As a sales manager, you spend your days focused on your team, pondering ways to make them better and pushing them to hit their quotas. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day duties of helping others that sometimes you fail to look inward and ask yourself the tough questions you need to grow and improve.
But just like those flying a plane must put their own oxygen masks on before helping the passengers, to be the best manager for your team, sometimes you have to take a step back and examine your own performance before you can provide your reps with valuable direction. Here are three tough questions that every manager should ask him or herself on a regular basis.
1. Are you setting a good example with your CRM?
By now, there should be no doubt in any sales leader’s mind: CRM adoption is important. If your reps aren’t consistently entering information into your sales platform of choice, how will you know what’s happening with your sales? Deals will be won, leads will be lost and upper management will be none the wiser.
But instead of pointing the finger at your reps and asking why they haven’t been using your CRM on the regular, it may be time to look in the mirror. Do your reps see you in your CRM every day? Do you refer to it in meetings and during one-on-ones? Do you rely on it as your company’s single source of sales truth?
If not, spend some time figuring out why. Is it because it’s too time-consuming to navigate? Is it not set up to reflect your current sales pipeline and processes? Even the best teams struggle with CRM adoption, so you’re not alone.
2. Are you managing a weak link or strong link team?
In the book The Numbers Game, soccer is described as a “weak link” sport, while basketball is determined to be a “strong link” sport. This means that teams in soccer are only as good as their “weakest link,” and perform better as a whole when the entire team is stronger than average. In contrast, basketball teams win more when they have a few star players that lead the pack.
As we discussed in a recent blog post, sales is like soccer, a weak link sport. This means that, as a manager, your team’s performance will suffer if you succumb to allowing a couple “star reps” carry quota and focus your time and attention on helping them close. Instead, your time would be better spent getting your “weak links” up to par. So how do you effectively close this performance gap?
One way to amplify the strengths of your top sales performers is to segment a number of closed/won and closed/lost deals by top performers and underperformers and analyze the differences. For example, you may notice that the majority of underperformers’ deals are dropping out in a particular pipeline stage compared to performers. Or, loss reasons may notably vary. Findings like these enable you to dig into what top performers are doing differently and use this information as a baseline to provide actionable coaching to the rest of the team.
3. Have you taught your reps “how to fish”?
As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Fishing aside, this same sentiment applies when it comes to sales reporting and driving rep accountability. While you might offer reps valuable instruction during one-on-ones, what do they do to monitor and maintain their performance the rest of the week?
The best sales managers ensure that their reps have access to key reports, and focus initial one-on-ones on teaching them how to effectively analyze their sales data and generate actionable insights. Once this foundation has been laid, subsequent meetings can be spent coaching to the information that has been uncovered and helping reps optimize performance.
One type of report that reps should have full access to and be comfortable using is activity reports. These allow reps to ensure that they are on pace to hit their activity quotas, as well as to track activity outcomes to easily spot areas for improvement. Another is the stage duration report, which shows reps how long their deals are spending in each stage of the sales pipeline. With this information, reps can identify areas of the sales process that they need to work on and then work with managers to improve.
Improvement Starts from the Top Down
Before you can set expectations for your reps, you must be realistic with yourself about your own management strengths and shortcomings. Sure, asking yourself “tough questions” is never fun, but the value it can generate for your team is well worth it.