Most of us deal with sales management every single day of our lives. We may not know it, but we do. Every day, somewhere, a sales manager is quietly contemplating a performance goal and a pile of data. The express intention of this process is to enable and encourage each of us to buy their products and help them attain that goal.
Recently I had the experience of buying a new car. As I went through the whole process—online research, talking to friends, walking onto a lot and finally engaging with a salesperson—it occurred to me several times that things have certainly changed!
Buying, Selling and Sales Management – It’s a Different World
From the buying side, the differences are obvious: less intrusion, less pressure, more information available prior to engaging with a sales rep and more focus on the individual buyer and their unique requirements.
For the sales rep, it is different as well. The pressure to close the deal is still there, of course, but the idea of pushing the buyer into a decision is lessened. The engagement is more about removing obstacles to closing the deal, providing the information needed by the buyer to make a decision and listening carefully to what the buyer is saying to help match product with need in a compelling way.
For sales management, the difference is far more significant. Fifty years ago, managing a sales force was all about driving your team of reps to engage with more prospects, close deals quickly and not waste time on tire-kickers. Sales was a numbers game; the more chances at bat meant more hits that drove more on-base hits and ultimately more scores. Management was concerned with making sure that lazy guys didn’t take up slots on your team thus depriving you of the at-bats needed to achieve a high-scoring year.
Sales management is still about numbers, but the numbers that count are different and in some ways, more difficult to obtain. Sales management is still about numbers, but the numbers that count are different and in some ways, more difficult to obtain.
Sales Management by the Numbers
Sales management today is concerned with the same high-level issues as before. Sales performance, customer behavior and market behavior are still the three lenses through which sales managers manage. The data collected and reviewed by managers is tied to one of these three areas.
1. Sales Management and Sales Performance
When sales managers review their team’s activities, they are looking at specific data related to sales functions. These data points will drive informed decision-making about sales rep performance, team performance and also the performance of the manager involved.
- Prospecting performance – Call attempts, connections completed or touches made and appointments set provide metrics for determining how efficient your sales reps and team are at getting in front of your prospects.
- Engagement stats – Contacts resulting in multiple appointments, quotations delivered, proposals made and informed decision-making related to the sales rep’s abilities to move the prospect from interested to a decision.
- Closing performance – Quote-to-close times and win/loss ratios are great high-level metrics to quantify sales performance and comparatively rate sales reps in a competitive format.
- Overall performance – Customer retention, upselling and cross-selling opportunities, quota attainment and sales tied to market plan. These are data points related to team performance and the performance of the sales manager as a sales coach.
2. Sales Management and Customer Behavior
Sales management has unprecedented access to data regarding customer behavior and customer information. This provides the means toward tailoring a campaign footing that’s customized to each individual customer or prospect.
- Installed products, product age and business applicability to your solution set – This data drives sales in the form of product upgrades or replacements and also applicability of sales related to new functionality available through your product.
- Pricing sensitivity – Knowing the amount of arm wrestling that previous sales have involved can help arm your reps with tactical intelligence to drive appropriate pricing positions in the early rounds of your sales discussion.
- Profitability – Obviously, this has qualification implications. In addition, low profitability can mean an opportunity for justifying your product if it has demonstrable potential for improving that line for the prospect.
- Organization and management team changes – These offer great opportunities to reintroduce your team and your product in a fresh way.
3. Sales Management and Market Behavior
Sales management also has to be aware of how market forces and other external factors affect their marketplace.
- Regulatory changes driving market dynamics – These can mean increased opportunity or can be a warning sign of a more challenging sales environment.
- New technology related to customer needs – These days, almost every product sold has a technical side that must be understood by both the seller and the buyer. Understanding these factors can drive new opportunities or reveal new potential market segments.
- Time of year – Always critical to sales, the time of year affects decision-making urgency, availability of funding and planning for future budgets.
All of these things are driven by information that is supported by data. The ability of sales management to get into that proverbial data mountain, mine the valuable data and convert it into actionable information is critical to managing a successful sales team, high-performance campaigns and the selling organization as a whole.
Next week we will look at how CPQ and other tools can function as a BI solution in the hands of sales managers.