By Alex Bartholomaus
For many CEOs, presidents, and business owners, the prospect of managing sales can be downright scary — especially if lack of experience and/or success with that aspect of business is a factor.
Why? Many of these people attain their lofty positions based on success in operations, accounting and/or finance. So, inevitably, they end up relying heavily on sales management to lead the sales force with very little input from above.
While it’s important to empower the people running a part of your business, there are some key things the leader of a company can do to hold sales management accountable irrespective of experience and/or knowledge. These key things include having a relevant sales process, a goal-oriented culture of transparency, and ad hoc participation from leadership in sales.
The first step is to ensure there is a relevant sales process that the entire sales team follows and that the sales management reviews. It is reported that up to 90 percent of companies do not have a formalized sales process that is used by the entire team. This is a breakdown of executive leadership, sales management, and the salespeople themselves. While the salespeople should know better, it is critical for executive leadership to review the key metrics the sales process is supposed to be tracking. If executive leadership reviews this with consistency, then sales management will consistently review with their sale force.
The second key thing a leader has to foster is a goal-oriented culture that is comfortable with transparency. Often salespeople and sales management says, “Give me my goal and then leave me alone so I can hit it.” While autonomy is important, the notion of open collaboration is proven to be more powerful in goal attainment. A leader has to work hard at fostering a culture where people aren’t afraid to ask for help.
It is important for everyone on the sales team to see the benefit in keeping everyone in the loop about successes and failures. In this setting, it’s important to celebrate the success early and often. It is also important to address failure with the appropriate training and/or coaching. If this type of culture is present, then a sales process has a greater chance of being used.
The last key item for leadership is to be as active as possible with the sales force. This means more visibility at internal meetings so leadership can get direct feedback as opposed to it being filtered by sales management. This also means that leadership should spend time in the field with the sales force so they can get feedback from existing clients and potential prospects. It is in this deeper interaction with the sales force and the “trenches” that a leader will have a good sense of whether or not the sales process is relevant in terms of what it’s tracking.
It’s natural to think a leader might feel he or she can’t hold a sales manager and sales team accountable because of his or her own lack of experience. But this is a self-limiting belief, and can be overcome by focusing on the three areas mentioned above:
- Ensuring the sales process is being used;
- Fostering a goal-oriented culture with transparency; and
- Participating as much as possible in the sales process with the sales team.
A company will never realize its true potential if leadership fails to do its part to hold sales management and sales force more accountable.
Originally published: Jan 24, 2012