Owners of small businesses don’t make good sales managers. That’s a generalized statement but one that is true more often than not. I’ve seen countless examples of this and have developed an action plan to deal with this phenomenon. This article summarizes the action plan.
The two biggest reasons small business owners don’t make good sales managers is their lack of time and their lack of interest and/or ability in the sales arena. Leading salespeople can be like “herding cats”, and without proven methods to apply, the energy required is daunting. I’m a small business owner and I speak from first-hand experience.
In many cases bringing in a fractional sales manager is a good investment. If that's not something the business owner wants to do, following is a sales management plan comprised of five elements:
Good salespeople want to know what success is. They want to have a sales goal that’s realistic. They want to understand what behaviors and activities lead to sales success and how often they should do them to succeed.
Set sales quotas up front. Make them realistic. Establish the behaviors you want your salespeople to execute on a daily basis that will lead to success, and set up measurement systems to track and report on those. Make the measurements accessible to the sales team so they can track their own performance and adjust accordingly.
Be specific about who to call on
Don’t bring on a salesperson and say “now go get ‘em tiger”. Who’s “them”? If you aren’t specific about who you want your sales team to call on, failure is right around the corner. Good salespeople will prospect but don’t make them figure out who to prospect. That’s the owner’s job. Here are four ways owners can “prime the pump” for salespeople by giving them direction about who and where to prospect
- Buy a list that contains companies who fit your target market criteria with their contact info
- If your current customer base is a potential source of additional revenue, give them a database of your current customers to call on
- If you sell to a niche marketplace, obtain a list of companies in that niche.
Then, establish a prospecting plan that may include personal visits and/or outbound calling to get in front of the prospects. Augment this outbound prospecting activity with a strong inbound marketing component. Here’s some more info about sales prospecting.
Focus first on sales producing behaviors and activities
Sales is a numbers-game. Anyone who says it isn’t, is kidding themselves. If you have a good product or service and you see enough qualified buyers, you’ll make sales. On the contrary, if you don’t see enough qualified buyers, failure is coming your way.
There are things called lead and lag metrics. Lead metrics are things you do that if done well will result in success. They are the proven behaviors that done well and in the right frequency will get results. Lag metrics are the end result. The problem with focusing and managing lag metrics is you can’t influence them because the end results are already in.
For example – in sales, your lag metrics are the sales you close. A lead metric is how many prospects you see in a given period. If you know your close rate is 20% and you want to make 2 sales per week, then you need to see 10 new qualified buyers per week. The lag metric is 2 sales and the lead metric is number of new prospects - 10 in this case. Lead and manage your sales team to achieve their lead metrics.
Discipline of sales meetings
You’ve got to conduct consistent, timely and regimented sales meetings. Remember the comment earlier about “herding cats”? You can be a good “cat herder” if you are disciplined about conducting sales meetings with a regimented agenda.
In a small business environment, I recommend weekly sales meetings that don’t last more than one hour. During the sales meeting each person is responsible for sharing his/her numbers (lag metrics), their sales activities (lead metrics), and making commitments for the upcoming week that will move the sales process forward. This method will bring importance to the whole process, instill some discipline of activity and keep sales activities going in the right direction.
In addition to the aforementioned reporting routine, sales meetings can also be used to introduce new products/services, do some sales training and coaching, and reward performance.
Provide training and coaching
Most people aren’t natural born salespeople. So, provide them opportunities to develop their skills. Coach them on the dynamics of your particular industry. Educate them on what’s important to your target customers, your customer personas, and what your customers value. Learn how to develop customer personas – it’s critical to your success.
Much of what they need to learn about your industry you can teach them. When it comes to selling skills and techniques, seek local resources with expertise in sales skills development who can customize a program that creates the best balance between value and cost.
In summary, five elements are critical to the success of small business salespeople. If you set goals up front and communicate results, your people will understand how they are doing. Direct your salespeople about who and how to prospect to meet with qualified buyers. Focus your leadership on the lead metrics/lead behaviors to achieve the end result. Execute a discipline of sales meetings and provide development opportunities where appropriate. Perform well in these five areas and you’ll stand the best chance of winning with your small business sales team. Or, hire a fractional sales manager who can execute this plan for you.