Let’s start with an indisputable fact: effective and productive sales forces have great sales management. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.

According to Mr Dave Kurlan, the chief executive officer and founder of the Objective Management Group, who has been designing, developing and refining sales force development and sales recruitment evaluations for over 20 years, “the results from 50,000-plus sales manager evaluations clearly show that upwards of 45 per cent struggle to manage sales effectively, which should seriously worry any CEO”.

Today’s salesmen do not merely “sell” but are often required to think of business solutions for clients. They therefore need rudimentary business knowledge.

Mr Kurlan believes that sales managers should spend at least 80 per cent of their time in four areas: holding people accountable, coaching, motivating and developing or growing their people.

“Unfortunately, the figures show they spend on average only 30 per cent of their time in these four key areas which is woefully inadequate. Time is wasted on other non-productive areas and their performance and that of the sales force suffers,” he adds.

Accountability

Sales accountability consists of:

* Holding salesmen accountable to measurable metrics on a regular basis;

* Being more demanding, firmer and tougher;

* Eliminating excuse-making and making people take responsibility for results; and

* No tolerance for under-achieving — everyone achieves and over-achieves.

Accountability is an ongoing function and can take place in a daily huddle, spending five to 10 minutes in person with each team member or by teleconference. Everyone should report on the metrics on which they are being held accountable (it isn’t necessary for everyone to be reporting on the same metrics).

Coaching

Sales managers will only improve their coaching skills when they have been consistently trained in developing these skills. In its simplest form, sales coaching consists of the following:

* Pre-call strategising. Coaching prior to selected calls to ensure the salesman has a good reason for having the upcoming call, a desired outcome, a game plan or strategy, and the appropriate questions or dialogue to achieve the desired outcome.

* Post-call debriefing. Coaching after selected calls to discover the true outcome of the call, why the salesman got that outcome and what he could have done differently or more effectively.

Coaching should be performed daily for 10 to 15 minutes; with each salesman; and do it proactively, not passively. Coaching has the following hierarchy: facts, strategy, role-play, lesson learned and action plan

Motivation

Motivating sales staff comes down to getting them to do what they won’t do on their own, changing their behaviour, doing  more of what they are already doing, having a greater sense of urgency and overachieving.

Sales managers can motivate their sales staff using the following:

* Tap into their dreams. Help them achieve what they want more than anything.

* Promotions. Some salesmen are challenged by growth opportunities and strong career paths.

* Sales meetings. These are the most under-utilised and misused opportunities to motivate people.

* Compensation. Are they money-motivated?

* Incentives. Structure an incentive programme correctly. For instance, staff can get to pick prizes. Have different categories and winners. This can be quite a powerful motivator.

* Public recognition. For some, nothing is a greater motivator than being recognised throughout the team, region, company or industry.

* Awards. There is a spot on a bookshelf just waiting for that trophy.

* Praise. Especially if you don’t give it out very often, a positive word from you can be a huge motivation to your sales team.

* Consequences. What will happen if they don’t do what you need them to? Develop some consequences and follow through. You won’t have to follow through more than once!

Development

An ongoing process, this includes and goes beyond the strategies and tactics learned in sales training.

Four important components of development are raising and managing expectations; helping your salesmen overcome their weaknesses; assuring them that they are stronger and more effective than the previous month; and preparing them for more responsibility and higher-level roles.

Mr Kurlan believes that sales managers must continually raise the bar. “Too many sales managers and salesmen say they are comfortable with what they have now,” he says.

“Remember, don’t fall into the trap of assuming that a salesmen who hits his numbers is a top producer. Figures have a habit of masking a multitude of issues which great sales management will avoid.”