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How to Manage a Sales Team

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

There are 2 things that you should concern yourself with when it comes to managing sales, people and time. Both of those break down further but I’ll try to explain each piece as best I can and hopefully it’ll all make sense when I’m done. But yeah, when you’re managing a sales team, those are the 2 most important things, and surprisingly it’s not about money.

People are the Process

People are unpredictable, and yet we crave predictability. As employees or customers, we take comfort in things we understand and the more comfortable we are the more amiable we are to spend our money. Define how you get to a place of comfort, make it consistent, make it clear, and make it enjoyable.

[Talent] Step 1

The people you hire matters. Obvious yes, but a lot of owners lose this among the stress and tediousness of finding a new employee. Those who have ever had to replace an employee know what I’m talking about. Not only are you trying to cover for the missing staff but you’re actively posting ads, screening new talent, and conducting interviews. Some eventually opt for the easy route and hire someone just to get it over with. Stop doing that.

If you set up your hiring process correctly, you’d only be interviewing 10%-15% of the applications that come through. My process looks a little like this:

-Write an enticing and exciting ad for the new position opening. (I won’t go into detail here, that would be a whole separate blog).

-Put it out in the spaces you’d expect to find your best applicants.

-Once those applications start coming in, they should be heavily screened. I follow my 9/10ths rule. If the applicant doesn’t hit 90% of my prequalification (education, experience, etc.), they don’t get a phone call.

-Call the ones that do and conduct a phone interview. Have a list of questions you’d like further information on, but this is where you start to evaluate if this person might fit your culture. Again, follow the 9/10ths rule.

-Those who pass the phone screening should be interviewed in person. Give them some stress-tests, talk about what culture means to them, and what they are looking for. Flip the conversation; if you let them tell you what they want you’ll get more valuable information about the candidate than if you told them what you were looking for.9/10ths.

-At this point, you should only have 1-3 potential candidates. Have your team interview them. Give your team some format to follow and let them take ownership of the interview.

-Hire the best candidate.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Extensive? Yes. Effective? Highly. In the long run, the more time you spend hiring the right person, the less time you’ll spend managing the wrong one.

[Temperament] Step 2?

Sales can be incredibly frustrating at times and important that your sales team can roll with the punches… because there are a lot of them. Who is your clientele? What do they do in their free time? What do they value? What do they respond to? Do they enjoy a nice conversation or are they just looking to purchase and leave? Your team should be addressing all of these things, and more, when handling interactions with clients.

They need to manage the customers’ expectations, prove the value of your product or service, be a beacon of information, and provide a memorable experience. Most of sales isn’t about selling anymore, it’s about building a relationship, managing emergencies, and maintaining trust.

[Technique] Step 3 - These aren’t really steps, are they?

If you don’t set a precedent then you have no control. Imagine this, you step into a shoe store to purchase a pair of sneakers. As you walk down the isles you notice that none of the shoes match, there are no signs to show sizes or styles, and you can’t find a representative to talk with. Do you think you’d buy anything there? No, no you wouldn’t.

There’s probably someone reading this who thinks it would be a fun experience and they’d enjoy the treasure hunt. Stop it. No, you wouldn’t.

There was no precedent set, no standard to follow, nothing to resemble that they were thinking about the customer. What kind of experience do you want your clients to have? Build it. I don’t mean think of something pleasant, that dreams are wonderful kind of thing, I mean you have to document a process. If you don’t, there’s no clear idea of what the sales team should be shooting for. Each sales rep would be doing something different and if the client came back, and didn’t get the same rep, this experience would conflict with the last and the confusion would be enough to drive them away. People want consistency. Just look at McDonald’s, they are titans of consistency.

Write down a process, have your team practice, and improve on it.

Everything I just talked about; talent, temperament, technique, they can all be standardized and systematized. They should be. How can you improve on something that doesn’t exist? Even if it’s a scribble on a napkin, if there’s a plan behind it, it can be improved.

Time is the Measurement

This is a rule I follow personally, and it’s worked out fairly well in giving me a happier and easier life: I don’t pursue goals. To me, they can cause dissatisfaction, stress, anxiety, and have routinely failed to motivate me.

Now, you’re thinking Kent has no idea how sales work. I promise I do, and it’s much more efficient then trying to pursue ever-increasing performance numbers.

I focus on building the best system. The goals merely serve as proof that my system works. My focus is not on hitting a goal or crushing a number, it’s about creating a system that motivates, rewards, and excites the sales team just as much as it creates a memorable experience for customers.

If people are my system or my sales process, then time is going to be my measurement. Time is the costliest currency. It does not renew, and you cannot get it back. We often forget that everything costs time, and we end up spending it on things that don’t matter a whole lot. If my actions don’t produce a positive outcome, the action is unnecessary. And my time is too precious to be wasted on unnecessary things.

[Education] -You don’t know what to call them do you?

Imagine if every client or customer that walked through your door fully understood the value that your product or service brought to their lives? Now imagine your sales teams knew every technique, all the right words, and the exact path each customer had to take in order for them to buy. Do you see what I’m getting at?

Time should be spent on things that have a high return and education happens to have one of the best.

If you spent more time training your employees on the newest trends and techniques, they’d have the tools necessary to get the job done. And if they knew the right things, they be able to educate your customers instead of selling to them. People spend money when they feel comfortable. Make them feel comfortable by helping them to understand your process and your value. Educating the customer should always come before making a sale.

Work in an educational approach to your sales process. Trust me. You’ll build a better relationship with clients, they will trust you more, and they’ll spend more money with you.

[Efficiency] Guideline 5 - I see what you did there…

Am I allowing my team to manage their time in an efficient and effective way? Or am I wasting their time with redundant tasks and meaningless steps? Getting out of the way of your team is just as important as guiding them.

As managers we’re constantly improving our system and sometimes mistake change for progress. Just because something can be changed doesn’t mean it should be. Fixing the right things can be more effective than fixing everything. We have to thinking about the impact a change can have on my team, my business, and my customers.

Involve your sales team in the development of any new processes; they are the ones in the trenches, they can tell you what might work and what might not. Ask your customers what they might want to see in your service or product. No one will fault you for doing your homework. Taking action might feel good, but is it the best thing to do? Don’t fall into the trap of mistaking change for progress.

Focus on the things that have a net positive outcome. If there isn’t a positive outcome, it’s probably not necessary. And we don’t waste our time on unnecessary things, do we?

[Convenience] Last -Now you’re just being ridiculous Kent.

How convenient is it for clients to work with your staff and how easy is it for your staff to do their work? Seriously, it seems like a dumb question but why aren’t we focused on making things easy? I don’t know about you, but I’m incredibly lazy. Ask anyone who knows me, I always work super hard to avoid doing work. The best way to build good habits is to make them easier than avoiding the bad habits. The same is true for both your employees and customers.

Make it stupidly easy to buy or use your product/service. And make it even stupider for your employees. If you give your team all the tools they need, the education to understand what they’re doing, and make the process of selling more enjoyable than not selling… how do you think your team will perform? If you make the experience just as simple and easy for a customer how do you think they’ll react?

It’s easy to think that more steps and more work add value, but that’s not always the case. 1 hole drilled is better than 100 holes drilled if you’re trying to get wine from a barrel. With one you get a nice moderated flow, the other… a big mess and more work. Get it? Cause you have to clean up the spill. Now you’ve lost even more time you could have spent on enjoying a nice glass of Malbec, but instead you’re mopping the floor.

Make it easy. Make it convenient. Enjoy more.

Money is the Result

I know, I said it wasn’t about the money.

Yes, money matters at the end of the day. The entire point of sales is to get paid. But it’s just the result. If you focus your attention on the other things listed above, you won’t have to stress about the money, it will just come. I’m not interested in dollar amount sold, I’m interested in happy employees, happy customers, happy me; because those things ensure the longevity of my passion and my craft, having the resources to continue helps.

Don’t sacrifice quality for the sake of profitability. If you keep pushing for profit for its own sake, you’ll break the business. Your customers have to gain more than a product, your employees deserve more than just a job, and frankly, you deserve more of a life.

Manage your team properly and provide more than just a sale.

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