Deny first and blame others second. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, that is often the stance sales managers take when their numbers come up short. And once this happens, sales rarely trend upwards because sales teams thrive in competitive but supportive atmospheres—not ones littered with finger-pointing and ‘it’s not my fault’ attitudes. As the old saying goes, it starts at the top. Getting reps to consistently reach, or better yet, exceed quota requires sales managers to own the shortcomings of their teams and help them improve. Here are 3 behaviors sales managers must abolish in order to lead a successful team:
Stop blaming bad leads for bad pipeline. Inbound leads are rarely sufficient to build a healthy pipeline. Unless sales reps are 100% immersed in current sales cycles, which is unlikely, they need to be part of the solution. If pipeline is drying up, active prospecting is critical to generate new opportunities. If inbound leads are low quality, share your concerns with the Marketing leader but to focus solely on leads as the source of the pipeline problem is a poor attempt to ‘pass the buck’. Bottom line, managers must hold their sales reps accountable for effectively moving the process forward.
Stop focusing on the wrong indicators. Too many managers miss quota because they are fixated on pipeline, which is a trailing rather than a leading indicator because it only documents results from activities already completed. By the time the withering pipeline is detected, it’s too late to course correct the activities which created the problem in the first place. Instead, pay attention to the pre-pipeline activity such as the numbers of calls made, voicemails left, conversations executed, and actual emails sent. And beyond the numbers, are your sales teams putting in the right activity? Having a strong understanding of these metrics will provide visibility into how reps are building their pipelines and will enable managers to more effectively predict, forecast, plan and adjust.
Stop accepting “drive-by selling” from your team. There are three classic signs that your team is engaging in lazy or “drive-by-selling.”
- Your team is shooting out emails all day and not calling anyone. This is not selling because there is no way to convey your unique value through email alone.
- Reps call, leave a voicemail, hang up and go to the next contact. (the old “one and done approach”). Reps should hit 0 and ask the receptionist to connect them with someone else who may be involved in the decision. Waterboarding one contact with calls and emails is old school cold-calling and ineffective.
- “Thank you for your time yesterday. Let me know if you have any further questions!” This is the ultimate in lackluster follow up. The idea of a follow-up is to “advance” the conversation not bury it! The follow-up phone call shows a higher level of interest and portrays confidence that should the decision-maker pick up the call, the rep is prepared to answer any questions.
If you are a sales manager in charge of a team repeatedly falling short of quota, don’t keep tripping over the same dilemma of point and blame. While it is easier to look at other departments as the culprit for slow sales, the key to success will always be improved skills and training on the people who are in the same room. Successful managers study their team, evaluate behaviors and work to improve their skills. It’s time to get going!
Mike Scher is CEO of FRONTLINE Selling, creators of StaccatoTM, the leading B2B software suite that accelerates revenue by helping sales professionals create more high-quality opportunities, consistently hit quota and close more deals. He can be reached at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @sellmoreperiod.