In this era of lean sales organizations, managers are often challenged to find ways to oversee all of the activities in the field. They worry that reps are not focusing all of their work-time energies on pursuing and closing deals, or that they are not following the prescribed sales process to move deals through the pipeline. Sales managers feel that there are accountability issues with managing a remote field force, and they are right. What they may not realize is that accountability is a two way street when it comes to field sales.
It is true that good field sales reps hold themselves accountable for remaining focused and always working the sales plan to the fullest, but regardless of how devoted they are, they are part of a team and can only be successful if all parts of the team are functioning; sales managers need to be accountable as well!
The best field sales managers work hard to remove obstacles from their team's ability to perform. They communicate frequently to understand what issues the team is facing, coach their reps through difficult situations and prepare them with the information and tools they need in order to succeed. Managers that only ask for sales reports and reprimand reps for missing numbers are not contributing to success or developing a winning team. Managers need to be held as accountable for their role in the sales effort as the reps that are executing in the field. Some of the key aspects of a manager's role include:
- Frequent formal and informal communication with the field… Formal communications to reinforce process and structure, and informal communication to develop a real understanding of issues that can be resolved as well as successes that can be shared across the team.
- Positive Coaching… Managers should look for opportunities to improve reps' performance through coaching. Too often, especially with new managers, the tendency is to "coach" by highlighting failures and missed quotas rather than the more effective approach of reviewing, analyzing and discussing opportunities that are in process, and looking for ways to share experience and knowledge with the rep in a way that can be used to achieve a winbeforethe quota period is over.
- Implementing Tools and Processes… Field reps are by nature very independent. They prefer to do things their own way, and on their own terms, and are typically resistant to structure of any kind. One of the most important things a sales manager can do is to implement a proven process for success, along with the tools the rep needs to meet that success. Sales managers need to hold the line when it comes to having reps follow plans and process that have been designed to drive success; at the same time, managers must advocate for lightweight, agile processes that don't get in the way of their rep's performance!
So if you are a sales manager lamenting your ability to hold remote reps accountable for staying focused and executing flawlessly, take a hard look at how accountable you hold yourself to giving them the oversight, coaching and support they need in order to make their number… and yours!
Frank Brogie is the Product Marketing Manager at Repsly. When he’s not thinking about how to position and sell Repsly’s products, Frank loves to explore Boston by bike and hunt for vintage cars through a camera lens. On weekends you can count on Frank to organize a pickup basketball game or play disc golf. An avid podcast listener, Frank recommends Philosophize This, 99% Invisible, and Radiolab.