With the new year here, many sales managers and executives are planning to make certain they have a plan in place to equip and prepare their sales teams for a good year.
Certainly the changes in the selling environment we have all experienced in the last 20 months or so have exposed some areas for improvement as well added new expectations for how business is done.
So, how can we best identify the needs of the sales team? Here are two methods to consider.
Method One: Ask
This is probably where most managers would start. After all, a good collaborative process seems prudent and a meeting about the needs of the team can be a good discussion.
You can also use an anonymous survey tool to gather that information.
Regardless of how you approach this step know that it has limitations. The problem with asking the team about things like, "What kind of training would you like in the new year?" is that most sellers are not very good at knowing what their training needs are. They often unaware of the areas in the sales process where they are experiencing trouble and what bottlenecks might be holding them back.
Thus, when ask about training needs you are more likely to get a “greatest hits” list of fun topics, or topics new to them regardless of where the real hang-ups exist. Some sellers will simply say they want no training. Or, when it comes to resources such as a software program they are more likely to see something unfamiliar as possibly more work than a solution to a specific problem bogging them down.
We are not saying not to ask about their needs for the future but we suggest you keep your questions focused on underlying problems rather than solutions. For example, you might ask:
- What is the most difficult part of the sales process?
- Where does a pending deal usually break down if it never closes?
- If you could make one step of the sales process easier or more efficient, what would it be?
- What stands in the way of you closing as much business as you’d like?
You can decide what the solutions might be once you have real needs on the table — not too different from the sales process your people hopefully follow.
Method Two: Observe
We think asking is good, but there is more reliable method for identifying the needs of your sales team and that is to observe.
Spend time in the field with your sellers where your role is to coach them on their performance and not sell for them.
This can be done literally in the field or on a shared-screen live video call. Between Zoom, Teams, Google Hangouts and similar platforms live video meetings are now widely accepted. You can join, again as a coach to observe, not sell, and then provide feedback to your seller after the call about what they did well (so they will repeat the behavior) and let them tell you what could have gone differently (so you can replace the unproductive behavior with a picture of what it looks like when done well).
These kinds of observations are invaluable and will certainly give you first-hand information about the needs of each person on your team.
2. Your Pipeline Data
Whether from a CRM or simple reports you and your sellers work on, you can get accurate data about bottlenecks in the sales process by observing the sellers’ progress in the steps of the sale.
For example, if you see a lot of attempts at securing first-time appointments but conversion is low, that is need to be addressed. Likewise, if you see a good number of new appointments but not a lot assignments that come from the discovery process that is need to be addressed.
And, if the closing ratio is not at the norm for your operation that needs to be addressed as well. Chances are low closing percentages are a symptom of poor execution early in the sales process so you know that is a need.
Identifying the Needs of Your Sales Team
Asking about the needs of your sales team is a good thing to do (if you ask about problems not solutions), but nothing will provide you more reliable data about the teams’ real needs than good, solid observation.
Every great performer has a coach who knows what they do well and where they need to get better. If your are that coach you will have plenty of reliable observations to identify the needs of your sales team.