Effective sales management can be a key leverage point in unleashing sales performance. Knowing how to motivate sellers and providing regular coaching can make the difference between reaching sales goals and missing them.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t have sales managers who are up to the task. According to RAIN Group research, 66% of companies don’t believe their sales managers have the skills needed to manage and coach sellers. Add to this challenge the fact that this year, sales teams have had to adjust to selling virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.
They’re also faced with additional unexpected hurdles that complicate the sales process — challenging economic environment, hiring freezes, cut budgets — not to mention working from home and the added stress in many people’s lives in general. In fact, in the RAIN Group research, 79% of sellers reported that the pandemic has had a negative impact on sales, while only 11% say its effect on sales has been positive.
In other words, the vast majority of sellers are struggling in the “new normal.”
What can sales managers do to better manage and coach their teams to stay on track during these unusual and, yes, unprecedented times? First, they need to understand that virtual sales management requires significant changes in how they lead their teams.
Previously, managers could meet with their team in person to collaborate on presentations or attend meetings and events. They could ride along with team members and use that extended time with sellers to talk about deals and provide real-time feedback and coaching. Now, however, management happens over virtual channels, and managers need a new approach. Here are three areas where sales managers should focus to better manage their teams virtually:
1. Establish a Regular Meeting Rhythm
It’s important to establish the right frequency, length and agenda for your meetings with sellers. With everyone working virtually, ad-hoc meetings, hallway run-ins and water cooler catch-ups don’t happen organically. It’s the sales manager’s job to stay proactive with the team and reach out and check in regularly, both formally and informally.
Weekly individual and group meetings will keep everyone focused on sales goals, progressing on action plans, looped in on changes and united in the face of continuing challenges. In addition to formal weekly check-ins, individual catch-ups should happen on the phone, via virtual meetings or over messaging platforms. It’s up to the sales manager to make this happen.
2. Be Proactive in Playing the 5 Roles of a Sales Coach
Coaching is a key element of a sales manager’s job. For virtual sales management success, it’s incumbent upon managers to be proactive in playing each of these coaching roles:
Sellers thrive on person-to-person interaction, so it can be difficult to keep their energy levels up when they don’t see many people — or they see the same ones every day. You can help sellers manufacture motivation even when they don’t feel it and maximize it to its fullest extent over both the short and the long term. While motivation during the pandemic has been a challenge, the simple act of working each week with your team to plan, and then review, progress is motivating.
Sellers know how hard it is to keep buyers engaged virtually, but they need to look in the mirror and focus on avoiding their own distractions. As a sales manager, you can help your team members better control their time, zone out distractions and focus on the activities that will have the greatest impact on their success.
With their time no longer spent traveling, there are more opportunities for sellers to take on other tasks. Likewise, time-intensive activities like managing expenses are at a minimum. As a sales manager, you can help your team members develop habits to achieve the most from their time and execute at a high level. Helping them execute more effectively is one reason why it’s important to meet frequently and regularly with sellers.
While you might not have the opportunity to do a ride-along and debrief in the car with a seller after a meeting, you can hop on your team’s virtual sales meetings or listen to recordings of their calls. Be proactive and directive with your feedback to help sellers up their virtual selling game.
Virtual selling, selling in a down economy, creating new conversations, negotiating … these competencies are all challenging for sellers in today’s sales environment. Keeping your team’s skills fresh and discussing common challenges will help everyone learn from the experience and improve their capabilities as sales professionals.
3. Lead Effective Sales Coaching Conversations
Finally, to have the greatest impact as a sales manager, you must lead effective coaching conversations. Unfortunately, most sales managers have a lot of improvement to do here, both virtually and in person. The three-step framework “did, doing, do” can help here.
Effective sales management helps everyone thrive. If managers adjust how they lead their teams and become more proactive to keep sellers focused with regular meetings and coaching, they can be a key leverage point in unleashing sales performance.