How to Manage a Sales Team: 12 Strategies That Drive Results
Leading a sales team is an art as much as it’s a science. Beyond mere numbers and quotas, you need to inspire a vision, set a clear path, and cultivate a winning leadership style.
Newcomers often face the steep challenge of navigating team dynamics, setting achievable targets, and implementing new technologies. But for seasoned managers, these are the levers that drive growth.
To set the record straight, we spoke to three of Cognism’s finest:
- Nusrat Hye, EMEA Sales Development Manager.
- Tristan Jones, Senior SDR Manager.
- Alexandra Knight, SDR Manager.
Ready to master the art of leading a top-tier sales team? Let’s get started! 👇
1. Define clear roles and expectations
To effectively manage a sales team, start by laying out clear roles and expectations.
Nusrat shared her method:
“We have a skill expectation doc for all of our SDRs, and depending on what segment they’re in, it has a list of expectations regarding their technical skills and soft skills.”
This document removes any ambiguity. It outlines technical and soft skills, including problem-solving, communication, teamwork, and product knowledge. The guide clarifies expectations for each team member - clear expectations help a sales team work well together!
2. Create a positive team culture
Setting the right tone for your team’s work environment is crucial for long-term success. As Nusrat told us:
“I like to set an agenda for the team for the week. So I have a mini-standup with my team every Monday and Friday.”
These regular check-ins set a rhythm and provide structure, ensuring everyone is aligned and working towards shared goals.
But it’s not just about tasks and targets; it’s about motivation and morale.
“In terms of positive shout-outs and encouragement, I try to do it at least a few times a week if they’ve had a really good day.”
Recognising team members’ achievements and efforts creates a positive environment, making managing sales teams a smoother process.
3. Identify individual motivators
Everyone in a B2B sales team has their own motivations. Tapping into these can make a big difference in how you manage and inspire them.
Tristan once used performance gaps to motivate an SDR who was lagging behind:
“After our conversation, where I pointed out areas they could improve, the rep seemed determined to prove me wrong. It was as if they took my feedback as a challenge. Since then, their performance has been unbelievable.”
On the flip side, Nusrat emphasised the need for continuous motivation and the importance of incentives:
“It’s an ongoing process. I always ask the team, ‘What would you like as a reward?’”
Some SDRs enjoy group events, while others prefer bonuses, additional days off, or professional development opportunities. Knowing what each person likes can help the team do better.
By simply talking and listening, managers can find out what drives each team member!
4. Establish open communication
In sales team management, effective communication keeps the machine well-oiled. Nusrat values both professionalism and camaraderie.
As she told us:
“I’m big on maintaining the friend/manager approach. Balance is important!”
Being approachable and offering a mix of praise and feedback strengthens the team.
After all, it’s crucial to celebrate victories together but also provide personal support when challenges come up.
5. Conduct regular training
Continuous learning is a cornerstone of how to manage a sales team. Tristan underscores this with his approach to onboarding and training. He explained:
“We begin with our structured onboarding plan. We hold two training sessions every week. After completing the 12-week onboarding program, we transition them into our enterprise training.”
This systematic approach ensures that newcomers aren’t overwhelmed and have ample opportunity to revisit key concepts. They can confidently integrate into the wider team, equipped with the right knowledge.
6. Harness technology
To succeed in today’s technology-rich environment, sales managers need the right tools to boost performance. Let’s take a closer look!
Performance analysis: Modern CRM systems, such as Salesforce, are essential in helping managers analyse individual and overall team performance. Using data helps managers understand their teams’ performance and celebrate their wins, which boosts morale.
Skill enhancement: Technology can be helpful in keeping your team’s skills up to date. Tristan upskills the team using SecondBody.
He explained how he uses it:
“As a manager, I use SecondBody to upload common objections we often encounter. I then record my responses to these objections as examples.”
“When new SDRs join, they can log in and access these objections. This allows them to record their own responses and compare them to mine or those of other successful reps.”
The advantage is that reps can improve their skills without constant managerial input.
Besides SecondBody, many other SDR tools are available - from video training to interactive quizzes - that help sales reps sharpen their skills in everything from product knowledge to effective communication. These tools help ensure the team stays sharp and ready for any challenge!
In particular, collaboration tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams act as the digital heartbeat of a busy office. Within these virtual confines, team members can chat, exchange documents, and stay up to speed. They’re handy for sales teams; Alexandra explained why:
“We have a UK SDR chat where people post their wins, ask questions, or give tips.”
“We also have a global SDR chat for tips and competitions. Additionally, each team has a ‘pod chat’ for more specific discussions and to arrange call reviews.”
7. Set goals effectively
When it comes to setting goals, Nusrat advocates for the growth framework; she explained:
“The growth framework helps SDRs take ownership and set their own goals, as well as constantly remind themselves of those objectives.”
Why is this effective?
The growth framework allows SDRs to set their own goals, break them into achievable steps, and understand themselves better. By making goals more personal and motivating, this approach intensifies their commitment to reaching them.
So, what lies at the core of the growth framework?
It’s a method centred around empowering individuals to set and actively engage with their objectives. This ensures they don’t just focus on the end result but also understand and track the journey towards it, appreciating each step.
Tristan offered a personal insight:
“When I started managing, I primarily focused my goals on outputs. But, I realised the need to reverse engineer the process. Understanding the intricacies of the tasks at hand and setting precise goals is crucial.”
By understanding and monitoring the inputs, managers can have a clearer picture of how goals are progressing and where adjustments might be needed.
8. Be flexible with goal-setting
When it comes to managing sales teams, flexibility and adaptability are key.
While setting ambitious targets to push the team is vital, it’s equally important to recognise when these goals might feel unattainable and demoralising.
Tristan shared an example of when adjusting his approach made a difference:
“During a low-performing month, I dropped the overall target by 10%. As a result, everyone thought, ‘Oh, this is doable. Let’s really try and get it.’, we finished at 95% of the target, much closer than the projected 80%.”
Tristan’s approach brings out an essential aspect of sales team management: sometimes, setting more realistic targets can spur motivation and drive, allowing teams to get closer to, or even surpass, the initial goals.
It’s about balancing aspiration and realism, ensuring the team remains engaged and motivated.
9. Measure performance precisely
Being good at managing a sales team means you’re on top of how everyone is performing. It’s about making sure everyone is on track with their goals.
But how do you measure performance?
Nusrat told us:
“I use Salesforce and Outreach a lot. Salesforce helps me keep a tab on overall sales metrics, tracking deals, and customer interactions, while Outreach is mainly for looking at activity to see if an SDR is falling behind.”
Together, these tools give Nusrat a comprehensive view of macro and micro-level activities. They help her gauge the efficiency of individual activities, sequences, workflows, and account management practices. This ensures there are no performance blind spots!
Building on this, Alexandra highlighted a helpful feature:
“We’ve introduced a coaching dashboard in Salesforce, which really helps in getting a clear snapshot of SDR performance. It breaks down where everyone stands, so we can easily see if someone’s falling behind and needs extra guidance.”
10. Provide objective feedback
Feedback is essential when managing sales teams. How you give feedback can really impact how it’s understood and used by team members.
“Say, I spot a rep looking distracted. I won’t just go, ‘Hey, you’re distracted.’ They might snap back with, ‘When? What did I do?’ and get all defensive. It’s on me as a manager, to be specific. If I’m not clear and objective, they can easily dismiss it.”
When giving feedback, be specific. Point out exact situations or examples, focusing on behaviours rather than personalities. This approach allows your team members to reflect on precise events and actions, leading to more constructive discussions and clear improvements. Don’t be vague!
11. Address underperformance with personalised feedback
Underperformance is an unavoidable aspect of managing a sales team. Success depends on how you handle it.
Nusrat spelt out the need for individualised strategies:
“If a team member lacks confidence, I create a plan to uplift them. This could mean reviewing their cold calls one-on-one and giving targeted feedback.”
Nusrat believes in pinpointing the root cause behind underperformance and crafting solutions that empower underperformers to grow.
12. Celebrate achievements
The power of recognition can’t be understated. Whether it’s a significant deal closed or a small win, each achievement deserves its moment of glory.
From a psychological perspective, recognition satisfies the fundamental human need to feel valued. Acknowledging successes, big or small, reinforces positive behaviours, boosts morale, and inspires dedication to the task. Using employee recognition software can help you recognise the accomplishments of your team.
“You should celebrate instantly and publicly! As soon as there is any kind of win. Happy salespeople are good salespeople.”
Taking this approach a step further, Tristan has made recognition a part of their day-to-day:
“We have daily standups with the team where we publicly shout out the previous day’s performances. So, anything that’s gone particularly well, we’ll name those individuals and give them a clap. And then we shout out in Slack channels as well.”
So, when managing a sales team, try sharing the love! It’ll lead to more contented employees and better results.
That’s a win-win for any sales team manager!