Managing a sales team takes a combination of patience, maturity, and vision. And on occasion you’ve got to be willing to kick a few butts. You spend a lot of your time coaching sales people, asking questions about opportunities, and making sure your people are doing the basics – following up on leads, quoting prospects, qualifying the sales pipeline, and following up on quotes.
Another aspect of your sales manager role is presenting to the executive team. They have expectations that your sales pipeline is going to grow, and grow quickly. In fact, that’s the real reason they hired you. Your job from their perspective is to generate or purchase leads, convert them into qualified prospects, and then convert those prospects into orders. In short, you must manage your sales pipeline and thereby grow sales revenues.
The job of sales manager can be challenging yet rewarding, or it can be challenging and terrifying. I prefer the former. Creating a geographic model of your sales organization based on a business map can help turn terrifying into challenging. You can achieve a business mapping sales process using opular business mapping software available online.
You’ve Got To Get Organized
Successful sales management can occur when a team gets organized. We’ve all seen sales teams that are not clearly directed flail about looking for sales growth. Sales chaos can happen in any economy. In many ways it’s a function of the leader of the sales team. I have watched a flailing sales team suddenly start to produce under a new manager’s firm and steady guidance. Simple things like phone queue management, organized customer assignment, rules on discounting, or fun lunch-time sales meetings, can have a rapid impact on a department’s ability to generate sales. Just knowing there’s an accessible, reasonable listening ear to go to can make a sales team feel empowered and get the orders rolling in.
Part of the sales organizing process should be developing an understanding of the geography of your sales environment. Business mapping software can help the sales manager and the sales team create that location-based sales model and integrate it into your overall strategic sales approach. There is power in location and market analysis maps – ignore this at your peril.
A first step might be building a customer location map complete with your sales representative’s home addresses, and your major competitor locations. Viewing these three core datasets against an accurate map creates an immediate field of view on your sales operational theater. This simple business data import and data visualization process opens up a world of understanding:
· You now know where all your customers are, and where they are not
· You have an understanding of how well positioned your competitors are to service your market
· You have a logistical model with real locations from which you can derive sales progress and productivity assessments
Basic data visualizations like this should be a standard practice for any sales organization.
Here’s an example of how a business map can impact your sales process when you simply plot locations on a map. Considering purchasing a prospect list? Get some sample data with addressing and view the data on a map. This process can tell you many things, like how accurately the addresses are geocoded, which can indicate how up-to-date the list is. Are there too many duplicate addresses? And how many of these prospects are located close to existing customers? This can have an impact on sales productivity. Let someone familiar with the area view the prospects against a map – do the names look right? Ask what they think is missing.
Let a geographic perspective add value to your prospect list analysis. Business mapping can provide new perspectives that drive creative thinking. Creative thinking will improve sales.
Accountability and Sales Territory Management
Now that you are getting a grip on your theater of sales operations, let’s think about accountability. One of the biggest challenges a sales manager faces is driving accountability into the sales process. Sure, your whole team means well. From the poorest to the best performers, I’m sure they are giving it their very best. Still, your job is to hold everyone on the team accountable for appropriate follow-up with their assigned customers. This means your sales people should:
· Have a clear understanding of their goals and objectives
· Communicating the correct messages to their assigned accounts in a timely fashion
· Be focused on the sales potential of their book of business – not those assigned to others
· Be posting regular and accurate updates in your CRM system – updates that accurately reflect realistic opportunities and customer expectations
Accountability – what is it anyway? For you the sales manager or business owner, accountability is a fair presentation of goals and expectations, not a constant manipulation of the rules to limit or cap commissions. Be fair and honest. At the same time, accountability is making sure the goals are challenging and benefit overall company profitability. Accountability is management keeping the company in business so people have jobs.
For you sales people, accountability is balancing an awareness of company goals and objectives with the requirements and stated objectives of the customer. It is leaving your ego at the coat rack, and shouldering today’s business load. Accountability is you, the sales person, doing the job you said you would do. Accountability is focusing on your goals and objectives not the goals and objectives of other sales people.
Sales accountability is understanding that you work for a living and that that living requires a certain number of phone calls, follow-up emails, and meetings to achieve your sales goal. Accountability means you listen to understand, ask questions when you don’t understand, and that you have the gumption and clarity of thought to speak up when you believe something is amiss.
Sales territory management helps with many aspects of sales accountability. By arranging sales territories by zip code, county or state, a sales manager makes very clear what the sales person’s area of responsibility is. And usually that sales territory is going to define which accounts they are responsible for. Armed with that knowledge, a salesperson should take control of their customer base and begin looking for and accurately processing opportunities. Without territories in place the sales team is at high risk for sales chaos. And you know what that means – your sales manager role is now up for grabs.
Communicate Goals Effectively and Share Business Data
Sales territory mapping is a great way to assign and shared sales goals. Mapping applications let you aggregate numeric values by geographic area of interest. Moreover, business map visualizations are easily shared as interactive web maps, image files for presentations, even printed wall maps. Posted and shared sales goals are viewed and understood by the entire sales team – preferably in a shared meeting and over a shared network. With the entire team now well aware of the overall and individual goals, sales activities can become the primary focus.
And there are further productivity improvements possible through sales territory management. A shared interactive business map usually means your team has access to customer maps, and prospect maps. These business data visualizations will offer the ability to conduct spatial queries. Spatial queries are nothing more than the ability to search data within a radius, a polygon, a drive time area, or a territory.
Encourage your people to conduct spatial queries to segment their lists of customers and prospects geographically. Segmented customer lists allow the sales person to bite off manageable sections of their overall list of customer contacts. Segmenting the data could make physical sales calls more productive, perhaps creating a potential list for a week long sales trip. And segmenting data makes sense for outbound calling or email campaigns as well.
Customer data segmentation exercises for sales and marketing people:
· Color code your prospects by total purchasing responsibility using dollar values
· Create a list of prospects that reside within one half hours drive time of your planned hotel for next week’s trip
· Create a prospect list against a map of zip codes or counties with high median income rates. Choose only those zips or counties that have minimal existing customers located within those areas
Creating a Sales Pipeline Using a Map
Here’s a new approach. The challenge is this: how many of the customers on your client list have been recently and truly qualified as potential buyers of your products within the next six months? Admit it – your sales pipeline data is getting stale.
Share a business map with each sales rep that displays a full list of clients to contact on the map. They are to contact each client and ask qualifying questions about potential orders for the next six months. They will note each customer response in the mapping database and save that MapPoint. When a clear potential for upcoming purchases is recognized they immediately convert that client in the overall customer database to a pipeline database on their map. That is they move client A from the overall client list to a new qualified pipeline dataset on the map application.
Business mapping software will allow your reps to create these datasets at just the click of a mouse. In a matter of weeks you will have an up-to-date sales pipeline with specific dollars projected by date. Hold them accountable to this new list. Keep it updated moving forward. Welcome to the power of the business mapping sales process.
Once you mastered these three basic aspects of geosales:
· Business data map visualizations
· Sales territory management
· Geographic sales pipeline construction
You’ll be able to recognize the power of applying business mapping software to your other business challenges. You will find business mapping to be an indispensable tool for common business intelligence exercises including:
· Strategic planning
· Expansion planning
The list goes on. In many ways you’ll just be using the same data import and visualization tools over and over in different applications. For instance, building a competitor analysis map will supplement your strategic planning as much as it will your expansion planning.
Now let’s go back to the presentation requirement – that of you, the sales manager, presenting to the executive team. I’ve just outlined above a bunch of ways for you to enhance your visual presentation to the management team; including the bit about using maps to verify and upgrade the sales pipeline. How do you think that’s going to play? A new visual approach to presenting the pipeline, complete with enhanced sales accountability across your department of ‘misfits’ – as they are known in the Executive Suite. I think you can count on holding your job for a few more months.
In the long run, you’re going to find the use of business mapping software to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. And like Rick and Louis, you’ll come to understand that in business you focus on your little piece of the world and you make it your hill of beans and that it does matter.
Visualize, make it accountable, verify and report. Um, “Here’s looking at you kid.”
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Contact: Geoffrey Ives firstname.lastname@example.org (800) 425-9035, (207) 939-6866