It's Time for Sales Managers to Focus Beyond Numbers

Last updated: 05-23-2019

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It's Time for Sales Managers to Focus Beyond Numbers

Julie Thomas, president and CEO ofValueSelling Associates. She is a sought-after speaker, and author of ValueSelling: Driving Up Sales One Conversation at a Time.

Recently, The Indicator from Planet Money, an economics-focused podcast, gave one of its dubious Indicators of the Year awards to employee “ghosting,” in which people quit their jobs without any advance notice. Deemed the “tackiest trend” of 2018, the practice of workers just failing to show up one day is a symptom of a very tight labor market and, perhaps, mismanagement. After all, if someone feels valued, he or she is less likely to leave an employer – let alone in such grand, bridge-burning fashion.

Even if you are certain your sales team members won’t leave you in the lurch, every sales manager should be concerned about turnover and its potential impact on productivity and morale. Finding and onboarding new talent takes time and energy. Additionally, millennials (who now make up the workforce majority) generally value mentoring and skills growth more than previous generations.

That’s why every sales manager should be focused on retaining his or her top performers and grooming those with strong potential. Too often, however, today’s sales-team leaders remain fixated on making their numbers – without realizing those numbers might be easier to attain if they spent more time coaching.

Sales coaching isn’t as easy as it looks. Many reps who rise to management positions do so based on their own sales processes and business relationships. Coaching demands a different mindset: You must be passionate about helping someone else achieve their sales dreams. And you must do so in a way that works for them.

Where to start if coaching doesn’t come naturally?

Make sure all salespeople work from the same playbook

While individual sales practices and personalities vary, the basics and fundamentals of selling should be consistently applied throughout a team. Find a sales methodology everyone can follow. Ensure each rep has access to sales tools that assist their efforts.

Sales teams typically are a mixture of newer account executives eager for formal training and seasoned professionals needing to master newer technologies. Providing ongoing sales training and tune-ups makes it easier to motivate and monitor team members as they move through sales cycles.

Be the subject-matter expert for your team

To make sure you earn the respect of your team, you must stay in the know – which is not easy at the breakneck pace of change happening today. Find ways to keep up with what’s happening in your own company, territories, and industry so your team members know they can turn to you for expert advice. A big part of coaching involves learning how to collaborate with different personalities and work styles. This can be done more easily if you too are receiving professional coaching from someone fluent in sales and business communications.

Yes, there are the numbers we all chase each term. But there also are metrics used in coaching that help show whether your advice and counseling are getting traction. First, work with each rep to determine their strengths and weaknesses – and then how to overcome the latter. Often sales problems boil down to competence and confidence issues. By providing the right sales tools and training, you can help bolster someone’s ability to better communicate with prospects and upsell customers.

One reason sales managers don’t invest in their own coaching skills is time. They are too busy to learn how to better connect with their reps and enhance everyone’s ability to communicate value. That mindset, though, is short-term thinking at its worst. Invest the time to become a better coach – sooner rather than later. Your own long-term sales future may depend on it.

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