fully engage with the team, and with field sales management. Meaningful daily coaching can occur on the topics that matter the most in driving revenue. A common vernacular arrives just in time to help deliver the marketing message or corporate vision, and sales people will buy in as they feel the sense of understanding from senior management and they know what they do drives the business.
What we are really talking about is affecting and managing behavior, which is typically not captured or tracked. This is a process that cannot be done with technology alone. Sales people get engaged through the human element of being coached daily and real time communication of the knowledge they need. Often companies will try to take the short cut and go directly to their existing systems like business intelligence or CRM to try to manage this process, but inherently behavior cannot be captured, tracked and acted on within a spreadsheet.
McKenzie Consulting, a leading research firm focused on sales effectiveness, has indicated that engaging and coaching has proven to deliver the fastest and most effective sales improvements, amongst the arsenal of tools Sales Managers have, driving their sales team's production consistently upward. "Effective coaching works with Sales Executives to develop their proficiency in selling capacities and planning and increase their individual sales productivity.
Sales Performance Coaching creates awareness, purpose, competence and well being amongst participants. Top Sales Producers use one on one coaching as a means of helping them achieve their own personal and sales goals and strategise their up-coming sales approaches."
The process to engage sales people must be ongoing, living, evolving and organic. It must have structure to make it simple for field level managers to better understand, and technology must be infused into the process to allow for tracking, measurement and data comprehension.
Patrick Stakenas, President and CEO, ForceLogix Inc.
The Management Curve is a blog dedicated to discussion and debate about the impact sales metrics programs such as CRM, Sales Performance Management and Sales Force Automation Programs are having and will have on how the sales function is managed. Hosted by Paul McCord, the blog also features articles and commentary by other sales trainers, consultants, product developers, and the sales managers and salespeople who actually use the products.