The right sales team is a critical factor that determines sales success and revenue growth for an organization. Your sales force isn’t just a group of people, it’s an engine that can propel your organization to get better results and bigger profits. This means that there is a connection between the sales team, the customers and the organization. A highly functional sales team is made of good salesmen and women and the right sales lead. Thus, the ability to develop a top-performing sales team falls on one person — the sales manager.

The sales team structure is an essential component in determining the success of an organization. With over 25 years of experience in consulting, managing sales operations, and developing new businesses across telecommunications, and other industries, I’ll be sharing a few sales tips that can enable you to manage a sales team and invariably close more deals.

The onboarding process is crucial

First, it is important to have a successful onboarding procedure for new sales representatives. Onboarding helps link the overall sales force capacity and staffing. Research shows that the businesses that properly onboard new sales team entrants achieve their profit goals 14% more successfully and have average sales growth rates that are 10% higher.  New hires need to be in sync with recent features and updates about business products and services and are knowledgeable about how the product functions. A knowledgeable sales team is profitable, but this begins with an intentional onboarding process.

Ineffective onboarding may have unintended effects on hiring and turnover, such as prolonging firing decisions and stalling hiring while new salespeople become accustomed. As such, the success of your sales team hinges on this process. Pfizer Products PLC like most pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria has been big on its salesmen induction processes. It is during induction that the basic selling processes are taught and the fire of sales gets ignited in the newcomers. The likes of Doctor Adebodun Sanyaolu, Mr Lere Baale, now a Professor and the CEO of Business School Netherlands and a host of others will take their time to educate the newly hired salesmen on various modules ranging from an in-depth understanding of the company, the products and the competition. You cannot compete successfully without a full understanding of your position in the market relative to your competitors

Automate the processes

Next,  acquire industry tools that help automate repetitive and unproductive tasks.  Sales productivity is a lot easier if the team is not impeded by tasks that do not necessarily help achieve the overall target. Over 400 sales professionals with director-level ranks were surveyed for a 2017 report by CITE Research, and the results showed that most respondents use an average of 11 sales tools.  The #1 “most valuable tool in increasing the effectiveness of a sales team” among those tools, according to the survey, was CRM platforms, which received 4.6 out of 5 ratings. The use of a CRM streamlines the sales process by enabling your sales teams to track prospect activity, engage and follow up with customers, and automate routine processes. The trigger enables reps to respond more rapidly while exerting less effort.

Sales productivity in the field demands a certain level of structure. It requires the sales team to organize their daily schedules. Once the necessary tasks have been listed, they must be prioritized. How many repetitive tasks do your reps perform each day? Your sales reps will have more unproductive tasks and less time to sell if you are not deliberate about automating processes and reducing redundancies. The scheduling and structure of a sales representative’s day are also incredibly essential. Create an effective structure and share it with the team. With Omatsola Barrow,  Managing Director, Tingo, selling does not just happen. Results happen as an outcome of various activities that the salesmen engage in at the right time. This is the reason why he introduced the Sales Conference activities as the gateway into each sales year.

Also, always include enough life in your work-life balance to make your career meaningful!

Communication will ALWAYS be key

In my experience, the key competency for sales managers is communication. Schedules are far more difficult to organize than they are for sales teams, which means that more communications take place via phone conversations than in person. Managers need to regularly check in with the sales team to learn about their attitudes and performance to boost productivity. Having salesmen across a country like Nigeria is even riskier. Salesmen can easily default to the attitude of the forgotten. If Managers do not speak to team members spread across remote territories, they will assume that they have been forgotten and this impacts their productivity. It works like magic to call on some weekends to check up on your salesmen spread far and wide. It’s always a good idea to organize a one-on-one meeting in addition to checking in, especially post-covid. Always make sure to inquire about how you can increase their productivity. A simple ‘How can I help?”, may go a long way.

It is vital to also acknowledge successes and hard work openly.

Avoid Micromanaging

While leading a sales team requires strong leadership skills, avoid micromanaging the group. For example, while it is important to set deadlines and targets, you do not want to control how they get it done. Leaders that micromanage their staff often lack faith in the team’s abilities to stay focused and meet objectives. This will erode employee trust and motivation.

After agreeing on the numbers,  salesmen need to come up with smart plans for achieving the numbers. Conversations are easier when the targets are being met. This unfortunately is not always the case. Managers must avoid dictating solutions but teasing out homegrown solutions from the salesmen in their various territories. The best way to do this is by asking probing questions and listening effectively. Mazen Mroue, MTN Group Chief Technology and Information Officer will always ask, “What more can you do ?” As short as this question is, the embedded power to stimulate thinking is huge.

Remain human

Finally, remain human. Sales managers get so focused on hitting targets, that they sometimes lose sight of the people they work with. These tips have helped me in managing diverse sales teams, implementing global operating plans, supporting product development, customer value management, and brand management. They have helped in revenue-creating processes, increasing market share, applying revenue-generating plans, and leading growth strategies across teams.

Messages like this “You are the best… I can not stop telling people about you, You made me who I am today… You trained me to be hardworking and creative” sent via WhatsApp by Dolapo Kehinde of 9mobile to me are simple testimonies that great results can still be delivered through disciplined execution without leaving blood on the tarmac.

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