What sales managers are thinking about their jobs today but would never say.

The sales management profession is rapidly changing. A few years ago, a good manager was, well, a manager. Nowadays she must be a coach, a mentor, and a data analyst, among many other roles.

In today’s fast-paced B2B sales world an accomplished leader should make her team work cooperatively together. Only working together, they can successfully create value for their customers.

Social media is increasingly gaining in importance. How can she make sure Key Account Managers are responsibly using it?

A CRM is no longer where it was – but it is everywhere where we are. This system used to be just an agenda. Nowadays is one of the most critical tools in B2B sales. Moreover, the CRM system is today an integral part of a well-oiled sales operation.

If we can for a moment look inside the head of a successful sales leader, what will we find? Below we listed our top seven mental notes sales managers are making today.

“Another new sales coaching “techniques”? I wish my team were coachable.”

Most sales managers have been working on sales for a long time before becoming sales “superstars”. One of the first reactions they have when confronted with the challenges their key account managers are facing is “been there – done that”.

Unfortunately, identifying a challenge is not yet solving the problem. A sales manager should still coach a sales rep to overcome this difficulty by herself.

Sales leaders implement coaching programs to bring into line the goals of the company with the professional development of their salespeople. Believing that someone on their sales team is “un-coachable” makes this alignment impossible.

“Why can’t my sales rep just cooperate with each other!”

Solution selling is not just about promoting products but offering complete solutions tailored to the exact customer need.

The advent of solutions-selling (and value-co creation) means that salespeople need to work closer than ever together, internally and with the customer. Not being able to do this and continuously escalating problems to management is incredibly frustrating for everyone.

Sales Managers need their teams to be able and willing to cooperate. They need them to work together across sales processes, internal challenges and in the achievement of sales goals.

However, in many cases, it is just not possible.

There are many reasons why sales teams cannot move forward together. A classic example begins with the sales and marketing department just not getting along and therefore not serving sales as they see fit. Furthermore, perverse sales incentives sometimes explicitly discourage collaboration.

“Is this creating value for our customers?”

It is a well-known fact today that buyers take most of their purchasing decision in advance. Once they have researched for alternatives, compare vendors and read customers recommendations, they contact sales.

The job of a successful key account manager is therefore no longer to provide again the buyer with the information he already has. Sales should instead help them make the most of their purchase. Sales practitioners call this concept “Value Co-Creation.”

Therefore, good sales leaders focus maniacally on creating value for their customers. Being efficient at B2B sales involves understanding your customer’s business – how it’s done, structured, measured and optimised.

Competent sales leaders hence cannot stop asking themselves “is this creating value for our customers?”.

“Analytics, analytics, analytics, everywhere. What happened with good ol’ KPIs?”

Sales is all about performance. Sales Managers need to see their teams performing, timely delivering results and demonstrating an overall command of the sales profession.

Analytics is more than just “KPI”. Is understanding how a sales team works and how it can perform better. With sales efficiency increasingly under the magnifying glass of sales controllers, sales analytics have become the bread and butter of running sales operations.

However, per McKinsey, only half of high performing sales organisations rate themselves as competent users of analytics, in a worldwide survey of more than 1,000 teams.

Successful sales managers avoid conflicts and master challenges through analytics.

“Please stop wasting time in Social Media! Use Social Media to find customers.”

Social media has become an integral part of a marketing mix for most B2B companies. It impacts sales operations as well, under the disguised name of “Social Selling”.

Social media and social selling are becoming one of the most effective ways of contacting customers. It is at the same time, an excellent way to waste time and to look for new jobs. There is even a trendy new word to describe spending time on the internet: cyberslacking.

Just remember that most of the social networks live of the time you spend on them, regardless of whether you sell something or not.

“We have great sales processes and we I don’t want to redefine them every week.”

Once a sales leader has worked hard to establish a formal sales operation planning process, pipeline management or any similar formal sales process, she will be understandably reluctant to move away from them or to tolerate exceptions.

Luck does not determine the success of sales operations. Good sales leaders plan for achievement and possess a deterministic approach to sales planning. Sales leaders implement a standardised sales planning and operation process based on simplicity and analysis.

The job of a Key Account Manager is nowadays plagued with uncertainty. They are no longer “just doing sales” they are now “co-creating value”. This value co-creating means having to adjust internal processes to the wishes of potential customers. Changes in internal sales processes directly collide with the smooth operations that the sales manager designed.

“CRM: Cray Relationship Management.”

On this new big data Era, the job of sales managers is getting increasingly hard. One essential tool that has helped in the past was the good’ old CRM. This old CRM is no longer providing the edge it used to, and the sales manager envisions a re-launch. The new CRM requires Big Data, Social Selling or Artificial Intelligence. Now she needs to sell the idea.

Salespeople and Key Account Managers are internal champions of the Sales Leader’s CRM initiatives and critical to their success. If the sales team does not play along, the CRM initiative will fail spectacularly and well… adieu, Customer Relationships.

Most sales leaders acknowledge the importance of a CRM. Quite few will openly say how crazy they are about their teams correctly using it. For some sales teams, sales leaders can say the same about their ERP.

The Top 7 Mental Notes Sales Managers Are Making Today – Summary

Sales management in B2B is hastily shifting. There are several critical notes executives are continually bearing in mind about their jobs.

They have had to become a coach. They now wish their sales teams were coachable. They understand that sales analytics is critical. One can only improve what one measures.

Sales leaders in Business-to-Business can only reach their sales goals if an entire sales team works together. However, collaboration can quickly turn into a nightmare.

Sales teams are paid by customers to create value. Successful sales leaders are the ones taking care that this value co-creation is taking place.

The CRM (and maybe the ERP as well) is now a critical tool for successful sales management. Shall a sales team not use it correctly, a sales leader will rightfully go crazy. And if the target customers are active in Social Networks, so should salespeople.


Further Read:

Sales Excellence Survey 2017 – Mercuri International

Unlocking the power of data in sales – McKinsey & Company, Charles Atkins, Maria Valdivieso De Uster, Mitra Mahdavian, and Lareina Yee.