2016 – The Year of the Sales Manager

“Customers are unlikely to be as loyal as in previous years”- Julian Patel
“Customers are unlikely to be as loyal as in previous years”- Julian Patel

Is 2016 the year of the sales manager?

Things aren’t quite as simple as they were. Since the last cycle of growth, plenty has changed and there has been a transformation in the way customers purchase goods and services. According to Deloitte’s paper Reinvent Sales for the 21st Century they’re savvier and more sophisticated with higher expectations.

They have access to more information than ever before through social media and are unlikely to be as loyal as in previous years. In 2016 the ability of your sales organisation to adapt to market changes is key to staying one step ahead of your customer and competitors.

Leaner sales teams

When I worked in channel sales (and it wasn’t that long ago) the sales model was very different with a large sales team on the road, but it was starting to change. These days customers have little interest in these ‘tea and cake’ type meetings with their field sales manager, preferring instead to gather the facts before they make contact, on their terms. Sometimes even cutting these face-to-face meetings altogether and, instead, making decisions on the phone or online. And when these actions are decided without your sales people being involved in any way, the cracks really are starting to appear.

This combined with economic and commercial reasons means fewer field sales people, more inside sales and a trend towards a leaner sales operation. There’s certainly more scrutiny of net margins and cost of sale – and achieving KPIs is much more important.

How can the sales manager rise to the challenge?

The sales manager of 2016 needs to be a great sales professional of course – but also an effective man-manager, driving and motivating their internal team, all the while keeping an eye on the metrics.

Inside sales teams inevitably comprise a high proportion of millennials who bring with them different expectations – for example, they’ve normalised job-hopping. This lack of loyalty also applies to customers whose professional buying teams have no emotional attachment to suppliers. The sales manager needs to encourage and nurture his team to maximise retention of them and their customers – and also be prepared to act as an information hub or knowledge database, and pass this data onto the next employees as key details, knowledge and information inevitably walk out the door with those who move on.

The sales manager needs to know how to structure the sales organisation around delivering value and keeping costs low. This means using sales resource to its best effect: hunters targeted at high-value new business, key account managers to defend and grow large accounts, with inside sales and online/digital presence to profitably acquire and grow mid-range opportunities and identify key opportunities.

With an eye on selling the value of the whole organisation the sales manager must be an advocate for outstanding customer service, smart finance and contract flexibility as well as the products and services being sold.

The final piece is actively managing the customer portfolio – anticipating needs, adding value wherever possible, locking in revenues and raising the bar from commodity sale to consultancy-led.

Adaptability is key

We all need to adapt to the changes that the market, our customers and global technology are forcing on us. To make the most of every opportunity every company needs to flex and adapt with the times and be fit and ready to face the challenge. Your sales manager is key to success and should be leading the charge. Think about how you can match your organisational structure with customer needs to stay ahead of the curve and how you can retain information, staff and customers in a new and lean way.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how you are rising to these challenges and setting your company up to grow in the coming years.

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