Understanding the Fundamentals of Effective Sales Rep Management
In all honestly, managing sales reps can be a challenge. Sales reps may share one common goal—closing deals—but managers need to understand different personalities, adapt to unique learning styles, and provide the tools each rep needs to hit (and ideally, exceed) their quotas. Yet, one thing remains the same: everyone wants the sale team to succeed. As a manager, it is your job to ensure your sales reps have the right tools and guidance at their disposal to ensure they are successful.
While this may sound like a huge task to overcome, it can be done much more efficiently and effectively with sales rep management software.
As a sales manager, it is also your responsibility to keep track of sales reps’ paths to ensure they are on the right course and/or make appropriate corrections when necessary. Ultimately, your sales reps’ success all starts with you. The best sales teams are led by the best sales managers. To help you become a top sales manager, here are some tips to take your sales reps to the next level of performance.
Give Credit Where it’s Due
Every employee deserves recognition for a job well done, and similarly, sales reps should be praised for meeting (and especially exceeding) their revenue targets. This idea originates from a positive reinforcement management style. Consider your sales incentive plan–it works in the same way. Commission structures, bonuses, and SPIFs are all designed to drive the right sales behaviors. When reps complete the right behaviors, those actions are typically (positively) reinforced with money.
Download our "Ultimate Guide to Sales Compensation Planning" for incentive best practices and everything you need for a sales comp plan design project.
When sales reps receive positive affirmation for executing the right actions, they will be motivated to repeat those processes. With this in mind, aside from reps’ commission payments, there are some effective methods for utilizing recognition with sales management and coaching.
At the surface level, this can be in the form on non-monetary incentives, sales contests, or team-based incentives that give your team additional motivation to close deals. As you dive deeper into coaching and managing reps, positive reinforcement can help you train and teach selling skills that will help reps perform at a higher level.
As you coach your reps more, you can focus on team incentives, such as rewarding the entire team with lunch for hitting goals before the end of the month or quarter. A little can go a long way with incentives. They raise team morale and motivate reps to do better because they know they’ll reap the benefits of a job well done—in both their commission payment and sales team perks.
Continue Training Reps After Onboarding
Your sales team is only as effective as the sum of its individual parts. This comes down to finding the right sales talent and giving them the right training and career development opportunities. Even after reps are fully onboarded, it’s important for them to continue with training.
Effective sales rep management educates the team as a whole but also recognizes each individual rep’s career goals. Reps should continue internal training of new strategies, product refreshes, etc. and also partake in any education that helps move them along in their desired career path.
For team training, product refreshes and changes in messaging should be a high priority. This requires a strong alignment between the sales and product teams. Product leaders, along with marketing, will decide on the key priorities and the coinciding messaging. As a sales manager, you should train reps on any key changes. The more up to date reps are, the better prepared they are for handling rejection and rebuttals.
It’s also important to remember that every rep has their own individual goals. Not all reps want to follow the same career path, so it’s important for sales managers to understand where each rep is at and where they want to go. As a sales manager, you should with each rep on individual career plans and give them the tools and education they need to move up the ladder.
Take Advantage of Sales Rep Management Software
The best way to know how reps are doing is by diving into and analyzing performance data, and the more insight you can get, the better. It’s important to analyze this data consistently—not just at the end of a quarter—to ensure your reps are performing at the highest level possible. Sales rep management software helps reps closely manage performance and identify key issues before they become insurmountable problems.
Human error in spreadsheets can be a big problem in this area—inaccurate data means performance data is incorrect and reps might not be paid correctly. Sales rep management software eliminates errors associated with spreadsheets and creates a single source of real-time data.
Sales performance management (SPM) solutions automate this process and make monitoring performance much easier. With real-time data visibility, you can dive into individual rep performance, seeing where deals are at in the sales funnel, if reps are on target to meet quota, and if the team is on track to hit revenue goals.
Additionally, the single source of data means every team has easy access to key insights. This helps strengthen alignment between sales, finance, and marketing teams. Everyone has the same snapshot of sales performance, which allows for more collaborative planning. This way, every team is on the same page and striving for the same goals.
Arm Reps With Strong Sales Planning
Your sales plan is the playbook to success. It lays out territories, quota, compensation, and the strategy your team will employ to reach company objectives. In order for reps to hit their numbers, they need well-designed territories, informative enablement tools, and a motivating compensation plan. Before you can even begin doing this, you need to have a solid grasp on all of your data so that you can use it strategically in your planning.
Sales territories lay the foundation for a successful sales plan. When territories are balanced and designed to maximize sales coverage, each sales rep has the knowledge they need to prioritize accounts, and they have equal opportunity to hit their quotas. Incentives motivate sales behavior, and ultimately, they are the underlying drivers behind reaching goals. Competitive plans help attract and retain top performers, and they should also be a powerful tool to motivate the middle of the pack to improve performance.
In essence, you must incorporate the right incentives to drive achievement of your revenue targets. Then you must continuously monitor the right metrics, analyze plan effectiveness, and make changes as needed.
Understand How Tenure Plays into Performance
Sales rep management is a continuous job. As reps’ tenure increase, so should their training and performance expectations. Understanding the level of performance reps should be based on their experience is important to reaching revenue goals. More often than not, you can’t expect a new-hire to outperform your top reps, but you can expect a tenured rep to perform better than their first year on the job.
This is where your sales performance data also plays a key role in management. As your reps become more experienced and tenured, you should be able to expect their performance improve. In fact, sales reps hit their performance peak after a certain amount of time—approximately 3-5 years, according to Xactly Insights data. Identifying performance trends allow sales managers to better estimate a rep’s potential and ultimately provide better training and resources.
Download "The Impact of Tenure on the Retention of Top Performers," to see data pulled straight from the Xactly Insights application and discover how tenure affects performance and rep retention.
Predict Rep Turnover and Take Action Sooner
Nothing comes as a bigger blow for a sales manager than a top rep leaving the company. It’s even worse when the top reason reps leave is because of management. Regardless of the reasons reps leave, it can be an expensive task to replace a rep—on average it costs $115,000. The first step in reducing turnover is checking in with your team. Take time to have one-on-one meetings and make sure they have the resources and tools they need to hit their numbers as well as to move forward in their career paths.
The second step is using your performance data effectively. Using a tool like Xactly Insights allows sales leaders to have deeper visibility into performance. Insights identifies troublesome performance dips and trends and flags reps that are at-risk for attrition. This gives sales managers a heads up, so they can take action to prevent turnover sooner.
Taking the Leap for Stronger Sales Rep Management
Sales rep management plays a large role in the success of a sales organization. Managers onboard and train reps so they are adequately prepared to tackle the sales floor and have a big impact on sales team morale. Providing the right resources and training are only the beginning of strong management. You also need effective data-driven planning to ensure reps have the greatest opportunity to reach their goals.
Sales performance management (SPM) tools ensure planning is more efficient and helps leaders use data effectively for planning. Greater insight creates better-informed sales leaders, and the more informed leaders are, the stronger your sales plan is. It all starts with harnessing the power of your data and using it to drive towards your organization’s goals. Discover more benefits of SPM solutions in our white paper, Driving ROI: The Business Case for a Comprehensive Sales Performance Management (SPM) Solution.
Driving ROI: The Business Case for a Comprehensive Sales Performance Management (SPM) Solution
Hobson & Company, a research firm focused on ROI and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) studies, worked with Xactly to explore these challenges. The white paper highlights examples of operational and business benefits that can be realized with Xactly's comprehensive sales performance management solution from Xactly across sales planning, execution and optimization.