Building a Sales Team That Manages Itself
Turn your company's benchwarmers into sales scorers with these tips.
- By Ken Thoreson
- April 01, 2006
It's the dream of every Microsoft partner's sales leadership:
"We'll hire the best people and let them go sell so that we
can focus on running the business. After all, they should know what
As a result, many fall into the same trap: They hire those salespeople,
turn their own attention to other aspects of the business and then
check in months later to find a disturbing lack of results.
The good news: It is possible to turn that dream of a self-managed,
high-performance sales team into reality. But doing so requires
a well-coordinated approach, and success depends upon clearly defining
expectations and providing salespeople with the tools they need
to reach their goals.
Any effective self-management initiative will be based on these
- Assuming that salespeople can manage themselves with no direction
will lead to failure. A completely hands-off approach will result
in missed opportunities, untapped markets, wasted sales and marketing
budgets and cash-flow problems.
- Failing to set clear expectations will create frustration for
everyone. Managers and salespeople must agree upon targets for
monthly and quarterly activity levels and well-defined margin/revenue
- Pledging to "inspect what you expect" is critical
for self-management success. This means validating that all salespeople
can sell, understand your offerings and represent your organization
professionally. When combined with a couple of simple tools, this
mindset ensures that your sales team is as effective as possible.
Begin by having salespeople create individual, six-month business
plans describing their goals, training needs, quotas and forecasts
as defined by specific clients and products. Plans should also include
sales-activity goals and coordinating local marketing activities
with Microsoft marketing programs. This creates a road map that
everyone can review regularly to gauge progress.
Next, have each salesperson prepare a quarterly account-planning
document listing up to five specific steps or methods for opening
or further penetrating specific accounts. This tool allows salespeople
to define important aspects of each account, including key contacts,
competition and past successes. With that information, they can
develop account strategies, including specific sales tactics to
be executed during the time covered by the plan.
is possible to turn that dream of a self-managed, high-performance
sales team into a reality.
These tools allow managers to monitor current -- as well as past
-- performance, measuring results against each salesperson's desired
objectives and coaching as necessary. They can also help ensure
that your sales organization is consistently building pipeline values that provide enough
prospect opportunity to exceed individual quotas or personal goals.
Everyone understands what's supposed to happen; everyone can monitor
how well current activity measures up to planned approaches and
Because these tools are developed by individuals, salespeople will
"own" their activities and can work steadily toward achieving
their goals. At that point, they become self-managed.
Finally, salespeople should meet with key management-team members,
including the CFO and vice presidents of marketing and production,
to review the new processes. Individual salespeople should also
present their business and account plans to their colleagues to
document their commitment to the team and create potential for collaboration
and even a little peer pressure.
These personalized plans'
real power becomes evident when they're measured against actual
performance. When salespeople face quarterly reviews in which they
must discuss how successfully they met their targets and recommit
to their new plans, they truly "get it." They understand
what it takes to achieve their goals and how specific planning leads
to improved performance. As you lead them through this process,
you'll see self-management take hold, moving from concept to practice
-- and from dream to reality.
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].