Just about every business has a sales team. The purpose of a business is to generate revenue, and usually the key to making that happen is to employ a sales team. Because of this simple fact, there are countless books, magazine articles, seminars, management courses, and the like all aimed at improving the effectiveness of a sales team. In fact, a Google search for “sales management strategies” produces 530 million results! The reason for all of this focus and attention is that sales can literally make or break your business, and serve as a crucial differentiator between your company and all of the other companies competing for those hard earned consumer dollars.
Traditional Sales Team Strategies
Conventionally, sales management strategies and techniques have focused on areas such as:
Sales leaders try to ensure that their team’s compensation is aligned with the company’s revenue goals. For example, sales leaders will try to create a commission structure that motivates their sales representatives to sell as much as possible, responsibly. This means they don’t simply “sell the dream,” but they do sell aggressively while staying aligned to the company’s values or product road map.
Sales Enablement via Technology
Another area is leveraging technology to both reduce friction and increase efficiency. As technology has evolved, so have sales teams. Sales leaders use technology to find the leads that are most likely to convert, to follow up to ensure that valuable leads are not accidentally dropped, and to automate much of the busy work that can lead to errors. This can often require a monetary investment and ensuring buy-in from and training for all of the sales representatives.
Coaching and Feedback
There are also a lot of more hands-on techniques to ensure that sale representatives are best positioned to win deals. Good leaders will check in with their team often, sit in on calls, listen to recordings, and provide constructive feedback on all aspects of the deal. This can include selling style, product knowledge, persuasion techniques, and general demeanor. Ensuring that sales representatives can effectively communicate value can be a big driver of increased sales.
The Modern Landscape
The modern selling environment is more demanding than ever. Products have become more complex, with the omnipresence of computer chips in items ranging from refrigerators, to vacuums, to VR headsets, to cars. Moreover, software-as-a-service (SaaS) sales can require reps to not only understand the product, but some of the underlying technologies. And some of those products can be incredibly complex because they solve some specific technical challenges. For some companies, this has evolved into roles like Sales Engineers that requires both the soft sales skills, and the hard technical skills. This means that sales reps are required to learn continuously, while still refining their sales techniques.
Additionally, buyers have become increasingly demanding. With email, cell phones, and a more tightly connected global economy, sales reps are now expected to work around their customers schedules and requirements. While some of the sales technology discussed above has addressed some of these challenges, progressive sales leaders are also beginning to prioritize employee engagement as a specific sales team management strategy.
What The Data Shows
A study titled, “Quantifying the Link Between Employee Engagement, and Customer Satisfaction and Retention in the Car Rental Industry” by Ahmed Khwaja and Nathan Yang, published in May 2022 tries to measure the effectiveness of employee engagement specifically with respect to sales.
They used the following 10 questions in a survey to gauge employee engagement, measured on a scale of 1 (“Completely Disagree”) to 5 (“Completely Agree”):
- (Employee) understands reasons for change by company
- Customers benefit from changes made by company
- I know how my job contributes towards the company
- I am able to work more efficiently
- Manager acts on (employee) suggestions
- Discussed performance (with employee) in the last 6 months
- (Provided with) skills to help develop (employee) career
- Job helps employee to embrace transformation
- (Company) strategies make the company successful in the long-run
- (Employee) would recommend company as a place to work.
You may recognize the last question as the Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS).
They summarized their findings this way:
In particular, employee engagement appears to have a positive (and statistically significant) impact on both customer satisfaction (i.e., NPS), as well as retention. These findings confirm that employee engagement indeed plays an important role in CRM (customer relationship management) outcomes, and that this effect is likely causal.
Benefits for Sales Teams
Improving employee engagement is by no means a simple initiative. It will require consistent attention and continuous improvement to ensure that your sales representatives are engaged. This also doesn’t mean that you can or should ignore all of the more traditional strategies. However, the benefits are undeniable. By ensuring that your sales team is engaged, you can increase customer satisfaction and decrease turnover. As any good sales person can tell you, that’s a win-win.