five fundamentals of effective sales management

Mastering Sales Leadership

Mastering sales leadership requires focus and excellence in five fundamental areas. Achieving mastery in these areas enables sales leaders to develop highly focused, efficient, and effective sales forces.

The Five Fundamentals of Effective Sales Management…

Align sales with the Go-to-Market strategy

Focus on the early stages of the sales pipeline

Achieve coaching excellence

Require customer growth planning

Establish a cadence or operating rhythm

Recently, we put together a brief, two-minute video on the Five Fundamentals of Effective Sales Management, and I explain why they matter so much and the impact they can have on the performance of a sales organization. The video appears below.

 

 

Please visit our “Five Fundamentals” web page, where you can download a copy of the white paper, “Five Fundamentals of Effective Sales Management,” and learn about our Five Fundamentals workshops.

Early Stage Pipeline Focus

Why an Early Stage Pipeline Focus is Critical for Sales Managers

[This article is the second in a series of five articles authored by Matt McDarby and John Golden, authors of the recently published white paper, “Five Fundamentals of Effective Sales Management​.” Look for the remaining articles in this series to be posted on the United Sales Resources and Focused Revenue Results websites in the coming weeks.]

The great bard himself, William Shakespeare wrote “better three hours too soon than a minute too late,” and if ever there was a quote that could be adapted to pipeline management then this is it. There is nothing more frustrating and demoralizing than opportunities that collapse and are lost late in a sales cycle. This is closely rivaled by opportunities that seem to stall forever in the mid-stages. When both of these scenarios become the norm rather than occasional aberrations the cause can, more often that not, be attributed to where the sales manager is focusing.

Ineffective sales managers consider it “three hours too soon” to devote a large amount of their time to reviewing new opportunities. They elect instead to focus on late stage opportunities that are running into trouble where they are often a “minute too late” to have any meaningful impact beyond approving desperate discounts and “sweeteners”. Meanwhile, the early stage opportunities are allowed to quietly progress through the sales cycle without the appropriate level of rigorous oversight.

With the ineffective sales manager occupied in firefighting mode at the latter stages of the pipeline, early stage opportunities that may have great potential are often being fatally wounded by…

  • Lack of thorough qualification
  • Misunderstanding of where the customer is in their buying process
  • Misalignment with the customer due to a superficial understanding of their needs and decision making process
  • Solutions being proposed too early in the cycle
  • Assumptions being made based on limited information

On the flip side, an effective sales manager focuses on early stage opportunities because he/she knows that this is where they can most directly impact win/loss ratios, pipeline velocity and forecasting accuracy. A thorough qualification of an opportunity allows the sales manager to help prioritize it in a sales person’s pipeline as well as to make choices around levels of resourcing based on whether it has a better than average chance of closing. It also provides them with excellent coaching and skill development moments where they can help the sales person uncover unforeseen customer issues or solutions that can expand the value and scope of the opportunity. This in turn conditions the sales person to undertake greater levels of discovery with the customer and starts to eradicate guesswork and assumptions.

In other words, the effective sales manager is now helping to create value for the customer as well as value for the sales person. This is in stark contrast with the ineffective sales manager who parachutes in late in a sales cycle to “fix” the problems and in attempting to do so often marginalizes the sales person and increases customer anxiety.

The effective sales manager understands the power of ensuring opportunities are built on strong foundations and supported by a systematic approach. They are prepared to send the sales person back time and again to gain more insight and information before allowing the opportunity to progress. By doing so they are helping the sales person improve their craft while also empowering them to be able to take the opportunity forward with minimal direct sales management intervention.

This early stage focus does not just benefit the sales person and their organization however; it also has major benefit on the customer side. The additional time spent uncovering the customer’s needs, ensuring there is buyer/seller alignment and expanding/adapting solutions based on unforeseen opportunities/problems will be rewarded by the customer. They will appreciate the process, not just the end product. Much has been written about creating value in the sales process, well it is during the early stages that the value creation actually happens.