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Sales leaders and managers frequently talk about: hiring the right people, sales process mapping, sales strategy, sales force deployment and customer coverage, economic drivers of profit of the customer, sales force effectiveness, and sales compensation. The entire gamut of activities listed above and some more tasks form sales management. Selling is the vital activity of a company on which the question of very survival rests. And the entire process of selling involves these tasks that need proper management to ensure a cohesive selling process. After the research and development team has given a credible product to the manufacturing department and the product is out of the manufacturing pipeline, it’s up to the sales team to take the product to the customers and exchange them for money and good will. The onus lies on the shoulders of the sales manager to strategize the sales process and methods so as to bring in the maximum possible revenue as well as forge enduring relationships with the customers.
What then is good sales management? It’s something akin to the Southwest Airlines’ model of sales management. When the entire airline industry is reeling under the blows of skyrocketing fuel prices they are the only airline to have registered profits in 2008. Instead of mulling over job cuts and travel fare hikes the managers have stood behind their sales staff and treated them like family. Whenever an employee had a problem or an employee had an issue with a customer the managers came to their rescue and together they sorted out the issue. They have followed the simple rule, “treat employees the way you wanted to be treated”. That’s the fundamental rule of sales management. A sales manager should be a mentor, guide, and a leader to their team.
Does the sales person shift their gaze to the side when they see a customer approaching? Do they suddenly remember that they have to restock merchandise instead of greeting the customer and getting interested in his needs? A Retail Customer Dissatisfaction Study conducted by Wharton’s Jay H Baker Retail Initiative confirms that the biggest saboteur of profits is a disinterested sales force. When the customer is dissatisfied a good sales manager checks their sale staff first. Recruiting the right sales personnel, providing them adequate training, making all required knowledge accessible to them and motivating them to achieve their sales targets with enthusiasm – all falls under the ambit of responsibility of a sales manager. Half of the sales team management problems wouldn’t arise in the first place if the recruitment process is solid and weeds out people that may turn out to be incompatible to the organization and a sales role.
The fundamentals of sales management includes first knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your team. Is each sales person on the team entrusted with the kind of sales they are capable of? Are they motivated enough to do well in good times and tackle the tough times? Is a sales person compensated well for their achievements? Does the sales manager listen to their suggestions and give feedback? If there is a problem during a call the sales manager should go on “buddy calling”. Buddy calling entails that the manager would accompany the sales person on a call but let them do the job and intervene when the going gets tough. This gives the manager insight in to the way that sales person works and the sales person learns from the manager – on the job.
Is the sales process vibrant and functional? Has the prospecting been done correctly? Is everything from cold calls to closing deals moving smoothly? A good number of cold calls should lead to real sales when the sales process is effective. Are the sales people concentrating on the needs of the customer? Can the sales process be revamped? Is there an Internet based sales system present? How much selling should be apportioned to the Internet and how much should be accomplished physically? Is there a gap between what’s promised to the customer and what is delivered? Is the delivery taking place in time? These are the things a sales manager should be examining constantly.
The fundamentals of sales management require the observance of some common sales fundamentals. The appearance of sales people should be smart and professional in accordance with the guidelines of the company. They should exude a certain level of confidence in their day-to-day jobs. There has to be proper guidance about prospecting and enough time should be allocated to each prospect based on their worthiness. Presentations and the closing of deals should be of top quality. Periodic training on presentation skill enhancement and personality development workshops improves the competencies of the sales people. All top sales managers spend a good amount of resources on training of their sales force.
It is also essential that sales management take in to account a comprehensive sales strategy. A sales manager should formulate a good sales strategy and execute it well. Execution is as important as strategizing. The role of synchronization – getting the right product to the right customer at the right time, cannot be undermined.
The fundamentals of sales management shouldn’t be confused with something complicated but simple attention to the details in all activity related to sales. A liberal dose of humaneness and loads of common sense as well as a goal oriented approach form the basics of good sales management.
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