June 15 by Marie Francis

Three members of sales management sitting at a table

It’s not an easy time to be in sales. Reps are feeling the pressure from customers and managers alike. Customers have high expectations for speed, convenience and ease of shopping. According to Forrester Research, nearly 75% of B2B buyers feel that buying online is more convenient than buying from a sales representative.

It’s getting harder for reps to hit their numbers. Take SaaS as an example. Reports show that as many as 79% of SaaS industry reps are missing quota. And it’s no wonder when quotas have risen 33% in last four years.

So what can Tier One sales management do to help their reps be more effective?

1) Be a Coach First and Avoid Sales Management

The first step to building a more effective sales team is to be a coach, not a manager. Of all the tactics to improve the performance of a struggling rep, coaching yields the best results. Coaching can improve a rep’s performance by as much as 19% according to research from CEB.

The essential difference between being a manager and a coach is this: a manager tells people what to do, while a coach guides people to reaching their goals. Managers are focused on the numbers, and who is hitting them. Coaches focus on the behaviors that lead to hitting the number and who is struggling to exhibit those behaviors.

sales management is like coaching

“When there’s a problem, most managers go immediately into tell mode: ‘Here’s what I did to be successful, so if you do this, you’ll be successful, too,’” says Steven Rosen, a renowned sales coach and founder of STAR Results. Rosen advocates an “ask, don’t tell” strategy to help managers transition to coaches. Check out these coaching resources from Rosen to learn more.

2) Focus Coaching on the Right Reps

Baseball player swinging at a pitch.

Coaching takes time, and it’s not an activity that easily scales. So it’s important to focus your coaching on the reps that stand to benefit the most. Unfortunately, most businesses do the opposite. The most attention tends to go to the top 20% of reps and the lowest 20% of reps. But it’s that middle 60% where you can really move the needle.

These are the reps that have shown potential, but are struggling for reasons you haven’t yet solved. Imagine if you could move 30% of your reps—that group that hovers just below the middle—and get them to average performance. What type of impact would that have on your numbers? For many sales leaders, that bump can be the difference between hitting your number and striking out.

3) Give Reps the Right Tools to do the Job

Even for your top reps, manual processes and broken systems can impact their performance and create unnecessary barriers to making a sale. According to Docurated, reps spend only 32% of their time selling, while the majority of their time is spent on administrative work and finding the right information to use during a sale.

“Sales technology should be a competitive advantage. For that to happen, it has to help salespeople execute with precision,” says Nancy Nardin, President of Smart Selling Tools. Nardin advocates that sales tools should all work in concert to help reps sell more in less time, no matter where the tool falls in your sales technology stack.

At Apttus, our sales stack includes a breadth of technologies, including InsideSales tools and our own Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) solution. According to Apttus’ VP of Sales Operations, Ankur Ahlowalia, with our own CPQ, the Apttus sales team saw a 174% increase in the number of quotes delivered to customers and an 80% decrease in average approval time for those quotes. That’s more selling in less time.

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