Being a good manager requires the skills of a seasoned general: strategy, tools, leadership, heart and dedication. When it comes to sharpening those skills, there’s no better solution than going straight to the source. That’s just what marketing expert John Golden did in “Winning the Battle for Sales: Lessons on Closing Every Deal from the World’s Greatest Military Victories,” published by McGraw-Hill. In the book, Golden, who is president and CEO of Huthwaite, the world’s leading sales performance improvement organization, explores the lessons that the sales force can learn from historic battlefield decisions.
“A strong sales manager learns to be both offensive and defensive at the same time. To truly learn when to proceed, when to retreat and everything in between, you must read, discuss and embrace history. When I wrote this book, my goal was to demonstrate that when it comes to management, we know what works and what doesn’t. By learning from the past, we can truly shape the future.”
Golden shared the following tips to be a better manager.
1. Choose the right tool for the task. The latest technology doesn’t necessarily equate with the best choice for your company. You must choose tools wisely. Take customer relationship management (CRM) tools, for example. Don’t automatically fall for the latest whiz-bang device. Instead, the trick is to find the right fit for your sales force. If you have a sales methodology, your CRM tools should reinforce it. The more your tools reflect a day at the office, the more likely your salespeople are to adopt them.
2. Steer clear of the “feel-good-funnel.” It is imperative that a manager continually reviews and challenge the sales pipeline. If this isn’t done, and the pipeline is full or even overflowing with an abundance of opportunities (particularly in the early stage), you risk seeing your staff fall into the “feel-good-funnel.” This brings about a false sense of security about meeting end-of-year goals. Staff becomes overconfident about work volume, and, in the long run, revenue is lost out of complacency.
3. Watch out for silent killers. Every day, silent killers lurk around sales deals. With no taste, touch or smell, these are the hidden costs of business that executives fail to see. Too often, management believes increasing sales revenue is the easy fix to generate sales growth, while failing to see the hidden costs. To defeat these silent killers, businesses must determine what actually contributes to sales success. Some key ingredients: combine quantitative measures and qualitative measures of opportunities in your pipeline, and ensure the sales force has the necessary skills to execute such measures.
4. Engage in rational forecasting. Good forecasting comes from the skills and tactics of customer-focused selling. The key here is to incorporate the customer’s point of view in the development and implementation of the sales strategy. By focusing on buyer behaviour, an accurate forecasting model is actually pretty straightforward. Just be sure and avoid complicating or over-analyzing your forecasting tools and processes.
5. Avoid costly accounts that aren’t worth it. That huge account that is too costly to acquire is also incredibly pricey to maintain and will, eventually, bleed your company dry. It’s a tempting proposition to put all of your bets on one, giant account. But doing so opens you up to an incredible amount of risk. If you lose that account, you could lose everything.
6. Balance your efficiency and effectiveness. To some managers, the terms “efficiency” and “effectiveness” are mutually exclusive. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Efficiency measures productivity while effectiveness measures quality. You can balance the two if you understand customer behaviour. Master effective selling behaviours, and coach your staff accordingly. The balance will come in time.
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