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Sales Initiatives for Newly Appointed Managers

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You have just been hired as the new national sales manager for a company that has experienced a plateau in sales or is not hitting the number. You are getting to know the issues to be addressed in the business, and your CEO is hastily waiting for the new sales initiatives to be implemented to deliver revenue growth. They need to realise an increase in sales and effective sales reps.

What do you prioritise that will impact the business in the short term and also play the long game for the company?

Modern business is dynamic by nature, and companies now operate in fast-paced environments where market shifts, customer sentiment shifts, and new and substitute products can dramatically alter your ability to adapt. A core competency required to operate successfully under these circumstances is the sales manager’s ability to adapt and implement change within the company.

Due to the evolution of the business, the CEO may have discussed new methodologies or sales initiatives with the previous national sales manager and then handed them the responsibility of implementing them. Many companies that find themselves in this position often report that these programmes have been unsuccessful or poorly implemented.

This phenomenon is not uncommon. Recent studies conducted by Sales Focus confirm that many national sales managers are challenged by the prospect of modifying team behaviour and implementing lasting change.

As the new national sales manager, you can uncover a myriad of reasons that contributed to the previous failure, some being:

  • The company has previously adopted a lassie-fair management style, effectively leaving staff to manage their affairs autonomously.
  • Historical indicators measure teams, and performance is focused solely on financial output.
  • All other key performance indicators are ignored or glossed over in favour of financial measures.
  • High-performing employees see no need for change as they consider their behaviour intrinsically tied to their success.
  • Poor-performing employees are stuck in past practices, and any new thinking is at odds with others in the sales team.
  • Previous attempts at change have failed, leading to the cultural sentiment ‘this theory will pass and ‘let’s just sit it out’.

You need to address the issues and find a way forward. The CEO expects to see improvements in 100 days as that has become the common mantra timetable for new hires.

The CEO is interested in the sales initiatives that will be implemented. Sales initiatives are projects to reach a certain sales-related goal. The challenge with initiatives is always their implementation and adoption by the team. This is where most sales managers fail, as they fail to gain the adoption of their initiatives.

Your initiatives may include improving sales productivity, CRM adoption, sales coaching by line managers, pipeline cleanliness and forecasting. These are all good points, but they will undermine any plans without everyone adopting them.

After establishing the initiatives you wish to focus on, you need to write a plan that enables people to understand your focus and intent. A distinct element often omitted is an accompanying communication plan. This plan should include how the new initiative should be communicated across the company and the teams.

It should also include milestones and critical dependencies that will sustain high levels of engagement and participation. The adoption plan should also identify potential adoption risks and symptoms.

For success, the new sales initiatives must include the following five adoption practices:

  1. Sales Force Adoption Plan
  2. Sales Management Adoption
  3. Sales Force Assessment and Adoption
  4. Coaching the Sales Initiatives
  5. Measurement

Let’s look at those individually.

    When establishing the implementation of your initiatives for the team, you need to consider the following: “Why should the team adopt this?” “What value will it add to them and the company?” These questions must be answered from the team’s perspective to achieve engagement and agreement.

    If there are any top-performing salespeople, they will most likely be reluctant to change as they are making great sales numbers already and believe their current practices support their requirements. There must be a strong and plausible reason for them to adopt this plan, too.

    The plan must anticipate the initiative’s risks and challenges and solve potential problems. Additionally, some ‘quick wins’ are required so people can correlate success with the new initiative. Those ‘quick wins’ dramatically motivate the team and, in turn, encourage a winning culture and faster implementation.

      Sales management adoption is the most critical link within the process. As a national sales manager, line managers will report to you. They could be state sales managers, branch managers, or product or market division specialist managers. If the sales team members see any failure of the line managers to support and sponsor the new sales initiatives, your efforts will be in vain.

      State or local managers must lead by example and demonstrate full support by aligning themselves with the company’s objectives. For many managers, this may conflict with previous representations to their team.

      As the new national sales manager, you must be prepared to counsel and guide the line managers so that they can realign their past behaviours with the latest. This coaching must occur before the new programme begins to ensure its success. Many transformations or improvement initiatives are derailed during this process, as it can delay the business initiative for a sustained period, thus frustrating a successful outcome.

        As a sales leader, you recognise varying levels of individual performance in any sales team. Rarely do you find all high-performing salespeople in a team. A priority is to conduct a sales force assessment.

        Often taking the shape of a bell curve, it’s common to see people on each end of the spectrum. Those who perform exceedingly well and those who miss quotas and sales targets. Some members are steady performers; the business ends somewhere in the middle.

        Middle-performing individuals represent the greatest opportunity to deliver improved results and raise the bar in your sales organisation. However, improving the performance of the average sales professional is easier said than done.

        You also need to discover if they are using a company-wide sales process or adopting their way of selling products and services. How varied is the conversion rate of potential customers versus that of existing customers? Do they work to a sales strategy? Do they follow processes or resist them?

        Importantly, what would be their resistance to adopting your sales initiatives? This may require further conversations and, in some cases, counselling. It is important to have each person prepared to embrace your initiatives.

          Sales forces and their direct management require regular and consistent coaching to keep the new sales initiatives in mind. Sales coaching is the best method for gaining first-hand feedback on their knowledge and adoption and where improvements can be made. The coaching should be held in meetings and in the field to test the plan’s application.

          Sales coaching produces the best results when a sales playbook is in place. This playbook sets out all aspects of how the company will go to market, the tools available, and, importantly, the sales process to be applied by the team. Check out the online sales coaching tools for management.

            As the adage says, if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it. The new sales initiatives should clearly outline the key performance indicators. The adoption plan should also include metrics that track and report on leading and lagging indicators. These parameters should be presented to you and summarised as a dashboard, providing you with a quick assessment tool.

            Excess time and money are lost annually due to the failed implementation of sales initiatives that were partly or never used in the field. These failures contribute to reduced productivity and millions lost.

            Planning and adoption are critical to the success of your new strategic direction, and with commitment, they can produce stellar results for your company. When you can manage a successful sales team, deliver a transformation, and increase top-line revenue with a bottom-line contribution, you will establish yourself in your role for years to come.

            Sales Focus Advisory has assisted many organisations in adopting and implementing new sales initiatives.

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            About the Author: Adele Crane

            A leader in Implementation Consulting.
            CEOs and Managing Directors have relied on Adele Crane to solve challenges with the performance of their sales and marketing since 1990. Her consulting experience in delivering results in 90-120 days is unprecedented by any other known sales and marketing consulting professional in the world. As an author of 3 acclaimed books, appearances on major media, and publications in USA, NZ and Australia, Adele’s experience brings fresh thinking and contemporary practices to business.