The Missing Element
Sales management must create an environment where top- and even average-performing salespeople exceed company goals.
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Why does the job longevity of a person with sales management responsibility average only 14 to 18 months? Some of senior management's frustration with sales leaders is traceable to the expectations that SFA/CRM applications create, yet fail to meet: improving salesperson productivity and gaining effective insights into pipeline management. Although these may be valid messages, sales management must focus on much more to build a high-performance sales organization and predictable revenues. These tasks certainly require effective training and effective recruiting, but strong sales management is about creating a culture or environment where sales people excel! Therefore, sales management must create an environment where top- and even average-performing salespeople exceed company goals. This requires discipline, process, and commitment. Missing-Critical Element: Planning We do believe that CRM/SFA applications can assist sales management in achieving the right culture. However, because most sales managers are promoted to their positions with no training, limited exposure to successful sales management, or limited opportunities to be mentored, they rely on past, limited experience. They simply do not know how to use these applications effectively, and miss critical elements of fundamental management. The element most often overlooked by new and even experienced sales managers is understanding their individual team members' personal goals, skill development requirements, and business development needs. Sales management must focus on building individual salesperson creativity, helping their salespeople develop territory or account business plans, and setting standards of achievement. By adding process and commitment, sales management evokes each salesperson's personal commitment, accountability, and emotional buy-in to achievement. The role of sales management is to create a culture in which salespeople feel free to carefully establish strategic and tactical objectives that directly impact their own success. This belief that they have created their plan for their own territory and/or accounts heralds an environment that fosters self-managed sales teams. By adding the element of planning, SFA/CRM applications will have a much-needed higher degree of implementation success. When salespeople believe they are personally accountable for achievement based on their mutually agreed upon plan, they then view SFA/CRM as a tool to achieve their plan rather than a product that sales management uses to track their activity. From Provincial to State-of-the-Art Sales Planning Sales management's failure to use SFA/CRM effectively leads to sales management turnover, resulting in a tremendous increase in costs for the organization. Sales management has been trained to manage salespeople by reviewing pipeline values and assisting in closing business to achieve monthly quotas. Although this element of sales management is critical to overall success, traditional sales management effectively ends up basing forecasts on reviews of existing historical data, i.e., sales activity numbers and the number and dollar value of sales opportunities located in the traditional sales funnel. When these two sales benchmarks become weak or fall below required minimums, sales management typically reacts with negative actions or begins a full-court press to increase sales activity levels and sales opportunities. Sporadic short-term marketing programs, sales activity contests, and micromanagement systems are symptoms of this problem. This type of management leads to the Wave Theory: large volumes of sales one period and low volumes the next period. What is truly required as a long-term solution is for companies to implement effective personal and business planning systems. These types of commitment systems will not only aid the salesperson in more effective execution, but also provide a process or system for the sales manager to effectively coach, mentor, and manage members of the sales team. An online sales management system enables a quick, easy way to review past planning events that provide actual achievement of tactics against the strategic plan. In addition, an automated system makes it easy for salespeople to refine their plans each quarter or whenever factors like new or discontinued products require revisions. An easy process for refining plans ensures that longer-term forecasts will be more credible, that sales professionalism will increase and, most important, that sales activities are being proactively designed. Proactive planning by each salesperson of their own sales and marketing programs, activity goals, and personal objectives for their own general business territory or named accounts changes the landscape of sales management. The entire sales team becomes energized as they view their teammates' plans, strategies, and tactics and as they watch their individual achievement grow. The quarterly review of plans and actual accomplishments in a group setting becomes a tremendous training program for management as well as for each salesperson. Closing the Gap in CRM/SFA Applications Sales management requirements must be addressed in SFA/CRM systems. Sales management is more than pipeline management; it's creating the environment for success. Acumen Management Group call this process the Optimization Theory of Sales Management, which aligns the soul of the person with the goals of the corporation. Successful sales management must focus on all aspects of organizational and personal development, and it is time that SFA/CRM systems provide these tools to assist sales management. About the author: Ken Thoreson is managing partner of Acumen Management Group Ltd. (www.acumenmgmt.com), a North American-based consulting organization focused on improving the sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations.
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