The next four blog posts will focus on the sales management process. This is the overarching sales processes between sales leadership and sales managers, sales managers and sales reps and sales operations with sales leadership, sales management and sales reps. These processes align the different sales groups towards the same goals. This is the fourth category of blog series Best Practices for B2B Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management based on the original blog post for this best practice series started on January 21st.
The Sales Management Processes
We see a wide range of different sales management meetings and cycles across our customers. Some sales teams have a daily short “stand up*” meeting to set the tone for the day. Others have more one-on-one meetings between the sales rep and first line sales manager throughout the week. Some do weekly sales team “stand up”* meetings. Some do weekly forecast calls combined with opportunity reviews and opportunity coaching, others do opportunity coaching as part of their one-on-ones. Most all do standard monthly strategy reviews and quarterly QBRS [Quarterly Business Reviews].
There is not an optimum pattern for weekly meetings and first level sales manager/sales rep meetings. Different sales reps and sales teams are at different levels of sales maturity and companies and teams have to do what works for them at their stage of development. However there is standard content and objectives to be accomplished each week that need to be standardized and achieved, independent of how, where and when meetings are done, i.e. one-on-ones, forecast calls, impromptu manager/sales rep meetings.
The diagram below shows a cycle of sales management meetings for a quarter.
The “1:1” represents weekly interactions between the sales manager and the sales rep. This is where we see the most variance among sales teams. For some sales teams they may not be formal and scheduled one-on-ones, they may be more ad hoc. For other teams they let the daily stand-up set the stage for the manager/rep meetings for the day. They may be scheduled to strategize specific opportunities or to listen to a sales call and coach the rep on the call process. They may be on an as-needed basis. Personalities and sales maturity of the teams will dictate how best to accomplish the tasks associated with these one-on-ones. The weekly sales manager/sales rep meetings could also include a sales opportunity postmortem on some early stage “closed-loss” opportunities.
Generally all of our customers have a weekly forecast call, on those weeks where monthly or quarterly review meetings are not held. The objective of the weekly forecast call is to understand the forecast, the opportunities that support the forecast, and how the forecast has changed from week to week. Weekly forecast calls set the stage for the week and help the sales manager understand which reps/opportunities need her/his attention and may drive the one-on-one meetings for the week.
This meeting also focuses on the general tone of the sales cycles. If new opportunities flowing in quicker and have a higher opportunity to close? Are there opportunities that were to be closed that aren’t going to happen? The outcome of the weekly forecast call is an update by the sales reps of deals they plan on closing this quarter [commit], opportunities that could close this quarter if things come together [best case] and other opportunities that are in early sales stages but show a lot of promise. The weekly forecast calls are typically run by the sales manager and could also include one or two sales opportunity postmortems on key wins or losses worth sharing with the team..
The monthly strategy review takes a higher view of the sales pipeline, not just deals that are forecast to close, but earlier stage opportunities. The objective is to understand which opportunities can be advanced, which are still active and which should be moved in or pushed out. In some of the monthly strategy review meetings a rep or number reps may present a sales opportunity postmortem, to review what is working or where challenges are being encountered. This meeting also looks to answer questions like:
- How do the farther out quarters look in terms of pipeline build?
- Is the sales pipeline building at the necessary level?
- Are the sales opportunities moving through the pipeline at the right pace?
- Are there any recurring bottlenecks moving from one sales stage to another?
- Is the data being kept accurate?
Monthly strategy reviews are held the second and third month of the quarter. It typically is done at the sales team level. It focuses on pipeline management, managing the gap between target and closed quarter to date, and updates the forecast.
At the end of the quarter or beginning of the next quarter there is typically a quarterly business review [QBR]. A quarterly business review is delivered by each sales rep, focusing on learning from what happened last quarter and a business plan on what will happen next quarter. It may include a sales opportunity postmortem on key wins and losses. The discussions will be around how the sales rep will accelerate the sales pipeline, leverage marketing and sales assets better and provide a forecast for the next quarter.
The outcomes from this meeting will be an updated action plan for changes by the sales rep to their sales processes, a commit forecast and an updated account and territory plan. The audience for QBRs is wider than the monthly reviews, it should include sales reps from the team, sales manager, sales support, and field marketing.
While sales management process may vary from the above example, the most important aspect of the process is it needs to be consistent. The sales management process needs to become part of the company’s standard operating procedures for sales and it needs to be documented so there is a consistent approach to managing the sales pipeline and the sales forecast.
To support the QBR process, TopOPPS has our complete guide to having successful Quarterly business reviews.
A Data Driven Sales Management Process
The biggest challenge to all of these meetings is having the necessary information and reporting to support the different meetings. Typically, sales reps are compiling this information at the expense of selling. Typical data requirements include
- Easy and timely access to sales information. As a simple example if the sales manager doesn’t have access to all the sales interactions regarding a sales opportunity, they must first interrogate the sales rep to understand the status and everything that has transpired before coaching the sales rep on a strategy to close.
- Ability to track and easily reconcile changes from week to week and month to month regarding specific deal status and overall pipeline content. (manager overrides) This type of information helps answer the question: “I thought we had a good sales pipeline a week/month ago, what happened?
- Peer to peer comparisons to understand the groupings of sales rep performance by various metrics across the team and/or the entire company. Sales reps are competitive. Something may be thought to be impossible until a rep finds out that other sales reps are achieving successful results.
The next four blogs will review best practices supporting the sales management processes for:
- Sales rep coaching and one-on-ones.
- The weekly process of calling the sales forecast in the weekly forecast calls
- Monthly sales coaching and strategy review