It’s easy to recognise difficult times – companies go ‘Report and Review Mad’ to try to understand their sales funnel and where the year's numbers are going to end.
And the beginning of September when everybody’s returned from their summer holidays is the time when ‘Year End’ pressure really begins to mount. 'Senior Management' suddenly decide to 'get more involved in sales' – and we all know that leads to endless internal reviews.
That’s all good and fine, but in doing so, there’s a huge risk two things happen.
- Firstly, everybody stops thinking about customers and focuses on the reporting required.
- Secondly, honesty tends to disappear out of the window as people try to make tenuous sales situations look better than they actually are.
Recognise this? Of course you do. So as a Sales Manager, what can you do about it?
Focus on your clients first and internal reporting second
As pressure to hit your numbers increases, a tendency to push the sales cycle ahead of the client's buying cycle is a frequent occurrence.
Salespeople in this situation begin to focus on close dates and fail to solve what the customer is trying to fix, accomplish, or avoid. This leads to clients who don't understand your value proposition because your team is not offering up a solution they feel comfortable with. Ultimately, those in this situation end up discounting to win or simply losing the sale.
In challenging times it is even more important to make sure there is rigour and diligence to uncover the root of client issues, identify key buying influences and their wins, understand how the decisions will be made and how funding will be made available.
Now is the time to make sure your team is more diligent about understanding the buying process and less concerned with trying to shorten the selling process.
Assuming you're doing your job right, assembling the data to prepare the internal reporting required ought to be straightforward. (Except of course formatting it to fit into whatever new Powerpoint format some financial function has invented).
Report and Review Madness
During uncertain times, many Sales Managers go into panic mode and become micromanagers. The thinking is there’s safety in knowing every last detail.
If you are inflicting this upon your team, stop the madness – it won't work and it will damage your team’s respect for you.
In fact, during uncertain times you should spend your time making sure you really know who the best-fit prospects and clients are, and coach your team to create sound strategies and valid business reasons to approach key buying influences.
Good sales leaders drive activity through one key report – their sales funnel.
Evaluate yours to ensure your team is spending time on the right prospects and clients. If you find you have too many deals sitting in the middle of the funnel, or the companies in your funnel do not match your value proposition, use this information to coach and set priorities for your team.
Odds are you were a top salesperson in a prior life, and this achievement may well have landed you in the position you hold today. But your job is no longer that of a salesperson. Your role now is to help salespeople through effective coaching and guidance on deals.
You cannot close every deal for your team, and if you did you will have bigger problems once you emerge from whatever battle you are trying to win. Spend time making sure your team has solid plans to pursue key opportunities and the resources they need to win. Get involved in deals where you can add value, but don't swoop in to take over like a superhero.
Fight the right battles
There's nothing like a little pressure inside the walls of a company to bring out the blame game.
Don't become a finger-pointer. In fact, curl that index finger and bring key support functions like marketing, customer service, and your peers even closer. Invite them in to the battle you are waging with your competitors instead of waging a battle with them.
The best sales leaders recognise reinforcements in a tough battle are much better than creating new battle lines.
Be objective and open – with your management and with your team
This is one of the hardest areas to maintain. As the pressure builds, it’s natural to bury bad news.
In good times and bad alike, you need objectivity and honesty to help make decisions on strategies, tactics and where to place resources.
If you make it difficult for your team to share bad news with you, you'll be faced with some nasty surprises – like slipped close dates on big deals, unexpected lost deals, and ultimately missed forecasts. Objectivity and openness reduce the risks of this significantly.
And it goes without saying you should share the same transparency upwards. Promisin the earth until the beginning of December and then suddenly coming off your number will not be forgotten easily or quickly.
Interesting? What next…
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