DAVID BROCK explores the mistakes managers make when supporting sales staff – and how this can lead to wasted resources.
It’s a simple yet critical point: as managers, we fail to give salespeople what they need, and as a result, adversely impact performance – or waste money, time, and resources.
There are several reasons for this phenomenon:
• We are more concerned about what we need from the sales team, rather than what they need
• With the best intentions, managers, marketing departments, and others in an organisation give salespeople what we think they need – but too often this does not actually help them get the job done
• We give them things we want them to need, but they really don’t; under this section would fall a lot of content, marketing materials, and technology. Often, these are deployed to the sales team with the mentality of, “If all the ‘cool kids’ are doing this, then we should too!”
• We focus on our needs, without understanding how they impact the sales team; for example, putting in place policies and procedures that make it more difficult for salespeople to get things done
• We drown the sales team, giving them far more than they need – part of this is the ‘program du jour’ mentality, where all sorts of new things are added, only some of which are helpful.
Sometimes, giving salespeople what they need is stopping certain procedures or policies, or taking things away that are no longer useful
• Managers give the sales team something they really need, but the sales team doesn’t know they need it and so there is no increase in performance
This is an example bungled ‘change management’.
Identifying the true need
I often see these problems arise when I start a project with a new client. At the beginning, the manager will tell me all the ‘stuff’ they have in place to help the salespeople – content, training, tools, processes, procedures, programs.
The list goes on, and on, and on. They are providing all the ‘right’ things, the things you hear marketing departments and sales managers talk about as ‘best practice’.
Then I talk to the sales team, watching how they work and what they do. In particular, I pay attention to top performers.
Without fail, they’ve simplified the process phenomenally; they are doing all the things they should be, they are executing tasks in a disciplined way, and they keep going back to the few things they know work and are helpful.
They ignore everything else.
Next, I look at utilisation. What content is the sales team actually using? What training do they choose? Which tools are they using and how well are they using them? Inevitably, I find huge amounts of ‘stuff’ that the sales team simply doesn’t use.
The ‘sales technology stack’ is one of my favourites. Organisations tend to pag about the software tools they have in place; the mentality is, ‘More equals better’ or the corporate equivalent of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’.
Too often, the sales technology stack is more for everyone else than it is for the sales team; managers love reporting from customer relationship management (CRM) systems, while marketing departments love content platforms
Don’t get me wrong, I think many of theseare very powerful – but imagine how things would change if we approached it differently?
For example, I can’t imagine a highperforming salesperson not empacing CRM systems, like Salesforce or HubSpot, as there are so many features that improve effectiveness and efficiency. If salespeople are using these existing tools well, the business gets greater value from them.
The next element to address is coaching. By this, I mean managers and sales leaders helping the team to learn, develop new approaches and ways of thinking, and acquire new capabilities.
Most managers spend less than three hours per month coaching everyone on their teams – and I suspect much of that ‘coaching’ is saying, “Do this, don’t do that, tell me how it works out, send the next person in.”
Instead, we must pay close attention to what our salespeople are currently doing and how they do it, consider what they might do differently, and engage them in these discussions.
The reality is salespeople don’t really need that much – yet too often, we fail to give them that which they need the most!