In networking with my sales leader friends and peers, there is one unending argument that always surfaces: Is there more art to sales success, or is sales management a science?
I’ve found that the overwhelming reasons why salespeople choose sales as a career is their love of the art of the deal:
• To build innovative solutions that create lasting value
• To manage their time as their own
• To build client portfolios they can manage as their own business
• To feel personally engaged in winning
• To express themselves in front of their customers
Salespeople often work without direct supervision building solutions, running customer calls, attending conferences or trade shows – and that’s what they prefer. Salespeople want to be left to their own creative studio, and the argument for art suggests that an experienced sales force requires less management, less training, and less oversight.
However, most sales forces we work with at DoubleDigit Sales ask us for help in making their messages more consistent in the market. Our customers have well-thought value propositions for product, pricing, and distribution, and what we’re hearing is more repeatable, more reliable, more uniform communications in field.
Is artistic freedom by the sales force helpful in sales management execution?
No sane sales leader would push too hard to reduce the artfulness of their teams. However, adopting a science-based sales management approach will inform your sales process and make it possible for sellers to perform their art to the greatest effect.
Thoughtful use of sales science improves your ability to guide your sales team’s time on the right activities – those that will lead to better outcomes.
So how can you use sales science to execute more effectively?
Make coaching a sales management priority
You’ve spent countless hours refining your strategy documents, but executing your sales management strategy is a people problem. Relentless focus on powerful one-on-one coaching sessions are where your teams will receive the guidance and the confidence to execute to their full potential. Strong coaching sessions ensure sales teams are making clear headway on their priorities at your pace, not theirs.
DoubleDigit Sales performs a Sales Culture Survey every three years, and the 2016 results revealed that the best sales organizations have changed their sales management practices over time. They have increasingly moved to weekly sales coaching practices, rather than monthly.
Leverage your CRM system
You’ve invested in a powerful and capable sales CRM tool, and everyone’s been trained on how to use it.
So why aren’t you seeing a material impact or lift in your sales success?
CRM is the single most powerful enabling technology available to sales teams, but they are complex softwares – usability and user adoption is often low, and it’s common for us to see companies putting enormous time and effort into CRM user compliance and execution.
But sales management reporting, which you might normally think of as an output of good CRM inputs, can be one of the key drivers of sales execution. Communicating clear desired outcomes and developing rigorous and regular reporting will quickly lead to insightful conversations with your sales teams.
By establishing weekly sales coaching, and ensuring only CRM-entered data qualifies for the conversation, you can quickly confirm what’s being acted on, what isn’t being acted on, and how much insight your teams are bringing to their accounts. DoubleDigit Sales, we live this by declaring “If it isn’t in CRM, it didn’t happen”, which supports both great coaching, and consistent CRM compliance.
Create a scoreboard to measure and manage
Great sales teams care about winning, and they can only know they’re winning when they know the score.
Sales science demands we maintain a rigorous scoreboard to ensure we’re not just feeling good about our sales work, but that we can confidently measure our success and gain insight into our next actions.
A great scoreboard has a very narrow focus: it measures only what is crucial to your sales success. We’ve seen B2B sales scoreboards that measure the volume of emails sent out monthly, the time spent on a phone call, even logged-in time on applications – you can clearly measure almost anything.
Being a sales scientist means analyzing your business closely to uncover those one, two or three mission-critical metrics, the ones without which you’d never be successful, and focus relentlessly on making those improve.
At DoubleDigit Sales, our scoreboard follows three key principles:
1. It measures the sales work that’s most important to success
2. It’s always accurate and quickly updated
3. Everyone in the company can read it and understand it.
For us, our critical sales metric is time spent with customers – we’re convinced it’s our leading indicator of sales success.
Executing on science
There is no doubt that salespeople value their independence and their ability to create. However, what they value most is overperformance against their plans.
If forced to choose between a repeatable, reliable sales process that has greater confidence of increased win-rates, and the ability to choose their own path, most smart salespeople follow the more direct and clear path to a win. Increasingly, that means having a sales leader that has adopted a scientific approach and regularly coaches their salespeople through successful execution.
To sharpen your coaching skills, ask me about our practical sales management training solution.