Spring is one of my favorite seasons -- and not just because the snow is finally melting.
With spring comes Major League Baseball, and as the season ramps up, it occurs to me each year how many coaching principles apply to sales. Every team, for instance, has a bona fide superstar like David Ortiz or Clayton Kershaw and others who are integral to the overall success of the team. What makes these stars shine is their ability to consistently rise to the challenge.
But what’s the trick?
A superb manager who knows how to get the most out of every player on the team. And the same can be said for managing a sales team.
Every sales team has that one rep who crushes every monthly goal while others may struggle a bit and have a tendency to underperform. A strong manager figures out what makes the all-star so good and how to apply those principles to maximize every team member’s potential despite the various obstacles presented by the industry each day.
Think about sales intelligence. By sales intelligence, I’m referring to the detailed and contextual look at the activity of sales teams that give managers visibility into what their team is actually doing. Sales intelligence taps into data that can even include keywords and emotion detectors to fully understand behaviors that lead to success or disappointment.
Now is the time to act on that information. In fact, managing reps using this type of intelligence is more like coaching an MLB team than you think. Here's how you can emulate pro baseball's top coaches and drive your team to big wins.
Related: How I Won My First Big Customer
1. Constantly evaluate your players
Every team has its mix of veterans and rookies, all-stars and underperformers. One thing that’s certain is that athletes and sales reps are by nature extremely competitive and want to be the best.
Using sales intelligence, it’s possible to target specific behaviors or performance benchmarks, automatically record them and then see trends and outcomes based on specific language in an activity report. Look at what your best reps are doing, and compare their activity to that of your more inexperienced staff to see where the holes are.
Perhaps it’s a quick fix like suggesting more calls take place before lunch rather than after. Other times, you may notice a rep veering off-script.
2. Know what your team is doing when they’re not at the office
During the off-season, professional baseball players are still on the job, only they're spread out in their various hometowns as opposed to at their team’s field. That doesn’t stop coaches from checking in to make sure they’re still following their nutritional and training regimens.
It’s essential to performance that players keep up to the standards set by the team, and any player who doesn't will likely get an earful from the coach -- not to mention a more watchful eye. With the rise of the mobile workforce, it’s a challenge for sales managers to keep track of their team’s activity while on the road or working from home, but it’s just as critical to a team’s success to have this visibility into what their reps are doing.
Sales intelligence makes that easier than ever, since certain systems can now automatically enter the data from every agent’s calls for a manager to track. Not only that, the data is more accurate than if the reps had to enter it themselves. Now you know without a doubt if your player was eating grilled chicken and veggies or a Whopper for dinner, and you can manage accordingly.
3. Make adjustments
On the diamond, even the best coaches are blindsided by plays they didn’t see coming.
While you always want to be able to anticipate anything that could be thrown at you or your team, the reality is that it’s just not possible all the time. That’s why the best coaches are those who can rebound and adjust their strategy accordingly.
In sales, if you notice a trend of prospects becoming agitated and hanging up when they hear the word “fee," but they take more kindly to the word “charge” and continue listening to the rep, you’ll likely change the script, won’t you?
Take in what you learn -- failures and all -- and better prepare for next time.
4. Don’t be afraid to dip into your bag of tricks
Sales intelligence is the secret weapon in your arsenal. Use it to your advantage in every way possible.
If your sales team is averaging three calls per prospect before giving up, but your sales intelligence data shows that your top-performing reps have been increasingly closing deals after seven calls, why wouldn’t you apply that to your sales strategy? Set that standard across your entire sales organization, and win those big contracts over your competitors. This is the type of information that gives you a leg up on everyone else.
Sales intelligence data also gives you more opportunity to reward your team and keep them sticking to the standards you set. Instead of basing incentives purely on revenue, you can reward smaller goals like calls per lead and appointments set along the way to get your team in the habit of performing to the benchmarks that are proven to work.
As they say, the devil is in the details. Do you think there's any detail out there that Joe Torre would have overlooked during preparation? Absolutely not. So why would sales managers skim over anything?
Sales intelligence is far more than just the number of calls placed and emails opened. It’s the how and why behind every closed deal or unsuccessful pitch -- the most important details you need if you want your team to succeed at the highest level.
Employing these tactics can help you outsmart the competition every time.