On Sunday, Oxford and Cambridge students will gather at Putney Embankment to contest the 163rd Boat Race. The crews have to work together, synchronizing their sweep speeds, drive, and recovery, to power their team’s boat to Chiswick Bridge finish line, 6.8 km away. If you’re a sales team manager, you can probably relate to the focus and exertion required.
Making sure your sales team are all rowing in the same direction can be the difference between leaving your competitors in your wake or running aground. There are three key areas where managers can influence their team’s performance, and there are more nautical puns ahead, so let’s get to them…
All hands on deck!
Communicating your vision and expectations is one of the most important things you can do as a manager. If your team doesn’t know what you want from them, they can’t possibly deliver it consistently. Your expectations are informed by your department’s sales goals, which hopefully help the company meet revenue numbers. As those expectations trickle down to your team members, it’s imperative that you do a few things:
Take them on a fantastic voyage
Christopher Columbus somehow managed to persuade three boatloads of sailors to embark on a voyage that, by contemporary understanding, would sail them off the edge of the world to certain doom. Think on that for a moment when you’re wondering how you can motivate your team to make a few more calls every day.
If you can visualise a destination your team wants to go to, where untold riches await them (maybe actually untold riches if that’s how you structure their commission), and tell them that you know how to get there, they’ll go along with you. It’s about using every persuasive instinct you possess to paint a picture, more Frederick Milner than William Turner; about drawing a big X on a map and yelling “Seaward ho!”
Fathom out what the numbers mean
What measures are important?
Is it pipeline velocity? Calls per day? Closed deals per month? Allocation of time for sales activities? Lead response time? Win rate? Deal size? There are dozens of possible sales measures you can choose, and if you can’t tell your team which ones are important to you, any assumptions you harbor about them guessing right belong on the poop deck.
Take some time to understand what the instruments are telling you and make sure you know how to use them to navigate your crew to its destination. It can mean the difference between striking land in India or the Caribbean.
Who’s your best mate; who needs to walk the plank?
What is the review process and frequency for each sales person?
Douglas Adams, writer of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, once famously said “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” People are motivated by different things. For some it’s stickers on a chart, for others it’s the squeaky bum time of a looming deadline.
Letting your team know what their review process is going to be, and how often they can look forward to accounting for their numbers, will allow them to manage their time in a way that makes sense to them and their methods. It’s “quay” to effective management. (Sorry.)
So you’ve made it. Your team all know what’s expected of them. They know what criteria they’re being judged against and how those benchmarks affect the company’s broader goals. They even know what the consequences are for them – and for the company – if they should fail; and the bounty that awaits them when you reach your destination.
Now…bring me that horizon…