Businesses that thrive execute one thing very well: sales management.
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.
The primary focus of sales managers should be to maximize profit for the team a while delivering the best possible value to customers. Who doesn’t like a win-win scenario?
So, 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 boosting sales performance for any size of operation, no matter the industry, the secret to success is always precise sales management processes.
Besides helping your company reach its sales objectives, the sales management process 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.
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.
Overall, sales management will help businesses and their workers better understand results, predict future performance, and develop a sense of control by covering the following three aspects.
The Three Key Aspects of Sales Management
There are three “umbrellas” to manage within the sales process:
- Sales Operations
- Sales Strategy
- Sales Analysis
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.
Sales Operations: Building 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.
In other words, they matter – a lot.
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 become great sellers, but need to be great at selling your product, and become a representative of your organisation 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 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:
- Set Targets
- Assign Territories
- Establish Goals and Quotas
But the 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 ways to motivate your own team. On the flip side don’t forget to share your disappointments and failures, how you overcame them, and offer support during difficult periods.
Sales Strategy: Defining the Sales Process
Once you have a team and know your targets, you might be wondering: How do you actually carry out the sales?
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 is a salesperson’s right-hand man, as it helps them stay organized and take control of their work. After all, there are some things you cannot control – 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.
“There are some things you cannot control – results. That’s where managing activities comes into play.”
Sales Analysis: Reporting
Reporting is what allows you to understand how your current efforts affect 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, the more the 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 sale managements, as they typically need to oversees 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.
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.
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.
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, any documentation is a great start, 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 ensure that no deal falls through the cracks.
Because there are so many options, before purchasing any CRM tool you would need to answer the following questions to make the most suitable choice for your unique 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?
- Does it offer accurate sales reporting?
- Is it mobile friendly? Can I access it from anywhere?
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.
The more deals you’re able to drive through your pipeline, the bigger these deals are, the higher the chance of closing, and the less time it takes to get a customer means the bigger your revenue (and profit).
For busy 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 your 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: 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 than 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 what often makes the introduction 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 achieving results. There are endless resources that will help you get started as you build your team and expand your company.
There are quite a few sales management jobs, but they all hold similar responsibilities – refining the sales process and making sure the company moves in a forward direction to hit its goals.
Those who manage sales can be anyone from a director of sales, district sales manager, general manager, regional sales manager, sales and marketing vice president, sales supervisor, and a 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 a strong skillset in communication and organization and other traits.
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 Bureau of Labor and Statistics, sales managers earned an average salary of $126,040 – almost double that of a sales representative – and ranked No. 2 out of the best sales and marketing jobs nationwide, in 2014.
Glassdoor, which measures salaries based on user submissions, listed the average Sales Manager salary in the US at just over $70,000, reaching close to $80,000 in New York City, as of mid-2016. Perhaps the best paid sales managers don’t report voluntarily as Glassdoor requires, but either way the best-paying cities for sales managers are New York City; Bridgeport, Connecticut; San Jose, California; Binghamton, New York; and Victoria, Texas.
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.
- 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 results, 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 of informing them about your product or service.
- Conversion: The act of turning a prospect into a customer.
- Customer relationship management (CRM): A tool or software to manage your customer relationships and sales pipeline.
- 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 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 process, 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 salespeople 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.
[Editor's Note: Sales Management Definition, Process, Strategies and Resources is intended as a collaborative, growing body of work, as opposed to a static, single-author piece. If you have comments, suggestions, and of course any corrections, please contact us via email: marketing @ pipedrive.com (no spaces).]
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