Successful sales management tools | Sunday Observer

Successful sales management tools

18 July, 2021

Sales management is a combination of two words: literally, sales and management. Simply described, while selling is the art of communicating with prospects effectively to sell a product or service by salesmen, the management is the leadership provided to salesmen by efficiently managing and monitoring them. Both functions are equally important for an organisation to sustain and grow as a business. 

When salesmen are engaged in direct selling, the method that has the highest turnover rate, they invariably attempt to generate an emotional appeal to motivate a prospect. Strong persuasive abilities and skills are compulsory when they involve themselves in a selling situation. Hence, sales managers have to train their sales staff to use various tools to obtain the best conversion rate.

Most often, in Sri Lanka, particularly small and medium-sized companies hire sales staff and throw them to the deep end from day one with a briefing on the product. Rarely these organisations have structured induction programmes to properly educate the new recruits. 

First and foremost, after induction with all details about the company, products, competition, markets, and general business situation, each salesperson must be instructed to formulate a brief sales plan outlining how they intend to perform their job as a salesman.

Sales plan

A sales plan is an important apparatus in sales management. Preparing a sales plan is not a difficult or complex act by any means for an enthusiastic salesperson. The most significant factor in a sales plan is to identify the customer profile. When the salesperson understands the nature of the clientele, finding out where they are, and how to reach them, creating a sales plan is easy. With a proper understanding of the customer, the salesmen can prepare a brief plan with specific sales strategies. 

In sales planning, elements such as setting up personal goals (preferably beyond official sales targets), evaluating the situation in the market, possible barriers to sell, strengths and weaknesses (personal and official), and personal sales call strategy is immensely important. Sales managers must inculcate the feeling of the importance of a personal plan in salesmen. Without a plan, they will be groping in the dark.

Monitoring the movements of a field sales team is one of the most daunting tasks of a sales manager. In my long personal experience as a field salesman and as a sales manager in several organisations, I have experienced the occasional chaotic mannerisms of successful field sales staff. Planning the day’s activities is a must for field sales staff. Therefore, journey planning by the sales team is of paramount importance and also provides the manager a unique ability to influence individual behaviour.  

Itineraries and journey planning is an important tool in selling. The sales representatives must have a clear plan on where they travel each day. Itineraries are usually prepared as a weekly plan but some organisations encourage salesmen to prepare monthly plans depending on the industry and the product. 

Journey plan

Apart from the weekly plan, salesmen must be encouraged to have a daily journey plan based on the main schedule. An experienced sales manager can look at a daily sales call plan and determine the practicality of the plan and make amendments if needed. However, monitoring and controlling the field movements is an essentially vital task of a sales manager.

Having regular sales meetings is a powerful tool in sales management for two key reasons. First, through meetings, the sales manager gets to know the exact position of the salesman in performance at any given time. Keeping a tab on this information of every member of the sales team individually is vital to the manager. Second, the sales manager can assist the salesman by discussing the selling situations and offer advice. More importantly, two-way communication flow through meetings helps managers to direct the team better with more mutual understanding. 

Regardless of the size of the team, throughout my career as a sales manager, I have conducted a brief meeting with the entire sales team every morning. The meeting usually lasts less than 15 minutes but the result always was amazingly effective. Morning’s team discussion brings out new ideas, competitor information, exchange of market intelligence, and activities on that particular day.

I also used to have a longer sales meeting with facts and figures of each team member once a week. Finally, at a monthly meeting, the sales team members analyse their overall performances of the month on failures and successes. All these sales meetings are exceedingly important for the success of the sales staff. At the monthly performance evaluation meetings, numbers are discussed to analyse the specific predetermined goals and make amendments if required. An effective sales meeting also is one of the best motivators for field salesmen.  

Briefings

Constant training, particularly on product knowledge and selling skills is also an essential tool for a sales manager. Successful companies keep updating the staff about market conditions and about the products through briefings. These are usually short sessions where the staff is encouraged to have mock sessions and sample presentations. This exercise helps the team members to improve themselves continuously. In addition, periodic training sessions by outsourced trainers are a must for the sales force. Periodical training programs are useful in two ways: to educate the sales staff and to motivate them.  Sales forecasting is generally an important sales management function in an organisation. However, the sales manager must encourage sales team members to make forecasts at the beginning of every month. Such forecasts provide salespeople a chance to take the lead and if properly motivated they will appreciate and admire the opportunity. More importantly, the effectiveness of the whole selling process can be more with the personal inputs added in individual forecasts. This little exercise will help the sales manager to fathom how well the sales staff understands their business. 

Most organisations have some type of method to keep track of their sales pipeline. The accurate information of this pipeline is one of the most important criteria in sales management. Hence, call reports from the sales staff determine the actual position about a sale in progress and whether it can be completed or not. Therefore, keeping a close tab on the sales pipeline is an important sales management task.  

Primary tool

By nature of the job, salespeople most often dislike administrative based activities such as report writing or preparing lengthy plans. Nevertheless, periodical reporting of selling activities is an essential primary tool in sales management. Sales reports predominantly help managers to monitor the day-to-day activities of the sales team members individually and collectively. 

Reports help the sales manager to monitor performances, plan effective field sales strategies, and maintain or reduce the sales cycle. In addition, daily sales reports from the sales staff are helpful to track the real-time revenue, the status of the sales pipeline, and many other metrics. 

Through my long experience, I describe that salespeople in any organisation are results-driven and self-motivated individuals by nature. They usually are motivated by the limitless potential of personal income with performance-based incentives. In this respect, sales reports play a vital role as a tool that highlights strengths and weaknesses, providing the sales manager to engage in specialised training, problem-solving, and also encourages them whenever necessary.  

Using proper tools at the right time is an integral function of sales management. A successful sales manager keeps improvising strategies, leads the sales team to success, and provides all-important sales revenue to the organisation. It is commonly known that the leadership provided to the sales force through the usage of proper tools is one of the most important factors in business. 

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