I spent most of my college years like any other young adults not knowing where they are headed in life, but you had better believe I had Friday night planned out. That short-sightedness had some serious downside as it pertains to the five years of college my parents contributed to. I did accidently find a career that has changed my life. I was fortunate to catch the upside of the Best Buy growth era. Where the company could do nothing wrong as it was crushing its primary competitors and I was contributing by selling computers and services part-time. After a year of working in a couple of different departments, I was given the opportunity to become a sales manager for the store and instantly realized the art of managing sales people. Retail has always intrigued me; we build these multi-million dollar organizations with a workforce that could be more interested in Friday night activities than the company’s vision. We know that gaining mindshare with employees is a challenge that all leaders are faced with, and the scope increases with the reduced age of the workforce. This is why building an engaged sales team is an art that has three critical activities for success:
1. The leader has to build a genuine relationship founded on trust
2. Coaching and expectations need to be focused on sales person’s behavior and let the results indicate effectiveness
3. Monthly one-one-one sessions that recap the previous month’s performance and planning for the upcoming month
Fast forward 15 years later and I sit here as a Director for a telecom company with the responsibility of omni-channel sales, operations and training. I enjoy people management more today than I ever have and it is a passion that is increasing with each year of practice. Given my position, I am often presented to by vendors who have SaaS solutions that solve my business pain points. The solutions themselves are usually very specific to the business problem which they are solving. Most possess a common value proposition that their product is going to be transformative for my employees and customers. “The data and operational efficiencies will allow me to be predictive in the way I manage my business.” When I hear these comments, I can only envision the character Doc Brown from Back to the Future screaming out “Marty, its SCIENCE!”
"We build these multi-million dollar organizations with a workforce that could be more interested in Friday night activities than the company’s vision"
Given the above, we find that there is a methodical balance of art and science in selecting and implementing SaaS solutions that meet and exceed a sales organization’s needs. To best illustrate this, we can look at a POS solution that we chose to integrate into our billing system in 2017. I describe this endeavor as meeting the needs of the sales and operations teams first and allowed other departments to benefit. However, the developers and technical support teams were faced with many barriers during the integration that made the project at times feel like it was impossible. During these moments, it was required that all parties involved to understand the benefit that employees were going to see from this. We gained automation in commissions, specific employee level reporting and inventory efficiencies to name a few. It is the responsibility of those benefiting from the SaaS solutions to be the advocate during the integration so big picture vision is in attendance during decisions. Otherwise the upside can be watered down by complexities in API’s and inconsistencies from vendors. The responsibility for sales leadership did not stop at this, at launch we were faced with a new challenge of taking a sales team through the pain of learning new processes and procedures. While at times it felt like a political campaign, the focus of communication stayed laser-lined on the benefits and what they could expect over the coming months.
We have now been living for nine months and can easily say that it was the right decision and the sales organization is seeing the benefit from it. Sales employees receive an automated email each morning with a BI dashboard showing their month to date commissions and graphics that display categories where they are exceeding their quota and those that need attention. Previously we relied on store leadership to have these conversations each morning and while it may appear that “SCIENCE” is prevailing. We are now focusing the time where that conversation would have been taking place into more of a transformational discussion about how and why they are doing well. It has allowed for root cause analysis to be expedited and leaders are gaining credibility and building trust with employees because the information is accessible and integrated into the coaching’s and personal development of the individual. I will never depend on the solution to solve for the art of engaging a sales team; however I expect that it will allow for those three steps to be seamless with accurate information. This allows a sales leader to focus on employees in a new way that takes the sale from a transaction to transformation for our customers.