Leading your sales team to success isn’t about the numbers

Well, it is. But it isn’t only about the numbers.

When I became a sales manager, my number one concern was how to get the most out of my team. It was more than a concern. It was my constant worry.

My first instinct was to begin measuring everything. Deal value. Time to win. Number of calls every day. Number of calls every week.

With a robust sales stack, measuring activities is easy.

But I quickly realized that there was a problem: I was measuring too much. I had so many numbers, I didn’t get a clear picture of what was actually driving sales. Instead, I found myself drowned in the noise of statistics and metrics.

Instead of helping my sales team succeed, all this noise meant I was a worse sales manager.

What I learned: you don’t want to be driven by the numbers you can measure. You need to add in the human elements that you can’t.

Don’t get me wrong: sales KPIs, communication tools and selling tools are all critical. But success in sales isn’t just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.

It’s about focusing on the right numbers, the right coaching techniques and the right tools.

So how can you lead your sales team to success?

Focus on the right metrics

Just like any sales manager, I am typically laser focused on closed bookings and quarterly quota.

I still think those are two of the most important metrics for a sales team.

But focusing purely on the target can create temporary tunnel vision (at best), and does not paint a full picture of how the target was achieved (at worst).

Since repeating the target is the ultimate goal, knowing how it was completed is almost as important as reaching it in the first place.

If quarterly quota is the lagging measure, focusing on sales activities that closed a particular deal should tell the story of how the quota was met. From there, I can focus on equipping my team to accomplish a similar goal.

The right metrics, then, should correlate sales activities and closed revenue in order to build out a repeatable model. They should also provide feedback for how I spend my time and effort directly supporting deals that close. On the flip side, relying on trailing indicators for sales performance denies the opportunity to recognize divergence and take corrective action early on.

The earlier action is taken, the sooner recovery can take place.

Start by identifying the business processes that the lag measure correlates to. Some explanatory variables include:

  • Productivity: Look at stats like calls, emails, meetings and proposals sent. These shouldn’t be performance indicators on their own; instead, look at the numbers in relation to deals closed.
  • Sales Funnel: Where is your sales funnel optimal? Where does it need work? Look at the number of leads to opportunities, number of opportunities to closed, etc. For example: if the breakdown is between leads and opportunities, what can you do to enrich your lead engagement?
  • Sales Performance: Win rate and quotas are important, but don’t forget about stats like sales velocity. For your salesperson with the highest sales velocity, take a closer look at how they spend their time and how they manage to stay so productive.

Be as granular as possible in this research. Then, once you know your critical metrics, put the tools in place to not only track them but also communicate them to your team (more on that below).

Don’t forget the human

Once you’ve determined your clear set of leading sales indicators, the next natural step is share this insight with your sales team. Metrics aren’t just for managers; to get the most out of your numbers, it is vital to effectively communicate the how and the why of these numbers to all team members.

For starters, create a dashboard where the team can track progress against leading indicator targets and engage each other along the way. A crystalized picture of sales progress sets the stage for both communication within the team and sales coaching between you and your salespeople.

But what about going beyond the numbers?

To compliment the leading indicator strategy, you should also develop a sales coaching approach that enables your sales team to hit the predetermined targets. The key to this approach? A well defined and robust sales playbook that goes beyond cold calling scripts.

A playbook for redoubled sales coaching should include:

  • Products knowledge: It should go without saying that your sales team should have an intimate knowledge of how your product works. In the playbook, include everything from surprising features to potential limitations.
  • Articulated value propositions: A great sales team should be well versed in the value prop for every ideal customer profile. Instead of parroting sales speak, work on enabling your sales team to tailor each value prop for specific customers.
  • Competitive knowledge: How does your competition do it better? How is their offering worse? Avoid tunnel vision; the broader your team’s field of understanding, the better their sales pitches.
  • Objection handling and FAQs: Get ahead of the curb by equipping your team with the questions and doubts their prospects likely already have. Make it as specific as possible.

Beyond the playbook, sales coaching is not all talking points and Tweetable aphorisms.

To coach your sales team on success, your approach needs to go much deeper and be much more collaborative than that.

Bookend your approaches: ask your sales reps effective questions first (“How are you using this tool?”) but don’t be afraid to hold them accountable down the line. Use your best sales reps to come up with examples of best practices and train others. And never, never resist self-evaluation; constantly ask what is going well and what you could be doing better.

Put the right tools in place

Nobody likes a micromanager, but the right stack can solve that.

Outside of your ‘typical’ sales solutions (like a robust CRM and integrations with your marketing stack), you should be on the lookout for tools that actively support your sales team.

Remember what support actually means here. It means seeing your sales team where they are at, recognizing what they need, anticipating challenges and giving them the knowledge that they can use best.

Sales Enablement Tools

On the top of your list should be tools that directly enable your team to make sales. They most likely already have the basics in place – a CRM and call scheduling, for example. But what can you do to help your team enrich their lead data and make more personalized connections?

Sales enablement tools can range from the broadbased (something that brings lead information, communication and knowledge under one roof) to the specific (something that gamifies the sales process for your team).

Even better, Salesforce enrichment tools like Lusha will give your sales team a leg up from the start as they’re equipped with better and more accurate lead data.

Communication Tools

Basecamp for sales knowledge and team meeting notes. Slack for instant back and forth on sales questions. GoToMeeting for simple product demos and customer communication.

Suffice it to say there is no shortage of tools in this arena. The harder part will be deciding on which tools to run with (be sure to ask the questions we highlight below).

Analytics Tools

Make tracking your sales numbers from above as exciting as possible by visualizing the data as it comes in. Even if you don’t have the bandwidth for enterprise-level software, go for Tableau-like visualizations of your sales data.

And don’t forget to utilize integrations to track metrics like email delivery and open rate, meeting and conference call tracking, call analysis and more.

As you evaluate tools for your sales team, don’t forget about creativity and collaboration. Mix in elements of creativity with visual tools like Vidyard and elements of collaboration with easy-UI tools like AirTable.

Questions

There’s no shortage of SaaS and nifty tools for the modern salesforce. How can you know which are the right options for your sales team?

Start by asking good questions right off the bat. How questions.

Whether you’re perusing user reviews or watching a product demo, keep these questions at the forefront of your mind:

  • How will this improve our team’s current process?
  • How will my sales team use this on a daily basis?
  • How long will it take to go from training mode to beast mode?
  • How will the tool translate into performance?
  • How far will the tool go toward meeting our ideal sales metrics?

The last thing you want is to make your team feel like you’re just throwing more at them. If you’re not convinced the tool is the best for the job, your sales team won’t be either.

Remember: Returning higher numbers requires an investment

Getting results requires time.

If your team doesn’t have the critical lead info they need, they’ll have a much harder go of it. If they don’t feel up to speed on the new value proposition, they won’t be as convincing. And those things are up to you.

Take the time to invest in people, and you’ll start to see your sales metrics tick upward as well.

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