Throughout this series of articles I've been focusing on rebuilding a team of talented sales professionals who can perform as business development specialists. The primary message has been that you must carefully re-define the roles and responsibilities prior to searching for the best talent. I have also challenged you to re-engineer your recruiting and hiring processes so that you can hire and promote more effectively and reduce the considerable costs of hiring mistakes; and that includes dramatically improving  your management team's interview skills.

In the last article the focus was on strengthening your human capital through staff development and we made the case for designing both training and coaching programs.  With the past six articles as background, let's talk about managing this more sophisticated group of business developers.

I am a strong believer in the concept that you should "Manage your System and Coach Your People."  It is essential that a well thought out sales management system or program be designed that clearly defines your expectations and allows your sales team to actually manage themselves. Once this system is in place, the sales manager's primary role should be to manage/maintain the system and provide the necessary coaching so that your sales people can grow professionally and adapt to this dynamic market environment. If we select the right people with the appropriate skills and experience (eligibility) and behavioral traits (suitability), then this approach will result in significant growth.

Let's take a look at the components of an effective sales management program.

  • Strategy and Planning
  • Sales Process Management
  • Resource Deployment
  • Coaching and Leadership
  • Sales Compensation Design and Implementation
  • Recruiting, Hiring and Training
  • Technology Management

Strategy and Planning
Prior to designing the management structure you must facilitate a strategic planning process that not only defines what success looks like but also provides a clear picture of your current status. You should involve the key players in this process so that the team can become aligned around company expectations while preparing written goals and objectives.

Sales Process Management
You should clearly define the sales philosophy/approach that will be utilized and communicate it clearly to the team. It is most effective if you can provide a step by step process for your company's selling strategies so that sales people can develop the necessary skills for implementation. Integrating transactional and consultative sales strategies into your overall business development plan requires thoughtful planning and communication.  

Resource Deployment
As more people in your organization become involved in the overall sales process, the sales manager is responsible for deploying appropriate company resources to win new clients and protect your hard earned business. This of course requires a strategic analysis of where your business comes from as well as what is required to defend the business that is essential to your continued success. Setting and communicating priorities is a crucial component of this process.

Coaching and Leadership
"If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day; if you teach him to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime." One great indicator of strong leadership is the ability to make the people around you better. This is accomplished by providing an example so that the process of modeling can occur. This is further accomplished by designing a carefully executed coaching program. This of course requires an accurate assessment of individual and team strengths and challenges and developing a plan that will, over time, assist your sales people in improving their overall competence. Teaching your sales people how to develop their own personal development strategic plan and assisting them in carrying it out is what professional sales management is all about.

"If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day; if you teach him to fish he'll eat for a lifetime."

Sales Compensation
In today's business environment, where the requirements and expectations of your sales program are changing right before your eyes, the structure and design of your sales compensation program will clearly impact selling behavior. Continually reviewing your existing compensation program to ensure that its design supports your business development strategies is the responsibility of senior management as well as the sales manager. The structure of your plan will clearly impact your sales organization's behavior.

Recruit, Hire and Train
The sales manager is responsible for executing a continuous recruiting program. The days of looking for "experienced" sales people with a "book of business" are over. As the complexity of the product mix intensifies and the role of the sales person changes, recruiting has also become more complex. Clearly defined job descriptions are essential and a recruiting process that reaches outside the confines of the industry is essential. The use of effective behavioral assessments such as the Harrison Assessment that will predict a candidate's suitability for the position is a must. The overall investment in hiring a new employee and the risks related to selecting the wrong person are extremely expensive.

"The sales manager's primary role should be to manage/maintain the system and provide the necessary coaching."

One of the best ways to attract talented sales professionals is to be able to demonstrate your company's capability to provide training. The talent pool expands significantly when you offer well thought out and designed training programs. The candidates that have the right tools (i.e., technology competence, "C" level selling skills, prospecting capabilities) are searching for organizations that will assist them in growing professionally.

Time and Technology Management
In order to optimize the performance of your sales team, they must be held accountable for their time. How they spend their time and what percentage is spent on direct sales activities is critical. All too often sales people are focused on non-selling or marketing activities. They are poorly organized and do not maintain the necessary account information to effectively market to their clients. If a primary role of your sales people is to prospect for new clients/business then you must leverage client information through the use of technology. An effective software program that can support sales workflow, contact management, sales reporting and forecasting, marketing, client correspondence and expense reporting can have a dramatic impact on sales growth and profitability. So many of the sales management tools (i.e., call reports, expense reports, client correspondence, proposal writing) that have been in use for years can now be handled via industry specific technology and the greatest bonus is that management has complete access to the data so they can hold their sales team accountable.

"Significant growth is possible if we select the right people with the appropriate skills, experience and behavioral traits."

As a final note, as you design your sales management system consider the capability of the sales manager. Prepare the job description, determine the eligibility requirements for the position and assess the suitability of the manager. The most well designed system, with the best talent, will not produce great results without the right coach/manager in place.

If you carefully design a well thought-out systematic sales management program for your organization, your chances of achieving your revenue and profit expectations will be greatly enhanced. If you would like more information about designing your system and learning more about assessing and hiring sales talent, contact Jerry Scher at [email protected] or 404-931-9291.

For information about the Harrison Assessment -

Stay tuned to this continual series – as we continue to focus how to build  a dynamic sales team.