Trends in sales management: An interview w/ @HeinzMarketing

The buyer is changing and making selling more difficult than ever, but at the same time, sales is in a renaissance with new, innovative approaches such as content selling, social selling and technology. On September 12 at 10AM PDT Matt Heinz and I are going to talk about some of the trends and best practices we are seeing in sales management. I am very excited — Join US! — Click here to RSVP.  In preparation for the event, we asked Matt some questions on the current state of sales management. As usual, his answers are awesome. I recommend to everyone in sales and/or marketing to follow Matt. In honor of Matt, today’s picture is a of Seattle where Matt calls home. Enjoy this shot from Runner310 and then read on:

Sales Management

What are the biggest trends you are seeing in sales management today?

One is transparency.  Sales managers have better visibility into what’s working and what’s not working than ever before.  Whether they look, and then act, is another story entirely.  But the ability to access, assess and adjust so many variables of the sales process is unprecedented and really exciting.

Two is a more intense focus on active selling time.  World-class sales organizations are putting a greater focus on measuring what % of their sales team’s time is spent actively selling, vs. on non-selling and administrative activities.  Most companies who establish a baseline are shocked at how unproductive their sales teams are, and how often that’s being driven by company process and requirements.  There is a huge opportunity and push to help your amazing sales professionals do more of what they’re so good at.

What is the most innovative practice you have seen recently in sales management?

Real-time adjustments based on performance is getting more attention these days, and is really exciting.  By this I mean the ability to automatically change lead distribution across the sales floor based on response rates and close rates by rep, as well as immediate alerts and adjustments to other performance incentives and rewards based on both sales floor performance as well as market response.

Besides CRM, what are the most important technologies for running a modern sales organization?

Empowering your sales team with direct tools to identify, triage and react to buying signals across the social web is fundamental.  You can do some of this with the free version of LinkedIn, but I think their Sales Navigator is approaching mandatory status.

Helping your sales team know exactly what to do next, and where to focus, is also critically important.  Tools such as Velocify and Factor Lab are actively working to solve this challenge today.

Gamification is also critically important, but ultimately not in the current more overt format.  There’s a big difference between awards, badges and more explicit games that drive sale performance, vs. the kind of game mechanics that can ultimately be built more subtly into our CRM systems and other technology.  That’s the future, but it’s still working towards driving behavior appropriately.

What are the biggest mistakes sales managers make today and how can they avoid them?

Sales managers are still too reactive.  They prioritize next steps based on the last conversation they had.  This randomizes their team, their leadership, their marketing teams and more.

There’s no question sales is a daily battle and sales management in particular requires addressing fires all day every day.  But putting out those fires can’t become your primary job.  You need an overall vision for how you expect to manage and accelerate sales performance long-term.  It’s that long-term approach and strategy that is still eluding too many sales departments and leaders today.

Give us 3 exciting ideas for a sales manager to go do right away.

One, rank your sales team based on current & potential performance.  Understand who your current superstars are, as well as who your up-and-comers are.  Prioritize your time and training accordingly.

Two, get marketing on board with revenue responsibility.  Marketing is your partner, not your support agency.

Three, help your sales reps become thought leaders.  If your prospects see their sales rep as an expert in the field, as someone they can talk to about broader business questions and challenges, then you’re accelerating the path to building credibility and increasing the likelihood that you’ll get the deal.

Join Matt and I as we spit game on sales management on our September 12 at 10AM PDT webinar sponsored by the boys from Glider. Seriously, if you want to have some fun talking about sales — Do it!

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic and a co-founder of Topo. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter