Build a sales management process that works in 4 steps
Creating an effective sales management process is essential for new and experienced sales managers alike.
Published May 2, 2019
Last updated September 17, 2020
Maybe you're a new sales manager, stepping out of your sales rep role and wanting to find the best management practices. Or maybe you have been managing a team for some time now but are struggling with hitting your targets.
Excel at your position with a clear sales management process — the act of managing sales operations and a team of sales reps and implementing strategies to increase your company's revenue. The right sales management process helps a sales team (and company) thrive. It's the act of bringing together different parts of the sales engine and turning them into a well-oiled sales machine.
The pieces of a successful sales management process
As a sales manager, you must lead strategy, activity management, and reporting. Each can be broken down into actionable steps — from hiring and managing a sales team to reviewing sales reports at the end of the quarter.
1. Hire and manage your sales team
A sales team is only as good as its manager. Get the right salespeople on board and understand what motivates them to effectively hit or exceed your targets.
You need reps who not only can sell but also are a good culture fit for your company. For example, if you're a highly customer-centric business, it's important that the people you hire are relationship-driven.
First, write a job description that aligns with the position's responsibilities. Then, carefully screen applicants to interview. Do their values match those of your company? Turnover is already high with sales positions, so make sure that the person you hire is the right fit!
Once you have an amazing team in place, identify what motivates them, and determine how they can be the most productive. What made your team want to work in sales in the first place? Along with monetary strategies (hey, everyone loves a good bonus), give nonmonetary practices a try:
- Celebrate wins in creative ways. Start a “champagne campaign,” where you place a bottle of champagne on the desk of a rep who reached their quota. Or tie a gold balloon on their chair. Think of simple but meaningful ways to recognize rep accomplishments.
- Encourage team building. Shadowing programs, team outings, or mandatory “water cooler” chats are excellent methods for improving skills and encouraging communication across the team.
- Focus on the right metrics. Introduce metrics that focus on the quality of activities rather than the quantity. Metrics that push reps toward quality customer interactions include lead response time, lifetime value (LTV), and stage-by-stage conversion rate.
- Provide the right tools. Give your team the resources they need to be successful. A CRM and a resource library of sales enablement material are two such tools that help improve rep activities.
Sales can be a difficult job, and many reps struggle with burnout. Also help your reps reduce sales stress. For example, train reps how to use their sales forecasts to break down numbers at the beginning of a quarter and work backward to reach their goals.
2. Create a sales process road map
A sales process is a significant part of the overall sales management process. It covers how the sales stages of your funnel will be set up and outlines the selling methods for your reps. Your reps need to know exactly how to take a sale from start to finish.
Strategize how your sales process will work by first assessing the following:
- What does your pipeline currently look like?
- How is your team currently finding prospects?
- How does your team qualify customers?
- Is your team identifying the right decision-makers?
Now, put together a sales process road map — a guideline that tells reps what to do at each stage of the sales funnel — from prospecting to closing. By understanding what happens at each stop/sales stage, you, as the sales manager, can track rep performance, determine which areas need support, and boost revenue. Your sales reps can better manage their sales activities and ultimately improve their sales results.
Each company’s road map will be a bit different and will depend on your customers, key decision makers, etc., but here are some common sales stages that you can use as a foundation for your own road map:
- Prospecting: This stage is all about finding the right customers. Quantity means nothing unless leads are also high quality. First, determine what your ideal customer looks like (buyer personas are great for this). Then, use customer-centric lead-generation strategies such as email courses and social selling to reel them in.
- Qualified: How are your reps' sales presentations to qualified prospects? Are your reps able to clearly demonstrate the value of your product or service? If you're losing prospects at this stage, you might need to train reps on what constitutes a compelling presentation.
- Quote: At this stage, your reps are ready to discuss terms and quote a price to potential customers. Track whether reps are actually sending quotes, whether quote opportunities are being missed, and whether reps are following up with potential customers often enough.
- Closure: Your reps should be able to seal the deal at this stage. If not, it might be time to have a discussion about negotiation skills and how to match the value of your product/service to customer pain points.
- Won (or Lost): Either your reps won the deal or they lost it. Whatever the case, look at the reasons why. If the deal was lost, was it due to timing? What strategy did the rep use to win the deal? Either replicate or find a better strategy.
Elevate your sales process with a CRM. It will allow you to customize your sales stages (e.g., maybe you need an “Unqualified” stage) and help you identify bottlenecks or the stages at which you're most often losing customers.
You can also keep track of your sales rep activities in your CRM to know whether reps are thriving or need improvement along sales stages. The number of cold calls, emails, and product demos is important, but you should also be reviewing outcomes. For example, are customers actually converting after a cold call? How often are reps following up with potential customers? Use your CRM to track sales rep activities on a daily basis.
If certain reps are exceeding expectations in all stages, put them in contact with reps who are struggling, which will help them improve.
3. Perform sales forecasting
Sales forecasting means that you are making projections for future sales revenue. An accurate sales forecast allows you, as a sales manager, to prepare postsales support (implementation, materials, infrastructure).
Spot problematic issues in advance, evaluate sales opportunities, and track sales rep progress. Sales forecasts also give your reps realistic goals to work toward.
The basic requirements of an effective sales forecasting process include the following steps:
- Track your sales data.
- Manage your sales pipeline.
- Improve your forecasting model.
The right forecasting model will ultimately depend on your business and sales process, but it's a good idea to use a combination of quantitative and qualitative strategies to get the most accurate results. You have many sales forecasting models to choose from:
- Pipeline Stages
- Rep Classification
- Qualification Frameworks
- Scoring Win Likelihood
- Regression Analysis
Choose different techniques under each of these models. For example, opportunity stages forecasting is an effective quantitative method under Pipeline Stages if you want to assess sales rep performance and monitor incoming revenue. A win likelihood is assigned to deals in each pipeline stage:
Combine this technique with a qualitative method — forecast stages (falls under the Rep Classification model). Reps predict the outcomes of their sales opportunities, which are then sorted into categories: best case, pipeline, commit, and closed/won.
For example, your opportunity stage forecast might say a deal has a win likelihood of 50% under the “Proposal” stage, but your rep might note in the forecast stage method that a recent conversation with the customer indicates he or she still needs nurturing.
Choose the model that best suits your business needs and matches your company goals. To make the most of your model, be consistent with methodology, and ensure that your reps understand it. Keep it as simple as possible to increase accuracy, and adapt your approach if needed.
4. Measure and report.
The last piece of the sales engine is sales reporting, which starts by defining key metrics to track sales performance. Create a standardized format for your team to follow so they know how they're being evaluated. Here are several metrics to consider.
- Win rate
- Lead-to-qualified-opportunity conversion rate
- Average sales cycle
- Sales velocity
For example, not only is win rate an excellent metric to determine if your reps need additional training, but you can also use it to review deal quality, compare the effectiveness of coaching between teams, and determine whether you’re focusing on the right types of customers and deals.
Once you have your metrics defined, track within your CRM reports. Rather than having to manually insert numbers, your CRM should pull the raw numbers and turn them into insightful reports. For example, Sell automatically pulls all of your sales reps' numbers and tells you whether you're meeting your revenue goal.
Here are five important reports for sales managers to follow:
- Sales funnel analysis report: See how reps are performing, and identify funnel bottlenecks.
- Incoming deals volume report: Calculate exactly how much business the marketing team is bringing in.
- Sales forecasting: Estimate the likelihood of closure based on where the deal stands in the pipeline.
- Sales revenue goals: Use revenue goals as a benchmark for sales performance.
- Won deals goals: Learn who on your team is making the most sales.
These reports give valuable insights into your sales performance and processes. Review your reports often, and present report findings to upper management to show your sale team's progress.
Get your sales management process running
Sales guru Zig Ziglar once said, “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In addition to the hard skills, practice your soft skills with your sales team.
It's difficult to remain calm when numbers are down, but you set the tone for your sales reps. If you act stressed on the sales floor, your reps will notice. No matter the situation, demonstrate empathy, confidence, and authenticity. Your team's success is your success. Don't lose sight of team nurturing. Treat your team the same way you would treat a customer — considerately.
An engine runs properly only if all of its parts are working together. Don't neglect any area of the sales management process. Plan and strategize, hire an amazing team, forecast, track your team's performance, and report on the results. The right sales management process is a win not only for your team, customer, and company but also for your career in sales.