During my time as SVP of sales productivity at Salesforce.com, we onboarded, trained, and supported over 5,000 salespeople. The sales productivity programs we created and executed are recognized as a key contributor to the growth of the business from $500 million to $3 billion in revenues. I’m asked all the time, “How did you and your team do it?”
Upon reflection I had my own “aha” moment of clarity. I realized that the growth was largely attributed to the sales execution, best practice sharing, and learning what happened in the hands of the first-line sales managers. The highest-performing sales teams were the ones who were led by sales managers who ran their team like a business.
Most sales programs today don’t consider the importance of empowering the first-line sales manager with tools to own and execute their own sales productivity programs. The answer to growth, scale, and repeatability rests with local execution lies by the first line sales manager. What I heard from sales managers across many different companies was the following:
“I need to have the ability to create and personalize my own training and development programs for my reps. After all, I know them better than anyone. I know what they are good at and where they need some improvement.”
These conversations played a part in inspiring me to write my book, Saleshood, which is regarded as, “A great blueprint on how to be a successful sales manager.” I also decided to start a subscription service for sales managers that's in a private beta.
I believe 2014 is the Year of the Sales Manager. So, if you want to take your sales productivity to the next level, here are three steps to help you get ready:
Step 1: Assess your business.
Being the CEO of your territory means being on top of the numbers. Look at your sales metrics and be honest about where you stand. How much qualified pipeline do you really have? How much pipeline do you need your team to generate? What other commitments do you have to the business that you need your team to prioritize?
Step 2: Evaluate your team.
With your team’s business needs in mind, take the time to review the strengths and weaknesses of your salespeople. If you realize your pipeline is too small, do an assessment of your team’s prospecting skills. If you have a ton of deals getting stuck or no-decisions, focus on mentoring your reps to more effectively uncover compelling events.
You probably already know how your reps are doing and where they need help. Whether it’s writing emails, leaving voicemails, time management, asking questions, negotiating, or any other of the 20-30 relevant skills required of them to be successful, most sales managers have a general sense of how their team is performing in these areas.
But this year, try sitting down and really evaluating each of your reps. A prime place to do this is during 1:1s -- you can talk to them about where they would like to improve.
Step 3: Create a sales training calendar.
Don’t wait for sales kickoffs or a headquarter-centric program to create your own sales training and best practice-sharing program. Create a calendar with monthly themes that map back to your business priorities and your team’s learning needs.
For instance, if pipeline generation is your top priority for February, then make February "Pipeline Month." Support your theme with training and best practice-sharing focused on pipeline generation. Use your weekly team meeting to share best practices, review training materials, and practice skills. Let your priorities and rep assessments be the guide for what you focus on and when.
No one knows your team and your business like you do. So, don’t leave it to sales trainers or execs back at the company headquarters. Take control of your team’s development and take control of your destiny.