What Front Liners need from Sales Managers Now

There is a saying that in times of crisis great leadership emerges. Great leaders see what others cannot. They recognize and understand what is needed at the front line and put their focus on activities that generate the greatest return of effort with an outcome that benefits all.

This is also true in sales. Especially now. Salespeople need sales managers to step up as leaders. The COVID-19 crisis has changed everyone’s way of working. Before Telesales teams were working together in one office, now they are working alone from home. Salespeople on the road met with customers and prospects everyday face-to-face, now the phone is their best friend. At best they have screen-to-screen meetings with their customers. Working from home comes with new challenges like looking after and supporting their staying -at-home children, or sharing more household activities with their partner. The crisis has changed everyone’s world, but in sales, there are still sales targets to meet. If they cannot achieve their quota than their commissions are at risk. Sales managers need to help their teams on both fronts; dealing with the new work-situation and with selling like never before.

Here is my recommendation what high-value sales leadership support your teams need from you right now:

  1. Performance and Pipeline Meetings. Sure, dealing with the crisis may drag you into senior management conference calls more than ever, but do not forget the support your front liners really need: Talk Time with you, one on one, about their results and priorities for the next 30 days ahead. This is the time where you dig together into what activities are driving the results. This is about helping your sales reps closing the gap. Are their activities aligned to the agreed priorities?  Are they closing the opportunities they committed to close 30 days ago? Coach your team members so they can come up with the right answers going forward. Discuss per opportunity what your sales rep knows about the prospect’s situation and what he/she still needs to find out. Has there been contact with sufficient stakeholders?  What was the insight shared? Has this changed the prospect’s perception of their current situation and challenges ahead? Encourage, motivate, challenge, push and let them know you are there for them when needed. Which opportunities do they commit to close in the next 30 days? They need to feel comfortable with the chosen strategy but also that they are accountable for their results. Every front liner needs these types of conversations and time with you, without distraction.
  2. Sales Team Meetings. What happened to the good old team meetings? This is the opportunity for sales managers to align, inspire, energize, motivate their teams.  Prepare these meetings well, especially now your whole team is online you need to spend even more time on this. Are there ways to get all your team members in one video call? Share high-level results of your company’s performance as a context to how their daily activities fit into the bigger picture. Share the team results. Celebrate success. Look for opportunities to do things differently. Is your team strategy still working? Is everyone in the team focused on agreed priorities? Use this time to let them also do the talking. What are their concerns? What ideas do they have that contribute to the team’s challenges? At the end of the sales team meeting, there needs to be consensus on the chosen path and activities to implement to get the needed results. People need to feel energized to get back into the front.
  3. On the floor and In the field One-on-One Coaching. Under normal circumstances, this is where sales managers normally sit side-by-side with their indoor sales reps or visit customers and prospects with field sales reps. Here you observe if the salespeople implement the new way of selling skills and coach them on identified gaps. This type of support is now more challenging but that doesn’t mean that the need just disappears! Be innovative and find ways how you still can support. is there a way you can listen to customer and prospect calls? Or be together in a call with prospective customers? If this is not possible, agree with your team members to have a 1-on-1 conversation immediately after certain calls. Focus on beforehand agreed areas for improvement and coach and support to achieve better results.

We have challenging times ahead of us. Globally. Everyone is affected. To deliver sales results sales managers are key. They are the leaders the front line is looking up to and can help them to stay motivated, energized, engaged and deliver the results. Also on-line.

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