Excellent sales management can help your business thrive. Because there are so many moving parts within an organization, the sales management process needs to be fully grasped to ensure each aspect of the collective sales effort is operating efficiently.
To do this, it’s important to have a great sales manager and sales leaders that help their team maximize profits while delivering the best possible value to customers.
In this article we’ll look at what sales management is, the role of a good sales manager in building and managing sales staff and how to define and report on the sales process. We’ll also touch on sales management tools, how to empower your team’s professional development and include a glossary of key sales terms.
Table of contents
What is Sales Management?
Sales management is the process of developing a sales force, coordinating sales operations and implementing sales techniques that allow a business to consistently hit, and even surpass, its sales targets.
If your business brings in any revenue at all, a sales management strategy is an absolute must. When it comes to managing sales and boosting sales performance for any size of operation, no matter the industry, the secret to success is always precise sales management processes. This starts with a great sales manager who knows how to inspire and lead a sales department.
Besides helping your company reach its sales objectives, the sales management system allows you to stay in tune with your industry as it grows, and can be the difference between surviving and flourishing in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Whether you’re an experienced or new sales manager, you should be able to evaluate and gain visibility into your current sales force with the following guide to sales management.
Once you have a clear picture of what processes to monitor and how to keep track of them, you’ll be equipped to pinpoint issues early on, coach people before it’s too late, and have a better overview of the tasks the team should be doing to increase its sales.
If you’re a sales rep who happened to stumble upon this guide out of curiosity, you’re already winning.
This guide will give you an understanding how your company's sales process is managed, allowing you to become more in sync with your team, create a better relationship with your manager and achieve better sales results yourself.
The three key aspects of sales management
There are three umbrellas to manage within the sales process:
The process will vary from business to business, especially as you work your way down the line, but operations, strategy and analysis are the three key starting or focal points.
What is a sales manager?
The first place to start when answering the question “What is sales management” is understanding the role of a sales manager. A great sales manager is the person who guides your salespeople and is responsible for:
Setting sales goals and quotas
Motivating and mentoring the team
Creating sales plans and workflows
Hiring and onboarding new hires
Organizing sales training programs
CRM and pipeline management
Ensuring coordination with the sales enablement and marketing teams
Overall team management
These are just some of the responsibilities in a sales manager's job description. Let’s focus on three of the most important tasks a good sales manager excels at: building the team, defining the sales process and reporting.
Sales operations: Building the team
After you’ve acquired a great sales manager, it’s time to start thinking about expanding the team. This may not be a total shocker, but the sales team is the backbone of the company; they are the direct connection between the product and the customer.
All in all, the sales team should feel like they are a part of the company and be equipped with the resources to progress rather than be viewed as money-making machines.
When selecting and onboarding new talent, you should take your time to be thorough in training them and developing their skills, regardless of their experience.
Salespeople shouldn’t just be great sellers, but need to be great at selling your product and be a representative of your organization that customers want to work with.
Once you have a few more hands, the sales team should all be on the same page, working as individuals within a single, collaborative unit. A more systematic approach will result in fewer errors and greater achievements for the sales force and company as a whole.
Then this is where the fun really begins.
You can set your team up for success by giving them high yet realistic targets, which you’ll be able to track to measure future success (you’ll learn more about this in the “Reporting” section). To do this you would need to:
But the sales manager’s job isn’t done there. It’s also their duty to counsel the team throughout the process, make sure they are still on track, and motivate them when needed.
Think about what experiences motivated you throughout your career, and use them to inspire and motivate your own sales team. On the flip side don’t forget to share your disappointments and failures, how you overcame them and offer support during difficult periods.
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Sales strategy: Defining the sales process
Once you have a sales team and know your targets, you might be wondering: How do you actually carry out the sales?
There are many definitions of sales, but essentially, you’re facilitating a transaction between your company and its customers, moving them through a process which leads to an exchange. Every business has a sales cycle, which is a series of tasks that helps a company’s product reach its users. Therefore, having a sales pipeline, or sales funnel, will make that easier to maneuver these deals to completion.
What is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a visual sequence of activities to achieve with each prospect, from the initial lead to the closing of the deal.
Simply put, a pipeline helps salespeople stay organized and take control of their work. After all, there are some things you cannot control or have little control over, such as your results.
That’s where managing activities comes into play. If a salesperson can see their progress, or their activities, they will be motivated to do more work and conquer more challenges.
Sales activities that are within a sales person’s control include:
Lead generation, scoring and qualification
The number of sales calls, follow- up emails, social media messages and other outreach activities they undertake
Market research on new products, new segments and other other pertinent information
Keeping salespeople accountable for performance is also an important aspect of the sales manager’s job.
Sales analysis: Reporting
Reporting helps you understand how your current strategy affects your company’s success and gives you insight into what you can do to increase your efforts, whether it’s hiring more salespeople or redistributing tasks.
Successful reporting involves using sales metrics, or quantifiable indicators, that tell you how each aspect of your sales operations is performing and whether you are achieving your targets.
With the standard sales funnel, you should be able to measure the following four metrics:
Number of deals in your funnel
Average size of a deal in your funnel
Close ratio, or average percentage of deals that get won
Sales velocity, or average deal lifetime before it is won
Collecting data will allow you to find your ideal customer quicker and, as a result, serve them faster. A CRM tool, which you’ll learn more about in the section on technology below, will help you streamline your sales management process.
Who Benefits from Sales Management?
Sales management in practice positively affects everyone involved in the sales cycle.
The more mature your sales process is and the more the sales manager adapts and improves it over time, the more likely your team will achieve top performance.
In the same way that we've outlined the three aspects of sales management, there are three key stakeholders involved with the sales management process: the sales manager, salesperson and customer.
A sales manager is someone who directs an organization’s sales team, oversees its processes, and is typically in charge of talent development and leadership.
Clarity and scope is essential to sales managers, as they typically need to oversee planning and execution of company wide targets. Having an effective management process will allow them to drive their company forward. They’ll have a clearer vision of where they stand amongst their competition and know how to stay ahead of the competition.
A salesperson represents their company and is in direct contact with potential customers whether in person or over the phone or solely online. Salespeople typically report to and work closely with their sales managers on performance goals.
Sales is tough; to succeed you need to be able to engage your current base while also expanding your reach. Like the sales manager, scope and clarity via effective sales management boosts confidence and will give the salesperson better visibility of their work. If you’re a business owner, consider investing in sales training for every member of your sales team; it’ll pay off in the long run.
The customer will inevitably have a better experience and be more inclined to benefit from your company and purchase your product or services with an effective sales management process. They may even spread the word, which means more business for you and more social proof for future prospects.
With all of these parts working well together, a company can set themselves up for success, especially against their competitors.
Use technology tools to manage customer relationships (CRM)
To provide a clear view of your sales management process, you need a well-managed sales funnel.
A sales funnel provides a clear view of the opportunities available to a sales team, accurately showing the revenue the team is going to make in the months ahead.
While some people initially opt for excel spreadsheets and sticky notes, a CRM, or customer relationship management tool, will allow you to get an overview of your current assets and pinpoint key determinants of your company’s future success.
Incorporating technology in your sales strategy will ensure you maximize profits and that no deal falls through the cracks.
Cloud-based CRMs in particular are great for helping your team improve collaboration. There are tons of popular CRMs out there, but choosing a CRM is challenging.
Before purchasing any CRM tool, make sure to answer the following questions to make the most suitable choice for your team:
Is it easy to learn and use?
How can I customize it to fit my needs?
Are there cross-platform integrations?
Will it notify me when I need to take action, and will those notifications come in real time or in intervals?
Does it offer accurate sales forecasting and reporting?
Is it mobile friendly? Can I access it from anywhere?
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Tips and tricks
Your sales process should be simple and save you time, not take up more of it.
The more time you put in, the more you should get out. For example, if you put time into building a CRM that aligns with your processes, needs and goals, and employ integrations and automation to help you save time, you’ll be able to push more deals through the pipeline and pull in a bigger revenue stream.
For busy sales managers and salespeople, apps such as Evernote, Any.do, Audible, Downcast, e-readers, Pocket, CRMs, Scanner Pro, Calendars 5 and Waze will help ease the process of managing and closing deals.
Also, sales managers can work with a content team to develop content marketing material, or articles that build value around their product or service, to make it easier for the salespeople to sell.
After all, selling is an ongoing process as most people don’t buy right away.
In the same way trials or testers are used to make products more attainable, content can help customers become familiar with your services, especially if it solves a highly relevant problem.
It’s best to have a content team working within the company. The reason for this is that the more intimate they are with the product, the better it can bring insight to potential customers.
Great content is more likely to move consumers along the sales cycle than a salesperson alone would. In fact, great content is often what introduces your product or service to potential buyers.
Resources: How to start managing your sales team
If you’re interested in becoming a sales manager, or a better sales manager, it’s important that you first understand the importance of the sales management process, including the planning and goal setting tasks that come with it.
Planning is a vital part of achieving results. There are endless resources that will help you get started as you build your team and expand your company.
There are many kinds of sales management jobs, but they all hold similar responsibilities: – refining the sales process and making sure the company increases sales and improves the bottom line.
Those who oversee a sales organization and manage sales teams can be anyone from a director of sales, district sales manager, general manager, regional sales manager, sales and marketing vice president, sales supervisor and vice-president of sales. Some of the titles may even be interchangeable depending on the size and structure of your company.
Sales managers can come from a variety of backgrounds. Some may start off as sales representatives and work their way up, and some come from totally unrelated fields, but it’s most important that a sales manager has strong communication and organization skills.
A sales manager's salary will vary depending on the type of business and the geographical location, as with many other jobs.
According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, sales managers earned an average salary of $132,290 and ranked No. 2 out of the best sales and marketing jobs nationwide, in 2020.
Glassdoor, which measures salaries based on user submissions, listed the average Sales Manager salary in the US at $99,299 as of 2020.
Ready to learn more? There's plenty to learn and work on.
Once you make the decision to start or improve your sales management process, you can start by:
Reading sales management books or blogs.
Making a Google alert for key terms such as “sales management” to stay up-to-date with the latest news in your industry.
Experimenting with sales management software that will help you gain visibility into and stay on top of your management process.
Reading the sales glossary below, to brush up on your sales vocabulary.
Also, check out our Global Sales Performance Review for a global insight into how others sell.
Key terms [Sales glossary]
Activity-based selling: The theory that you can close more deals by focusing on the activities you can control, such as the number of calls or appointments made, rather than focusing on sales results, sales volume, or making a certain amount of money in sales.
Close/closing: Bringing a prospect to a final buying decision.
Close ratio: Number of deals you close compared to the number of deals you have presented.
Cold calling: Getting in contact with a potential customer with no prior contact or relationship in hopes of setting up an appointment or informing them about your product or service.
Conversion: The act of turning a prospect into a customer.
Conversion rate: The percentage of prospects turned into new customers
Customer relationship management (CRM): A tool or software to manage your customer relationships and sales pipeline. Often also used as process management software.
Deal: An agreement to meet or take action with a prospect.
Demo: A sales presentation of your product or service.
Lead: Anyone who could potentially be a customer.
Marketing: The act of promoting your product or service.
Metrics: A collection of individual and organizational performance indicators and ratios calculated from collected data that describe a company’s historical and ongoing sales processes.
Product: Something made to be sold to a consumer.
Prospect: A potential customer or person who may be interested in a company’s product or service.
Quota: A fixed share of something that a person or group is entitled to achieve or contribute to.
Retention rate: The percentage of customers who stay.
Revenue: A company’s income or earnings.
Sales cycle: The series of predictable phases required to sell a product or a service. Sales cycles can vary greatly among organizations, products and services, and no one sale will be exactly the same.
Sales Dashboard: A method of measuring sales performance from a birds-eye view. A sales dashboard helps measure key metrics, individual team members and sales activities.
Sales force: Division of a business responsible for selling products or services.
Sales funnel (or pipeline): A systematic and visual approach to selling a product or service. The sales pipeline is helpful in showing you exactly where the money is in your sales process.
Sales management: The process of developing and coordinating a sales team.
Sales management planning: Process of thinking and organizing activities to achieve a desired goal.
Sales management process: Steps taken to attain a company’s objectives.
Sales management strategy: A method to bring about a desired outcome.
Sales manager: Someone who’s responsible for managing salespeople and overseeing a company’s sales process.
Sales meeting: a meeting with the sales team, often to discuss processes, products and services, as well as the potential benefits for the buyer.
Salesperson: Someone who typically works directly with customers to inform them and sell a product while providing customer service.
Sales reporting: The documentation of a company’s activities.
Sales targets: Objectives or goals for a salesperson or company.
Sales velocity: Time it takes for a new deal to close, from the initial contact.
Service: An action performed to satisfy a customer’s need or problem.
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