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How best practices pave the way to sales success.

When methods, procedures or techniques consistently prove to be more effective and/or efficient than alternative means to accomplish an end, they earn acceptance as a benchmark. Validated by repeated success, these methods become the standard against which other efforts are measured. Proven by performance to be the best, they become literally the “best practices” among those available.

The real challenge is in meshing best practices with the idiosyncrasies of individual organizations and situations. In other words, they may be the best, but blanket application may require some fine-tuning: sanding of the edges, if you will.

According to Walter Rodgers, founder and CEO of CloudCoaching International, his group has identified a set of practices common to highly successful sales managers. What’s more Rodgers and his team have found that, as a group, these sales managers are able to leverage these practices to achieve higher-than-average results from their sales teams. Let’s take a closer look. Here is what Rodgers regards as the best practices to help highly effective sales managers build successful sales teams.

Manage things less. Lead people more. 

While metrics and deadlines are often a dynamic duo in driving performance, over emphasis on them can be counterproductive. Supplement them by directly supporting sales reps in a social format—in ways that inspire, motivate and reward.

Don’t lose people in programs. 

“...highly effective sales managers don’t rely on theoretical or arbitrary programs to drive sales team performance. Yes, every team should have a sales process and set goals and measure pipeline, but it works best to align those organizational goals to a social network. Leveraging social goals gives sales individuals targets that are practical, comfortable, and therefore more natural.”

Hire the best. 

Yes, it will cost more at the outset, but it will pay dividends down the road. “Look for individuals with social goals that are already more aligned with your organizational goals.”

Be consistent. 

Aim to create an efficient and smoothly running sales machine that frees reps from the need to check in or work in the shadow of periodic review events. When you do, you free up reps to concentrate on selling.

Hold it together with something simple, but strong. 

Clearly communicated key performance indicators (KPIs) are among the best tools you can give your sales people.

Make sure sales makers know what the expectations are and what will happen when they meet them...and when they don’t.

Remember the difference between pipeline and forecasting. 

“...highly effective sales managers understand there is a difference between the two. Forecasting is focused on late stage deals. It does little to help with future quarters. Pipeline is focused on the future development of sales, which ultimately impacts later forecasts. Most managers don’t differentiate or understand the difference between the two. Keep this in mind when aligning new goals. When coaching for performance, help some reps better understand your coaching by pointing out the respective impact on pipeline or forecasting.”

Don’t make process a prison. 

It’s good to have a standardized process for approaching, meeting and coming to closure with a prospect. But don’t let complexity tie reps’ hands. Give them room to sell naturally, individually.

Make coaching a process, not an event. 

“Highly effective sales managers realize that placing a high priority on coaching will build confidence and drive production for their team better and faster than any other single practice. Therefore, they take advantage of every opportunity, scheduled or unscheduled, to provide feedback that will make their sales reps perform better.”

Master the mavericks. 

Accept the fact that a top-performing sales professional can be a different breed of cat so adjust your motivation and leadership accordingly. Give them room to exercise and demonstrate the very traits that make them as good as they are.

Learn to read the signs. 

Leading indicators can foreshadow worrisome behaviors around the bend. Stay alert to little things that may grow into bigger things. Intervene with proactive coaching when performance appears to be trending downward.

Fight for their time. 

It’s this simple: Sales makers can’t sell if they’re not spending time with customers. Protect them from demands on their time that don’t align with clearly defined sales goals.

When you win, whoop it up. 

In other words, celebrate. Winning (selling) is reps’ reason for being. Reward big and small wins with rewards as often as possible. Such actions relieve pressure and act as motivation for future challenges.

Adopting these best practices in your sales organization may take some of that tweaking (sanding) we talked about earlier. Perhaps your experience, situation or organization will lead you to interpret and apply these practices slightly differently. That’s okay. But remember, it’s hard to argue with success.

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