It seems like only yesterday sales managers were responsible for one thing: generating as much revenue as possible. However, the new reality is that 58 percent of sales organizations say bottom-line management responsibilities are now the norm, with Best-in-Class companies being 40 percent more likely to support this philosophy. Sales VPs with no experience managing revenue and cost columns are unlikely to join the executive table.
The reason for this is simple: sales and accurate forecasting affect all facets of a company and its operations -- from revenues to resource planning. Without a clear understanding of what’s driving ROI, C-level executives don’t know what areas of the business are working and which require attention. As a result, sales managers now have an inescapable level of accountability if they wish to accelerate their careers.
Rather than let this scare you, think of it as an opportunity to prove your intrinsic value. Here are a few considerations to help you lay the groundwork for this.
Refine your people skills
Just because you have a reached a leadership position in your sales organization does not mean you know everything there is to know. In fact, improving yourself only gets more crucial from here on out, especially when it comes to effectively managing people (reps and clients alike.) Take the time to regularly engage with everyone. Listen and learn from them to understand what they are really communicating, through words or actions.
When it comes to your reps in particular, as the manager it’s up to you to learn which coaching styles will get the preferred results. Some people excel when thrown into the deep end and forced to figure things out themselves. Others are the complete opposite.
“You really have to ask a lot of questions - and even some questions twice, but in a different way so that you can really understand that person,” says Jayna Cooke, CEO Chicago-based EVENTup, and former VP of Business Development at Groupon. “The questions need to be broad so you can really get a feel for where they are coming from.”
Employers will always value those who have the skill of interacting with other people, so do more of it. The more expertise you can develop in empathy, teamwork, and communication, the closer you’ll get to the C-Suite.
Take a scientific approach
As I alluded to, the days of estimated forecasts are over. The data analysis tools available today have a very important thing in common: an understanding of how past sales activities have generated specific results. Since, in reality, most teams do not hit their numbers every month, a wise sales manager will implement a methodology based on the types of activities that are most likely to deliver the desired results.
If you bring new people in and you let them flounder and don’t look at what they’re doing, you’re certainly not helping them succeed. Reps who don’t succeed quickly are apt to leave, and a high amount of turnover is a red flag to senior executives. To build team-wide success, managers need to leverage these data-driven insights into the activities that sales reps conduct every day.
Ultimately, this activity data paints a much more accurate picture of where your team stands against current goals, letting you know exactly which areas require your focus. Turning this knowledge into coachable moments will contribute toward expanding the pipeline, growing the top line, and moderating the bottom line, resulting in more accurate forecasting, which is what the C-Suite wants to see.
The bottom line
The most efficient way sales managers can excel in the area of accurate forecasting is to dig deeper than the deals closed and tap into activity data to see how these deals are really being worked. You’ll be able to understand which activities are paying off and which aren’t, enabling you to develop a sustainable method of performance excellence that will catch the attention of the C-Suite.
Sales leaders who manage rep activity and deliver accurate forecasts will rise through the ranks thanks to accountability.