Is it possible to manage a sales team “by the numbers”?
Many of the sales leaders we work with try to do this. They set a quota, they make sure everyone knows what the quota is, and they push for that quota to be hit. They track the number of sales completed, then they try to hold the salespeople accountable by requiring status reports showing potentials of closing and estimated dates for each prospect. In our experience, though, there’s a problem with this approach. While you can track numbers, you can’t really manage them, any more than you can manage the weather.
Of course, managers get to keep score by revenue. The problem is, though, most salespeople don’t have a path to get to the revenue numbers. Numbers are the what. As a manager, you need to help your salespeople get to the how. Here’s an example, based on a real-life situation that will illustrate what I mean.
Mike was given a quota of $4 million per year. Early in the year, he met with his manager Juanita, who asked if he understood the number and needed any help. Mike said he didn’t need any help. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
As is so often the case, there was an underlying issue that neither the salesperson nor the manager had come to terms with. The big issue was that Mike didn’t know how he was going to get the $4 million from his territory. Yes, he knew he needed 40 buyers in order to hit the goal. Yet he didn’t know:
- What was the right balance of new buyers compared to Mike upselling existing customers?
- How many new conversations did he need each week?
- How many first calls did he need to make each day?
Sure, Mike was going to work hard; he just wasn’t going to be working smart without the answers to the questions. He was going to require some luck in order to hit his goal. Since that luck did not come his way in the first weeks of the first quarter, Mike found himself falling further and further behind as time went on. Not surprisingly, he found that demotivating and downright depressing.
Fortunately, Juanita saw what was happening and re-engaged with Mike. The solution was for Mike to identify the specific behaviors that supported his $4 million target. Once he had a daily Cookbook to follow to turn those goals into reality, he was able to get back on track.
The One Simple Step That Sets Each Team Member Up for Success
At this stage, you may find yourself wondering what a Cookbook is. It’s simply a set of controllable actions that, when undertaken daily, weekly, and monthly, deliver a predictable, measurable outcome that you as manager and your salespeople both agree constitutes sales success. Following a solid behavior plan outlined in a Sales Cookbook (a process similar to following the recipe in a food cookbook) will yield the results that move salespeople toward an agreed-upon goal.
Make no mistake. The establishment and use of a Sales Cookbook is a simple step that can help new salespeople and those with less experience have success similar to that of your top producers. It’s your responsibility as a manager to help each member of the sales team create and follow the right cookbook. By doing so, you will set each team member up for success.
Together, Mike and Juanita turned things around. Armed with a clearer sense of his targets for new and existing business and a cookbook that Juanita helped him develop in support of those goals, Mike was able to define the correct balance of activities he needed to do each week. He was now in the driver’s seat when it came to managing his own behavior—the only variable he could actually control on a day-to-day basis.
The new approach Juanita took was not only good for Mike’s numbers, it was good for his head. Each day that he succeeded in meeting his behavioral goal, he had a victory to celebrate in knowing where he was on his sales roadmap—what action he had to take next, when he had to do it, and how he was going to go about it. Juanita helped Mike work back from the overall sales goal numbers to specific, controllable behaviors that would generate the desired results. Notice that she was now managing the behavior — not the results.
Three big takeaways for CEOs stand out here. First and foremost, sales leaders should change the focus from managing the outcomes to managing the behavior that produces those outcomes. Second, sales leaders should manage the cookbook for each and every member of the sales team. Third, sales leaders should have a cookbook for themselves! There are so many things they need to do in order to be successful; don’t assume they can do it all by instinct. Make sure sales leaders identify each and every action item and then decide on the frequency of each item. Once they’ve done that, you will know the what, the how, and the when of key managerial activities such as coaching team members, role-play, and weekly individual meetings. And they’ll be managing their own behavior!