Selling Power Magazine Article

The Top 10 Sales Management Innovations
Selling Power Editors

With hundreds of ideas jockeying to be top of a sales manager’s mind each day, what should get priority attention? What strategic moves can every sales manager make to improve team performance three, six, or 12 months from now?

These 10 innovations represent the best practices that every sales manager should be thinking about for the coming year. For 2011, put the focus on creating new customers by creating success stories. Change with the times, but never forget your DNA to success: your company’s mission, vision of the future, and core values.

1. Harness social media. In the past, companies could control the information they wanted to share with their customer base. Now the power of information is online and available to anyone. Many companies still have blinders on when it comes to social media, but the truth is that online conversations have a dramatic effect on buying behavior. A shift in thinking about social media demands executive sponsorship and clear-cut objectives.

Solution steps: Appoint a chief listening officer whose job is to identify conversation trends and engage with customers, respond to negative stories, and build thriving communities where customers can talk with each other. Start a social-media policy (check out those of Dell and IBM). Set objectives for your social-media use (for example: enhance the conversation around your brand; monitor your customers, prospects, and competition; and set alerts that let you know when major events occur).

Effective tools: Twitter, LinkedIn, HubSpot, iSell (by OneSource), Workstreamer, FirstRain, Hoover’s, ZoomInfo, InsideView

2. Strategically align marketing campaigns with sales efforts. Eighty percent of sales and marketing teams operate in separate silos. This leads to wasted time and untold losses in profits every quarter, not to mention frustration that gets in the way of mutually beneficial collaboration. In successful companies, sales and marking is aligned in a way that exploits the synergy between the two departments.

Solution steps: Define what a lead is. Often, sales and marketing teams have different definitions of this basic element. Next, create a feedback system in which marketing will know on an ongoing basis how leads are progressing through the pipeline. Schedule periodic meetings between the departments so they can review one another’s performance and results.

Effective tools: Marketo, Eloqua, SilverPop, ExactTarget, Genius.com

3. Establish a customer-centric sales process. Although most companies think they’re customer-centric, closer examination proves that they’re clinging to old steps that are out of sync with the way customers want to buy. Traditionally, companies have bombarded customers with email blasts and ads, but in today’s economy, one-way communication channels won’t cut it. Each touch point with customers represents a potential loss or gain in the way they feel about your company. What does the initial conversation with your customer sound like? Are your messages aligned with his or her needs? How well documented are your proposals? How many options do you offer? It’s vital that sales leaders get to the ground level to find out the reality of the customer experience.

Solution steps: Map the customer’s journey, paying careful attention to all the touch points customers are exposed to. Create sales-process steps that map to how the customer wants to buy, and empower your reps with a guide that helps them follow those strategic touch points.

Effective tools: Kadient’s Sales Playbooks, Breakthrough SalesPerformance (recommended reading: The Funnel Principle), eValue Prompter by ValueSelling

4. Realize ROI with CRM. When CRM systems first emerged, they made promises they couldn’t always keep. Initially designed to make a salesperson more effective, they often did little more than create more busywork for reps. Today’s CRM systems have evolved significantly. When implemented properly, it’s possible to use CRM to capture a 360-degree view of the customer so that every stakeholder – sales, customer service, marketing, and finance – can see what’s happening with deals at every stage.

Solution step: Reevaluate your current CRM system. Is it the best fit for your sales team today? Will it fit your team’s needs in 2011 or 2012? Successful companies achieve ROI with their CRM systems by continually monitoring and evolving their CRM strategy. New developments from leading CRM providers, such as improved forecasting tools and better reporting, which includes social-media information, will vastly change the CRM landscape in the upcoming months. Prices for out-of-the-box solutions will (continued on page 2)
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