I think the best place to start with this topic is to ask: What are the goals for your sales team? It is hard to manage folks without everyone being on the same page and knowing what you expect from them. I am guessing your goals are to increase sales and profits as much as possible by providing value to your customers. As a wholesaler for more than 12 years (and an additional 13 years on the contracting side), I would think that is the universal goal for almost anyone hiring a sales staff.

The key to managing a successful sales team is to understand how typical high-performing salespeople operate. Are they mainly independent, hard-working, and self-motivated?

I believe a lot of companies are using the wrong tactics to manage and motivate their sales teams. Companies are using software programs that are supposed to help managers track key performance indicators. The customer relationship management CRM programs track the number of sales calls made, presentations offered, closing percentages, and so on. The software is generally too restrictive and requires a salesperson to spend a great deal of time entering data and producing reports instead of getting out of the office and creating sales opportunities. Your sales team can quickly lose its creativity if you turn them into little robots who only track the numbers these CRM programs are looking for. If your real goal is to increase sales, there are better ways to manage your sales team.

Salespeople generally prefer a flexible schedule and do not care to be micromanaged. Top performers will seek out jobs that allow them to produce without having to track every phone call, lead, and presentation. Please remember your goal is to increase sales, not calls or leads.

The question then remains: How do you effectively manage a sales team? You will need to establish agreed-upon sales goals with your staff. You should strategize with your team on how to grow various accounts or markets. Take notes and refer to them the next time you meet with your team to see if the strategy you deployed is working or if you need to develop a new plan. I review various accounts to see if my salespeople are maximizing each customer’s true potential. If the sales team knows your primary objective is to help solve problems so they can increase sales, you will get honest answers from them, and they will actively participate in strategy sessions. Together, you will come up with creative ways to grow sales and profits.

Your Secret Weapon

Don’t forget your wholesaler or supply house when planning a sales strategy. It is simply foolish for any contractor not to bring them into the mix. They often offer free, valuable training sessions that help add knowledge and impetus to the team. They also serve as an injection of motivation that every salesperson needs occasionally.

I would rather spend my time making sure we are following a sales process and are using best practices, such as role-playing sales presentations, to help sharpen and strengthen our presentation skills versus reading CRM reports on how many phone calls and leads we generated.

Your No. 1 objective when developing a sales team is hiring the right people. We will assume that has taken place. Hiring the right salespeople is an article topic for another time.

I will also assume you have a first-rate training program that indoctrinates new salespeople to your company and provides them with the knowledge necessary to be successful. I hand out a calendar that spells out what my new recruits will be doing every day for the first month. I let them know that when that month is almost over, we will review and determine how everything is going. I will try to get the new hires involved with a preview of how the second month of training will transpire.

I already have the outline but want to know what my new employees would like to spend more time learning about. This initial training will set the foundation for success or frustration.

You will want to spend some time to develop a day-to-day plan for training any new salespeople. I have written procedures on how to enter orders and quickly provide customers quality quotes, which sets us apart from our competitors and other sales-related documents that are designed to help new salespeople hit the ground running. I can also refer back to documents I handed out during the training if new employees miss a step once they are out in the field. I want the basics covered. We should be able to perfectly execute the basics, such as how to set up appointments, how to research prospective customers, knowing who our competition is, what we are going to offer our potential clients that separates us from our competitors, and what valued-added services will interest these customers. We have created what the military refers to as standard operating procedures (SOPs).

I, again, would rather be teaching salespeople SOPs and best practices than how to enter data into CRM software. The main numbers I am concerned with are sales and profits growth, not phone calls made or amount of leads generated.

You have to listen to your staff and work together to get the best results. You will find that not all salespeople sell the same way, and I am OK with that as long as they produce. I try not to stifle an employee’s sales process if it differs from mine. However, I do let them know they will be on a tight leash if they want to follow a different path from the one my staff and I have predetermined to be the most successful. I am open to new approaches as long as they produce results.

Honestly, I am really against all the CRM software that I have seen. It might make the owner of the company feel like he is in control of the sales team, and he can track an array of numbers but at what expense? You can have someone who excels at generating leads but can’t close very well, while another salesperson runs few leads but closes on a regular basis. In the end, I don’t care how you do it; your job is to grow sales and profits. I want to know how much money I am making off my sales team.

As a salesperson in my company, I need to ensure that you are generating more than enough gross profit dollars to pay for yourself and your benefits plus allowing the company to make an outstanding profit. I care about those numbers, and if you are unable to produce, I need to see where you need additional training and help.

The key to sales management is to stay true to your No. 1 goal, which is concentrating on increasing sales and profits. Your focus will determine your reality.

For more information, email Darrell.sterling@hotmail.com.

Publication date: 9/19/2016

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!