Optimizing the People Who Lead Our Sales Teams Q&A

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Sales Managers can make or break your year. What are you doing to help them excel at their jobs? We conducted a webinar to review the results of our 2012 Sales Management Optimization Report. These are answers to the questions from our attendees.

If you missed the webinar, you can view it here.

Answers are provided by Jim Dickie, Managing Partner of CSO Insights

In reference to sales managers with only 2-3 reps in their team, are they considered less productive?

There are a number of reasons companies may choose to have a low manager to rep ratio. For example, several firms we benchmarked had the managers themselves still carrying an individual sales quota. In reviewing the Sales Management Optimization study data for the past three years, we have not seen any correlation between the productivity of managers and the number of reps they manage, until you get to 12 or more reps per manager. At that point we see a decline in the percentage of reps making quota, but no meaningful decline in the percentage of overall revenue plan achieved.



In terms of coaching, what about those sales managers who only want to do coaching more at the office, rather than face to face in front of their customers with their reps? How to get more buy-in especially with those sales managers who feel analyzing sales figures is more important than being out in the field with their reps?

It is one thing to do a coaching session with a rep and agree on what they “should” do. It is another to monitor their performance to see that they in fact can and are doing it. We do agree that managers do need to monitor how reps are doing with clients. One technique a laser manufacturer reported using is making virtual calls with the rep. Most of the web-meeting solutions are now offering the ability to stream video. This firm has sales manager connect into face-to-face calls via these services, allowing them to be part of several calls per day vs. one or two if they are traveling with the rep.

Most sales managers are both trained and rewarded for focusing on deals. Managers’ communications are usually focused on pipeline, forecast and joint sales calls. None of this gets to a more stable/ healthy forecast. How do you get managers to focus on coaching skills rather than the usual deal focus?

The first thing we always encourage is to train your managers on what coaching really involves and how to do it. The second thing we suggest is that firms revisit how their sales manager compensation plans are designed. If a manager’s pay is just tied to hitting a revenue number, then they will tend to focus on deals. If on the other hand they are measured and compensated on rep development (taking into account the percentage of their team that make quota, rep reviews of the support they get from their manager, etc.), then you are motivating the desired behavior.

The model ((A*Q)/T)/D = $ is appealing. How do you quantify distractions?

For those that haven’t viewed the webinar, we presented the above formula saying there are four factors that impact sales performance. The A stand for the activity level of each rep, Q is the quality of how they do those activities, T is the time it takes them to do things, and the D factor is distraction: things that keep reps from selling. We published a FedEx Case Study that profiled how they determine what they call “corrupted” selling time. They looked at how reps spent their work week and when they found things that were keeping reps from selling (doing collections work, chasing down approvals for special orders, handling admin tasks, etc.) They had a formula for how to value that time if it changes could be made to recapture those hours for selling.


What are the legal exposures to consider when you start providing video proposals? How do you ensure consistency and avoid over-claims?

The firms we are seeing using the video proposal report still use written proposals. The documents are embedded in the presentations as PDFs. The advantage of using videos to overview all the components of the proposal first is to effectively summarize the main points of each section and also be able to track what was and was not watched.

Better coaches can be responsible for more people. Is this a true statement?

I would add one additional qualifier. Better coaches with the right tools can be responsible for more people. We feel that sales analytics tools are a must have for managers today. With these solutions in place, managers can come in each day and see what reps need what type of help on what deals. This management-by-need allows a great coach to be more effective.



Can you speak to how sales leaders you have tracked through the process have thought about the team they have and whether they need to change them out?

If you as a CSO decide you want to evolve your sales team to dynamic process and deeper relationships, you need to consider how that could change the profile of the new reps you would bring on board. But you should also compare your current reps to that same profile. When we have seen companies move to a new part of the Sales Relationship/Process Matrix, they almost always end up losing/letting go of some existing reps. We discussed this in depth in a white paper we released called Getting the Right Players on the Field.

In terms of sales to operations ratio, how many salespeople should a small Web marketing organization have? Currently the sales staff is 1 to 10.

I would suggest asking that question of your reps. Greater than 1:10 is where we start to see rep performance start to erode. If reps feel that they are getting adequate support from their manager then you may be alright. I would be nervous about going higher however.

In terms of an organization you’d recommend for sales training, who would CSO Insights recommend?

Take a look at our Solution Finder. It is an application on our website that allows you to enter the criteria for the type of organization you are looking to find. For example, you can specify training, sales process, account planning, etc.

We also have suggestions about what to look for from a training firm. The first thing is to see how much customization/tailoring the training company typically does. Since there are not standards for selling today, no off-the-shelf training program will fit all firms. Second, you want a firm that goes beyond methodology. We all get the “what” of selling: call high, differentiate, create urgency, sell value/avoid discounting, etc. Look for a training partner that also covers the “how” of selling and gives your reps the tools and message they need to go execute. Third, look for a partner that will go beyond sale reps to increase effectiveness. Can they help your sales managers do their jobs better? Can they help marketing understand how to better support sales? Can they provide ways to improve the culture inside a company to view sales as a key functional area?

How has proposal content changed in the last few years? Besides more solution oriented, is length or actual content changing dramatically?

Longer is not necessarily better, but more impactful is. The main thing we have seen in companies with high win rates (and therefore lower competitive losses and no decisions), is that they have strong business cases and clear implementation plans that show how the ROIs can be achieved.

Do you see your clients using less PowerPoint in their sales calls?



We aren’t seeing a reduction in PowerPoint as much as we are seeing an increase in the use of video. Having subject matter experts create videos that reps can use during presentations ensures the messages are consistently delivered.

How important is it for the manager to have a good assessment of the skills, motivations, and attributes of the sales rep?

This is key to great coaching. Reps have key differences in how they like to/can sell. Some are very effective being tactical, others by being strategic. Some are great at juggling lots of deals at the same time, others are better when they focus on one or two opportunities. Managers need to be effective at understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their team members, and adapting their coaching to the individual versus forcing the individual to adapt to the coaching.

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