February 12, 2021 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
For many small businesses, now is the time to invest in better sales management. While it might seem like a task for larger enterprises or for better economic conditions, the truth is that in a time of slashed budgets and reticent consumers, sales agents are often the first point of contact with customers. Clear and informed sales strategies can cut through uncertainty and help your business do more with less.
Prioritizing sales management can act as a springboard for broader success. It’s a process that helps refine goals that can extend beyond your sales team to guide your business through tough decisions. Having a standardized process in place keeps your employees focused on the bigger picture, connected to each other and well-equipped to win customers.
An effective sales management system is all about maximizing investment by focusing on three key steps: operations, strategy and analysis. Here’s a breakdown of these stages and the type of inexpensive, easily accessible tools that can simplify each of them.
Operations starts with understanding that each employee is an extension of your company and your brand. To ensure the strength of your brand, you need to have a diverse team behind it, with members who have a variety of experiences and perspectives. Each potential hire will bring their unique talents and track record, their own flair and style for how to do things. It is equally important to take a close look at how they might fit into the full team and whether their skills and personalities will complement those of others. From there, invest in training immediately so that each employee knows how to work well with the available tools and their coworkers. Diversifying your team and investing in training from day one ensures that every skill set in your team is fully used.
Tools: Recruiting and training technology is always evolving and becoming increasingly effective. Use these tools to screen for the qualities you’re looking for in a candidate and to develop those qualities in your existing team. Communications software makes it easy to establish personal connections between your entire team while accommodating for individual working styles and circumstances.
Rather than relying on individual intuition and talent, strategize with your reps about the sales pipeline for your specific business. Here, it helps to sweat the small stuff. Break down a sales win into the little details, behaviors and needs of each client. This information indicates how best to push a prospect toward the next phase of the sales process. Taking the time to work through scenarios with your team helps them to anticipate potential customer questions or trouble points and provides reps with a common language to support each other in closing deals.
Tools: CRM platforms can help track leads, prospects and interactions, which allows you to reference activity when strategizing internally and engaging with customers. Customer support software lets you manage inquiries from different platforms and provide tailored customer service without getting caught up in the technical minutiae of each interaction.
To measure success, be sure to attach goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) to each phase of the customer journey. These goals will provide much-needed clarity and a foundation that employees need to understand challenges and adapt to unforeseen situations. Examples of common KPIs include conversion rate, average deal size and number of deals in your funnel. Hold pipeline review meetings so sales reps can go through their progress, identify areas for growth and determine ways to refine your team’s sales strategy. Lessons learned at this stage can be applied to improve the entire sales management system.
Tools: Sales intelligence technology takes the heavy lifting out of identifying the right prospects for your business, reducing the need for your reps to focus on prospecting tasks. Sales reporting tools help you track progress toward goals and determine whether and how you should change course.
The argument for tech solutions
On the surface, these steps may seem daunting. With the right tools, however, they can become second nature. Don’t try to manually manage your sales team. Instead, look into some of the technology solutions mentioned above. Often software providers offer the same technology that larger competitors use in a package that’s cost-efficient and easy to use. In the era of social-distancing, technology can serve as an equalizer, allowing you to serve customers with the speed and ease of global enterprises.
While it requires up-front effort and resources to create a well-defined sales management process, it can simplify and strengthen your entire business in the long run. The operations-strategy-analysis cycle makes sales more efficient so that you can make the most out of valuable resources, including the skills your reps bring to the job.
Sales is traditionally highly competitive, which can lead to stifled potential for some employees. A common sales management framework can introduce a new level of cooperation in line with company values such as teamwork and shared ownership. This ensures a level of support for remote teams while preserving the independent, resourceful spirit that motivates sales agents. With more objective sales management that isn’t dominated by the veterans or the biggest personalities on the sales team, your business also becomes more receptive and attractive to new talent. Prospects can see measurable career benchmarks and the support they need to succeed.
This past year has been tough for small businesses. It has emphasized the need for clear strategies to stay resilient and connected to both employees and the wider community. Focusing on the specific project of building a strategic, intentional sales management system can jump-start the kind of creative problem solving that will help see you through.
Related: 9 Proven Sales Tips for 2021