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 that your goals are to grow sales and profits as much as possible by providing value to your customers. 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 your typical high-performing salesperson operates. Are they mainly independent, hard-working and self-motivated people? 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 manage them. The customer relationship management (CRM) programs track the number of sales calls made, presentations, closing percentage 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 their creativity if you turn them into robots who only track the numbers these CRM programs are looking for. If your real goal is to grow sales, then 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 grow sales, not calls or leads.

The question then still remains of how to 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. You should take notes and refer to them the next time you meet with your staff to see if the strategy you deployed is actually working or if you need to develop a new plan. I review various accounts to see if my salespeople are maximizing the true potential of our customers. If the sales team knows your primary objective is to help solve problems so that they can grow their sales, you will get honest answers from your team, they will participate in your strategy sessions, and together you will come up with creative ways to grow sales and profits.

I would rather spend my time making sure that 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 someone 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 for another time.

I will also assume that you have a first-rate training program that indoctrinates your new salespeople to your company and provides them with the knowledge they will need to be successful in their jobs. I pass 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 how it is going. I will try to get the recruit involved with what the second month of training will look like. I already have the outline, but I want to know what my new employee would like to spend more time learning about. The initial training will set the foundation for success or frustration.

You will want to spend some time and develop a day-to-day plan for training any new salespeople. I have written procedures on how to enter orders, how to quickly provide customer quality quotes, which really sets us apart from our competitors, and other sales-related documents that are designed to help a new salesperson hit the ground running. I can also refer back to documents that I handed out during the training if the new employee misses 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 a new prospective customer, who our competition is, what we are going to offer our new potential client that separates us from our competitor, and what valued-added services we think will interest this customer.

I, again, would rather be teaching salespeople best practices than teaching them how to enter data into CRM software. The main numbers I am concerned with and track 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, but 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 quickest and most successful way to grow sales and profits. I am open to new approaches as long as they produce results.

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 because 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.

I need to make sure 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 growing sales and profits. Your focus will determine your reality. Please feel free to email at darrell.sterling@hotmail .com if you have questions or comments.