The New Year approaches and here at Braveheart, our thoughts are filled with visions of the sales transformations to come. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of poor sales management habits you should ditch as we start gearing up for an amazing sales year in 2016.
Here are 20 ineffective sales management practices you should ditch before they hurt your fresh start in 2016:
1. Hiring in desperation.
Hiring under a time crunch is unlikely to yield your best results. Give yourself some breathing room. Consistency in hiring excellence comes through ongoing recruitment efforts — that means looking for the next great salesperson before you need them. Read more about hiring right for sales here.
2. Continuing to fall back on the interview and resume as the primary source of your hiring decisions.
Luck is not a strategy. It’s difficult for many people to accept that their own instincts for hiring decisions have only a 50% chance of success. But, studies have shown that unstructured interviews — those that depend on gut instincts and biased impressions — have no better odds of predicting future work performance than a coin toss (Forbes). On the other hand, the sales candidate assessments we use have a 95% predictive validity, which is as close to a guarantee of performance as you can get. Don’t trust your gut, trust the data.
3. Investing in new salespeople without doing a comprehensive assessment of your sales organization’s health.
Making smart hires is an important step, but are you applying a band-aid solution to a chronic problem? One of my colleagues wrote about a case where the right salesperson was hired, but within months had absorbed the toxic culture and bad habits of the existing sales team. They become part of the problem instead of the solution. It’s only logical that one great salesperson can’t overcome an ineffective manager, and can’t overcome an entire sales team that has adopted bad selling practices. Get the results you expect by ensuring your sales organization’s fitness. Learn more about our comprehensive sales force analysis here.
4. Still using last year’s commission plan when it conflicts with this year’s sales priorities.
Review your plan with a critical eye, and make sure your sales team has a clear understanding of which outcomes are being rewarded and prioritized. Stated priorities should be consistent with commission structure. Read more about this here.
5. Underestimating what it takes to prepare your sales team for consultative selling.
Dave Kurlan, the founder of Objective Management Group (OMG), made some waves with a blog post earlier this year when he shared data that shows over the past four years, sales organizations have failed to make headway with consultative selling, despite much talk and training designed to develop that skill. Ill-informed attempts at consultative selling result in insultative selling. If you aren’t there yet, endeavor to do the consultative approach justice in 2016.
6. Encouraging dependence by failing to implement an “art of questioning” approach to your sales team’s requests for guidance.
It may seem more expedient or make you feel important to answer your sales team’s questions for them, but when you master the art of flipping their questions back to them and guiding them to find the answers on their own, you can truly call yourself a sales coach. I’ve written about this in more detail here and here.
7. Teaching gimmicks and tricks instead of how to build trust.
For example: telling your salespeople to drop the lead’s first name into their voicemail a minimum of three times. Or, as mentioned in our fifth point, implementing a half-baked approach to consultative selling. For more about the flawed logic of looking for shortcuts (and what to do instead), see “Why Your Hot New Sales Tips Will Fail to Deliver.”
8. Not knowing where and how your time is spent.
As a manager, by far, the bulk of your time should be spent on coaching. The balance, each in small increments, should be spent on motivating, measuring performance and holding salespeople accountable, recruiting, crisis management, internal issues, direct selling, business and product strategy, organization issues, and compensation planning and management (see the breakdown here). Your CEO may or may not hold you accountable, but you are still accountable to yourself to be the best manager you can be. That starts with accounting for your time.
9. Selling instead of growing sales.
As a manager, just 5% of your time should be spent on selling directly. If you are behaving as if it’s up to you personally to close deals to meet the organization’s sales targets, you are thinking like a salesperson, not a sales manager. A manager’s job is to grow salespeople. Only by developing your sales team can you grow sales revenue exponentially. Read more about the concept of growing sales through nurturing and what role a manager should play in closing in this post on “How to Win at Joint Sales Calls.”
10. Not spending enough time coaching.
A full 50% of your time should be spent coaching. Objective Management Group data indicates a whopping 82% of sales managers are not effective sales coaches. Which again, is the most important thing you should be doing. Be proactive. Make sure you are in the 18%, not the 82%. Get an assessment to see where and how you can improve, and take steps to hone your coaching skills.
11. Not doing enough to hold salespeople accountable.
If you’ve put off implementing and holding salespeople accountable to their individual activity plans, how can you manage your sales team effectively? Download our Math of Success worksheet and start now.
12. Failing to tie your sales rep’s activity plans to their individual motivations and goals, and dictating to them what they will be doing rather than having them tell you.
Don’t get me wrong — the plan has to be approved by you, with the activities and numbers lining up based on their Math of Success, but it’s important that they own their plan rather than having it dictated to them generically. If you are making one single sales activity plan and distributing it to each of your sales reps…I’m talking to you. Burn it and start fresh.
13. Allowing yourself to be spread thin by micro-managing.
This is another way of looking at our #6 on this list. One outcome of nurturing your sales team’s dependence on you for all the answers is that you become worn down, with much of your time taken up by having to solve all the problems and provide direction on everything. Not only does it help your sales team grow when you develop their confidence to solve their own problems, but it also takes a huge time suck off of your plate. Read more about this here.
14. Habitually avoiding conflict.
This was number one on my list of pervasive sales management ills. Evidence of “avoider disorder” includes failure to address problems and hold your salespeople accountable. It often stems from a “need for approval weakness” (according to OMG Sales Assessments). When you don’t hold your salespeople accountable, it undermines your authority, and the problem spreads; you are teaching your sales team that their agreed-to activity plans are optional.
15. Not having a repeatable onboarding program for new sales hires.
Earlier this year the Sales Management Association did a study where only 31% of companies described their sales onboarding program as structured. Those who did follow a structured onboarding program consistently had the best results and shortened the time to productivity by 37%. Get additional information about how to set up your sales onboarding program in our eBook.
16. Failing to switch gears to account for the generational shift (Millennials).
By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce (Deloitte). If you’ve not already done so, it would be wise to understand how this group tends to be different and how that might influence your ability to manage them (as well as your organization’s ability to attract and retain them effectively). We did a round-up of content related to managing Millennials in sales here.
17. Halfway implementation of your CRM.
If you are like us, the struggle to ensure you are on an effective CRM platform and that your data is clean and “talking” nicely to your marketing software continued in 2015. Success of your sales and marketing initiatives and your projections via your pipeline hinge on the CRM. CRMs have different features, and some may be better than others, but ultimately a CRM is no better than how your sales team is using it. And that’s a sales management issue. Is your team committed to using your CRM? What needs to be done differently to make it more efficient and effective in 2016?
18. Encouraging fluffy, overly-optimistic sales pipelines.
I recently hosted a Sales Swap Meet™ for local business owners and CEOs where they swapped their sales questions and problems for ideas and answers. The number one topic of the evening was what and how to measure sales…pipeline issues. If you don’t tame your pipeline, it’s going to be a total waste of time. Bigger is not better. Realistic is better. I’ve written a lot about this, and you can get some tips to start with here.
19. Ignoring, or working around, disjointed sales and marketing efforts.
This is a few things: 1) is your data syncing accurately so you can make meaningful decisions across sales and marketing? 2) Are your sales and marketing efforts working towards different goals with different strategies, or are they working in harmony towards a single purpose? And 3), do you have salespeople doing marketing and marketing people doing sales? If so, do they have the appropriate skill sets and qualities to succeed across both roles? Get some ideas for how to improve your sales-marketing connect here.
20. Not concerning yourself with salesperson retention.
This is an issue that is likely going to become more prevalent. In a recent sales digest, one of the posts we included was from Dr. John Sullivan on the ERE Recruiting Intelligence Blog. He presented data from Entelo that indicated “…nearly 50 percent of all employee turnover in the sales group occurred during a narrow time period around the end of the year.” One of his suggestions was to develop a retention plan for the sales team, which makes sense given what we already know about the costs of hiring (particularly mis-hiring) and the challenges of proper onboarding for sales. It’s not just about hiring new great salespeople; it’s also about keeping the ones you have. A great place to start is understanding their motivation and incenting them appropriately. Read more about that here.
What do you think of our list? Share your thoughts in the comments, or take it to Twitter:
Did you enjoy this post? You may also like our Sales Manager’s Checklist for the New Year. Plus, view our recent sales digest for ideas about how to squeeze more sales productivity out of the year-end holiday season.