stealth-management-movesRaise your hand if you’ve ever heard one of these things said about your sales reps:  

“Sales reps are coin-operated.”

“The only way to get reps to perform better is to turn up the dial on activities.”

“Reps do their best when you give them a quota and don’t let them think.”  

These statements, well-echoed in the sales world, do a disservice to both sales reps and the sales leaders who manage them. If you are leading a team where reps are handed a quota, told to pound the phones, and merely incentivized by cash prizes, you're probably leaving a great deal of rep potential (and some cold hard cash) on the table every month.

With more sales teams shifting to an inbound sales model, and using a variety of online prospecting tools, the cries for “more” are just plain archaic; you and your team now have the power to prove which activities are most effective when it comes to producing the downstream metrics you care about.  

So if you want to enable your reps to be lean-mean-prospecting-machines in 2014, while also giving them the power to positively impact your sales processes, we recommend the following three stealth sales management moves to enable your reps and watch them own it on auto-pilot.

1) Make all data transparent.  

We mean everything - CRM data, call data, email data, pipeline data, bookings, and revenue data. Let reps know how they compare against their own goals, and against their peers. Let them know what they are forecasted to close this month.  

If sunlight is indeed the best disinfectant, then letting sales reps see and analyze their performance data has to be the best way to motivate. Not only can sales reps compare themselves against their peers objectively, but they can easily look at top performers to set better performance benchmarks for themselves, or get a better understanding of what their peers are doing well. In this way, reps are able to work smarter, not harder at their job.  

Also look for ways to post goals and metrics internally to keep reps motivated. At InsightSquared, for example, we use our own ESPN-like Free Sales Leaderboard App to promote competition and reward reps by the numbers, as one example.  

2) Coach with numbers.  

Just as you give reps the freedom to explore the data and come to conclusions on their own, you should hold yourself to these same standards. In fact, Mark Roberge recently gave an entire Dreamforce presentation on this concept of metrics-driven coaching.  

If you aren’t already, establish weekly one-on-one meetings with the reps you coach, and use performance metrics -- not just volume but ratios as well -- to determine where reps needs help.  Here are some example situations:  

  • Do you have a rep who makes twice the number of phone calls, but only schedules half the meetings compared to peers? Focus on the conversations he is having after the connect, and provide suggestions on his talk-track as a first-step.  
  • Is one of your reps losing the majority of her opportunities from stage one to stage two in the sales process? Maybe she is great at getting BANT from prospects but needs coaching on how to combat common objections and ask for a second meeting. Knowing that 30% of her opportunities are lost after qualification helps you understand this and coach effectively.  

3) Let reps run experiments (constantly).

These days the only constant in sales is change. If you are not routinely iterating and experimenting with your sales process, then move over -- your biggest competitors are ready to eat your piece of the proverbial market-pie.  

As a sales manager, you have an army of sales reps who would love to be given some variety and agency to create change. Consider each of your reps a combatant against sales complacency, and give them the tools (ahem, data) to run mini-experiments. Let them:  

  • A/B test subject lines
  • Try out new sales scripts
  • Experiment with different asks
  • Explore new ways to attack a phone tree
  • Try to sell through influencers  

But be diligent. Make sure reps know this is not an excuse to go rogue on a sea of unwitting prospects. Have reps create their tests just like any other scientific experiment: by establishing a hypothesis, a control, and a variable, and measurable outcomes.  

Not only will reps feel more motivated and empowered in their often monotonous day-to-day activities, but your entire team will continue to find new ways to sell effectively and crush the competition.

Can you think of other shifts you can make in your day-to-day to help your reps take ownership and rock-it in 2014? We'd love to hear them in the comments.

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Originally published Jan 2, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016

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Data in Sales