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September 4, 2018

7 Sales Management Lessons for Leading Your Small Sales Team

I just got back from a 3-day visit with a client in the northeast, conducting an audit and assessment of their sales operation – staffing, structure, processes, etc. It was a terrific start to the engagement… and reinforced a number of sales management lessons we all should keep top-of-mind as we go to market with a business development initiative.

Sales management lesson #1. Definitions. Make sure that whatever processes you deem important in the execution of your sales efforts are clearly defined, so that everyone follows them in the same way. Without the definitions, you don’t really have processes! As part of that, make sure that all marketing & sales employees’ roles & responsibilities are also clearly defined… so everyone knows who is responsible for what.

Sales management lesson #2. Backyard. While you may work with clients across the country – and even internationally – don’t miss out on the opportunity with those right in your own backyard. Even if your salespeople are “inside reps,” have them occasionally meet local clients & prospects for coffee, grab a drink after work, host a local seminar, etc. People do business with people they like… and in-person is the best way to make that happen.

Sales management lesson #3. Manage. One of the primary reasons that sales operations fail is lack of solid management. Many business owners believe that setting up a sales team and just letting them “go sell” is the way to success. On the contrary, even the best salespeople need management – leadership, direction, accountability, support and on-going training. Don’t neglect this.

Sales management lesson #4. Commission. Sales commission plans are one of the most difficult aspects of managing sales. And while each plan for each sales rep does not have to be the same (they can be different because of their territory, what they’re selling, inside vs. outside, etc.), they do have to be consistent. All reps must be paid in the same way (e.g. after hitting goal, with escalating tiers, paid monthly, etc.). Not doing this not only creates animosity among the reps, it is simply unfair.

Sales management lesson #5. Current clients. Too many firms focus on the “shiny new penny”… going after new clients. And new clients are important, but you can’t build a successful business on new clients alone. You need to establish long-term relationships with clients for long-term success. First, keep them buying what they’re already buying from you (and maybe more of it – that’s up-selling). Second, where appropriate, introduce them to some of your other products and service lines (that’s cross-selling). It’s far easier to sell to an exiting client than to try to develop a new client from scratch.

Sales management lesson #6. Back-up. What’s your plan when your key sales rep goes on vacation for a week or two? Do you just let his/her clients and the incoming leads languish? You can’t! Make sure that you’ve got a back-up plan for every biz dev person on your team. At the very least, it’s critical that you have someone respond to all of their inquiries and client requests… and keep the conversation going until the vacationer gets back.

Sales management lesson #7. Talk. Maybe the most important sales lesson is to make sure that your sales reps – and marketing team – are always talking to one another. Reps should know what each other is working on. Marketing should talk to sales about their marketing campaigns and sales support projects… and sales should be telling marketing what they’re hearing from the marketplace.

These are obviously not all the sales management lessons you should know…. but they are a really good place to start.

In addition, you’ll notice that none of these lessons is particularly complex. And that’s a key to their effectiveness. Think through what you want to accomplish with your sales effort, create simple plans and processes to achieve those goals and then go execute.

Good luck and good selling.

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