Selling Microsoft

High-Performance Sales Management for Microsoft Partners

Building a strategic and effective sales management system is just like building anything else: It takes time, refinement and follow-through.

In the 14 years that Acumen Management Group has been consulting with partners on their sales management challenges, we've seen IT trends (cloud anyone?) get a variety of scenarios recycled.

Sales concepts get recycled, too. Building a sales management process isn't new, but it is being rediscovered as a linchpin for the success of many organizations. Sales management process is more conceptual, yet it's still a tactical aspect of a partner organization.

In most partner organizations, sales training companies have focused on creating a sales process that follows their sales training curriculum and, if followed correctly, should increase a partner's win ratio. There are organizations that have created a "delivery process" for professional services, which, correctly implemented, should increase the profitability of a partner's delivery systems as well as improve customer satisfaction levels.

In many partner companies, however, we see very few properly designed sales management systems created or, more importantly, followed. There's a lack of training for sales managers and there's a lack of discipline, accountability and control built into the existing sales management systems.

Without strong sales management systems, sales training programs are not reinforced, poor hiring systems put the wrong people on the team or, worse, limited on-boarding systems never allow good employees to fully succeed. From a marketing or operations perspective, sales management is at the focal point of leading and implementing new policies, executing at trade shows and properly following up on marketing programs. The missing link is a strategic sales management system that ensures all aspects of the partner company is executing effectively.

Building an effective process starts at the top. Sales leaders must be equally adept at "operationalizing" strategies -- translating them into real-world tactics -- and quickly implementing them with their teams. Sales managers must direct and mobilize their teams to achieve desired results.

If the essential revenue-driving elements of a business plan are not in alignment, attaining predictable revenue is tough. Sales leaders must sync up the human and corporate sides of sales, marketing and operations to achieve successful outcomes. Certain ingredients must be in alignment with corporate goals, such as personal or professional goals, compensation plans and personal performance measurement.

A true strategic sales management framework builds sustainable business models that increase sales, lower the cost of sales, improve productivity and increase market penetration. The sales leader must institutionalize or operationalize each unique plan; they need to embed discipline, accountability and control into their organization to ensure that they have the tools for continued success. A proper sales management methodology drives a rigorous cadence that moves the sales team and other departments in the right direction as quickly as possible. It's all about measuring the impact of change and, based on the insight, adjusting specific tactics for improvement.

Sales leaders must have their process defined to execute on the following areas:

  • Organizational design
  • Recruitment strategies
  • Compensation planning
  • Market and territory analysis
  • Strategic alliance program development
  • Salesperson/organization development and training programs
  • Distribution/channel management strategies
  • Account management strategies

A key point is that aligned sales management plans and systems build sustainable businesses.

Building strategic sales management systems is like building anything, it takes time and iterative refinement. If you're lacking in a sales management process, start with a simple approach and over time attack each area, increasing the complexity as your systems and company mature.

Next Time: Look for Thoreson's Next Column in June

About the Author

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at [email protected].


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