Sales Managers Can’t Control 83% of the Metrics They're Held To — Here’s What You Can Do About It
By: Ashley Artrip
Sales is an inherently metrics-driven field. Most sales positions are at least partially commission-based, and success, bonuses (individual and team), and promotions are almost always heavily reliant on end-of-quarter numbers. However, while sales reps are the captains of their own ships, sales managers only have jurisdiction over 17% of the end-of-quarter and end-of-year numbers that they will be held accountable for.
For many new sales managers, this loss of control can be jarring. Instead of focusing on hitting quotas using your own strategies, you now have to ensure that others hit their quotas and that your team’s conversion rates, deal sizes, and quotas are up to par with the standards set by you and your boss. What this means, is that you go from being almost completely autonomous in terms of the results you produce, to ceding control to dozens of other people.
This doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about that 26%, though. Indeed, 26% of your job will affect every employee that you manage — it’s not insignificant. Here’s what you can do to make yourself and your sales team as successful as you possibly can:
1. Recruit People Who are Intrinsically Motivated to Sell
Good salespeople are optimistic, curious, creative, and emotionally intelligent. They possess strong organizational abilities, including the capacity to manage change and maintain a locus of self-control under stressful conditions.
Remember, there are things you can teach and things you cannot. You can teach an entry-level employee the tech stack and SDR workflow, but you can’t teach time management or a sense of optimism in the face of challenge. Recruit people who have a track record of successfully leveraging the ‘soft skills’ that are necessary for a successful salesperson to have. Oftentimes, at the entry-level stage, you may find these people in unexpected places — former teachers, for instance, tend to have a strong propensity for sales, despite not necessarily having direct sales experience.
One reason that this is the case is former athletes are coachable. This is a key soft skill that you should emphasize in your recruiting process. A hire who has the right fit personality for the job in addition to a coachable temperament is highly likely to be successful, regardless of their level of experience.
2. Promote Transparency Around Metrics During Recruiting and In-House
As every manager knows, the worst thing you can do for success and retention is obfuscating or exaggerating bonus and commission potential. Be upfront about the metrics your sales reps are held to, and what percentage of reps hit their metrics. This will weed out candidates who aren’t motivated by a challenge.
Similarly, promote this same level of sales metrics transparency within your team. Be public about what percentage of the team is hitting and exceeding quotas, and about what you expect going forward. On an individual level make sure all employees are crystal clear about the rewards for success and consequences for not hitting a target. Transparency keeps motivation high ensures there’s no resentment between you and your employees.
3. Iterate on Your Strategies and Get Feedback
As a salesperson, you were probably more focused on closing deals by the end of the month/quarter than looking long-term. But as a sales manager, you need to look beyond the next 30 days and figure out how to set your team up for success 12 - 36 months down the line. The two long-term initiatives that you should focus on are hiring and training in a way that enables reps to successfully hit their sales targets.
To optimize your training, get regular feedback from employees on how they’re hitting their quotas, how difficult they find it to hit their quotas, and what they wish they’d known earlier. Additionally, make sure you’re tracking which deals are closable within time increments, so that you can coach your reps for short and long-term deal closing. As part of this, make sure you’re getting both qualitative and quantitative feedback from your representatives about sales operations. Not only does this provide useful information, but it also increases buy-in from the team.
Pay attention to when things aren’t working, and iterate on whatever strategy yielded that result. If only 40% of your team is hitting their sales metrics, you may want to consider either changing the metrics or changing your coaching/training.
You’re A Coach Now - And A Good Coach Can Make A Big Difference
There’s no team without a coach, and a good coach chooses good players, then trains them to be the best version of themselves possible. You may not be directly in control of hitting sales quotas anymore, but you are in control of hiring, training, and motivating those who are working to hit their quotas. Focus on recruiting, training, and developing a culture that motivates and pushes employees to perform to the best of their ability.
As business guru Jim Collins famously put it, “Leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with ‘where’ but with ‘who.’ They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction.”
Elaina Ransford Contributed to this article