A well-designed sales management process is essential to maximize the productivity of a sales organization
Defining a consistent series of meetings between first-line sales managers and sales reps can yield a wide range of benefits. However, if participants don’t follow the meeting schedule or arrive unprepared, these benefits can quickly fade. The effectiveness and consistency of the sales management process must be assessed every year. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we outline how to assess an organization’s sales management process, identify gaps and put an improvement plan in place.
Periodic meetings that enable sales managers to deliver insight and coaching to their reps are critical to effective sales management. To drive productive interactions, managers should adhere to a standard meeting calendar and format, and follow a prescribed sales management cadence to shorten preparation time and increase the focus on critical information. The sales organization must document the sales management process in a regularly updated playbook to facilitate understanding, standardization and compliance. The process should include the following components:
General. As part of sales operations’ responsibilities to design and govern sales rep performance management, it should provide templates and tools to support periodic manager/rep interactions, including performance reports and dashboards as well as coaching guides developed by sales enablement.
Weekly tactical review. The weekly meeting focuses on creating an updated forecast. It is held on weeks when neither a quarterly nor monthly meeting is scheduled (typically the second, third and fourth weeks of every month). Weekly tactical meetings tend to involve only the sales rep and sales manager. Discussion topics include key opportunities, deal-closing requirements and activity coordination. During these meetings, sales managers have a chance to coach reps on skill or knowledge gaps. This coaching may be real-time (e.g. delivered during the meeting) or asynchronous (e.g. recommended videos, practice sessions, other content). Additional team members may attend when strategic or large accounts are reviewed.
Deal reviews. A deal review is a structured meeting designed to solicit feedback, input and guidance on strategies and tactics for advancing or winning a specific opportunity. Although sales often holds these reviews on an ad hoc basis (e.g. as requested by the sales manager or a rep), they also should be scheduled at a set day and time each week. Participants may include anyone who is directly involved in the opportunity as well as individuals with a broader set of functional responsibilities (e.g. pricing, deal desk, sales, marketing, product). The sales manager facilitates the deal review, and the entire sales team should participate so that insights gained from one deal can be applied to future deals.
Monthly strategic review. The monthly strategic review is held at the beginning of the second and third months of each quarter. The meeting may include the extended account team and focuses on the forecast and achievement for the quarter to date, the quality and quantity of reps’ pipeline, and the status of key opportunities. Required attendees include the sales manager, sales rep and sales support. Other individuals directly involved in specific opportunities or who have deliverables due from the quarterly business review meeting also may attend.
Quarterly business review. Held at the beginning of each quarter, the quarterly business review includes a brief review of the prior quarter’s results, with an emphasis on identifying insights and lessons learned, and an update of the forecast and territory or account plan for the current quarter and remainder of the year. Participants may include the sales director, cross-functional team members directly involved in the sales effort (e.g. inside sales, sales engineering, product specialists) and representatives from marketing and product.
A sales organization invests considerable time and resources to develop and deploy its sales management processes. Assessing this process as part of annual sales planning can help sales leaders and sales operations detect sales management process issues (e.g. lack of compliance, lack of understanding, lack of pipeline governance, perception that the sales management process no longer provides value for the sales rep or manager). A sales management process assessment also may be triggered by an event such as an acquisition or merger, or a change in growth strategy (e.g. via new markets, new buyers or new offerings).
Conduct separate assessments of key segments of the business (e.g. business units, vertical markets, global accounts, enterprise accounts, small-and-medium-sized businesses), especially those where the sales management process differs from the organization’s standard process. Before implementing any changes to the sales management process, sales operations should work with sales enablement to develop a change management and communication plan that includes field verification of proposed changes.
Support each finding from the sales management process assessment with a summary of key facts, insights on why gaps exist, conclusions drawn and recommended actions. Recommended actions should include a detailed description of the actions sales should take as well as their timing, expected results, owner and executive sponsor, and communication and change management plans. Actions may include immediate changes to the sales management process, additional training or documentation, or further analysis so that findings can be incorporated into the next annual planning process.