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There is no definitive guide to situational sales management (although there is a sales management success hub). Sure, there are plenty of books and blog posts out there offering general tips and advice, but sales managers aren’t able to consult a universal handbook for answers when encountering a particularly challenging scenario.

To fill this void, we wanted to aggregate a collection of practical pointers based on situations that frequently arise on the job today, so we rounded up some of the best topical insights from respected pros. Below, you can find expert advice on handling a variety of sales management challenges, from dealing with egos to boosting subpar revenue numbers to motivating your team and beyond.

Dealing with Major Egos in Sales

Keep Them On Their Toes

“Smart people like being around other smart people. They especially enjoy proving how much smarter they are than the others. So use this ego to the team’s advantage. Competition for scarce resources like funding and manpower will keep people on their toes. Treat everyone fairly — but not necessarily equally. That is, the more one achieves, the more recognition he will receive.” - John Baldoni, Executive Coach and Leadership Educator (via HBR)

Create Cognitive Dissonance

“For most people, ego is like a two-year-old who clings to a toy. Because toddlers’ brains are not fully developed, trying to get something away from two-year-olds is like trying to talk ego out of its story. If you want to get toddlers to release a toy, snatching it away is a bad strategy. You’ll incite a tantrum. Reason and logic don’t work either. Toddlers want what they are fixated on in the moment. It is their single-minded reality. The most effective way to bypass toddlers’ current attachment is to offer them something new and desirable. Doing so creates cognitive dissonance, because toddlers can’t hold two desires at one time. Typically, they will drop the old toy for the new one. “ - Cy Wakeman, Author (via No Ego)

Make a Plan

“If you have a disruptive ‘team’ member, create a clear action plan for improvement and then remove this person if the behavior doesn’t change. Getting rid of a top producer can be tough. But if this person wreaks havoc on the team environment, your decision will improve overall morale, which will eventually lead to increased sales. Plus, this will show that you care more about creating a positive environment for the whole team as opposed to the revenue contributions of one person.” - Koka Sexton, Social Selling Guru (via LinkedIn Sales Blog)

Difficulty Hiring Quality Sales Reps

Sample the Sales Approach in Interviews

“I ask them to sell me on the product. What I’m looking for is for them to ask me qualifying questions rather than just start pitching. Those who just dive right in and start pitching reveal themselves as middle to low 80% producers. Top 20% producers, on the other hand, start asking me questions and gathering information. They are the ones I’m interested in.” - Mike Brooks, Inside Sales Expert (via Sales HQ)

Role-Play to Assess Coachability

“You have to make sure your hires are good at taking feedback. Gauge this by doing a role play in which they actually conduct a demo for your product. Then ask them how they think they did. Then give them feedback. Grade them not just on how smoothly the demo went, but how open they were to self-assessment, taking feedback and applying it.” - Mark Roberge, Sales Advisor (via Sales Hacker)

Sales Team Struggling to Generate Leads

Find the Right Signals

“It’s the situational factors that typically indicate whether any organisation might prove to be a promising target in the here-and-now. Situational factors reflect short-term recent changes to the target organisation’s internal or external circumstances. The most common example is a recent change in management - a factor that often opens the door to change. Other internal situational triggers can include changes in organisational focus, priorities or strategy, recent funding events or a recent acquisition, or a recent setback in the achievement of key performance indicators … These situational triggers act as powerful catalysts for change: they disturb the status quo, and open the prospect’s eyes to the potential need for urgent change in response to the identified problem or opportunity. They drive the evaluation of new systems and new approaches, and often result in the willingness to spend money on a suitable solution.” - Bob Apollo, Sales Strategy Expert (via Inflexion Point)

Build a Replicability Engine

“Cloning your high-value customers is the foundation of your growth engine. Developing a sales process allows you to target these ideal customers and get the same ones time and time again … If your teams are well-aligned with your ideal customer profile, then this will cut your acquisition costs for each customer as they will naturally move quickly through your sales funnel.” - Nick Frost, Entrepreneur (via Mattermark)

Quality Over Quantity

“You can play the numbers game all you want, but you’ll be more successful if you play the game by trying to find customers that really want what you have to sell. That means identifying your ideal customer and trying to locate and communicate with them in the way that they want to be communicated with. I know this is easier said than done, but trust me, I try all the time. If you can come at this with a laser focus, you will have an easier time with much more success.” - Brian Basilico, Online B2B Marketing Strategist (via Business 2 Community)

Sales Team Isn’t Engaging the Right People

Advise Reps to Aim High

“Most businesses put their buyers and purchasing managers on the frontlines of buying situations -- but they’re not actually qualified to make any buying decisions. That’s why the most successful B2B salespeople skip right over those folks, and straight to the real decision makers. Don’t waste your time developing relationships with buyers or purchasing managers, no matter how convenient or comfortable it may feel. They simply don’t have the budget -- or the power -- to make an actual investment in your product or service. Instead, sell only to high-level stakeholders who have the power and budget to actually tell you ‘yes.’” - Marc Wayshak, Sales Strategist (via HubSpot)

Compartmentalize Your Lead Generation

“Start by investing in high quality data sources that provide accurate names, titles, and contact information. When sales reps are asked to do this, it really reduces their productivity. After you’ve handed your reps great data, you can structure that data into groups of similar leads. Your leads can be grouped by lead source, title path, industry, company size and/or message tactic. This gives sales reps the chance to prepare one time for calls to an entire group, instead of preparing for each individual call separately. This also allows managers to customize messaging strategies to entire groups to improve results.” Levi Boyd, CFO and Director of BD for Avance Care (via TimeTrade)

Empower Reps to Leverage Their Networks

“Sales leaders, sales teams, and sales people today have an abundance of connectivity tools at their disposal. As a result, personal and business networks are larger and more interconnected than ever before. Our ‘6 degrees of separation’ are shrinking, and there is no excuse for a professional, proactive sales team to not leverage the power of social – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – to gain introductions and build connections. For us, as our organization has over 2,000 employees with industry connections, the TeamLink feature is a tremendously powerful tool.” - Craig Hess, Corporate Training Expert (via LinkedIn Sales Blog)

Sales Team Isn’t Motivated

Strike a Balance

"A sales manager is equal parts drill sergeant and cheerleader. As a drill sergeant there are best practices and rules of engagement that you must teach, which may save your rep’s proverbial life. Instilling these lessons may sometimes require breaking a rep down before building them up. However once the lesson is taught and learned you must never forget to build them back up again. Confidence breeds success and therefore you must revert to cheerleader mode if you want the rep to take what you have given them and run with it.” - Jason Rasmussen, VP of Sales for Bizible (via Heinz Marketing)

Game On

“My absolute top recommendation for sales managers who want to boost their team’s efficiency is to use gamification to increase competition – Salespeople are competitive by nature. If you harness and use that drive correctly you can create an extremely efficient and hard-working team. The funny thing is that you don’t even have to put up cash or big prizes for it to work. The thrill of winning, or just being at the top of the leaderboard is usually enough.” - Judah Ross, Sales Expert (via TimeTrade)

The Sweet Spot Between “Can” and “Must”

“One source of frustration in the workplace is the frequent mismatch between what people must do and what people can do. When what they must do exceeds their capabilities, the result is anxiety. When what they must do falls short of their capabilities, the result is boredom. But when the match is just right, the results can be glorious. This is the essence of flow.” - Daniel Pink, Author (via Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us)

Sales Reps Can’t Get on the Same Page

Create a Clear Process to Follow

“Provide your team with clear, easy to follow best practices as far as sales techniques and skill sets go for your specific sale. Give them the specific scripts and rebuttals to follow, specific qualifying questions, proper closing tools, and make sure they are unambiguous. In other words, identify what actually works in your selling cycle and what the best approaches are and then develop them into a solid selling system and make it company policy that this is the best way to handle every part of your selling process from the first call, to qualifying, to leaving voice messages and emails, to getting back to your prospects to closing the sale and handling objections.” - Mike Brooks, Inside Sales Expert (via Sales Gravy)

Hammer that Process Home

“Your sales process isn’t perfect. But it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye. Your salespeople skip whole stages of your sales process, and by doing so they don’t create value for your prospects or gain the commitments they need. You need to sell them on the process. Then you need to coach to the process. You need to follow the process.” - Anthony Iannarino, B2B Sales Coach (via RingDNA)

Sales Numbers Not Meeting Forecasts or Quotas

Encourage Reps to Try a Different Approach

“When salespeople lead with their product or service, it is impossible to be perceived as consultants or trusted advisors. It makes it as clear as day that the salesperson believes the relationship and sale are centered on his offering, not the customer and its needs. It’s as if the salesperson is begging the customer to put his offering’s features and price on a spreadsheet to be compared against every competitor’s features and price.”  - Mike Weinberg, Author (via Sales Management. Simplified)

Embrace Your Inner Scientist

“With extremely rare exception, the best sales managers we’ve encountered are unconsciously competent scientists. They hold formal meetings with formal agendas on formal schedules. They set rigorous expectations for their salespeople and track progress against those goals with equal rigor. They manage by analysis rather than anecdote and by measurement rather than gut. They are continuous-improvement experts with action plans galore. While their lower-performing peers try to manage with the same artistic flair that served them well as salespeople, high-performing managers adopt a more scientific approach to management that enables them to get consistently higher performance from their team.” - Jordan Jones and Michelle Vazzana, Authors (via Cracking the Sales Management Code)

Raise the Bar

“When sales goals are high (yet achievable), there is something worth pursuing and your group needs to believe that anything’s possible. If you achieve only 70% of a stretch goal, you’re doing better than achieving 100% of a mediocre goal, as long as there is a collective nirvana about what’s being built that is fueling your success.” - Andrew Riesenfeld, Sales Advisor (via Sales Hacker)

Trouble Retaining Top Sales Performers

Elevate Their Roles

“High-performing salespeople need fresh challenges. Give them an opportunity to launch new product and service offerings, allow them to lead training sessions, or ask them to provide advisory roles on sales strategy.”- Ken Thoreson, Sales Management Trainer (via Nutshell)

Provide a Path to Professional Growth

“The best talent in any organization focuses on higher aspirations. It's a big part of why they drive value. By enabling growth opportunity while making investments in training, businesses can support an individual’s long-term career vision. There is no greater motivation than ownership. Creating a path to equity or ownership is a powerful way to endear your most valuable people.” - Chris Lukasiak, Senior VP Sales and Marketing for My Health Direct (via Forbes)

Set Transparent and Measurable Goals

“Create a framework that makes expectations clear, sets measurable milestones and gives your top sales talent a way to track progress in a meaningful way. This way, your star performers have a clear understanding of what their role is, a way to measure their own professional growth, and know the targets they are meeting and exceeding are duly noted by their managers.” - Dane Matheson, VP of Global Business Development for Sourcebits Digital (via Forbes)

 

 

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Originally published at LinkedIn Sales Solutions, reposted here with permission from our 2017 Gold sponsor, LinkedIn.

Alex Rynne. (2018). 22 Expert Sales Management Tips for 8 Make-or-Break Situations. Available: https://business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions/blog/sales-leaders/2018/01/22-expert-sales-management-tips-for-8-make-or-break-situations. Last accessed 9th Jan '18.