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Hacking Sales Management

by David Brock on December 16th, 2014

I’ve been writing a short series on Hacking Selling–(Hacking Selling, Hacking Selling Part 2).  As with the prior articles, I get huge numbers of requests from sales manager to help Hack their jobs.  “What are the short cuts?”  “How do I manage my time better?”  “How do I get things done more easily?”

As with the other articles, most of the hacks are very well known.  Every year there are hundreds to thousands of articles about them, there’s lots of data that speaks to the impact these hacks have.  Yet, somehow, too many people don’t use them–for reasons that are unclear to me.  It seems to be too hard to do what data shows us works.  Somehow, there must be something easier……  It’s hard to understand.

Having said that, here’s a few of my favorite hacks to sales management.

  1. Hiring the right people:  There’s nothing more draining on people’s time than having to deal with poor performers.  Bad hire can end up having an adverse impact of millions.  To hire the right people, great managers have a strong competency model in place (Email me for a free Sales Competency Model Starter Kit).
  2. Strong onboarding:  Once you’ve hired the right people, getting them productive as quickly as possible is critical.  Without a strong onboarding process/model, this is impossible.  Great managers invest time here, getting their people off to the right and fast start reduces the potential performance challenges that drain management time in the future.
  3. Having a strong sales process and making sure the team is using the process:  This is a cornerstone to maximizing the performance of each individual and the team.  The sales process is designed to maximize the win rate, minimize the sales cycle, and maximize transaction size/margin.  In addition to leveraging the process for a strong deal strategies, the process is the cornerstone to developing a high integrity pipeline.
  4. High integrity, high velocity pipeline, strong pipeline metrics:  Without a high integrity/high velocity pipeline, it’s impossible to know whether the team is going to make the number.  Too often managers waste huge amounts of time trying to figure out what’s happening with the business and whether the team will make the number.  The high integrity pipeline, understanding key metrics enables the manager and the team to quickly and accurately diagnose and correct performance issues.
  5. Having a strong sales process and making sure the team is using it:  Yes, I am repeating myself–but there is good reason.  If there is no process in place, it’s impossible to know the state of the business or have a pipeline that has any integrity.  The only way a manager can have any sense of what’s going on is to review every deal every sales person is working on, all the time.  It’s impossible–let’s look at some simple numbers.  Say you have 10 people who have 10 deals each.  That’s 100 deals.  To know what’s going on, without a strong process, you have to review every deal.   If you spend only 15 minutes per deal, that’s 1500 minutes or 25 hours!  Even if you aren’t doing this weekly, this is a huge time drain.  Now, I’ve taken really low numbers, so the reality is the time to make sure your business is in control, without a process is huge–simply unmanageable.  The magic about having a process is that you can now focus on reviewing a few key deals with each person.  If they are using the process effectively in those deals, you can safely assume they are doing the same with other deals.  Consequently, you can have good confidence in their pipelines.
  6. Setting strong and clear performance expectations, making sure each person owns them:  This would seem simple enough–but in reality, this is done pretty poorly by too many people.  Consequently, people don’t know what to do, or are faced with constantly changing priorities.  Without strong expectations that are clearly communicated to the people, managers could waste a lot of time.  When people know what’s expected of them, if you’ve hired the right people, they can manage their own time pretty effectively with minimal management supervision.
  7. Realizing your job is to get things done through your people:  No manager can have their fingers in every deal and drive them to close (look at the numbers in 5 above).  So playing “Super Salesperson,” is impossible from a time point of view.  Add to this, sales people don’t feel empowered, consequently they shift responsibility to the manager–the manager clearly cannot survive.
  8. Coaching
  9. Coaching
  10. Coaching  (If I have to explain this, you shouldn’t be a sales manager).
  11. Having strong Deal, Pipeline, Territory/Account, Call Review processes.  Too often, we do bad jobs of conducting these meetings.  Each has a different objective, each is critical.  Effective managers leverage the review process to both understand the state of the business and as coaching opportunities.  Doing these in a structured disciplined manner has tremendous impact and enables both the manager and sales person to leverage the time most effectively.
  12. Having strong development plans in place:  Retaining and growing top performers is critical.  Making sure each person has a development plan that enables them to achieve their full potential is critical to retaining people, growing them.
  13. Addressing performance problems immediately:  Too often, we don’t address performance issues on a timely basis.  Instead we do nothing–either because we aren’t paying attention or are in denial/avoidance mode.  The longer performance issues linger, the more impact they have on the organization and management time.  Nip performance problems in the bud–don’t let them linger.
  14. Managing up the food chain:  Great managers manage their managers.  They communicate clearly, recognizing the needs their managers have to know what’s going on.  They fight for their people, getting the resources, support, tools needed to make their numbers.  They protect their people and their team from the organization robbing sales time away from the people.
  15. Using the tools:  Using the tools to help maximize personal productivity as well as team productivity maximizes the ability for managers to leverage their time.
  16. Spend time in the field with customers and their people:  You can’t manage performance from behind a desk.  You have to get out in the field and work side by side with your team.  They learn by the example you set, you see how they work–overall it’s a great investment of your time.
  17. Set an example:  Want your people to be top notch performers, set and example in your own performance.  Whether you realize it or not, you are a role model to your team and others in the organization.  Are you setting the right example?
  18. Continually learn, improve and develop your own capabilities.
  19. Don’t take yourself too seriously, lighten up, laugh, be human!

I’ll stop here.  Sales management (particularly first line management) is tough!  There are endless numbers of people needing your time, there are endless time drains.  Hacking sales management is pretty simple.  The ideas above are a great start, but the best use this as a start and grow from there.

What are some of your favorite sales management hacks?

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8 Comments
  1. Thank you very much for all your posts. I learn a lot and I use your techniques every day with great success 🙂

    Sincerely,
    Tom

  2. Dave,

    I would add one more: don’t automatically assume you can do everything yourself. If your salespeople need training in specialized skills, you might need to outsource it. (Not that I’m biased or anything)

    • Jack, you’re exactly right, the most effective managers engage everyone they can in helping develop their people!

  3. David,

    I love your take. As usual well thought out and on point. Perhaps your next series needs to be “Hacking The Point of View for Leadership Team.” You can undoubtedly write a better title…

    How much time and anxiety would be erased if business leaders would spend the time developing their go to market strategy around these basic business concepts. I submit that most sales problems stem from a lack of understanding or planning by the business leaders.

    Well done on your “Hacking Series.”

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