Driving your field sales team to perform at its peak requires strong field sales management. One mistake a lot of entrepreneurs make is underestimating the complexity of driving and closing business. If you have never been in the sales trenches, it might appear to be as simple as paying for a few lunches and squeezing in a round or two of golf. While the adage that 'people buy from people they like' is for the most part true, successful sales organizations do much more to bring in business than simply approve expense reports! Seasoned sales force managers give their reps a process to follow that will lead them to more sales, then coach them through the process to make sure they can execute well. Great managers then measure their field sales team's performance so they can focus on developing parts of the process and team that need to be adjusted and reward those that exemplify success.
These 4 strategies should be developed by all field sales managers to build leading field sales teams and drive sales performance:
Build and Refine the Process: Every field sales professional needs certain inherent skills, like being able to set meetings, recognize and clear obstacles, and manage their time effectively, but without a proven process that works to move opportunities through the sales funnel, they can find themselves spending time doing things that feel productive, but aren't really helping to close a deal. It is up to sales managers to provide their reps with a sales process that has clearly defined and measurable steps so they know the objective of every one of the activities they execute.
Coach Sales Reps through the Sales Process: A sales manager only adds value to the team if she can focus on assessing and correcting the mechanics of the way reps conduct activities in the field. It's not enough to beat reps up at the end of the month when they haven't reached quota, unless there has been specific coaching throughout the process. Good sales managers communicate constantly with their reps to both observe how they are managing through the details of the sales process, and to provide guidance on where and how to focus their skills. Coaching requires managers to be masters of the sales process, to know exactly how their reps are executing against the plan, and communicate directly with reps about specific strategies, obstacles and next steps.
Measure Activity and Results: A good sales plan includes a very specific definition of the sales funnel, and the activities required to move opportunities through that funnel. Good sales reps and sales managers know that sales tracking includes measuring activities at all stages of the funnel in order to keep opportunities moving, and to make the business predictable; the right level of activity at the top and middle of the funnel keeps a steady stream of deals coming out the spout! Measuring this activity level against a set of metrics (e.g. 20 calls and 2 demos per day, 10 meetings per week, 4 proposals delivered per month…) makes sure that the plan is being executed. If the activity level 'processing' opportunities is right, measuring the results (e.g. 8 signed deals per month) indicates whether or not the right plan is being executed.
Reward Top Performers: Good sales reps are by nature very competitive. The best compete against themselves and strive to blow through quotas for the satisfaction of the win (not to mention hitting commission accelerators), and all will compare their own performance against the rest of the team. It is important for sales managers to make success visible across the team. Best practices for field sales management include highlighting top performers to fuel that natural competitive instinct. It doesn't have to be a trophy, a Cadillac or a set of steak knives either… simply publishing sales rankings based on activities and results will ignite the competitive fire in a good sales rep's belly, and will put non-performers on notice that they are accountable for hitting numbers as well.
Managing a field force requires organization and focus. Having the right field sales management tools in place is important to being able to drive reps to follow a sales plan, and to measure and coach them appropriately. If you have a plan, coach your reps as they work to follow the plan and measure what they are doing to execute as well as the results, you should be in position to offer and reap many rewards!
Mat Brogie is part of the founding team, and CEO of Repsly, the world's leading solution for high performance retail execution teams. Mat has spent the past 15 years of his career focused on bringing technology enabled business solutions to the consumer goods industry, having implemented solutions for tens of thousands of field reps at companies such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Pepperidge Farm and hundreds of others.