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Fundamentals of Successful Sales Rep Management

IMG_1108A common challenge I hear from staffing managers and owners is that they struggle with effectively coaching their sales people. They struggle with scheduling (or keeping) regular sales meetings, aren’t sure what to focus on in those meetings, and have trouble holding their reps accountable. Many also are unsure of when coaching should turn into counseling.

Here are a few keys that I’ve found make the management process easier, resulting in more focused, happier, and ultimately successful sales reps.

Establish specific metrics.
Salespeople need to know the rules they are playing with before they start. And good salespeople want to have benchmarks to manage their performance. The primary metrics I use for performance are weekly activities, appointments, sales pipeline amount, and quota. Each of these metrics measures a different point in the sales process, from prospecting to managing their opportunities, to generating new clients and revenue.

Schedule weekly one on one meetings.
Most managers that I speak with don’t have scheduled one on one meetings with their sales reps. Or if they do, they end up getting canceled more often than they have them. It is critical that you have weekly one on ones with your reps – they need and want your support, it keeps them on track, and it gives you insight into areas they might be struggling or not performing. I recommend an hour a week for each rep, and make sure you do everything possible to keep the appointment. Things will come up where you need to reschedule, but make sure these meetings happen every week. If you don’t have time to devote an hour to each sales rep, then that tells you its time to hire someone who can.

Let your reps run the meeting.
It is important that your sales people have ownership of their activity and performance. If you just print off a report that shows how many activities are in the CRM/ATS, your coaching call turns into you talking about their activity. Instead, have your sales rep come prepared with how they are performing compared to their key metrics, and have them lead the meeting with you providing feedback and asking questions.

Create a weekly plan.
Most sales reps (or most people for that matter) don’t plan enough. The result is the “spaghetti-throwing” approach - throw enough spaghetti against the wall and some of it will eventually stick. Help your sales reps stayed focused on what’s most important by having them list the top 5 or 6 most critical things they needed to accomplish in the past week, and what was the result. They should also have the 5 or 6 most critical activities for next week to get new deals in the pipeline. This simple exercise results in both greater accountability, focus, and productivity.

Know when to stop coaching.
Knowing when to coach and when to counsel an employee is tricky, and there is no hard line that can be drawn in the sand. I like to quote Patrick Swayze in one of my favorite 80’s movies Roadhouse “I want you to be nice…until its time not to be nice.” Essentially its important to coach your reps until it is apparent that they are not following direction, putting the effort in, or just aren’t performing. This could be evident in a variety of ways: they consistently don’t hit their weekly activities, they miss quota for several months, or they just aren’t listening to you. I tend to err on the side of coaching, as these are valuable members of your team that you’ve made a significant investment in and want to see them succeed. Once you go down the path of counseling, the tone and relationship tends to change, so you want to make sure you’ve coached until it becomes obvious coaching is not effective.

The big questions I get from the approach outlined above is “isn’t this micromanaging?” and “don’t sales reps hate this?” My answer to the first is no, this isn’t micromanaging, this is managing. My answer to the second one is that actually good sales reps love this approach. It gives them a clear understanding of what success is, lets them know how they are performing, and is an opportunity to share with you their challenges, progress, and wins. The reps that respond poorly are the ones that don’t want you to know what they are doing or how they are performing. Its actually a great way to get these individuals out of your organization, because they hate being held accountable and will likely look for an environment where they aren’t.

If you want to get the most out of your sales team investment, implementing this approach is the fastest, most effective way to achieve success.


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