Hiring new sales talent doesn’t come cheap, it also presents some very real challenges for the sales management team.
It’s become generally accepted that the cost of recruiting, onboarding and training a salesperson is typically equivalent to one year’s compensation.
In addition, CSO Insights report ‘47% of companies say it takes 10 or more months for new sales people to become fully productive (67% report that it takes 7 or more months)’ and only ‘58% of reps actually make quota’.
Looking beyond the hard, quantifiable costs we shouldn’t ignore that a failing sales rep also carries a ‘missed opportunity’ cost. If a higher performing rep had occupied their shoes during this period, we would have a greater score on our revenue door.
These stats serve to highlight that we need to remove every obstacle to success for our sales folks. The cost of failure is just too high.
So, what are the areas that sales management need to get right? Let’s take a look at the 5 most common mistakes.
1. It all starts with effective sales onboarding:
Aberdeen Group research reveals:
90% of organisations believe employees make their decision to stay for the long-term within their first year of employment.
This gives employers a significant amount of time to create the positive impression required to retain top talent.
However, the majority of the survey respondents had onboarding programmes that lasted from a few weeks up to 3 months. Very few had programmes that extended beyond 3 months. (Source: “Onboarding: A New Look at New Hires”)
Don’t make the mistake of treating sales onboarding as a single event or a checklist of activities to be completed. You would be wise to think about your sales onboarding process as a 12-month engagement. As a result, you will be far more likely to retain top sales talent and drive revenue growth.
Read our 10 tips to sales onboarding success.
2. First line sales management:
So, we have successfully onboarded our new pool of sales talent. Job done, right?
Well, not quite. There is one critical success factor that is too often overlooked. And that is the effectiveness of the first line sales managers this new talent will report into.
This group of managers alone can have the biggest swing effect on sales performance and yet are quite often ignored. They can be responsible for making average sales folks perform well above their ability or conversely leave top sales talent tearing out their hair in frustration.
At the very root of the problem is a situation many of us will have seen. One where top performers in the sales team, who are also decent corporate citizens, are actively encouraged to ‘take the step up’ into sales management. Hence, extending the illogical belief that being good at selling automatically prequalifies you as a good sales manager.
Read more about the 7 Traits of Highly Effective First-line Sales Managers
3. Ongoing sales enablement:
Look at this quote from CSO Insights:
‘59.2% of companies now have a dedicated sales enablement function (up from 32.7%), while 8.5% of companies have plans to create one in the coming year.’
Successful sales organisations are getting serious about helping their salespeople tackle the new breed of buyer. Yet this new practice is still a bit of a question mark for most.
We understand Sales Enablement as the mix of technology, processes and content that enables sales teams to sell efficiently to prospects.
When implemented well and managed effectively, Sales Enablement can have some powerful outcomes:
- It makes sales reps more productive and therefore more profitable.
- It helps us better serve our well-informed buyers, making us more competitive.
- It dramatically reduces onboarding times, allowing new recruits to become productive quicker
- It creates a stronger bond between Sales & Marketing, marrying these two departments creates stronger and more meaningful content and discussions
Read more about 6 best practices for Sales Enablement here.
4. An efficient sales process:
The modern sales manager understands the critical importance of driving their reps to follow the sales process. They recognise the investment that has gone into the creation of the process in the first place. They understand it has been carefully crafted and honed over time for a reason. Primarily to increase the likelihood of successful sales outcomes!
Our tech savvy sales manager uses their CRM system to help drive guided selling. They break the sales process down into the set of sales behaviours (or leading KPIs) they would expect to see occur during each sales stage.
They have the CRM system automatically monitor and identify which of the required sales behaviours have been achieved during each sales stage and which have not. This makes it easy for them to spot if any problematic gaps exist.
Modern sales managers never allow the sales process itself to remain untouched and unstudied for a long period of time either. Sales process stagnation is the death of all progress.
They seek data that allows them to understand the bottlenecks and friction points in the process that are slowing the sales team down. Then they work tirelessly to remove them.
Conversely, they study the winning habits of top performers and adjust the sales process accordingly.
To learn more, click through to this relevant blog: Sales Management: 7 Reasons to “Show me the Data”
5. Maintaining an appropriate sales behaviour cadence:
I am going to address this final point by looking at a fascinating case study. You can find more detail here: UBM matches sales behaviour to revenue attainment
In summary, UBM set both a ‘sales behaviour’ target (think leading sales KPIs) alongside their more traditional ‘revenue’ target. The results gave interesting insight into the best lever available for improving sales performance.
They drew guidelines at the 100% attainment points for both revenue and sales behaviours and learnt that:
Mavericks (top-left quadrant)
The group that somehow manages to achieve the revenue target without hitting their behavioural target.
Mavericks can represent a real problem to the business.
Whilst they meet and often exceed their target, they do so without following the defined sales process & best practices.
This profile of rep often creates deals that are financially good for them and for the customer but that are not always good for the business as a whole.
They share very little and keep their cards close to their chest. This means that the business is not able to draw any learnings from their success and are unable to optimise the sales process accordingly.
Winners (top-right quadrant)
These are the troops you like the most, the ones that achieve or exceed on both revenue and behavioural attainment.
Winners have listened, learnt and applied. They achieve their targets and perform all of the high value behaviours that you know will lead to a successful sales outcome.
They can be used to really good effect as mentors for the other groups.
Strugglers (bottom-left quadrant)
The cluster that is managing to miss on both dimensions of revenue and sales behaviour.
This is the worrisome group.
There has been a heavy investment in recruiting, training and coaching them. They have invested heavily in joining you. However, there is a diminishing return from simply doing ‘more of the same’.
There is a hidden ‘missed opportunity’ cost with this group also. If a higher performing rep had occupied their position during this period, revenue attainment would have been greater.
Growers (bottom-right quadrant)
The banding that will help you really ‘move the middle’. This group are doing everything that is being asked of them, but they are just falling short from a revenue standpoint.
Growers represent a great opportunity.
The investment in training and coaching is clear to see, they just need a little extra help to convert that into sales.
Learn how UBM tied sales behaviours to revenue outcomes to drive increased sales success by downloading the full case study.
In summary, placing a focus on these 5 key areas will give your sales folks the greatest chance of success. If you don’t you could well be faced with the painfully high cost of failing sales reps.
It all starts with effective sales onboarding
Don’t forget the first-line sales managers
Make sure you deliver ongoing sales enablement
Fine tune your sales process
Maintain an appropriate cadence of sales behaviours